So I’m beginning my little bit on women in ministry. I’m going to take my time with this one by starting with verses that seem to support women in ministry, then interact with verses that seem to counter this point, and then I’ll go over some some practical reasons to allow or disallow women in the ministry. This may take more than three posts and it may change. I’ll let you know as this project moves along.
I’ll starts with Romans 16. We are looking here at the end of the letter. Paul is giving his ending monologue and is giving some reference to friends and comrades. What is intriguing here is that Paul seems to be giving shout outs to women as well. The first one that is most peculiar is Phoebe, who is mentioned as a deacon (diakonon).
Now we should go ahead and look closely at the problem. Your interpretation may use a different word or may say deaconess. It is true that if you simply look at the word as applied to a female, it would be feminine. Many interpreters do. But what is odd is that the same Greek word is used in reference to Christ in 15:8 (diakonon). There is a large number of interpreters and Christians who view Paul’s theology as subjecting women to male control across the board. If Paul viewed this issue as strongly as proponents of women being under men at all times in spiritual and family matters (some would say at all times period), then why does he not make a distinction by coming up with a different form that looks feminine for the woman or masculine for Christ? It could be that Paul is not paying attention to his language (which I tend to not see Paul being this sloppy) or he might be using it with almost intentional reference to women having high honors in the Church, which was revolutionary for that culture.
(I know that last statement includes an understanding of historical context, so to put it simply, women were, in Jewish context at least, under the man’s household. The man was the final say in anything. This was a social order that led to women being given in marriage and not choosing their life long mates. They might be given a chance to share a highly moderated form of their opinion, but other areas might not even let a woman do that. This means that the stating of a social norm is not distinctly Christian for Paul. A reasoning for Paul is that there is “no male and female,” but we’ll cover that later.)
So Phoebe was a deacon!
Which is crazy for that era.
Paul mentions ten women in this part of the letter. He even gives them some outstanding mention, like “co-workers”, one hard workers for others benefits (women in that era were not assumed to have this ability), and even says that one is “highly respected among the apostles.” I think that last one earns some merit for the case.
So according to Romans, there are women who have been assumed into possible leadership, and dare I say Spirit filled to do leadership. Even the idea of being among the apostles is a very high honor for a woman in those days, even more to be highly revered among them.
This evidence probably is not very conclusive, but it does show the possibility of a leaning of New Testament theology towards women being included in efforts and helping organize the Church of Christ (and no, I’m not referencing the denomination). It also gives us reason to question things like women have a base evil that needs to be controlled, women are the reason humanity is fallen, and women don’t belong in pastoral leadership.
Come with your thinking caps on.
Grace and peace to you all.