|Vol. 15 No. 3 March 2013||
T. Pierce Brown (deceased)
Let us recognize at the beginning of any discussion of this question that if the Bible had a plain statement dealing directly with a question, that should end the discussion for all those who are willing to submit to Bible authority. If it does not, then we must arrive at a conclusion by an examination of biblical principles and statements that we attempt to apply to the question in a logical manner. If one says, “That is merely a matter of opinion, and one opinion is as good as another,” I must reply, “It is not merely a matter of opinion, and you do not believe that one opinion is as good as another.” Generally, one assumes that his own opinion is better than others are. If spots appeared on your face, and you wondered if you had measles or chicken pox, you would not consider your plumber’s opinion as good as your doctor’s, even if they did charge you about the same for an hour’s work. You, therefore, value the opinion of one who has more extensive knowledge and experience in an area more than you value that of a novice. Yet, you should keep in mind that even an educated opinion is not the same as direct Bible authority.
Let us examine some principles and Scriptures that relate to the matter. God intended for women to have a subordinate role as evidenced by such passages as 1 Timothy 2:11-14, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and others. This does not suggest that women are inferior in any sense, but that God has unchanging principles upon which we may depend in striving to answer questions about which He does not give a direct answer.
The question may be raised, “Is not serving at the Lord’s table a subordinate role that in no way indicates leadership or authority over a man?” This is harder to answer with a definite and positive “yes” or “no,” but my present answer is, “No” for some of the following reasons. Did anyone ever think that men serving at the Lord’s Table indicated a subordinate role for them? If so, subordinate to whom, and how?
It may be hard to see how standing up at a table or passing a tray from a standing position is any more a position of authority or leadership than passing a tray from a sitting position. We admit there may be a fine line, but if there were not a line in the minds of some, the question would not have been raised in the first place. We think you will be able to distinguish the line if you examine and answer some of the following questions. If there is not a difference in the minds of most persons, why are some asking for the right to be in a different position than they usually are in the worship? If women are in a position of prominence or leadership as much sitting in a pew passing the plate as they would be standing at the end of it passing the plate, why demand the change?
If one responds, “It is merely that women want the same right to serve as men have,” examination of some facts might prove profitable. Are the women who are demanding the right to serve those who are really most interested in service? Are they the ones that would like to go to the nursing homes and minister to the sick? Are they the ones that would like to go out in the community and serve in setting up Bible studies? Are they the ones that are most involved in serving God or their fellowman in any area? My observation over the past 60 years has led me to conclude that those who are really most interested in service never are pushing for a position that would make them more prominent. To wash the saint’s feet in a private home is service, but to ask for the privilege of serving in a public way when the primary difference is the visibility and prominence of the one doing the serving is because of a desire for prominence, or some other desire not worthy of a modest saintly woman.
Does anyone, either man or woman, think that a person is looked upon as an inferior or second class member of God’s family because he or she is not asked to preach, lead in prayer or stand in some position of more prominence before the congregation? The statement is made that women need to be more involved in the work of the church. Surely there is no question about that. Most all members need to, but if you want to see how much this present movement is concerned about real involvement in the work of the church, try to get those women who want to lead prayers, wait on the table and take other roles of more prominence to get more involved in such work that the Bible teaches they may properly do, and is crucial to the growth of the church, and see how many are eager to be so involved. To be involved in such tasks that demand no special effort or spiritual growth, but give them more personal prominence is the main thrust of this movement.
Many of the statements I have made also apply to men. That is, if men were pushing to be placed in some position of more prominence rather than trying to make themselves available to serve in whatever area they could properly glorify God, their motives and actions would also be improper.
My conclusion about the question at this moment is this: To the degree that any role a woman plays in the worship of the church involves her being in a position of authority or leadership over a man, to that degree the role is improper. Surely no one who has studied current history is unaware that many of those who are most active in advocating it are not primarily interested in women more actively serving God or fellowman, but are interested in breaking down resistance by getting agreement on a first step, seemingly harmless and insignificant, that will pave the way for further steps in the future that are now opposed by many. Some of them are frank enough to admit it. If it is agreed that women should pass the trays, and take one step into more prominent positions, why should she be denied the privilege of offering thanks aloud for the elements, since she is already now offering thanks silently? Is she taking authority over man by simply standing behind the table? Then, after we have become accustomed to that, why not ask her to lead the closing prayer? If she can properly do that, what is wrong with her preaching? The process is already taking place in some localities.
If we were standing by Eve in the Garden, with our present knowledge, and saw her turning toward the forbidden fruit, we might say, “Eve, why are you turning in that direction?” She could reply, “What is wrong with that? I intend no wrong.” As we see her take two steps in that direction, we may warn her again, but she could reply, “God did not restrict me from walking to the fruit, smelling of it, and seeing its beauty,” and in her case, she would be right, legally. But when one examined the motives by which she walked toward the fruit, desiring to do that which God forbids, we can surely see the parallel between that and those who seek for prominence and position, not for the great spiritual values they can gain or contribute, but merely for the prominence they gain.