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Why do some churches forbid women
to be preachers?

This issue remains a controversial one in many churches and denominations. It stems from two scripture passages written by the Apostle Paul, which are frequently interpreted differently. In the first, Paul writes, "Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church" (1 Cor. 14:34-35). Some churches interpret this to mean that Paul forbade women to speak publicly or preach in the church. However, others contend that he used the Greek verb that described "talk or chatter," and was only discouraging conversational interruptions in the assembly. The tradition of the early church (synagogue) was that the men and women sat on opposite sides, divided by a waist-high partition. There's speculation that during the teaching, there was disruptive chatting between the women or perhaps they asked questions of their husbands across the partition.

The other passage written to Timothy is even more controversial. Paul wrote, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence [submission]" (1 Tim. 2:12). This is seen by some as an indisputable restriction against women holding church positions of teaching or authority, but others believe that Paul was speaking to a wife's domestic submission to the authority of her husband. Whatever Paul meant, it apparently was not intended to be a sexist bias against women, as he explained elsewhere that gender held no distinction to those in Christ. "...there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28).

What is clear is that the broad context of the New Testament shows that women did have a significant role in the early church. Besides continuing with the Apostles in prayer, there were women, such as Phebe, whom Paul described as a deaconess (Greek, DIAKONOS), a term which referred to an office of ministry (Rom. 16:1). And there were other women, such as Philip's four daughters, who prophesied, proclaiming public messages from God (Acts 21:8-9).

Throughout church history, women have played a vital role in its success. Many a pioneer church, while in short supply of men, has relied upon the faithfulness of women to carry the load of prayer, ministry and other responsibilities. Today, women continue to play a great part in the success of church ministries. Many churches authorize women to teach, preach or even pastor churches, but there are others which still restrict their participation to non authoritarian positions.

This article is from the book, What People Ask About the Church, authored and copyrighted © by Dr. Dale A. Robbins, 1990-2015, and is a publication of Victorious Publications, Grass Valley, CA - Nashville, TN. Unless otherwise stated, all scripture references were taken from The New King James Bible, © Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982. You may download this article for personal use as long as you retain credit to the author. Obtain permission before reproducing copies for any reason, by filling out our simple permission form. Many of our writings are also available as free pdf tri-fold pamphlets, which can be downloaded for reproduction from our Online Catalog. For media reproduction rights, or to obtain quantities of this title in other formats, email us.