Have Ye Not Read?

By Hoyt H. Houchen

Question: What do you believe about women attending business meetings of the local church?

Reply: Leadership in the local church belongs to men. A decision making business meeting is in itself a ruling entity. The role of the woman is that of subjection. This is God’s arrangement, not man’s. Paul wrote to Timothy, “Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection. But I permit not a woman to teach, nor to have dominion over a man, but to be in quietness. For Adam was first formed, then Eve; and Adam was not beguiled, but the woman being beguiled hath fallen into transgression. . .” (1 Tim. 2:11-14). It is evident from this passage and others that the woman is not to assume authority over the man. Just as it is men (not women) who are to conduct the worship of the assembly, it is men (not women) who are to conduct the business affairs of the local church.

Where there are elders in the local church, they are to rule; thus they are to make the decisions (Acts 20:28; 1 Tim. 3:5; 5:17; Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 5:2). Where there are no elders, business affairs are tended to by the men of the congregation in business meetings. They make the decisions. It is true that women have part in the decisions which have been made by the men. For “ample, in Acts 15 there is the record of the controversy over circumcision; it involved whether or not Gentiles had to be circumcised according to the law of Moses as a condition of their acceptance. The matter was considered by the apostles and elders (men), although the whole church (including women) were in accord with the decision made (Acts 15:22). Actions in the local church which involve such matters as the selection of men for certain work (the seven in Acts 6) and the selection of elders include women. The church is to do the selecting and women are a part of the church (see Acts 6:2, 5), but that men took the lead in these matters is evident (Acts 14:23; Tit. 1:5).

Women, without doubt, make valuable contributions to the work of the local church. They render services, some of which could not be as efficiently filled by men. There is more work to be done by Christians than public speaking and decision making. Christ is the head of the church, His body (Col. 1:18), and each member (male or female) has his or her function as a part of the body (1 Cor. 12:12-27). Women usually excel as teachers of women and small children. Aged women are instructed to teach younger women (Tit. 2:3-5). Priscilla, with her husband Aquilla, modestly taught Apollos (Acts 18:26). Under such conditions women may teach. The work of widows which would qualify them for support from the church is given in 1 Timothy 5:9-14. The adornment of women is given by Paul. “In like manner, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefastness and sobriety. . . through good works” (1 Tim. 2:9, 10). Her exemplary conduct has its effect upon others (1 Pet. 3:1, 2). Phoebe was a servant of the church at Cenchrea (Rom. 16:1). Euodia and Syntyche labored with Paul in the gospel (Phil. 4:2). Indeed, there is a great field of work for women. Her participation in the singing and other acts of worship directed by men, means much to the service. Her teaching in her proper sphere, her good deeds, her encouragement, her acts of kindness, hospitality and general humble service in the Lord’s work are all valuable and appreciated. The woman, then should not feel that she is suppressed, dominated, or discriminated against because she is not invited to participate in the business meetings of the church where decisions are made. It is not to be considered an attitude of chauvinism that she is excluded from these meetings, but rather that respect is given to the Scriptures as to the woman’s role and to their silence as to women making decisions for the church. This is not to say that women are not to be considered when it comes to decisions of judgment, even where there are elders. Neither is this to say that women should not be informed of decisions that are made.

There are occasions when the church may meet for a special item of business, such as information about a proposal to purchase land, or to read a letter of withdrawal from some disorderly members (2 Thess. 3:6). Sometimes the worship assembly is dismissed, all the members (including women) are asked to remain and the visitors are granted permission to leave. Women, along with all the other members are informed as to actions that have been taken.

Caution must be exercised, lest little by little, degree by degree, things are allowed to creep in which result in such practices as women chairmen and women preachers. The Christian Church, with her women preachers, did not develop over night. It was gradual in coming. It is so easy for practices and movements in our society to effect the thinking of brethren. The ERA and the women’s liberation movement can very well have their influence upon the church. Again, this is not to say that women who believe they should attend business meetings of the church are necessarily members of these movements, or in sympathy with them. This is simply a word of caution that brethren can be influenced by the thinking of our society without being aware of it. There is so much for women to do, so there is really no reason why they should attend business meetings. It is safe for the men to conduct the business affairs of the church; the Scriptures authorize it. Furthermore, we already have enough issues that divide us without inviting another. A good sister in Christ wrote to me recently stating that a church in California has split over this matter. I am alarmed at some things that are being written in some of the papers. Women lectureships are also giving some of us concern. There are some trends among us that are dangerous, to say the least. They need to be watched carefully. The realm of woman’s subjection is as true in the church as it is in the home (Eph. 5:22, 23). In the home it is the business of the husband to make the decisions, and in the church it is the business of the men to publicly preach and make the decisions. Women, fulfill your God-given role; you will be blessed and your work will be valuable to the cause of Christ.

Guardian of Truth XXIX: 23, pp. 714-715
December 5, 1985