Biblical Feminism and Church Leadership -- By: Kenneth O. Gangel

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 140:557 (Jan 1983)
Article: Biblical Feminism and Church Leadership
Author: Kenneth O. Gangel


Biblical Feminism and Church Leadership

Kenneth O. Gangel

[Kenneth O. Gangel, Professor in Christian Education, Dallas Theological Seminary]

According to reliable sources almost 5,000 North American missionaries are women. In addition, women by increasing numbers are being ordained as ministers in mainline Protestant denominations, and Equal Rights Amendment advocates are now putting political pressure on the defeated amendment’s opponents. Thus it is no wonder that a movement called “biblical feminism” has penetrated evangelicalism and stands prepared to challenge traditional views of female leadership roles. The leading proponents of this movement are Nancy Hardesty, Paul Jewett, Virginia Mollenkott, and Letha Scanzoni. Their battle cry is Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (NIV).

What are evangelicals to do about this challenge? How does this movement relate to leadership in the church and the home? The contention of this article is that the core issue is hermeneutics, the interpretation of Scripture. But underlying the issue of interpretation is the even more basic concern of the inerrancy and authority of the Word of God.

Headship And Submission

Balance is needed between the rigid legalism that has too often characterized male leadership in fundamentalist ranks and the casual license that seeks to restructure the Scriptures in order to accommodate modern trends. The essence of the debate

is the alleged conflict between the biblical concepts of headship (κεφαλή) and submission (ὑποταγή).

The word κεφαλή appears 58 times in the New Testament, of which 45 refer to the literal/physical head and 13 are figurative. Many of the symbolic passages speak of Christ, the Head of the church (Eph 1:22; 4:15; Col 1:18; 2:10, 19). Two passages (Eph 5:22–24 and 1 Cor 11:1–16) present difficulties in interpretation. In Ephesians 5:22–24, Paul bases his call for submission on the principle of headship: “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the...

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