Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dear Church of Christ, ICOC, Mennonites, and Conservative Evangelicals or Pentacostals

ROLE OF WOMEN IN FELLOWSHIP, CHURCH AND AS INDIVIDUALS

By Kevin Stoda, Germany

I will summarize what I have shared with you before:
1 Timothy 2:12 (New International Version)
12I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.

I shared with you that this later verse of Paul’s is a clarification on an early set of verses—in Romans for example—which Paul has made in various writings.

In this verse, we have Paul doing something he rarely does: Paul clarifies that it is a personal preference of his.

No amount of arguing that Paul is speaking in terms of apostolic vision. Paul clarifies that it is his preference that in his own services this rule-of-thumb should apply.

Paul is older by this time in his writings and has gained some greater insight into many more fellowship communities, and he has cultivated some room for tolerance to the implementation of the rule-of-thumbs to which he had held once so dear.

In this writing, Paul does not refer to anything in the old testament of God to make the rationale for his clear. Paul simply interprets, as a former Pharisee would, the status quo belief and practices of how a community of believers functions.

IN FIRST TIMOTHY

However, the now-more-mature Paul of Tarsus is making it clear that it is HE who is speaking by doing what he did not do in Romans—i.e. he is distinctly using “I” not as a prophet but clearly as teacher or guide to the younger Timothy. (By using this “I”, Paul is giving advice or at lease relegating his advice to the status of the sort of advice Christians and even non-believers recognize from the Book of Proverbs.

As Christians, and with the old testament example of Judge or Leader Deborah (in Judges 4-5) glaring in our face, we can see that the Lord appoints whomever, he/she wants to lead his people and to speak up or give counsel. This makes it clear that women can certainly give advice or counsel to males—even publically.

I, therefore, encourage all church women and our more conservative church, itself, to encourage greater wisdom for all members and provide training to women to step up when there is a clear time for them to do so—i.e. certainly when they feel called to do so.
For example, if the English church does not have enough male leaders to fill slots, women need to feel comfortable in their training and in their knowledge of the scriptures to take over the slot—i.e. with one important caveat being that wisdom and prayer of the community support her.

I foresee that at some point in the next decades, this will become normal so that our Kingdom will expand with more women voices sharing in leadership.

However, education is the key.

The common lack of female education in the time of Paul was certainly one reason those women asked so many questions at the back of the church during the fellowship, i.e. negatively impacting church meetings.

However, I am prepared to wait and simply encourage the family to consider the advice I feel called by my personal experience to share.


AN ANECDOTE FROM BILINGUAL OR MULTILINGUAL FELLOWSHIP

I share and emphasize ALL this NOW because of a story from our current fellowship dating back a few years.

The following was reported to me as an important but disturbing event in my current fellowship’s history. (My current church fellowship conducts its services both in German and in English.)

-“On one Sunday several summers ago, an African member of the church had her father visit the fellowship. This African women then stepped-up to translate the service into the language of her father.”

-“After several minutes, an American member of this bilingual congregation—namely a member from one of the more conservative traditions in the fellowship—loudly got up to leave.”

-“However, before he angrily marched out of the room, this same American stated, ‘I cannot stay here because a woman is not permitted to lead, translate or give advice to men in my fellowship.’”

-“This same American then contacted church leaders in the United States and complained about this very incident.”

-“The subsequent enquiry from the American-side led the German’s in the congregation, who have generally been more progressive and tolerant on women’s matters, to fear a takeover of their church building, i.e. which had been built with the assistance of American missionary funds nearly 40 years earlier.”


MY JOURNEY FROM BABTISM TO BEING ASKED TO LEAD

I have shared with you in face-to-face discussion that I was baptized as an adult on 12th of March 2000 in the waters of the Persian Gulf in the Emirate of Sharjah in the federation of the UAE.

Two days later, I had taken off for a long weekend to Oman by bus.

Before I left for Muscat, I had contacted a small fellowship in that capital city. I was able to meet with the leader of the church and to study the Bible and worship with them.

In the meantime, I had decided to rent a car as Oman was difficult to travel around by using public transportation.

This particular small church fellowship in Muscat, Oman asked me if I would be willing to drive to a hospital in the Omani desert, where a Filipino sister-in-Christ worked as a nurse.

At first, I agreed to undertake the trip and began planning to make the six or seven hour journey into the desert.

In this, I was to be accompanied by a sister in Muscat for holding communion and prayer with that weekend. However, the night before we were to leave this same 8-year member of the church told me, “You will have to give the message, you know.”

“Giving a message” means that I was to be seen as the preacher or leader or the meeting—e.g. in Acts we read that “wherever two or three our gathered in prayer” the Lord will be there.

I was shocked by this request from my older and sister-in-Christ.

I couldn’t believe that this very much more mature female Christian would metaphorically bow to me and ask me to “give the message” the next day.

I quickly reminded her that I had just been baptized three days before. (By the way, the sister, whom we were visiting and who was working at a hospital deep in the desert of Oman, had also been in the church for about a decade. So, combined they had nearly two decades of experience as a bible-studying Christian than I had.)

It, therefore, seemed incredible that they would stand on church tradition and ask that I lead the service, i.e. in giving a communion message.


AFTERMATH

In the aftermath of this experience in a small church community in Oman (which incidentally had more males than females in attendance), I feel called the rest of my days to ask the more conservative factions of my church to reconsider (1) what is practice and (2) what is really both biblical and functional.

I imagine that in some cases: one reason the church has not been able to grow at times is that the church does not often enough fully integrate the wife and women—and by extension the entire family--better into the whole process of church community.

By this, I mean empowerment is not complete and well-rounded education in church participation is not more fully practiced

I, myself, am committed to empower everyone in the more conservative evangelical and apostolic churches to become more well-rounded—just as I need to be more well-rounded.

Apostle Paul set examples for us by focusing on the roles of women in Romans 16 and elsewhere. Some women were married. Some were not.

Paul also demonstrated to us examples of his own life where he evolved and tried to become all things to all men—that is to be well-rounded in serving the communities of Christians wherever he went.

This is one reason I am encouraging our wonderful bilingual fellowship in Germany--and other conservative fellowships elsewhere to learn each others languages.

In March, others and I will begin to offer both English and German classes in our fellowship so that integration and a more well-rounded fellowships develops over the next decade

Austausch or cultural exchange is important for us.

We can be a light until others if we work together more and more biculturally and bilingually—and spiritually.

That is right.

In summation:

We are also hoping to discuss and share the Bible a bit more in the English and German classes. We also what to help others and ourselves to work together better multiculturally.

This is another example of Paul’s maturation process that we all need to emulate as the world and our societies change and try to handle in a positive way globalization and its effects on our communities.

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