An article written by Dale Pauls, minister for the Stamford, CT, Church of Christ, is rapidly making its way across the internet (www.gal328.org/good-news-naomi-walters-named-minister-in-residence-at-stamford-church-of-christ/). I do not know brother Pauls and certainly harbor no personal animosity toward him. However, I very strongly disagree with his apology (i.e., defense) of women serving in pulpit ministry. As his statement seems to have drawn so much interest from so many, please allow me to contribute a few observations about this situation.
This is not a new position for him. For those unfamiliar with brother Pauls, you might assume that he has just studied himself into a position favorable to hiring the Christian sister as a part-time Minister in Residence job. In fact, a June 1, 2006, article in the Christian Chronicle featuring that congregation revealed they had long established the practice of women deacons, the eligibility of women to serve as elders, leading in worship and even occasionally preaching (from “Exodus Connecticut,” Bobby Ross, Jr., 6/1/06, online ed.). Thus, the congregation and Pauls were already clear on where they stood on the matter.
The majority of his defense of the position is either his interpretation of history or an appeal to emotion. Pauls’ declaration was reposted on gal328.org, a site created to appeal to churches of Christ to place women in a fully “egalitarian” (i.e., equal) position when it comes to their role in worship and church leadership. What is striking from his “Reflections on Announcement” is that his appeal is mostly built around a contrast between his genesis in ministry and the young woman’s. Essentially, he says that we, as the church, are behind the times and will cause our own serious decline. He appeals to women like this young lady, with the desire and the ability, being unfairly denied the chance to act upon such. Scant little scripture is asserted for their decision. In fact, direct reference to scripture appears in only two of the 14 paragraphs of his article.
His appeal to scripture for his position begs the question without proving anything. An uncritical analysis of his brief use of scripture might satisfy one who asks for biblical proof. He asserts that the two passages that restrict woman’s participation, 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 and 1 Timothy 2:9-15, “address specific circumstances in the particular cultural context of their original first-century audiences.” Interestingly, he does nothing to prove that. Here is why. There is not proof. The text allows for no such interpretation. In 1 Timothy, Paul explains that the epistle was to allow him and Ephesus to know how the church was to conduct itself (3:15). The role of women is just one of a great many “household matters” dealt with in the letter. A weak and illogical comparison is made to Paul’s words to slaves to obey their masters, an apples (gender distinctions are present all places for all times) to oranges (slavery has not been all places in all times) comparison. One is instruction for what a person does who happens to be a slave, while the other, in which Paul leaves his own culture to appeal to the beginning of time, governs on the basis of gender. His other “proof text,” Acts 2:17-21, deals with the miraculous. Ironically, this is a text that can be shown to be restrictive to a particular culture and time but Pauls uses these verses to appeal to the “universal” he attempts to establish.
To say that we are holding people back or down, that we do not respect them or believe in grace because we wish to respect, trust and obey Scripture is both dangerous and insulting. If certain ones are intent on changing God’s command for the sake of their own preferences, they are going to do so. Jeroboam did the same thing in 1 Kings 12. But, as Jesus said, “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). No man can do that, but he can break himself trying.