The Role of Women in the Church: A Survey of Current Approaches -- By: Carl B. Hoch, Jr.

Journal: Grace Theological Journal
Volume: GTJ 08:2 (Fall 1987)
Article: The Role of Women in the Church: A Survey of Current Approaches
Author: Carl B. Hoch, Jr.

The Role of Women in the Church:
A Survey of Current Approaches

Carl B. Hoch, Jr.

Three major approaches to the question of the role of women in the church can be discerned in contemporary Western Christianity: the non-evangelical egalitarian, the evangelical egalitarian, and the hierarchical. The first approach does not accept the Bible as the authoritative guide to faith and practice, viewing Scripture as androcentric and thus to be handled with hermeneutical suspicion. The second position accepts the Bible as the infallible standard of faith and ethics, but holds that the texts used by traditionalists to keep women in a limited role of ministry have been misunderstood. Most such texts are considered historically-conditioned ad hoc passages that are not universally applicable to current ecclesiology. The third position affirms that Scripture teaches a hierarchy for the home and the church. Role differentiation, however, is not seen to imply that there is an ontological difference between male and female; the two are essentially equal while maintaining different roles in a functional hierarchy.

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The role of women in the church is rapidly becoming one of the most controversial issues in western Christianity. Numerous books and articles have appeared on the subject in the last five years, and there is scarcely a major Christian publisher that has not published at least one work on the issue. A recent volume lists approximately 430 titles.1 This same book cites three bibliographies on the subject.2

There are three major approaches to the role of women reflected in the literature: non-evangelical egalitarian, evangelical egalitarian, and hierarchical. This article examines each of these views and suggests areas where further research may resolve the differences or at least bring a sharper focus on the exact nature of the role of women in the church according to each position.

The Non-Evangelical Egalitarian Approach

The most concise recent presentation of the non-evangelical egalitarian approach is that edited by Collins.3 This viewpoint rejects the Bible as an absolute, timeless revelation.4 The biblical texts are sexist and thoroughly androcentric,5 requiring a “hermeneutics of suspicion.” The androcentric texts are “theological interpretations, argumentations, projections, and selections rooted in a patriarchal culture.”6<...

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