Scripture: Romans 16:
1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon [a] of the church in Cenchreae. 2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.
3 Greet Priscilla [b] and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. 4 They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.
Observation: We are all called by God, and no gift or calling is withheld nor granted based on whether we are male or female.
Application: Women leaders in the Christian Church has been an issue for some folks, for a long time. In the United Methodist denomination, we have many women leaders, preachers, pastors, evangelist and even bishops. And I think this is the way it should be. We can not be exclusive in who we say can and can not be called by God into a certain professional ministry. It is God’s calling, not the Church’s. Yes we are always evaluating and reaffirming our callings with each other, but we must be careful not to say, “You can’t be called into that profession because you are a woman.”
In our scripture this morning Paul cites just a few of the many female leaders which were intricate in the spreading of the gospel and the foundational structure of the early church. There were women around Jesus and the Disciples as well. Although none of the disciples were women, I suspect the reason was not because they were not worthy of being a disciple, but rather for fear of how it would look with unmarried men and women traveling in the countryside together. No matter how innocent it might have been, this would never have been accepted, and would have damaged the reputation of the women and the disciples, and it would have marred the message of the gospel of Christ.
But women played a key role in Jesus’ ministry as well, providing for Him and the Disciples financially, and helping with meals and arranging lodgings when they could. And not only in that aspect, but it was a woman who first came to faith that Christ had indeed risen. And it was a woman who first preached the gospel of the risen Christ to the doubting Disciples.
I know the verses in 1 Cor that have been the basis of many women being denied any leadership roles in the Church. But what we have to remember is that Paul wrote his letters to individual Churches, who were having specific problems, and he was addressing those problems in those letters. The Church at Corinth was having a problem with services being unruly, and unorganized. Everyone was trying to speak at once and Paul was simply trying to bring some order into the service so that everyone could learn without so much confusion. The women he was talking about were speaking out of turn, asking questions to their husbands who would have been seated in a different area across from them. So he says to that situation, (Paraphrase) “let the women keep silent, if they would learn anything let them ask their husbands when they get home.”
To the Romans Paul recognizes many who are leaders in the Church, the beginning of the chapter opens with recognition of a woman, and there are many women mentioned throughout the various greetings and recognitions.
As I look around the Church today, I am so thankful for all the female leaders and teachers I’ve had in my life. Without them I would not be where I am today, and without them in our Church, we wouldn’t have much of a Church at all. I am convinced that the customs of the 1st century Palestinian Jews should not dictate the way we run our modern day Church when it comes to women in leadership. Times are different, women’s roles are not the same, and they should always be treated with equal respect and authority within the Church today.
Prayer: Father Almighty,
I thank you for the female influences within the Church that have been instrumental in shaping our understanding of your grace, and the gospel of your Son Jesus. Help us to be loving to one another and inclusive of those who in times past have been excluded because of their sex. Grant us the ability to see each other with your eyes, and not the eyes of the world.
Yield: I surrender any feeling that the calling to the ministry is exclusively for a specific type of person.