By Lewis Willis
I recently subscribed to a religious journal published by the Getwell Church of Christ in Memphis, Tennessee entitled The Spiritual Sword. The issue for January 1991 was a special having to do with the Role of Women in the Church. The editor, Alan E. Highers, set the stage for the special issue in an editorial he entitled “The Winds of Change.” In that article Highers identified the changes being made among those liberal churches that left us years ago. He opposes some of these changes as much as we would oppose them. However, he has apparently failed to learn that you cannot have a little liberalism in the church. Here are some of the things that are happening in liberal churches according to Highers.
The Bering Drive Church in Houston, Texas issues a “Report on Women’s Participation in Public Worship,” dated March 5, 1989. It said, “On July 31, 1988, the elders presented a statement to the Bering family concerning the use of spiritual gifts by both men and women, expressing our conviction that it is scriptural and appropriate for sisters as well as brothers to serve in Sunday morning worship roles of ushering, greeting visitors, receiving the offering, reading Scripture, leading prayers, leading singing, and serving communion.”
Highers also quoted from a January 1990 letter which the Cahaba Valley Church in Birmingham sent to their members. “We further assert that women in the Lord may minister not only to women but also to men, as God calls them, as long as they are submitting to God’s authority, the leaders of the church, and their commitments to their families.” They also announced that they were appointing deacons, both male and female, on Pentecost Sunday, 1990. By 1994 they said woman will also be “speaking to the assembly in sermon.”
Highers printed an exchange that occurred at the 1990 Preachers and Church Workers forum at Freed-Hardeman University. The exchange was the response to a question by Robert Randolph, preacher for the church at Brookline, Massachusetts, and Lynn Mitchell, an elder at Bering Drive in Houston. Here is the exchange:
Question: I would like to ask brother Randolph, can women serve as elders today? If not, why not? Our culture today would allow it even though the culture of the Bible in general might not permit it.
Randolph: I have no problem with women serving as elders today. . .
Mitchell: I wouldn’t take any exception to what brother Randolph said.
The Gospel Advocate, a well-known journal among the liberals, wrote in their March 1989 issue on this subject: “Some have assumed that as long as women do not act contrary to the specific command to ‘keep silence,’ they can assume a leadership role in the service, such as serving communion. . . Some are saying that serving communion is not a leadership role . . . in at least one instance, women are not content with serving communion but now also lead singing and prayer, make announcements, read the Scriptures, and even preach on occasion! . . . A recent decision in a second congregation affirms, ‘after much prayer and thought and discussion, the conclusion was reached that there was nothing in Scripture denying women the freedom to serve in the following capacities: ushering, serving communion, Scripture reading, song leading, leading prayer and making announcements.”‘
It is evident that our liberal brethren have a problem on their hands. They abandoned the authority of the Scripture many years ago, and they do not appreciate the liberties that some of their churches are now exercising. They demand the right to exercise their liberties without Scripture, but they do not want others to do the same if they go farther into denominationalism than they choose to go.
For a long time the denominational world has had women preachers and church leaders. Now we know that liberal churches of Christ have followed that same path. The evidence of history is that faithful churches will have difficulty with the same questions if we fail to teach the truth in a forthright way concerning these questions. This one is easy to deal with.
“Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak,- but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church” (1 Cor. 14:34-35). It also should be noted that Paul is discussing conduct when “the whole church be come together into one place” (v. 23). Paul also said, “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” (1 Tim. 2:11-12). As it regards women elders, we need to note simply that the Scriptures teach: “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3:1-2).
We must make a decision to live by the Scriptures. If we do so, we will know that God has limited a woman’s activity in the church and we must not go beyond what he has authorized. If we are going to abandon the Scriptures regarding some of these things, it really does not matter what we do after that. To go beyond the Scripture – any Scripture – means that we have abandoned God (2 Jn. 9). We will not take that first step away from God’s Word.
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 9, pp. 264, 269
May 2, 1991