The Role of Women in Christian Education -- By: James Plueddemann

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 12:1 (Winter 1998)
Article: The Role of Women in Christian Education
Author: James Plueddemann

The Role of Women in Christian Education

James Plueddemann

Mission Executive James Plueddemann was formerly Chair of the Christian Education Department at Wheaton College (both for the Undergraduate College and the Graduate School). He and his wife were missionaries in Nigeria. Priscillas Papers 3:3, Summer 1989.

As a former missionary I’ve been intrigued with the American debate over the place of women in the ministry of the church. Some take the position that it is unbiblical to deny leadership and teaching roles to women in the church under any circumstances. Others say that when a church allows a woman to teach, it is denying the inspiration of Scripture. To build the Body of Christ, we must use all our God-given resources. Yet the church is fragmenting itself over the issue of how to use the resources.

I argue that the testimony of the whole body of Scripture leaves room for cultural interpretation on the role of women in the church, and thus we must be sensitive to cultural expectations.

From an interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12, and 1 Corinthians 14:35, we have two options. Either we must require that women never teach men and keep totally silent in every educational situation, or we must understand the passage as a restriction of particular first-century women in their cultural setting. If women are to remain silent in the churches, then we must exclude women from the choir, congregational singing, and from the nursery. If God intended that women never teach men, as a universal ethical moral principle, then we would expect the rest of Scripture to support the restriction. Yet we find many examples of women teaching men. The prophetess Huldah proclaimed the word of God to the king Josiah and the High Priest Hilkiah, while her husband was in charge of the wardrobe (2 Chronicles 34:22). It is quite possible that the apostle Paul was taught by the four unmarried daughters of Philip (Acts 21:9). Moses was taught by the prophetess Miriam (Exodus 15:20). Deborah was not only a prophetess but a judge and a general (Judges 4:4). Jesus chose women to be the first to proclaim the Good News of the resurrection to the apostles. There are many more examples.

Thus to make 1 Timothy 2:12 a universal moral principle, one is forced to deny the plenary inspiration of Scripture. If we hold a plenary view of the inspiration of Scripture, we must not limit the role of women in Christian education except for reasons of cultural appropriateness. The Danvers Statement by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood claims that “some governing...

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