Women’s Role in the Church
What’s the truth?
What about divorce?
What does God say about women in church?
by Del Hungerford
What I believe the Bible says about women in church:
I have some pretty strong beliefs about women in the church. I’ve had some radical pastors who believed that “God is not a respecter of persons,” meaning that God doesn’t exclude women from being equal to men. I went to a non-denominational church with a woman pastor. For some, that’s pretty radical. Many say that my beliefs are unbiblical. The best book I’ve ever read on the subject of women as leaders in churches is titled “The Woman Question” by Kenneth E. Hagin. The book can be purchased through www.alibris.com or www.faithcenteredresources.com. For additional information on women in leadership, visit “God’s Word To Women” web site at www.godswordtowomen.org. Katharine Bushnell wrote a book in the early 1900’s that addressed this very issue. After years of being lost, the book is available once again for purchase directly from the web site.
Hagin’s book presents what I perceive to be the strongest Biblical argument for women having the God-given right to hold leadership positions in a church. In addition, I provide some additional insight in my article “Advice for Ministers.” Hagin does an amazing job of looking at the context and delves deeply into the original meanings of words. The book also addresses submission by a wife to her husband. It puts to rest what I consider unbiblical teachings heard so often by various extreme fundamentalist groups. Sorry for those of you who disagree. But, before you disagree too much, maybe you should take a look to see if your beliefs could be based on someone’s personal religious beliefs. Don’t take my word for it. Do the research yourself. My words are to guide you in your own self-discovery. For example, because it’s so easy to take scriptures out of context, the scriptures used so often by churches concerning divorce, submission, and headship in a home are distorted. Unless the context, original language, and who the audience was are all taken into consideration, we are in grave danger of misinterpreting scriptures.
Sad to say, but in my research of various web sites for this section, I found that even some of the foremost Christian family experts recommend a separation in abusive situations, with the idea that the couple will eventually get back together. They assume the husband will learn to not be abusive. I understand that probably 95% of marriages can be salvaged, but when you’re dealing with an abuser, all bets are off. Abusers, especially those with mental issues, often struggle to change. Had I gone back to my husband, I probably wouldn’t be alive to write this. Christian family experts don’t appear to know enough yet about abusive relationships. It’s time we all become more educated.
The basic beliefs needed:
In talking with a pastor, we discussed that in order for us to understand how divorce fits into the Christian life; we must first understand the following three principles:
- EVERY good and perfect gift comes from God. He does not give us bad gifts. He does not “cause” bad things to happen to us. He gives us good things. (James 1:16-18; Matthew 7:11; Luke 11:13; Romans 4:4 in the Message Bible) This MUST be understood in order for a woman to understand abuse. Because God allows us to make our own decisions, we live in a place where people are doing just that… making our own decisions. The good and perfect things come from God. The bad things come from our enemy (the devil) and people doing what people do best… being selfish. Selfishness leads to every evil thing. So… NO, God doesn’t cause bad things to happen to us. Human kind has opened the door for that. As with all open doors, something (or someone) eventually walks through it, and will keep doing so until the selfish, self-desiring, self-serving door is closed.
- EVERYTHING we have from God is a free gift. When something is free, we don’t have to work for it. We just have to receive it. (Romans 5:15-18; Ephesians 2:8, Romans 11:29)
- EVERYONE sins. God sees sin as sin. No one sin is greater than another. When sins are listed, they are usually grouped together. (Galatians 5 – whole chapter on sin nature; 1 Timothy 1:8). Sin literally means “missing the mark.” 1 Peter 4:15 and 1 Timothy 1:8-11 spell it out. These are two of the many passages in the Bible that list various groupings of sins. Sins are listed together, calling them ALL sin and not ranking one above the other. Yes, divorce is considered sin but so is lying and cheating. We’re told to repent (turning back 180 degrees, then go another direction). God forgives us when we repent. This is the part many “divorcees” get stuck on. Have you ever lied or cheated knowingly? Did God forgive you? The Bible says He does. Why then won’t he forgive you if you get a divorce from your abuser?
Thoughts to further assist you:
- God is NOT a respecter of persons. He loves all humankind exactly the same. Despite our actions, His love for us never changes. (Acts 10:33-35, Proverbs 11:18, Proverbs 22:8, Hosea 10:12, 2 Corinthians 9:6, Galatians 6:7-8) He loves you and your abuser both. He wants the best for both of you.
- We still reap the benefits (good and bad) of our actions and behaviors. Of course, repentance can often sway God’s action toward impending judgment. (2 Kings 20 – entire chapter; Jonah 3 and 4 – both chapters.) In many cases, if you leave your abuser, you will reap the benefit of life. It won’t be as easy for him to kill you, if that’s what he was trying to do.
- God made mankind “after His own image.” This means that both male and female are made in the image of God. We need both men and women to fulfill God’s plan for living on this earth. That can’t be done if men believe they can rule over women. (Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 9:6) YOU have a part in God’s plan… as a woman!
- God did not give men spiritual authority over women. He made the man the head of the house but not the “spiritual head” of his wife. She doesn’t have to go through him to get to Christ. That’s why Jesus died on the cross. His death gave YOU the right to go directly to God and not through a husband. If a husband is going against Biblical principles, the wife doesn’t have to follow him there! Yes, prayer and kindness can often turn a husband around if he’s acting contrary to the Word of God but… certain types of abusers often don’t see things correctly. You’re in trouble if your husband can never take responsibility for his actions or apologize for his behavior. No amount of kindness and acting in love toward him will get this to change! If he can’t choose to change, and then demonstrate that change, your marriage will never be successful.
- The husband is commanded to “love his wife as Christ loved the church.” (Ephesians 5:24-33) Read this in the Message Bible. It’s pretty clear! How can a man love his wife, yet command her to submit to him? Love doesn’t demand. It respects. An abuser is not acting in love. Instead, he/she is acting out of selfishness. Selfishness and love have nothing to do with the other. Look at the “categories of abuse.” Would you say that any of those exhibit love? Abuse of any kind is sin, according to God’s “law of love” in 1 Corinthians chapter 13. God talks about how we are to love one another. Abuse is not love. Therefore, it goes against God’s laws.
- Divorce my be sin, but so is EVERY abusive behavior. Will we excuse one and not the other? Telling a woman to go back to her abusive Christian husband is saying “you can’t divorce because it’s sin, but we’re going to look past the sins of your abuser.”Read again what it says in 1 Timothy 1:8-11 and 1 Peter 4:15. Remember the lists of sins? It seems to me that an abuser is probably every one of those! What does the Bible say about these kinds of people? Read the pamphlet “Toxic Love” by Malcom Smith. You can order it from his web site: www.malcomsmith.org You’ll get the picture.
If you have questions about verbal, emotional, and spiritual abuse in a Christian marriage, look throughout this website to have the following questions answered:
- What are the signs of verbal abuse and what is verbal abuse?
- Are the definitions for verbal abuse?
- Are there examples of verbal abuse in a Christian marriage?
- Are there books on verbal abuse?
- What are the effects of verbal abuse?
- Should a Christian woman divorce if she’s in a verbally abusive marriage?
- What does the Bible say about verbal abuse?
- How can you stop verbal abuse?
- How can you get help for verbal abuse?