Women In Authority: Boxed In

Woman on the stage --- Image by © Steve Nagy/Design Pics/Corbis

Woman on the stage — Image by © Steve Nagy/Design Pics/Corbis

I’ve taken some time off from my promised series Women In Authority. Forgive me for being lax in my posting. I’ve heard from some you wondering if I’m still blogging. Yes, I am! Like so many of you, I’m a busy woman; I run a business with my husband, homeschool my children (Summer? What summer?), work part-time, research and write, and oversee various other ministry endeavors. Thanks for bearing with me this year!

Picking back up on Women in Authority, if you need to catch up on the previous posts follow these links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

I know many women feel called to various ministry roles. Some of us have struggled quietly in the background, trying not rock the boat; some of us have gone a little nuts demanding that the world give us our due; some of us have given up; and a few of us have found a way to successfully navigate the rough waters.

In our struggle to step into our purpose, and in the church’s struggle to deal with this issue tranquilly, we’ve often succeeded in drawing a box around powerful women and giving them free reign – within the box. We split hairs as women try to pacify their churches and as churches try to pacify women leaders. We’ll say it’s okay for a woman to teach and men just happen to be in the room, as long as she’s not addressing the men; as long as she’s really teaching other women or children. Some will go so far as to say that if a man chooses to put himself under her authority as she teaches, then that’s okay, too.

Sometimes it’s like teaching without acknowledging the “elephant” – a.k.a. the men – in the room. Teach your heart out. But be careful not to address the men. It seems arbitrary and gets confusing. The lines are blurry and different churches and organizations have different rules and women leaders are continually stubbing their toes as they try to figure out where the box’s boundaries lie.

I want to briefly speculate on the issue of authority. On the one hand, whatever authority we have is given to us by God. No one can take away that authority. Likewise, no one can wrestle away more authority than is ordained by God. Whenever I face this issue of women having authority over men, I kind of shake my head because I wonder how I can possibly have authority over someone who refuses to receive that authority. I can exercise authority over my children – and right now they are young enough that I can scare them into submitting if need be – but the day will come when they will choose of their own accord whether or not to submit. In reality, though God has given me authority over them, I don’t in practicality have any power over them if they choose to rebel. If they rebel, they will face God and the consequences of their rebellion. This is true in every avenue of life: a boss has as much authority over his employees as they are willing to submit; a pastor has as much authority over his flock as they are willing to acknowledge. Where ministry is concerned, I might find myself in a position of authority, but that does not mean, in practice, that I have authority over anyone who won’t submit to it.

Ephesians 5:21 tells us to submit to one another. There are no qualifiers for this, no gender, age, or race differentiation. The Greek word for submit in this verse is a military term; but in non-military context it implies a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden (The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon). It isn’t about who has authority over who; rather it is about who has the strength of character and the humility to voluntarily cooperate. Galatians 3:28 reminds us that we are all one in Christ – neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female. We’re all one.

So, why then does Paul admonish Timothy about women in authority over men? Stay tuned…


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