Cecil May: Woman’s nomination as preaching minister ‘the opposite of good news’

cecil-may-jr

Cecil May, Jr.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (BNc) by Cecil May Jr. — “Naomi Walters Named Minister in Residence at Stamford Church.” A widely circulated e-mail attachment has that headline. (I received four copies of it from four different sources.) It was preceded by the phrase, “Good News.” For many of us, however, it is the opposite of good news.

The writer of the piece is Dale Pauls, Stamford preacher. Naomi Walters is a graduate of Rochester College in Bible and Counseling and of Abilene Christian University with an M.Div. She is currently enrolled in David Lipscomb University in their D.Min. degree program. She sounds like a very capable lady and an engaging, informative speaker on biblical topics.

Why should she not be a preaching minister at a congregation of God’s people?

My answer is, “Because God in Scripture said a woman should not fill that role.”

Brother Pauls response to those of us who believe that is:

I do not doubt that many people who resist change on this are acting in good faith. But they are not studying the Bible. They are not doing their homework. They do not seek the original intent of Scripture nor do they seek to understand Scripture in its historical context. So they do not understand that those passages that restrict women’s participation in public worship—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. They do not understand that Paul is calling his readers to live gracefully as disciples of Christ within the strongly patriarchal patterns of their day. They do not understand that he is guiding Christians in the setting in which they live; he is not advocating their patriarchal, even misogynistic, setting for all time. So they do not distinguish between what the New Testament says about the new life in Christ and the degree to which it was possible to implement this in first century culture. As a result, although they would no longer use the teaching, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters” (Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 3:22—4:1; Titus 2:9-10) to defend slavery in our time, they will still use 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 and 1 Timothy 2:9-15 to silence women’s voices in our public assemblies in our time.

What Brother Pauls is overlooking is the fact that the apostle Paul does not base his restrictions on woman as preachers and leaders in public worship assemblies on local cultural considerations. He roots them in the order of creation and in the first sin. “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (1 Timothy 2:12-14 ESV). These admonitions were not given just to the Corinthian church and to the church in Ephesus through Timothy. Paul says they are the same “in all the churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33).

We rightly treat the Scriptures on slavery as culturally conditioned, applying them to the employer/employee relationship in our time, but Scripture does not base that commandment on creation. In Philemon the apostle lays the foundation for the end of slavery, telling Philemon he should receive his former slave, now a Christian “no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord” (Philemon 16). The limitations on women speaking and leading in pubic worship assemblies are because of the order of creation.

Brother Pauls notes correctly that continuing to follow these gender restrictions is contrary to the tide of culture and history. It is equally true that, in accepting Scripture’s assessment of homosexual relations as sinful (Romans 1:26-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11), we are running contrary to culture and to the sweep of public opinion. Christianity has always been counter-cultural and we should never ignore Scripture to follow popular opinion.

I appreciate that Brother Pauls does not do as some theological liberals do, deny that Scripture is God-breathed and authoritative. He attempts to establish his case while maintaining Scripture’s inspiration and authority. Unfortunately for his case, however, Paul appeals to creation rather than culture or local situations as the reason for his restrictions on women.

Assigning leadership roles to men and submissive roles to women, as Scripture does both in public worship and in the home, does not degrade women. Submission does not imply inferiority. God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son are equal in power, glory and Deity, but the Son voluntarily submits to the Father. Throughout Scripture Jesus says such things as, “I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 5:30). When wives submit to their husbands, when congregations submit to their elders, when women submit to men’s leadership in worship, indeed, when we submit to one another, we follow the path that Jesus says leads to the only true greatness.

Men are not smarter than women; they are not more dedicated as Christians than women. Christians do not deny women leadership roles based on human reasoning, gender bias or misogyny. It is done because we believe God who made us also knows what is best for us and how we best function, and He requires, “As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says” (1 Corinthians 14:33-34) and “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (1 Timothy 2:8-14).

We must obey God rather than the sweep of culture.

Bro May is Dean Emeritus of Faulkner University.

Randal and his wife Vicki have lived and worked in Brazil since Nov. 1984. They have three children, two daughters-in-law, and four grandchildren. He likes to read novels in his back-porch hammock. http://randal.us

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30 Comments

  1. Joe Dukes

    Excellent response!

    To show that this is not just a cultural matter, one could also show the context of 1 Corinthians 14 that was referenced by Bro. May to include verse 37 which says; “If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I wrote to you are the commandments of the Lord.”

  2. Amen! Thank you for writing this. I can’t believe Naomi is doing this! Why not lead a women’s ministry? Why not do that? Or does she feel serving only women is belittling? I’m just sad people are not sticking to God’s word.

  3. Racine Wilder

    Thanks, brother May, for defending the Truth. Amen, and Amen!

  4. Betty S. Bender

    Amen, Sandi, I don’t understand why women want to preach or take man’s role as God designed. Don’t we have enough to do in woman’s role? Why burden ourselves by trying to fill men’s role too? I count it an honor to be a woman and I want to submit to men’s leadership. O believe it is a protection in which God has honored us women.

    • I totally agree with you, Betty. Why add such a huge responsibility to our already full plates. I couldn’t have said it better than you!

  5. Earle Rattai

    The Word of the Lord is not subject to the winds of culture nor the will of man. We are not called upon to give the Lord counsel nor approval except to accept His sovereignty. Modern man has puffed himself up enough to think he must approve the Word of God instead of vice versa.

  6. Willie

    Because of so called changing culture, the US is now allowing abortion, acceptance of same sex marriages, and morning-after pill, etc., but does this mean that Christians should accept these? Looking at I Corinthians 11: 3, the apostle Paul clearly states, “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.” Nothing about Paul’s statement here involves custom. The beauty of Christ’s gospel is that it is eternal and should be immutable to those who truly follow him. I don’t believe I can recall a single woman angel appearing in the New Testament (I know there are some who might say Zechariah 5:9 refers to women angels) or an apostle who was a woman. What I do recall is references to the woman being the weaker vessel; this is no custom–it’s still true today. Clearly, the roles of men and women in worship are different by commandment, not custom.

    The only way to save the Lord’s church is to stand firm on the Bible.

  7. Trina E. Hager

    So thankful for this article and the stand that is taken. I am a woman that is trying to the best of my ability to serve my GOD and SAVIOR. I do not need to take on a man’s responsibility of standing in the pulpit, doing so would belittle me. I love the position GOD has given me, and as long as I remain faithful to HIM and HIS word, I’ll receive a crown and a mansion. It can’t get better than that.

  8. kenneth peters

    My grand mother had a saying,”common sense was made before book”; now i am understanding, what she meant.You dont have to have a university degree to undrestand 1st. tim:2:8-14,is not dealing with cultural issue, i goeright back to the begining of time,any one trying tosee it diferently is as my grand will say “flying into the face of god” defying gods command; while i will agree, that there many many talented women in the church,and some may even be more talented than the minister in her church; the fact remains that she has not got the authority from god to preach,when there aRE MEN CAPABLE OF PREACHING,present,,, who said it? god said it.. and that settles it…women has many ways in using their god given talents,and can be very effective in the ministry, in bringing souls to christ, why dot we all just concentrate on that aspectof our christian life instead of elevating our selves above the word of god.like the previous comments i will say amen to bro.May for his comment on this issue. thank you and god bless.

  9. dixie

    Betty and Sandi,

    It’s because Naomi feels called by God to use her gifts. That’s all there is to it. She’s not trying to take a ‘man’s role’. She only seeks to be true to her calling. Now, her ministry may not be good for your congregation, but the shepherds at the Stamford church have determined that it will be good for theirs. One of the things that is celebrated and held in high regard in the churches of Christ is the autonomy of the local congregation. Can we not leave each congregation’s decision with them alone and not be threatened by it? Chances are, the leaders at your church won’t be seeking out a female pulpit minister, so you really have nothing to be immediately concerned about.

    • Dixie,

      I completely understand what you’re saying. That’s an interesting point. So please consider this…
      What if she “felt called by God” to murder infants? What if she “felt called by God” to say men are to be silent? Or to teach that baptism is no longer necessary for salvation and is actually just an outward sign of an inward faith or an outdated custom? If she’s basing her actions on her “feelings” then she is not following God or His authority. This language “feeling called by God” and “being true to her calling” is not in the Bible. You see, I didn’t grow up in the church. I grew up in the denominational world, and this is the “language” they use, along with all their flashing lights, smoke, and huge bands on stage.

      It’s interesting that you know about the autonomy of the local congregation. Where did you learn that? It’s in the Bible, and its teachings aren’t nearly as “obvious” as the teachings of women’s role. Why stick to that “rule” but not the other? Because it “feels” like the right way to go? And therefore we claim that “feeling” has come from God? How does she know that “feeling” didn’t come from Satan? That’s where the danger arises, when we start basing our “religion” on our feelings and not on truth that can only be found in God’s word. She’s now not only endangering her own soul, but the souls of those around her. You see, I didn’t always “feel good” about my parents “rules.” But I followed them (not always perfectly). And when I didn’t follow them, I got hurt. It’s the same thing with God our Father. He’s our Father, and the way we love Him is to “obey” Him, John 14-15. Jesus repeats this statement several times, “If you love me, you’ll keep my commandments.” There’s likely a reason He needed to repeat that statement because we “children” tend to leave and turn away from His teachings.

      The “threat” is for her and the people of that congregation. And I’m deeply concerned for those people. Once a congregation deviates from the word of God, the “threat” is punishment from God. This is why we’re concerned.

      Proverbs 14:12: There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.

      2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.

      There are also several verses that talk about not adding to or taking away from God’s word (Revelation 22:18-19), and the punishments that will incur if we do that. God would not allow all those verses to be sprinkled throughout scripture if He knew His words would later be “out dated” or no longer applicable.

      Love in Christ,

      Sandi

      • Young lady, I can say you know your, Bible. That was the best answer, anybody could have, said.

  10. Charles Shepherd

    Dixie,
    While each congregation is autonomous, God’s Word does not allow for decisions which deviate from it’s authority in any matter, including leadership roles.

  11. The “Devil” is in full force these days! People are wanting the “easy,worldly,itchy ears” that the False Teachers are telling them ! We have to keep praying and believe,whole heartedly–GOD IS IN CONTROL and WILL NOT BE DEFEATED–(ONCE MORE!)
    Finish reading 1 Cor.14– that sums it up for me !

  12. Scott Logan

    To Dixie: My intention is to blanket my comment with kindness and respect: While we all may have feelings throughout our life about one decision, opportunity or situation, we should compare that feeling or decision to God’s Word to see if it matches up with His will. If it doesn’t, it would seem best that we should not do it. God’s way is best. His Word is there to help us know His will and I am so thankful. In my own life I often have to use this principle. Blessings! Janet Logan

  13. Joe Dukes

    Dixie said, “Naomi feels called by God…”
    How does God call and how do you know the calling you are hearing is from God? Even the devil disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14), so how do you know it is not the devil calling instead of God?

    Simply because God does not call by subjective things like feelings that differ from one person to another, but God calls by his Word and His word stipulates what type of worship God desires. He always has!

    Any calling from God will not contradict His revealed word.

    While congregations are autonomous, God’s word tells us what is true, and we can thereby know if an individual or congregation teaches the truth by comparison to the Bible.

  14. CarolS

    dixie, one thing you are forgetting is we are ALL members of the church and although it’s true each congregation can choose their own path, it’s also true as Christians we are to admonish each other when we see them straying from the truth. If that congregation wishes to follow the denominations, so be it, but removed the name “church of Christ” because they no longer stand for the principles and values the churches of Christ have stood for. When I saw the colleges she had intended it was very obvious why she has followed this path as they are all progressives/liberals but what bothers me most is when I think of all the souls that will be on that broad(er) path mentioned in Matthew come judgement day. Shouldn’t that be EVERY Christian’s first concern? Her FIRST calling should be to follow God’s word and to be true to Him at all times. Pleasing God and doing His will should be at the very top of every Christian’s list.

  15. dixie

    Obviously a person who used phrases such as ‘called by God’ to murder should be discredited. I, frankly, find it rather insulting that you would equate preaching the gospel with murder of babies simply because of the language that precedes the action. It seems her motives are called into question. Her desire to teach the Good News, the validity of her call, should not be called into question because of her gender. Probably the vast majority of men who go into pulpit ministry have never had to defend whether their desire to preach was based on a ‘feeling’ that may be leading them astray. No! It is applauded and held up as a noble pursuit to go and tell others of the Kingdom. We are all equipped to tell. Jesus commands us to go and tell. He does not stipulate who can tell. He just doesn’t.

    And just so you know, I haven’t always seen things this way. It is only with travel and time, deep conversations with holy people who interpret scripture differently (yet love God just as much!) that I have become open to this: Getting things ‘right’ is not nearly as important as loving people right. God alone judges the heart. Not me, not you, nor any other person. I am saved not because of the number of things I do correctly, not because I worship somewhere that practices weekly communion or baptism by immersion. I am saved because of the blood of Jesus and because I rest in the faith that His sacrifice is enough. The minute I put something else as a tack on to that sacrifice, I cheapen it. It’s like saying to Him, “I really appreciate what you did on the cross, but I’m going to make sure it counted by ________.”

    Last thought, and then I’m out. Y’all are free to argue to rest out as much as you like.
    It is impossible for anyone (anyone who has any bible background, that is) to come to scripture without bias. When I study, it is all filtered through several generations of church of Christ interpretation. It just is. I believe I am bound to teach scripture based on my interpretation. But if, IF I acknowledge that my attempts at this life walking in His way are not perfect, that my interpretations may not be exactly correct yet I am trusting my ETERNAL soul to His sacrifice, why isn’t that good enough for someone else? Someone who loves God as much as I do, who is as zealous for His church yet they come to scripture with several generations of Baptist (or Church of God, etc) interpretation filtering the words. What you may not understand is that the vast majority of ‘denominations’ all proclaim Christ as God’s Son. They all acknowledge God as Creator. They all hold up the crucifixion and resurrection as God redeeming work. Aren’t these the most important things? Can’t we get on board with those statements and support each other in telling this news to those who need to know it? Or, is it more important to isolate the methods that are the correct things, elevating them over the Message that saves?

    • Dixie,

      I don’t know if you’ll get this message, but I’m sorry for offending you by comparing this to murder. I was simply trying to show how far something like that can go when we depend on our emotions, especially when they aren’t scripturally based. I’ve also recently been dealing with a woman who advocates abortions, no matter what term; hence, why this murdering of infants was brought to my mind on this matter. This woman “feels” very strongly about it, so much so, that she believes she is “called” to “stand up for women” all over America. So, please know, my comparison was simply meant to be an example of how far this kind of thinking can go when we disregard God’s word: Jonestown is also a good example of this.

      I grew up in the denominational world, so I’m very aware of what they believe, that Jesus is the Son of God, etc. I know there are many sincere lovers of God who simply don’t yet know the whole truth. I’ve been so entrenched in it, that my grandmother is a self-proclaimed prophetess. But I’ve also seen where “emotional-based” religion can lead, and it’s not a pretty place. Nothing is pretty when it’s not scriptural.

      I realize it’s difficult to hear my true “tone” in writing, and I’m sorry that it came across the way it did. I’ve said all I need to say on the subject, and because I’ve clearly come across offensive, I will now bow out of this conversation.

      Love in Christ,

      Sandi

  16. adam

    I am not trying to blame this situation on one thing, but are we sending a mixed message to our youth by pushing programs like Lads to Leadereattes? I’ve always thought it sent a mixed message…

  17. CarolS

    Sorry for the typos in my previous post. Should say “remove the name “church of Christ” And it should say “the colleges she attended”…. Shouldn’t post when I’ve been sick :/

  18. Paul

    Quote from Dixie, “Can we not leave each congregation’s decision with them alone and not be threatened by it?”

    In so many instances, yes. But the preacher at Stamford drew us into the discussion with his assumptions about those who disagree. In the article he says of those who resist this kind of change, “But they are not studying the Bible. They are not doing their homework. They do not seek the original intent of Scripture nor do they seek to understand Scripture in its historical context.”
    He does not desire for the congregation there to simply, autonomously do their own thing. He seeks this change in the church as a whole, and accuses those of us who disagree as “not studying the Bible.” Many of us have doctrinal disagreements with denominational groups or even some within the churches of Christ. I hope our assumption would not be that those we disagree with are “not studying the Bible.”

    There is currently a group that is pressuring Christian colleges to have women give keynote addresses at their lectureships. I can assure you that none of them will be content with anything other than removing gender roles from all of the churches of Christ. Those in leadership at Stamford want more than just an autonomous change at Stamford. That is why we are all seeing links to Mr. Pauls’ article in the first place. His interest has been gender studies for a long time. A brief look at their church website reveals how much importance they place on that compared to other topics. If this were just about Stamford we could read the article, study our Bibles, have our discussions and move on. Unfortunately, their desire is that we follow suit. Anything less would be to “not seek the original intent of Scripture” by their thinking.

    The respect for autonomy is a two way street.

  19. Dave Faulkner

    Brother May’s article is a shining example of “speaking the truth in love” and will go a long way to bringing opposing “sides” to the table for Bible study and prayer and discussion. The truth need not be pounded into the unbeliever, but will produce fruit when it is shined as a light, as brother May has done so well. I’m so glad to have revisited this site today.

  20. Willie

    Does God allow women preacher’s in the church? Below are points to ponder on this topic:

    1. God made man (Adam) first; then He made woman from man’s rib (Eve)–why didn’t God create Eve in the same manner He created Adam? Doesn’t this in itself suggest that God intended woman to be the weaker vessel because she was formed from man? God was not bound by custom.

    2. Why does the apostle Paul state that he is speaking about his personal preference in regard to women’s wearing short or long hair? (I Cor. 11:15-16). Why doesn’t he say or make clear when he speaks of women’s role in church that it is only custom or cultural?

    3. Why would the apostle Paul say in Gal. 1:9,…”If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed”? If women’s roles in church are not cultural, then Paul’s statement gives a very harsh warning.

    4. Why would an intelligent young lady who loves God and wants to serve Him pursue a course that is divisive in the brotherhood? Isn’t unity taught just as much as congregational autonomy?

    5. Does having a woman minister promote unity?

    6. Women, would you want to be manning the pulpit when Christ returns? Personally, I want to make my salvation as sure as I can.

    .

  21. After reading all these comments (some very good, others not so much!), I suggest we go back to bro. May’s article, which states the case very simply, plainly, lovingly, biblically, and succinctly.

  22. Jeff

    I heard a denominational preacher on the radio recently question whether it was wise for them to have ever allowed women to stand in front of the congregation in the first place because they are now dealing with problems of immodest dress among those “on stage.”

    When you submit to man’s will, and ignore God’s wisdom, it’s only going to create more problems.

    Something else that Dixie touched on is this thinking that our teaching only takes place in the worship service by the preacher. Everyone is commanded to Go out and teach, spreading the gospel. If this Ms. Walters is a gifted teacher, then there is no limit to the opportunities she has for having Bible studies and teaching the lost – just as long as she doesn’t take a leadership role over men in the church.

  23. Dixie and Naomi and any others who consider women preaching as true to God’s word:
    In your post, Dixie, you said: “Getting things ‘right’ is not nearly as important as loving people right. God alone judges the heart. Not me, not you, nor any other person.” Have you read the passage in Galatians 1:6-12?
    “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is
    not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God” Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. But I make known to you brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
    I meet people all the time who “feel” things are right, “feel called” or something like this, but that does not matter if God did not approve it. If we think that we can do something that God has not authorized us to do, we have “lifted the veil” and refused to submit to God.
    As for the church giving her permission to do this. If God does not authorize it, how can men go against God? We need to be careful that we don’t think more highly of ourselves and our talents and let them direct us instead of God. This is culturally accepted, but so is abortion, homosexuality, and many other things. But it is still not right by God. God never contradicts himself. If He says we as women are to have a role different from what we “feel called to do”, that does not make it right with God. I am sorry that so many women are confused by this.

  24. dixie

    I am equally sorry so many women are confused on this. I’m sorry that so many women have allowed a narrow interpretation silence the voice of God which resides in them. I am sorry that so many men are so threatened by a loss of ‘leadership’ that they insist their sisters in Christ are not worthy to teach them. Cheryl, as far as I know the gospel is that God redeems His people through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus, who bore our sins, paid the penalty for them even though innocent Himself, and then triumphed over death through His resurrection on the third day. That is what the church in Galatia needed reminding of. Because some were distorting the message, Paul was reminding them of the gospel they accepted. The gospel is not about gender, as illustrated by Paul further down in chapter 3. He says there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female for all are one in Christ. The gospel is about the redemption of creation by God through Christ. When you put ANYthing else on the level with that, you cheapen what has been done. The gospel message frees, rather than binds. It gives grace, rather than condemns. While it is maybe easier to live within certain black and white lines, in the end, maintaining those ‘rules’ is NOT what saves. Christ saves. When we accept that sacrifice, when we receive His spirit to live within us, when we are cleansed in baptism, there is no law that condemns any longer.

    • You described the gospel beautifully, Dixie. And it’s beautiful because you pretty much quoted scripture. God’s truth is that way. It’s beautiful and is like bathing in a water so pure and clean a person is completely filled and their thirst quenched. Just like Jesus describes to the woman at the well. I think the concern here is whether or not we are loving God, truly loving Him as Jesus describes over and over again in John 14-15, “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments.” The Bible is very clear about the role of women, that they are to remain silent and not have authority over a man. It’s pretty simple, really. But we pass over those verses as being “out dated.” Well, I believe God is all powerful and knew what the future would bring, and He set the rules this way for a reason. It doesn’t mean we women are of less worth or value or that the men are being threatened. It’s more like the nose trying to act as a toe. God has given us our roles. It’s about staying true and obedient to the Word of God and His commands and the role he’s given us. That’s how we show our love for him. Doing things His way, not our way, whether we understand it or not. That’s what Jesus repeated at least four or five times to us in John. If we LOVE Him, we will keep His commandments, be obedient to Him and submit to His “rules.” He seeks those who worship Him in spirit and in “truth.” So, the question is, how much do we love Him, truly LOVE HIM and His truth. He’s our Father and we as His children need to do what He says.

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