Both men and women are important to the Church. This sentence doesn’t seem like it should be shocking or even necessary to state, but years of church history deem it necessary. For years, women in churches have been treated as second-class citizens. They have been marginalized to women’s and children’s ministry and the Church of Jesus Christ has suffered because of it.
I used to believe that women should only have select roles in the church and took a complimentarian view of women in the church. But everything changed when I took a challenge to read the New Testament completely through and highlight each time where women speak, use their gifts, understand who Jesus is, or are named. I was amazed. Women are the ones that “get it”, when the Twelve do not. They are there at the cross as Jesus dies. They are financially supporting the ministry of Jesus and the poor. They are hosting the church. So why do we hesitate to give them leadership?
Why did I? My one brake on women’s ordination was the Greek word “authentein”. There was really only one section, 1 Timothy 2:11-15, that was out of sync with what I saw in the New Testament, and all of it hangs on that one word: “authentein”. The word is translated by the NIV and ESV as “to exercise authority over”, and it is only used in this one verse in the entire New Testament. There are many words that Paul could have used as authority including the most popular: "exousia". However, Paul does not use that common word, but the obscure one. Why? Because Paul is addressing a specific false teaching, as it says in 1 Timothy 1:3. We do not know exactly what the heresy is, but as most versions translate "authentein" as “usurp authority”, we get the idea of a power play. This translation fits with the quarreling mentioned in verses 1-10. Timothy was ministering in Ephesus which held the Temple of Artemis, the fertility goddess and originator of man as they thought. Could the conflict and power play be connected to the cult of Artemis? Most scholars say this is highly likely. I believe Paul is addressing a specific false teaching and corrects it with the creation story of Adam and Eve. It is not a creation mandate of subordination.
With the vocabulary of an obscure word that everyone argues over, I would say that the meaning is anything but plain. As a Bible believing Christian, I am taught that what is clear in Scripture should put the obscure parts of Scripture in perspective. Two places in Scripture that are far more clear to me than 1 Timothy 2 are Acts 16 and 1 Corinthians 15.
First, in Acts 16, Paul and his co-workers go to the river in Philippi rather than a synagogue. There is no synagogue in the town because there has to be 10 Jewish men to form one. So without 10 men to form a synagogue, Paul forms a church in the household of a woman, Lydia. Let that sink in! Lydia is given apostolic authority to start that church.
The other clear and vital passage is from the gospels via 1 Corinthians 15. Paul says that the gospel is of first importance: that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and raised on the third day. So let me ask: who were the only people to witness Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection? In every gospel, it is women. In the time of Christ, women could not testify in court proceedings because women were not seen as reliable witnesses. In fact, early atheists argue against Christianity because it is based on women’s testimony. However, without the authoritative witness/testimony/teaching of women, we have no gospel as we know it. None.
Despite prohibitions against women in leadership from the established church, a casual look over the great revivals and exponential growth movements of church history reveals women contributing in leadership roles. You only have to look at women like Lottie Moon, Mary Fletcher, Anne Boleyn, Susanna Wesley, and Helen Rosevare to see the amazing work God did in their ministries. As ECO desires to create flourishing churches that make disciples of Jesus Christ, it is imperative that we celebrate and encourage women in every church office.