The Bible, Gender And Church Office -- By: Eugene Bradford

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 11:1 (Winter 1997)
Article: The Bible, Gender And Church Office
Author: Eugene Bradford

The Bible, Gender And Church Office

Eugene Bradford

The Rev. Eugene Bradford is a retired minister of the Christian Reformed Church.

The Bible does not allow gender to be a criterion for eligibility for any office or function in the church. Although in the Semitic/Hebrew culture the subordination of women to men was probably universal, and although there were no early explicit divine prohibitions against female subordination, the climax of special divine revelation in the New Testament repudiates such subordination and teaches the full equality of women and men. This equality is wrongly compromised when gender is made a criterion for church office. In support of the foregoing, the following theses are offered:

1. “God created man in his own image… male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). The man and the woman were each full image-bearers of God. The language does not permit any degree of superiority or subordination. “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over… every living creature that moves on the ground’” (Gen 1:28, italics added). The man and the woman were given equal and joint responsibility to fulfill the divine mandate. The more detailed account of the creation of the woman recorded in Genesis 2 states that when a “helper suitable,” (Hebrew, ezer kenegdo) for the man was not found among the lower creatures God fashioned a “suitable helper” from the man’s own body, and the man called her “woman” (Gen 2:22a-23). The word translated “suitable helper” is also used to refer to God himself in his support of his people. It is not, therefore, a word denoting subordination.

2. When, at the behest of the serpent-devil, the woman and the man disobeyed God’s explicit command, God said to the woman, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing… Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Gen 3:16). From that point on, humanity’s relation to God was disrupted. In addition, the relationship between man and woman became stressed and conflicted. The fulfillment of the woman’s desire for her husband could be realized only at the cost of submitting to his rule over her. This is radically different from the arrangement prescribed in Genesis 1:27-28.

3. Throughout human history women and girls have suffered under a wide variety of forms of male oppression, including injustice, multiple forms of abuse, sexual

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