By Truman Smith
Some 15 years ago, I wrote an article for the Gospel Guardian under the above title. It was written then in an effort to alert brethren concerning a trend which I saw among some of our institutional brethren. I said in that article that I intended to keep my eye on the situation; and in the ensuing years since, I have kept up with the development of this matter.
At that time, I had seen a book advertised which was written by an elder of a ”Church of Christ,” in Which it was argued that girls may word prayer in youth camp meetings, even in the presence of boys. Though I did not read the book, it claimed to successfully meet all the arguments that brethren have made through the years against such practices. Also, from the tone of at least one of the many bulletins which I received each week, some of our liberal brethren were apparently trying to get a movement going to allow women as public proclaimers of the gospel. In this particular bulletin, a series consisting of four installments on that issue was published in an effort to make their brethren aware of the problem. The first paragraph in the series went as follows:
“Every significant movement within society will eventually, to some degree, make itself felt in the church. The phenomenon of ‘women’s liberation is no exception. There are those within the church who are clamoring that women must throw off the yoke of male domination and claim their rightful place in the body of Christ. The approach to this issue has been two-fold. Some have adopted a completely infidelic attitude by suggesting that certain ‘troubling passages’ in the New Testament are merely the result of Pharisaic and rabbinic prejudices reflecting the backward ignorance of the first century. It is thus claimed that such are not authorized for today’s church. Others, desiring to assume a more conservative stance, assert there is biblical support for women preachers, leaders, etc.”
(Wayne Jackson in Brentwood News). The bulletin was published by the Brentwood Church of Christ in Fort Worth.
As you know, over the past few years, the news media has reported concerning the battles that are raging by various religious denominations over the question of women taking positions of leadership in their churches. The frequency of such news items indicate that the matter has become a major problem with many nominations. This is understandable, since denominationalists have long ago abandoned the Scriptures as their complete and only guide. Thus, the dispute will be handled about like some kind of a political issue and settled in that same manner. Their hierarchy will simply vote on the matter. They will not let the Scriptures be the standard by which to settle such matters; for after all, ”it is impossible for all to see the Bible alike,” or “everyone has his own interpretation of the Scriptures.” Many of these do not believe that the Bible is relevant to our modern times. Thus, it is understandable why the denominational world might allow women such “rights.”
But, so have many of our brethren also abandoned the Bible as a complete guide. Considering the so-called “new hermeneutics,” essentially, there is no difference between the two attitudes! When our institutional brethren say, “We do not have to have Bible authority for everything we do,” are they not abandoning the Word of God as a complete guide? I still believe that it is because of “brotherhood loyalty,” or the fact that they feel the brotherhood is just not ready for it yet, might be all that is keeping them from permitting the practice generally. In fact, it seems that the pressure is already on in some parts of the country and it might be sooner than we think.
In February, 1992, I ran across an article titled The Role of Women in the Church? by Bobby Duncan. In the first paragraph he said:
“I have in my file a 20-page document sent by the elders of a church in Alabama to the members of that church. This document was under date of January 1990, and it tells about plans to change what they refer to as ‘traditional’ roles for women. Among other things, they said they would appoint some deacons, and then the statement is made: ‘Deacons will be male and female.’ The document further states that the elders would ‘initiate gradual change in the Sunday morning worship assembly.’ Notice that word gradual. We can’t do it all at once; it has to be done gradually. Those elders know that some of the members of that church, liberal as it is, would still rebel against what those elders were about to instigate if they did it all at once” (Vigil, Vol. 20, No. 2).
Brother Duncan also said,
“Another church in Alabama advertised in its bulletin a ‘Community Enrichment Seminar,’ with one of its members, a woman, speaking on ‘Grief The Road to Recovery.’ The bulletin urged the members to ‘use this as an opportunity to invite a friend to visit the [Blank] church.”‘
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 6, p. 1
March 18, 1993