As a woman who teaches and preaches the Bible, 1 Timothy 2:12 is a verse in the New Testament that I regularly get asked about. I’ve talked about it many times, but have been a bit reluctant to commit pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).
Why? Because I love the Bible and want to take it seriously and interpret it faithfully and part of that means reading it as a whole rather than focusing on a single verse out of its wider context.
Because more has been written about that one verse than most others put together and there may not be anything new to say.
Because my thoughts are nuanced and have developed over time and may continue to do so, whereas the written word is ‘frozen’ in time and can therefore be misinterpreted as ‘final’ and ‘complete’.
Because I haven’t wanted to be judged and put in a box based on my thoughts on one single topic.
Because people might think that I am just trying to justify myself.
I could go on.
But in the end, I’ve realised that not saying something can lead to people making just as many assumptions and misinterpretations.
That some people have been told there is only one way to interpret that verse and thus assume my practice must therefore indicate that I don’t believe the Bible.
That nuance and wrestling shouldn’t preclude written conversation.
That the affirmation and encouragement of women to use their God-given gifts for the benefit of the church and the world is just too important to worry about what those who disagree with me will say or think.
Perhaps for some similar reasons, the movement of churches I am part of is holding a symposium in a couple of weeks to articulate our biblical and theological perspective on why we support and encourage both women and men into pastoral ministry.
And so in the lead up to that, I have finally put pen to paper (okay, fingers to keyboard) and written a paper I’ve called “Women, Preaching, the Bible and 1 Timothy 2.” It’s a lot longer than a normal blog post, because how else do you give broad context and provide nuance? It’s built on the work of others but also contains my own personal thoughts. It’s been reviewed by some peers I respect and trust but no doubt contains thoughts others will disagree with.
So for those who have previously asked or those who are interested, you can read or download it here: http://sabaptist.asn.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Women-preaching-and-the-Bible-Cousins.pdf
And if you want to skip to my conclusion, it is simply this:
In the end, we are dealing with a complex matrix of biblical, theological, historical, and cultural issues when talking about women, preaching, and the Bible. We need to put our discussion into this wider context rather than assume that there is a ‘proof text’ that settles the question. I believe that the Scriptures affirm the calling on women and men to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit and to respond to both the call of God and the need of the world for faithful proclamation of the gospel. I believe we can wrestle with the texts that have been used to limit this calling in ways that are hermeneutically consistent and evangelically faithful and come to more generous conclusions. Let us preach the Word of God that Jesus might be known. And let us raise up the next generation of Marys, Phoebes, Junias, and Priscillas to play their part in the flourishing of the church, the witness of the kingdom, and the demonstration of the new creation yet to come.
5 thoughts on “Thinking out loud about Women, Preaching, the Bible and 1 Timothy 2”
Big thanks, Melinda, for sharing this piece with us. Clearly, the gifts of teaching and preaching the Holy Spirit has given you – which you so faithfully use to build up His Church – are no less potent than those same gifts He gives to one of your brothers for the same purpose. I am fascinated by the [unbiblical] idea that the Holy Spirit would need to reach into his special “pink coloured gift bag” to see what limited option of gifts He might bestow upon His daughters. We are – miraculously and counter-culturally – all ONE in Christ Jesus. Thankyou for your wise exegesis of this text.
I like what you’ve written here. You connect 1 Tim to the rest of Paul wrote in a way that makes obvious sense.
In case you didn’t see it a few years ago, here’s what our Adelaide evanglican bishop had to say – much of it is similar to what you’ve said.
Thank you Melinda for your boldness. God’s word should not be taken out of context but in the whole he gave gifts to his ⛪ church women 🚺 inclusive. If he desires them not to exhibit such, why pour out the power and gift 📦 on women. I totally agree with you 👍
I really appreciated your paper. I have heard women preach some of the most convicting sermons I have heard- maybe because I can better relate or follow their thinking but I’m still unsure of my position on it all. It hurts to see girls being told their spiritual gift isn’t real if they are female. Why wouldn’t there be two different tests out there if one gender doesn’t get some of them. I am drawn to the unity that comes in Christ that includes differences between genders but I get stuck on some passages (as all do when looking at this topic). What are your thoughts on elders? I have seen many thoughts on women in the church and preaching but not interacting with the passages on elders in Titus 1 and and 1 Timothy. Do you think in being a pastor or preacher you are also assuming the role of elder? Why do you think these passages are in place if God didn’t intend for it to be only men?