Friends, we realize that the idea of women in ministry is controversial in the modern church. Many dear brothers and sisters in Christ hold to a different view than the one we hold. We choose not to divide from our brethren over this issue but rather we encourage a friendly engagement over the topic. With that in mind, here is the transcript of a sermon over the topic of women in ministry by Rev. Rachel Galarneau for your edification.
Heritage Series: Women in Ministry
Sermon by Rachel Galarneau
Presented Sunday, February 27, 2022
Main Text: Romans 16, Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11, Acts
In the Church of God, we affirm women in ministry! Otherwise, I would not be up here talking to you today. But since our origins, we have had women in leadership. Three prominent members among the “Flying messengers” who were early CHOG traveling evangelists- were Nannie Kigar, Frankie Miller, and “Mother” Sarah Smith. I once had to be in a play portraying these great women who led hymns and preached at camp meetings all across the country, sometimes at their own risk or parel. And of course we have had other notable women such as Jennie Carpenter Ruttie, Elsie Egermeier, Nora Hunter, Marie Strong, Lillie McCutcheon, Cheryl J. Sanders, and Dr. Arnetta McNeese Bailey. I remember being at Dr. Esther Cottrell’s installation as our Ohio State Director and was so excited to see a woman leading in high levels of leadership. And for my money, Jeannette Flynn is one of – if not the- best preacher around. She not only has paved the way for Leadership Focus and the ordination of new pastors, but she’s interim right now at maiden Lane in Springfield, and I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to her sermons as I start my week these past few months.
So even though our movement boldly and proudly includes women in ministry- I can honestly say that there is still a lot of work to be done in this regard. Just as we have work to do within the sphere of Christian unity, we’re still working to allow women’s voices to be heard. Being a female pastor is difficult- because not all Christian groups accept women in ministry. I honestly wanted Michael to preach this sermon, because if a person doesn’t support women, nothing I say will convince them. They’d only listen to a man. So men– we need you to speak up for those whose voices have been unheard. But– having had to defend my stance So. Many. Times. on WHY I should be allowed to be a pastor, I’ve had to do a lot more study on this topic, so it was decided that I’d preach today. So- buckle in, because today I’m diving in deep.
COMPLEMENTARIAN VS EGALITARIAN
Complementarianism – the genders are united, but different. Each serves a different purpose. The man is to lead, work, protect, and provide. The woman is to submit, support, affirm, and bear offspring. Each gendered role compliments one another.
Egalitarianism – the genders are equal, both created in the image of God, united through co-laboring together to accomplish the will of God. We submit to each other and we all submit to God.
– Ephesians 5:21-6:9
– Colossians 3:18-4:1
– 1 Peter 2:18-3:7
– Titus 2:1-10
These verses, in our 21st century modern context can seem like nails on a chalkboard. “What!? SUBMIT?!” Yes. Submit. That’s the whole point of the passages. FOR EVERYBODY. SUBMIT TO EACHOTHER. That’s the thesis statement, and the rest are examples of how this is to be done. The point is not that we create hierarchies where one person is in charge of another. Rather, Paul is saying, “Hey- this is our existing culture, and this is how you live out your freedom in Christ within it. Your power comes from laying it down. Just as Christ was meek and refused to fight- when you refuse to fight, you imitate Christ. When you serve others, you show the love of Jesus. And when you live like HIM, THEN you are truly free.” PLUS– Paul flipped the script. We see these verses as addressing women. What is fascinating though- is that the typical letter in that time would address the master, and then ignore all subordinates. So this form of addressing people at every level- wives, children, slaves- would have been radical. It would have caught their attention. By addressing every status, Paul gave every status value, honor, and equality. EVERYONE was recognized by their existence, not by their role/place, and given dignity as an equal in the kingdom..
It is important to note a few things though: These are HOUSEHOLD guidelines. Not for society in general. It is not saying that men ruling women is okay. The term for men and women are used with the connotation of man/wife -husband/wife- and the inference of marriage. It is not saying that all men rule all women. To infer that from these verses is to make the (poor and inaccurate) argument that Paul was promoting slavery, and that Slavery is okay within a Christian economy. Both ideas are equally ludicrous and fallible. More than anything– these passages address our attitudes towards our fellow believers and those whom we are trying to win for the sake of Christ. It’s not about the subjection of women.
– 1 Corinthians 11
Firstly, in this passage, “head” is used both interchangeably between physical head, and a sense of leading. One the one hand, when it is talking about a physical head– that can be taken pretty literal as in, your noggin. Cover your head. Uncover your head. Paul is using this to distinguish between proper decorum of the day. One of the ways to described was is: “He’s simply telling men to not dress like women, and for women to not dress like men- but to be dignified and appropriate in their attire.” That’s all. It’s probably important to note that Paul spends equal time addressing men and women regarding attire. He’s likely doing so because culturally speaking, pagen idol worship was a huge problem in Corinth. Festivals and idol worship ceremonies often included prostitution, orgies, and sexually explicit role-play where men would dress in veils and long hair, and women would cut their hair short, wear pants and sometimes even adorn themselves with decorations portraying male anatomy. Because of its prevalence, it is very likely that there were ex-prostitutes or ex-idol worshippers who had converted to faith in Jesus. So Paul is not only stressing right attitudes for worship, but addressing sexual purity instead of sexual immorality in worshiping God rather than worshipping idols.
The second usage of head- the metaphorical head is a little harder for us to understand. Simply because 1) we’ve been taught that headship means one thing, but 2) The Greek term had a different understanding of headship than we do. For us, it has often been taught as “authority” or “power/control over” something. Like the head of the company. But this term is often translated as “source.” Because– it’s this idea, that without your head, you have no life. Cut off your head, you die. Because you need your head, right? It is a source of life. So when Paul is talking about headship, he’s talking about the SOURCE of their faith. CHRIST is ALL our head- he’s the source of ALL our faith. And just as Adam was the SOURCE of faith for Eve- because he was created first and commanded to pass on what God had told him- those of us who are in Christ first are the head/source for those who come after us. Another way to understand this style of headship is like that of a headstone, or a cornerstone. It is foundational. You build off of it. Without a cornerstone to set a structure in place, everything goes awry and falls to pieces. The cornerstone doesn’t lord over the other stones, but rather, everything rests upon it and relies on it. It is the SOURCE. This word head does NOT convey a sense of hierarchy. Headship as hierarchy is a Roman ideal that was imposed upon church teachings much later in history, after 500 A.D. especially.
A special note about the order of creation – the “man is the glory of God, woman is the glory of man” can be confusing because of the terms we use. Sometimes we use the Greek conjunction de as “but” — but we also translate it as “and” or “and also.” If Paul had wanted to highlight the differences between men and women for hierarchical terms, he probably would have used a different word- alla – which is a harder contrast. But to use the soft conjunction, he wasn’t saying that men were God’s glory but that women were not. Rather, he’s saying that men were God’s glory- And it is good!” and that things became VERY GOOD when women joined men on the scene and that together they were His glory. “Whereas the male is the glory of God along with the female, the female is also the glory of the male!” Remember how Adam broke into song when he saw Eve? “This is awesome! Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh- you’re just like me! Woo-man!” Paul was telling the men not to despise the woman, but to value, honor, and appreciate, to treasure- indeed to GLORY IN the women who ministered in their midst. The phrase “AND the woman is the glory of the man” is actually meant to be affirming!
Secondly, we cannot ignore the fact that this passage does 2 things. 1) it begins by addressing ALL believers- brothers and sisters. The language here is inclusive, and not gender specific. And 2) the directions Paul is giving is for WHEN you prophecy, this is how you do it. It is assumed by Paul that women WILL prophecy. A prophetic word means preaching, to speak for God. So by the language used and the context of the passage, we can tell that Paul expects that both men and women will minister in public. EVERYBODY will come to the service with a hymn, prayer, or prophetic word. “To pray and to prophecy’ summarized the full scope of the Jewish concept of priestly ministry” – (David Hamilton, Why Not Women? Pg. 178.) Women were not excluded from participating in prophetic calling.
And finally, we see that Paul tells them not to be contentious about the manner in which men AND women prophecy. Judge for yourselves what you’re gonna wear. They have no other practice other than including both women in public ministry.
– 1 Corinthians 14
This is claimed to be one of the most “irrefutable” verses because it tells women to be silent… but does it? Paul is doing some things here in Greek that don’t necessarily translate in English.
1) First, He is using a Chiasm– (ki-as-im). A chiasm is a thought structured like an X. In Greek thought, a sound argument would go down and then come back up. Meaning, you could explain this argument backwards and forward. A-B-C-D-C-B-A. Sort of like a palindrome. First, we’re talking about Prophesying. Then about Tongues. Then we’re talking about Disruptions from the women. Back to talking about tongues. Back to prophesying. And why is Paul addressing the Corinthian church with these specific examples of prophesying, tongues, and women? Because he’s answering a letter about specific things that were happening in that particular congregation!
2) Paul is also using particularization. Making a statement, and then repeating it while giving specific examples. He says it at the beginning, at the middle, and at the end of his argument. Vs14:26, 14:33, 14:40 – Everything in their worship time must be conducted in an orderly fashion!!
3) Paul also is doing something he’s done 7 other times throughout the book of 1 Corinthians. He’s quoting a common day idea or saying, and then refuting it. Throughout the book, he quotes Plato, Socrates, & Mendes. And in vs. 34-35. He seems to be doing so again- “as the law says”… but, what law? There is not a single place in Old Testament law that prohibits a woman speaking or role in worship. Not one. The law he is quoting was the Oppian Law- that women could not flagrantly display independence, wealth, prosperity, or dominance in public. This was passed in Rome during a war time when the economy was hurting and men were off to war. In a patriarchal society such as this where men had rights and women had none- rich women did not display the success of Rome or Caesar, so independently wealthy women roaming the streets without a husband looked bad- therefore a law was passed to suppress them. Once the war was over and the economy recovered, there was talk of repealing the law, but Historian Livy wrote down what senator Cato the Elder said in response to the idea that women should regain their rights:
Indeed, I blushed when, a short while ago, I walked through the midst of a band of women… I should have said, “What kind of behavior is this? Running around in public, blocking streets and speaking to other women’s husbands! Could you not have asked your own husbands the same thing at home? Are you more charming in public with other women’s husbands than at home with your own?… Our ancestors did not want woman to conduct any business without a guarding; they wanted them to be under the authority of fathers, brothers, or husbands; we (the gods help us!) even now let them snatch at the government and meddle in the Forum and our assemblies….”
4) One TINY Greek word makes all the difference in what this passage says… and it has been left out of nearly all modern English translations. It is the Greek word “A”. It is an article that negatively distinguishes thoughts. Sometimes Paul uses it to express disapproval of something. “It is an expletive of disassociation.” But it has no English equivalent, so lemme give you what it means… (Pfft. Mfkuh. Nuh-uh) To give you an example: Here’s how it’s used elsewhere – No one can serve two masters. “pfft”/uh-uh He’ll love one and hate the other…” Said in words, we could say: “What?!” “No way!” “You crazy!” Paul uses this word all over in First Corinthians. So Put it in the passage where it belongs– in between vs. 35 and 36. “Because the word of God was given only to you. What!? No way! Nuh-uh! You crazy!” In light of this one tiny word that is in ALL early and original manuscripts, we can in NO WAY say that this verse is intended to limit women’s participation in public worship. In actuality, when read in it’s proper context- THIS is one of the strongest arguments the Bible holds in AFFIRMATION FOR IT. Remember- women WILL prophecy/participate- and how to do it orderly is important.
KNOWLEDGE TO LEAD
– Genesis- 1:26-28, 31
- Women are made in God’s likeness. Not just man. Man AND woman. Woman was not made in the image of man- she was made in the image of God.
- The first command women receive from God is to rule. To lead WITH men. Not to be led by men. But to be alongside them. And that was VERY GOOD.
– Genesis 2:18
- Helper Suitable. Helpmate. Help-meet. No. No. No. These are all bad translations. Ezer Kenegdo.
- Ezer- this word is often translated as “Helper.” But this is an imbalanced connotation/understanding. In the whole Bible, it is only used a handful of times (2x) in reference to Eve, (3x) in reference to a military rescuer, and (16x) in reference to God himself. And actually, this makes sense because women are made in His likeness, there they are also named after him. Taken in context of how the Hebrew word is used, a BETTER translation than helper would actually be: Strong Rescuer, or Powerful Ally.
- Kenegdo. Again- poor translation. We translate this as “suitable.” Yes, this is okay as in the sense that Adam needs an appropriate helper. But no in the sense that it is to suit Adam. What he needs is a mate like him. The translation should rather be “a face to face equal- one can “stand up” to the other.” Same stuff. That’s why Adam can look at Eve and say “This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” You’re just like me- We’re the same! Woah-man! Yeah! Face to face equal. The Jewish understanding of a Kenegdo is half of a fence-post. You need both sides to stand up and support one another. One holds the other up: they are two halves to a whole.
– Genesis 3:14-19
- God curses the serpent. God curses the ground. He does NOT curse the man or woman. “Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you” is not a curse. Rather, the curse is sin and the effects of sin in their lives! God is telling them that this is what sin does- it destroys what He established. But sin is not what God intended. Sin is never His design. Male headship where a man is over a woman is the result of sin. Rather, male headship is what happens when sin enters the picture. What we are seeing is a consequence of sin.
- Eve adds to God’s command to Adam. “Neither shall we touch it or we shall surely die.” That was not what God said. Notice that this addition means either: 1) Adam added to God’s word, or 2) Adam failed to correct Eve’s incorrect understanding. Either way, Adam failed before Eve. Adam sinned first. This is why over and over in the New Testament, the Fall is referred to as Adam’s sin. “Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin… ” (Romans 5:12-21)
- 1 Timothy 2:12-14
This passage is also often used to single-handedly shut out women from leadership, preaching, or pastoral ministry. Some say it is indisputable. However….
- The order of creation is referring to first-hand vs. second-hand teaching from God (Gen 2:16-17).
- We’re reading into it a meaning that wasn’t there and trying to make Genesis match. But this isn’t about barring women from preaching. It is about teaching.
- Paul’s been talking about teaching conduct before vs 11-12, and he’ll continue talking about teaching after it. This leads us to understand that we’re still in line with appropriate teaching and conduct in public worship. It does NOT have to do with shutting women out of leadership.
- Ephesus women were uneducated and often illiterate. And, like in Corinth- they too had problems with idol worship. In pagen cults of goddess worship, women were elevated so high that they began to disparage men. Paul was saying that it must not be so among believers. Men are of value.
- The whole point of this passage is that if you didn’t receive first hand knowledge of the Gospel, then don’t act like you did. If you received your learning 2nd hand, then let those who heard first (and probably know more) speak first and have their say.
- Further– the words for woman/man are more often used for husband/wife, not the generic term for all men or all women.. So again- this wasn’t an address for all women, in all time, in all places. This was a specific setting where wives were causing disruptions in public, Paul was addressing the situation.
- The word authority – exusia – is not used here. It is used elsewhere in the New Testament, but not in 1 Timothy. This word that the Bible translates as “authority” is only used 1 time in the entire New Testament, and it is only used here. Authen tain. It is two two root words put together. Tain = self, and Autas = to thrust oneself forward violently, often containing the idea of murder or suicide. To take things forcefully into your own hands. In regards to another, it would be to act harshly in such a way that it cuts another person down…. Ladies, don’t cut your husbands down in front of others when he’s trying to teach. He knows more about this than you. Let him have his say. We don’t treat each other poorly as Christians. The Greek word mentioned here Heysukia = quietness. In context, it would mean “in a way that doesn’t cause a disturbance.” All of this adds up to the evidence that a disturbance was taking place in the middle of their teaching time, and Paul was correcting it. That’s all.
- The phrase “It is not permitted” is also not used here, but rather “I am not permitting” or “I do not yet allow.” This indicates that not only is this command a personal preference in regard to this specific situation, but that it is also probably temporary until more education has taken place.
- Again- logic must be used across the board, and we must take passages in context of both the whole Bible and the surrounding passages. Because this passage is clearly situational in respect to a wife/wives disturbing their husbands during teaching, this passage, therefore, cannot be used to conclusively exclude women from ministry or leadership.
LOOKING AT JESUS AS THE AUTHOR & PERFECTER OF OUR FAITH
– Women who -literally- followed Christ (Mary Magdalene, Martha & Mary of Bethany, the other Mary (mother of James & Joses), Salome (mother of James & John), Joanna wife of Chuza manager of Caesar’s household, Susanna, and many other women. These women not only bankrolled Jesus’ ministry, but followed him & were allowed to sit and learn at his feet the same as any of the other disciples. (*”no women were part of the 12” is a bad biblical hermeneutic- no Gentiles were chosen either. If you apply logic- you have to do it across the board. Then you will see whether or not your logic is faulty.) The fact that Jesus allowed women into his inner circle was revolutionary in a patriarchal society that practiced gender segregation.
– How Christ treated women – not one time does Jesus fail to show equal respect to women. Does he correct and teach them? Yes. As he does the men. Even when they were of the lowest status -the unclean bleeding woman, the adulterous woman, the woman at the well – they were all seen for being human and given the same dignity as men.
– Jesus’ Command to preach – the first people commanded to carry the Gospel – to preach and give a message of Good News to the disciples were women. Now, if you wanted to found a religion, you wouldn’t establish it based off the word of women, who in their society were rarely believed, had no rights, and held no status. Yet Jesus’ kingdom is not built on hierarchy, but on faith. He is the one who leads us, and no one can disqualify those whom He has called, no one should silence whom He has told to speak.
– Christ redeems what sin has stolen
Acts 2:17-18, 21
1 Corinthians 12 – the whole chapter – it is the SPIRIT, that bestows gifts.
This is so important- if Jesus truly and really redeems and restores, then why are we still living under the bondage of sin? God commanded both men and women to work together. Sin stole that perfect unity. Jesus removes our sin, right? Then why would we willingly go back to the ramifications of sin when Jesus allows us to live free? He made it possible for us to do right- and so we should do right. We should live how God intended; without hierarchy, but as equals. This is a foundational truth that the Church of God has had since it’s beginnings. Just sing some of our hymns. “All are equal in His sight when we obey his word” – The Church’s Jubilee
BIBLICAL EXAMPLES OF WOMEN LEADERS
– Old Testament leaders: Deborah, Huldah (judge, prophet), Miriam (songstress & prophet) Esther, Abigail, & Lemuel’s mother (clever queens), Psalm 68:11 “Of female preachers there was a great host.”
– Romans 16
– Acts 18 – Priscilla (missionary & teacher)
– Acts 21 – 4 females (prophets)
– Acts 16/Phil 2 – Lydia – (first convert and a church planter)
– Romans 16 – Phoebe deacon (preacher/church leader)
– Romans 16:7 – Junia (apostle)
– Philippians 4 – Euodia and Syntyche (pastors/evangelists)
Biblically speaking, women have held every leadership position alongside men. Historically, women have been involved at every level of the early church from deacons, to priests, to bishops, to saints. Not until the church became the civil religion of Rome did we see the decline of women in leadership roles. And that decline is among other evidence and circumstances that lead both historians and theologians to conclude that the Church began to be shaped by Roman patriarchal ideals and power structures. Even to the point of how priestly orders were given- handed down father/son, or awarded to special families of influence. Yet to deny that women have been involved from the beginning is to deny both the Biblical example and history itself. As Church of God pastor and author Arlo Newell said, “For men only is neither scriptural nor spiritual in the Christian Community.” (“For men only?” article in Vital Christianity, May 1989, pg 12-13.)
WHY DOES THIS MATTER?
In the Church of God, we have a rich heritage of affirming women in ministry. By 1925 more than 30% of our pastors were women. However, we are not immune to the movings and influences of our society. Evangelical fundamentalists had a huge revival in the 1940s where they began to print, publish, and distribute materials excluding women from leadership. And though we value unity, we have allowed ourselves to lose sight of what the Bible really teaches about women. The church of God has dropped to less than 5% of our ordained preachers being female.
“Probably one of the greatest sources of the weakness of the modern church is that it has refused women the opportunity for distinguished service within its ranks. By thus closing the door in the face of millions of its most talented and consecrated workers it has diverted their strength into hundreds of other social agencies and thus robbed itself of an incalculable influence in the modern world.” — C.E. Brown Gospel Trumpet pg. 5 article “Women as Preachers” May 27, 1939
Let me give you a personal example of why this matters. Two summers ago, 6 different girls in youth told me that they had been feeling called to ministry. In my 10+ years as a youth pastor, it was cool if there was one student, male or female, who said they felt God calling them to ministry. But in that particular summer there were SIX GIRLS. While their calls were different– preaching, kids ministry, music ministry, working with those in crisis, etc. Every. Single. One, of Them. had been discouraged by incorrect Biblical interpretive teaching. Every single one of them was told to stay silent by someone in their inner circle. Inside the church. Outside the church. In our community. In their school. In their own family. They were told the same thing John MacArthur told Beth Moore. “Go Home.” What if… what if they actually did that? What if, instead of preaching and teaching and leading – they remained silent? Can you see how much the kingdom would miss out on? 6 churches would lose preachers, youth pastors, children’s pastors, and missionaries. How many lives can just one woman reach for Jesus? Now multiply that times six. CHURCH, do you see what we would be missing out on if we told our girls that their anatomy mattered more than their God-given gifts, their calling, and identity as part of the priesthood of all believers?
The best advice I could give them is this:
The disciples were persecuted for preaching Jesus as the Christ and healing His name. They were told to stop and be silent. You know what they said, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and what we have heard!… We must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 4:19-20, Acts 5:29) If you cannot shake this calling God has placed on your heart, and you know without a shadow of a doubt that God is calling you to ministry, follow Jesus. It doesn’t matter what others may say. Follow Jesus. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galations 3:28).
“The Church, The Truth, & Women In Ministry” sermon by Dr. Dave Ward.
“Why Not Women? A fresh look at Scripture on women in missions, ministry, and leadership” by Loren Cunningham and David Joel Hamilton (2000), YWAM Publishing, Seattle, WA.
“Are You Sure You’re Right? Evangelicals and the Church of God” by Jerry A Hickson (2000), Warner Press, Anderson, IN.
“The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the subjugation of women became Gospel Truth” by Beth Allison Barr (2021), Brazos Press, Grand Rapids, MI.
“Woman in the Bible: An overview of all the crucial passages on women’s roles” by Mary J. Evans (1983), Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL.
“A Year of Biblical Womanhood” by Rachel Held Evans (2012), Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN
Blessings, The Downing family