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Archives for 167 – Women’s Roles in Churches of Christ

Perhaps most revealing of the depth of the divergence in egalitarian and complementarian thought is the divergence in the very definitions of 3:16’s key vocab: “rule over” (mashal be) and “desire for” (teshuqah ‘el). The two phrases on their own carry little to no inherent connotation— what’s certain in their definitions is simply that they’re:

  • a ruling by governing— most often used neutrally, occasionally negatively (Neh. 9:37), and sometimes positively in a caretaking sense (Gen. 24:2, Gen. 45:26, Pslam 105:21)… and,
  • a very passionate, fixated kind of desire— intended for good in Songs 7:10 and for evil in Gen. 4:17

The most we can say from the vocabulary alone is that man will govern woman and she will fixate on him in the post-fall marriage dynamic. Contextualizing God’s statement to woman within the larger creation account, however, is tricky.

With a hierarchical view of male and female function leading up to the fall, assigning connotation to their desire and ruling is essential. Otherwise, we’re left with what sounds like the introduction of man’s station as head and woman’s submissive followership in disproportionate yearning for him. This would present headship and submission as a post-fall deviation from the ideal. The connotation on these otherwise neutral words must show a perversion of the preexisting complementarian hierarchy to be consistent through early Genesis, so the woman is usually assigned a usurping desire, and the man— depending on who’s interpreting— will either domineer her sinfully, or lovingly reign her in to keep his rightful headship.

But there is a valid reason to leave “desire” and “rule” in vague neutrality: unlike many of the other usages of teshuqah and mashal, 3:16 doesn’t present the clearest context or explicitly elaborate on the concepts, other than predicting divorce from God leads to suffering. How exactly does a governance and a passionate desire equal a corruption of harmonious marriage appropriate for a judgement verse?

And to Wendy Alsup I am eternally grateful for doing the math and pushing woman’s neutral desire into complementarian conversation. Where I struggled to understand how neutral desire could leave us with a distorted version of marriage, Alsup lays it out plainly: “The problem with our desires is always that they are either FOR the wrong thing or FOR the right thing but out of proportion to what is appropriate.”

That is: the problem with woman’s desire is not an issue of quality (what kind of desire? edifying? conquering? good? bad?). We aren’t told that in Gen. 3. Rather, it’s an issue of quantity (how much does she need her husband? how great is her desire for him compared to her desire for the Lord?). And that, to spin off Alsup, is specified immediately: she yearns for man so badly that he governs her life. “The curse is not that women want to dominate the men in their lives. Women’s problem is that they worship the men in their lives and look to them for affirmation and provision emotionally and spiritually for things that God alone is supposed to provide. Their problem is IDOLATRY.”

This connects woman’s curse fluidly with its effects, ties beautifully into man’s judgement, and depicts a complete reversal of the original ideal.

When God first oriented His people for their relationships to one another, He set them off toward harmony, unity, and interdependence. Just when the earthling was set up for an awesome life in his own mini paradise, with peak physical fitness and the world for his conquering, the Lord held an animal parade to demonstrate what he lacked: community, relationship, and emotional intimacy. And just as his mate was set to enter the partnership with the relational and emotional upper hand, having never known loneliness, God formed the female in a smaller body that came with the cumbersome duty of pregnancy and nursing. By pairing the physically vulnerable with the emotionally vulnerable, God undermined each spouse’s independence in complementary ways to produce interdependence and make possible the joint mission of populating and cultivating the world in community.

But now, childbearing duties would make woman even weaker, and her vulnerability plus the farming conditions outside Eden would skyrocket the value of man’s brute strength. The relationships among people and with creation are broken, the power dynamics have tilted, and men pull ahead.

The man had a good desire in Gen. 3:18 (getting food from the earth), but when the Maker of that earth was carved out of the humans’ lifestyle, His blessing for the soil’s cooperation went with Him. His specialization as cultivator in a sin-riddled world is frustrating, painful, and yet consuming because it is also vitally necessary. It rules him. The human relationship with earth is no longer a cooperative held together by the Lord’s providence; it is a battle that consumes man’s energies and defines his life’s purpose: to win out against the resistant soil. And when he does, he is in the perfectly disastrous position to believe that purely by his human strength, cleverness, and willpower, he extracted his own sustenance. Without Jehovah Jireh in his sights, man finds success, confidence, assurance, purpose, and identity in toiling for his dirt-god. He’s an idolater of work. Today, we call these folks workaholics. Today, we glorify busyness.

The woman had a good desire in Gen. 3:16: a husband and children. Family is an excellent object of one’s attentions. But when the Maker of life was carved out of the humans’ lifestyle, His allowance for easy childbearing went with Him. Her specialization as life-giver in a sin-riddled world is heart-wrenching, painful, and yet consuming because it is also vitally necessary. As a result, the human family is no longer based on a cooperative of two equals held together by the Lord’s providence and direction; it is the lop-sided joining of a vulnerable and a powerful — a smaller, weaker woman hobbled by the incapacitating job of childbearing, and a larger, stronger man who produces and controls the family’s food. The survival of woman and her children in this new, dangerous world depends on her maintaining her connection to the more capable man for provision and protection. And when she does, she is in the perfectly disastrous position to believe that it was purely her allure, her personality, her sentimentality, her sexuality, her own performance– that secured her protection and provision. Without Jehovah Jireh in her sights, woman finds security, sustenance, assurance, purpose, and identity in catering to her husband-god. She is an idolater of the man that fulfills her. Today, we call these folks emotionally needy. Today, we’re a casually-dating, frequently-divorcing hook-up culture.

Plenty of opportunity for scathing reviews of the new humanity, and none required narrowing the scope of 3:16 to “usurping wife” and “oppressing husband.”

So what’s this mean for our application? It means a lot. And it gets me amped.

When we interpret the fall of humanity, we define the problems at the root of our frustrations and discord, and that has immense ramifications for how we carry the gospel around our homes, churches, and out into the world. Alsup writes: “We are not going to really understand how the gospel equips us [sic] reclaim God’s image in us as His daughters until we understand clearly what our problem is. I can’t emphasize strongly enough that the problem in women created by the fall is deeper than control and domination. […] If you think that the foundational result of the fall of man in the average woman’s life is a desire to dominate, your ministry is going to miss … well … the vast majority of problems in a woman’s life.”

As much as this position sounds like a dismissal of complementarian ideas, it’s not. The popular hierarchical idea that women are prone to dominate men has its place as a symptom within the more egalitarian interpretation of women’s idolatrous fixation as the causal illness. A common, observable symptom, too. Nagging, nitpicking, control-freaky wives are a dime a dozen (as are harsh, self-important men) but! they’re not the only kind of sinful woman. Presuming that women’s judgement only destines them for hostile pushback misses the other shades of red flags that pop up when we trade God for idols.

More common, I think, are the women that face men’s power in their lives with breathless desperation. Rather than becoming combatants, they become what Alsup calls doormats. Rather than manifesting as arm-twisting her man, woman’s idolatry so often manifests in contorting herself to gain his affection or approval. In the worst cases, a man explicitly demands this of his partner — he’s abusive and demeaning and keeps her afraid of what he’ll do or the support she’ll lose if she doesn’t try to please him. And unempowered by Christ, she’ll allow it and internalize the problem as her own. (Here the complementarian interpretation of domineering husbands has its place, too.)

But even godly men can end up high on pedestals their desperate, insecure women build for them. No matter how much edifying love a good man pours out, he will never fill the cup of a woman not anchored in the Lord. The hole in her soul is a God-shaped one. The power she needs only her Abba can supply. When seeking assurance and sufficiency and identity and self-worth primarily from a man fails, the questions she once directed at him— Am I lovable? Am I beautiful? Do you need and appreciate me? Will you stay with me? — become demands from the combatants — Make me feel loved! Make me feel beautiful! Make me feel worthy! Make me feel secure!– or become desperate whimpers from the doormats — Does this make you love me? Do you find me beautiful like this? Does this make you happy? Will this keep you with me?

All this, when our spirits could be fixated on God’s power and responding with rest. It’s not until we stake ourselves on the firm truth of His power, grace, care, and love for us that the persistent waves of intimate relationship and emotional bonding can refresh us, rather than washing us out to the sea of sin.

And suddenly, Genesis 3:16 isn’t just calling out bratty, manipulative women who war with their idolized men — it’s snapping its fingers at the sexting teenage girl, at the bar-crawling college student, at the small group leader who wants nothing more than to find a guy and get engaged like everyone else. At the new wife running herself ragged with homemaking, at the 30-something hating her slowing metabolism and post-baby body, at the 50-something feeling irrelevant. At the battered woman who blames herself. At all the infatuated girls strung along by non-committal boys.

Instead of addressing just toxic feminism, it slices through diet culture, beauty industry, shiny Instagram veneers, achievement addiction, and the emotional porn epidemic that we call the “romance” genre. It diagnoses the sickness at the core of our desires no matter how they manifest — the idolatry disease behind all the ways women manipulate men and themselves to eek out a sense of purpose and worth from created things rather the Creator. A fresh look at 3:16 leaves us no room to think a woman is doing just fine because she’s reserved and respectful. It convicts of over-correction in the other direction too, reminding us that deference, service, and adoration are only appropriate when given to the right things in the right doses. It reminds us that fear and frantic need were not the circumstances in which God designed companionship, helps us to identify when women’s desire stems from those broken places, and allows us to inject an empowering gospel at the root.

And among ourselves, sisters, when we’re all caught under the same umbrella of idolater, there’s little room for comparing symptoms. There’s no pride in being the iron-willed, outspoken feminist (you know, with some actual self-respect?) if it’s symptomatic of the same condition as that other woman who continues to follow others around “like a whipped puppy,” as Alsup nailed it. And there’s no pride in being a dutiful, agreeable, mild-mannered servant (you know, a real biblical woman?) if it’s symptomatic of the same idolatry as that other frustrated, overcompensating trailblazer. We all self-medicate differently yet against the same insecurity, and remembering this helps us to better judge when to step up and flex our Spirit muscle, and when to step back in humility. Knowing the two directions of over-correction helps us keep our balance.

But maximizing the utility of 3:16 for our ministries and our self-policing depends on carving out some middle ground between the two side of the gender role debate. As is usually the case for hotly debated topics, the truth of the fall of marriage lies between the two extremes. If headship proponents can tolerate the imprecision of 3:16’s language and egalitarians can resist dismissing the power struggle interpretation as totally unfair to women, we come away from Genesis with a helpful, more sweeping diagnosis that makes Jesus all the more relevant as humanity’s spiritual apothecary.

The span of the Good News’ reach throughout womankind and their marriages largely depends on this middle ground. May we encourage in our women toward Christ by both fire-breathing moxie and genteel amenability.

Author’s note: I received a lot of feedback regarding my last post. I want to briefly address that before presenting the next part of my findings.

I set out to discover if my experiences in Churches of Christ are unique. I have learned that I am not alone. I want to reiterate that regardless of one’s particular beliefs, theology, hermeneutics, or ecclesiology we cannot deny the experiences of women who self-report pain. Their story is their story, and it cannot be ignored, rewritten, or taken from them.

I was not sponsored, endorsed, or in any way compensated to do this work. I have embarked on this journey without the support of a congregation or an academic institution. I have used my own time and resources. This research was not intended to be published or peer-reviewed, I simply wanted to gather information and see what I found. I have held this research for a year because of the intense pain it causes me to evaluate it, write about it, and share it. But after a year of reflection and prayer I share it now. As I have repeatedly worked through comments of hundreds of women who answered this survey, I sense their sorrow and pain and my own pain bubbles to the surface – this is deeply troubling work for me.

One thing that I want to make clear (that I had hoped was clear in the first article) is what these findings are verses what they are not. 

What This Is:

– This is a survey I sent out in order to gather more information to “take the temperature” of other women in our community.
– This is research that was initially borne out of my own experiences and feelings of solitude as a woman within the Church of Christ.
– This is a summary of findings that point to a need for professional, academic studies—something that has not been done before at the scope and scale of what I am proposing here.
– This is data-gathering that asks previously unasked questions.

What This Is Not:
– This is not a peer-reviewed article or a methodological approach to the statistics.
– This is not intended to prove causation, as much as it is to present findings and say, “What do we do with this? What are our next steps? Where do we go from here?”

I know this study has gaps and holes. Nevertheless, in spite of the flawed methods, embedded in this imperfect research are stories of hundreds of women and their voices should be heard. I embarked on this research out of shear curiosity and to offer other women the opportunity to be heard. I hope that a more robust methodology will come with future research. I hope that future research will be based on the quotes, experiences, and findings I share below and in my next post. The implications of this survey (which measures symptoms of trauma experienced by women in the Churches of Christ) are great. More research is unequivocally needed. I also recommend an in-depth study of the self-reported trauma symptoms in men who have served as ministers and preachers in Churches of Christ to determine if gender differentiates a self-reported trauma level.

My prayer now is that you, my dearest brothers and sisters, read on with curiosity, empathy, and openness to the stories of others. I also pray that the hard questions asked here will continue to be asked and that further research will be undertaken by someone more skilled than me. May we all have the courage to ask brave questions – and then listen. Soli Deo Gloria – Heather

Summary

In September 2018, I launched an online snowball sampling survey through the social media venue, Facebook. This snowball survey used the self-reporting assessment PTSD Checklist – Civilian Version (PCL-C) and was used to screen for the presence and severity of self-reported trauma symptoms in women in Churches of Christ. The eligibility criteria for survey participants was they must be a current or former member of a Church of Christ. The goal was to collect between 50-75 responses but within one day the survey had grown to over 500 completed responses. The results show that 50% of respondents reported none to mild self-reported trauma symptoms as a result of their experience in Churches of Christ, 22% reported moderate symptoms, and 28% reported severe to extremely severe trauma symptoms.

Measure

The PCL-C is a standardized self-report rating scale for PTSD comprised of 17 items that correspond to the key symptoms of PTSD from the DSM-IV. The PCL-C was derived from the PCL-Military Version (PCL-M; Weathers et al., 1993). The civilian version is identical to the military version, except that it inquires about a “stressful experience from the past” as opposed to military trauma. The PCL-C demonstrates good retest reliability and internal consistency, as well as adequate convergent and discriminant validities (Adkins, Weather, McDevitt-Murphy, & Daniels, 2008). In other words, experts in the research and psychology communities view it is a reliable assessment to screen for self-reported trauma symptoms. In fact, one study found that the PCL-C may be superior compared with other assessments in discriminating between trauma symptoms and symptoms of social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, OCD, and depression (Conybeare et al., 2012).

The PCL-C is self-administered and takes about 10 minutes to complete. Each respondent indicates how much they have been “bothered” by a symptom over the past month using a 5-point scale; 1 – “Not at all” to 5 – “Extremely.” The PCL-C is scored by tallying all items for a total severity score (17-85). The scale used by this research to rank the presence and severity of symptoms is below:

  • 0—17 = No symptoms
  • 18—29 = Mild 
  • 30—44 = Moderate
  • 45—57 = Severe
  • 58+ = Extremely severe 

Each respondent was asked to consider her own experience(s) of being part of Churches of Christ and answer the survey questions through that lens. While each respondent’s definition of trauma was different, this survey explored the self-reported symptoms of their experiences. Five of the items measure re-experiencing symptoms, seven measure avoidance symptoms, and five measure hyperarousal symptoms. The following DSM-IV criteria are used by the PCL-5 for assessing symptoms (note that the PCL-5 does not include a Criterion “A” component):

  • – Symptomatic response to at least 1 “B” item (Questions 1–5),
  • – Symptomatic response to at least 3 “C” items (Questions 6–12), and
  • – Symptomatic response to at least 2 “D” items (Questions 13–17)

Please see the expanded symptomatic criteria for PTSD in the DSM-IV here

Please note: The PCL-5 should not be used as a diagnostic tool. Only licensed and qualified clinicians can diagnose PTSD. This assessment was used to screen for the presence and severity of self-reported trauma symptoms and was not intended to diagnose or treat any symptoms. The gold standard for diagnosing PTSD is a structured clinical interview such as the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS).

Findings

This data includes the 5 women who did not fully complete their surveys. While they did not complete the 17 question PCL-C portion of the survey, they did provide relevant comments which will be included in Part 3 of this series. Since these incomplete survey scores did not exceed 17, their answers have been added to the “No Symptoms” category. Thus, the survey sample size was 521 women who are now or have been part of Churches of Christ.

The 521 respondents were from 41 States and 10 countries.

Of these 521 women, 95% answered yes to, “I have served as an unpaid lay leader in Churches of Christ (i.e. Bible class teacher, ministry leader, nursery, meals, benevolence, hospital visits, hosted showers, youth group volunteer, office administration, missions, building care and maintenance.)” One hundred and thirty-three (133) have served as a paid minister or ministry leader in Churches of Christ, and 111 answered yes to, “I am now or have been married to a Church of Christ minister.”

While the survey did not ask the ages of the respondents it did inquire as to how many years they have been part of Churches of Christ. The majority of respondents, 370 or 71%, have been part of Churches of Christ between 21 and 50 years.

Of the entire sample group 50% reported none to mild symptoms, 22% reported moderate symptoms, and 28% reported severe to extremely severe symptoms.

The following chart shows the number of years spent in Churches of Christ and the presence and severity of self-reported trauma symptoms. There is a correlation between the number of years the respondents spent in Churches of Christ and the absence of self-reported trauma symptoms. The longer a respondent has been part of Churches of Christ the fewer symptoms reported. Likewise, those respondents who have spent fewer years in Churches of Christ report more symptoms and a higher degree of severity.

Of the 494 respondents who have served as an unpaid lay leader in Churches of Christ, 51.5% reported none to mild symptoms, 21% reported moderate symptoms, and 27.5% reported severe to extremely severe symptoms. Of the women who are or have been married to a Church of Christ minister 36% reported none to mild symptoms, 23% reported moderate symptoms, and 42% reported severe to extremely severe symptoms. Similarly, of the 133 women who have served as a paid minister or ministry leader in Churches of Christ 42% reported none to mild symptoms, 23% reported moderate symptoms, and 36% reported severe to extremely severe symptoms. Of those women who have both served as a paid minister or a ministry leader and also married to a Church of Christ minister only 31% report none to mild symptoms while 18% report moderate symptoms, and 51% reported severe to extremely severe symptoms.

Discussion

According to the National Center for PTSD there is not an absolute method for determining the correct cut-off point on the PCL. However, a cut-off score of 45 or higher is appropriate to use as the threshold to aid in the prediction of PTSD and was selected for this study to yield optimal sensitivity. Freedy et al. (2010) used a cut-off score of 43 or higher as the cutoff for PTSD. Gore et al. (2013) used 48 as a cut-off for PTSD and 22 for those without PTSD. Gelaye et al. (2017) used the cut-off score of 26 in pregnant women in Peru to determine the presence of PTSD. Alaqeel et al. (2019) used the cut-off of 30-35 to determine the PTSD status among emergency medical personnel. Bown et al. (2019) used three cut-off thresholds of 36, 44, and 50 to determine the presence of PTSD in patients with traumatic brain injury. Bressler et al (2018) used the cutoff of 35 to 38 as a positive predictive value of PTSD.

The prevalence of PTSD in the general public of the United States has been estimated at 6–8% (Kessler et al., 2005; Kessler et al., 1995; Kilpatrick et al., 2013; Pietrzak et al., 2011). The global prevalence of PTSD has not been well characterized, but the World Mental Health (WMH) surveys have identified prevalence in a number of countries ranging from 1 to 10% (Atwoli et al., 2015; Koenen et al., 2017). In civilian primary care samples, rates of current PTSD of 6%–20% are typically reported (Freedy et al., 2010). Recent large-scale studies indicate that PTSD among U.S. service men and women returning from current military deployments, are as high as 14 –16% (Gates et al., 2012). In a review of the prevalence of combat-related PTSD among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, one study reported estimates for current PTSD ranging from 4% to 17% (Richardson et al., 2010).

This study shows that 28% of the entire sample group meet the screening criteria for further PTSD assessment and possible diagnosis. With 28% of respondents reporting 45 or higher this survey reveals that the prevalence of possible PTSD in these women is two to three times higher than the general public. Additionally, all three of the subgroups, women who have served as a paid minister (36% scored 45 or higher), women married to a minister (42% scored 45 or higher), and women who have both served as a paid minister and also married to a minister in Churches of Christ (53% scored 45 or higher) all exceed the cut-off threshold for a predictive diagnosis of PTSD.

Clinical Implications

PTSD is associated with health issues: health risk behaviors (e.g. smoking, sedentary lifestyle, medical nonadherence), vague physical complaints, chronic medical problems (e.g. diabetes mellitus, COPD), mental health comorbidity (e.g. depression, alcohol abuse) and functional impairment (e.g. relationship instability, underachievement) (Freedy et al., 2010).  Research shows that women are exposed to higher levels of sexual victimization, a form of trauma that is particularly associated with PTSD risk. Also, women in general are more willing to report symptoms than men (Freedy et al., 2010). One study showed that a PTSD diagnosis is higher among women than among men, and the prevalence increased with greater traumatic event exposure (Kirkpatrick et al., 2013).

Conclusion

Twenty-eight percent (28%) of the 521 women who answered the survey scored 45 or higher which exceeds the cut-off threshold to aid in the predictive diagnosis of PTSD. Respondents who served as a paid minister or ministry leader in Churches of Christ were more likely to report severe to extremely severe symptoms of trauma over the general reporting group. Those respondents who were or have been married to a Church of Christ minister reported very similar results. However, those respondents who were both a paid minister or ministry leader and married to a Church of Christ minister were the most likely to self-report symptoms of trauma. In fact, 51% of this demographic self-reported severe to extremely severe symptoms of trauma.

The number of years spent in Churches of Christ also seems to have a connection to the presence and severity of self-reported trauma symptoms. The more years the respondents spent in Churches of Christ, the less likely they were to report symptoms. The reverse was true as well, respondents who have spent fewer years in Churches of Christ reported more severe symptoms.

The two groups who were most likely to report severe to extremely severe symptoms were women who have both served as a paid minister and also married to a Church of Christ minister, and those who have been part of Churches of Christ for 10 years or less.

Future Research

This study is not definitive and requires replication. Nevertheless, the results are important. More research is needed to accurately assess the severity of self-reported trauma symptoms in women as a result of being part of Churches of Christ. Future research should also explore the reason behind the self-reported trauma symptoms (i.e. is the trauma tied to issues such as patriarchy, complementarianism, sexism, internalized sexism, physical or sexual trauma, or something else entirely?).

For more robust conclusions, future research could include the study of self-reported trauma symptoms in women from other denominations as well as women in the general public who do not attend a church. Another area of study could include the correlation between whether a woman in Churches of Christ feels that her particular spiritual gifts were fully utilized or not.

In addition, future studies should also include men in Churches of Christ and men who have served as a minister in Churches of Christ. I suspect that the presence and severity of self-reported trauma symptoms in men who have served as ministers and preachers in Churches of Christ is also quite high. Similarly, research should be done to assess whether there are any mental, emotional, or spiritual effects on boys and men as a result of being part of Churches of Christ, particularly related to the church’s view of women. Also, more research could help determine whether there is any correlation to the experiences of women and the decline of Churches of Christ.

Part 3

In the third part of this series I will share direct quotes and comments from the survey respondents.

Resources

Adkins, J.W., Weathers, F.W., McDevitt-Murphy, M., & Daniels, J.B. (2008). Psychometric properties of seven self-report measures of posttraumatic stress disorder in college students with mixed civilian trauma exposure. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 22, 1393–1402.

Alaqeel, Meshal K., Nawfal A. Aljerian, Muhannad A. AlNahdi, and Raiyan Y. Almaini. 2019. “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder among Emergency Medical Services Personnel: A Cross Sectional Study.” Asian Journal of Medical Sciences 10 (4): 28–31.            

Atwoli L, Stein DJ, Koenen KC, McLaughlin KA (2015) Epidemiology of posttraumatic stress disorder: prevalence, correlates and consequences. Curr Opin Psychiatry 28(4):307–311.           

Blanchard, E. B., Jones-Alexander, J., Buckley, T. C., & Forneris, C. A. (1996). Psychometric properties of the PTSD checklist (PCL). Behavioral Research & Therapy, 34, 669-673.

Bressler, Rachel, Bradley T. Erford, and Stephanie Dean. 2018. “A Systematic Review of the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist (PCL).” Journal of Counseling & Development 96 (2): 167–86.

Bown, Dominic, Antonio Belli, Kasim Qureshi, David Davies, Emma Toman, and Rachel Upthegrove. 2019. “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Self-Reported Outcomes after Traumatic Brain Injury in Victims of Assault.” PLoS ONE 14 (2): 1–14.           

Conybeare, Daniel, Evelyn Behar, Ari Solomon, Michelle G. Newman, and T. D. Borkovec. 2012. “The PTSD Checklist-Civilian Version: Reliability, Validity, and Factor Structure in a Nonclinical Sample.” Journal of Clinical Psychology 68 (6): 699–713.         

Freedy, John R., Maria M. Steenkamp, Kathryn M. Magruder, Derik E. Yeager, James S. Zoller, William J. Hueston, and Peter J. Carek. 2010. “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Screening Test Performance in Civilian Primary Care.” Family Practice 27 (6): 615–24.

Gates, Margaret A., Darren W. Holowka, Jennifer J. Vasterling, Terence M. Keane, Brian P. Marx, and Raymond C. Rosen. 2012. “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Veterans and Military Personnel: Epidemiology, Screening, and Case Recognition.” Psychological Services, Health Services Research in the Veterans Administration, 9 (4): 361–82.      

Gelaye, Bizu, Yinnan Zheng, Maria Elena Medina-Mora, Marta B. Rondon, Sixto E. Sánchez, and Michelle A. Williams. 2017. “Validity of the Posttraumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) Checklist in Pregnant Women.” BMC Psychiatry 17 (May): 1–10.

Gore, Kristie L., Phoebe K. McCutchan, Annabel Prins, Michael C. Freed, Xian Liu, Jennifer M. Weil, and Charles C. Engel. 2013. “Operating Characteristics of the PTSD Checklist in a Military Primary Care Setting.” Psychological Assessment 25 (3): 1032–36.            

Kessler, Ronald C., Patricia Berglund, Olga Demler, Robert Jin, and Ellen E. Walters. 2005. “Lifetime Prevalence and Age-of-Onset Distributions of DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication.” Archives of General Psychiatry 62 (6): 593.

Kessler, R C, A Sonnega, E Bromet, M Hughes, and C B Nelson. 1995. “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in the National Comorbidity Survey.” Archives Of General Psychiatry 52 (12): 1048–60. 

Kilpatrick, Dean G., Heidi S. Resnick, Melissa E. Milanak, Mark W. Miller, Katherine M. Keyes, and Matthew J. Friedman. 2013. “National Estimates of Exposure to Traumatic Events and PTSD Prevalence Using DSM-IV and DSM-5 Criteria.” Journal of Traumatic Stress 26 (5): 537–47.

Koenen, K C, A Ratanatharathorn, L Ng, K A McLaughlin, E J Bromet, D J Stein, E G Karam, et al. 2017. “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in the World Mental Health Surveys.” Psychological Medicine 47 (13): 2260–74. 

Levey, Elizabeth J., Bizu Gelaye, Karestan Koenen, Qiu-Yue Zhong, Archana Basu, Marta B. Rondon, Sixto Sanchez, David C. Henderson, and Michelle A. Williams. 2018. “Trauma Exposure and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in a Cohort of Pregnant Peruvian Women.”Archives of Women’s Mental Health 21 (2): 193–202.

Pietrzak RH, Goldstein RB, Southwick SM, Grant BF (2011) Prevalence and Axis I comorbidity of full and partial posttraumatic stress disorder in the United States: results from Wave 2 of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. J Anxiety Disorder 25(3):456–465.

Richardson, L. K., Frueh, B. C., & Acierno, R. (2010). Prevalence estimates of combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder: Critical review. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 44, 4 –19.

Weathers, F.W., Litz, B.T., Herman, D.S., Huska, J.A., & Keane, T.M. (1993). The PTSD            checklist: Reliability, validity, and diagnostic utility. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, San Antonio, TX, October.

Bless her heart.

That’s the first thing that comes to mind about Eve’s scene in the Fall.

Just bless her heart.

Our leading lady stands in a lush garden that easily produces food for her, even food that grants eternal life. Her design promises to make her the stage to the miracle of new life. She’s surrounded by the splendor of a creation gifted into her authority, where the I AM walks in the cool of the day, having never known life without her perfect match. She’s never overlooked; she’s the piece humanity was missing and makes its mission possible. And she lives comfortably, fully exposed– there is no risk in intimacy when God is so near.

And yet, when the tempter slithers up with his divisive questions, she doesn’t dismiss him. He betrays in his phrasing that he does not ask for information but rather to challenge the information he already has — and she engages. She entertains his contrary message long enough that when this guardian of the garden is met with her first intruder, he slips right by.
It is here at the breakdown between God and humanity and therefore between the humans that complementarian/egalitarian interpretation diverges. Where some would summarize the failure of Genesis 3 as a failure to submit to God’s authority and leave it at that, others also find woman’s failure to invite her husband’s leadership and the husband’s failure to exercise loving authority.

Undoubtedly, what the woman needs at this critical moment is intervention from her partner. All can agree that if he was witness to this exchange, at the very least his level headedness as the undeceived participant should’ve moved him to speak against the lies he heard. Question of hierarchy aside, he failed to be a friend. But can we go further to say he failed his unique duty to uphold the moral laws of the garden as head of the marriage? That depends on how we define humanity’s problem and its solution.

The popular, complementarian prescription here is very telling of our favorite approaches to temptation and our own weakness. We often diagnose Eve’s problem as distractability— perfectly solvable with enough focus and accountability. We see Adam’s role as pep talking her through her weakness— hyping her up to wage war on her own desires with white-knuckled willpower. Maybe we even hope he’ll shout over the both of them and rush her away. The loving leadership needed in the hierarchical interpretation is re-impressing law she’d clearly forgotten, its consequences, and how to avoid breaking it. Isn’t that how we lead ourselves?

Except… Eve didn’t forget God’s rule. Not one syllable. The woman has a clear (even stricter) understanding of what the law says and who issued it, and no longer needs her husband to relay that information, if he even did so at all.

So what’s the disconnect? To be fair to the woman, the serpent presents very sly half-truths, playing her humanity like. a. fiddle. His lies aren’t half-baked out of laziness. They are calculated plays into human pride. He convinced the woman that equality to God was achievable while she stood amidst the gorgeous, overwhelming evidence of God’s unparalleled power. Even if the means made sense– that this extra special, off-limits tree can make a person like God– the goal itself of becoming equal to God should have been glaringly ridiculous. And sure, from a human perspective one could conceive of a jealous god who fretfully shoos his minions away from supernatural power sources, or of a spiteful god who keeps good things from his people just for malicious fun. But again, standing amidst the lavish evidence of God’s love and goodwill toward humanity, Eve had no inspiration for such a caricature of God other than her own free-wheeling mind spurred on by wicked forces. Instead of remembering the power of God’s likeness in her, and instead of asserting her God-given authority over this lowly animal and lowly plant, the woman doubted His character and intentions in limiting their behavior, and she broke the one rule of Eden in a power-grab. At the root of sin, the root of disobedience we find self-centeredness and ultimately, mistrust.

We suffer many symptoms as various sinful behaviors, but the underlying spiritual illness is that of unbelief, and it’s worsened by the remedies we concoct for it. We become certain that we aren’t enough– that somehow our value as living idols of the One True God is at risk– and we devolve into scrambling egomaniacs. We sin seeking pleasure, convinced that adhering to God’s standards won’t bring us as much joy, or seeking human approval, convinced that His approval won’t be as satisfying, or seeking control, convinced that ours is the only way to security and peace. We even sin to spite God, convinced that His perceived misdeeds against us make Him deserving of our rebellion. All this, despite His continual offering of rest and fulfillment and displays of His power and love. We still take the blessings of free will and creative imagination and whip up a false, imperfect profile of our Maker to fuel our selfish, fear-based pursuits.

Even Adam, who was not deceived but rather caught up in his wife’s grand plan, went down in similar fashion. Adam chooses unity with her over unity with His Maker (though ironically the former is made possible by the latter.) By choosing her, knowing full well what she suggested, he discounts God’s ability to perfectly fulfill him. The woman succumbed to the suggestion; the man succumbed to the one who made the suggestion. She abandoned what good wisdom she had (from God) in pursuit of better (though it couldn’t have been), deceived into thinking there’d be no penalty. He abandoned what good relationship he had (with God) in pursuit of a better one with woman (though it couldn’t have been), apparently thinking that the benefits would outweigh the penalty. And don’t we see that played on repeat today? I could put all my deliberate screw-ups in a two-column chart with “Decided It Wasn’t a Sin” or “Didn’t Care That It Was a Sin Because It Made Me Feel Good” categories. (Shoutout to my favorite Nazarene!)

When we grasp that what’s most wonky about us is our imperfect picture of God’s nature and heart, we see what Eve needs is not help remembering God’s warning— it’s help trusting the warning. Before letting Eve outrank the Lord on his priority list, the undeceived husband had an opportunity to inspire her belief by stating his own, by reiterating the abundant evidence of God’s fondness toward them, by reminding her of who she is as the image of Him, by cutting to the heart the trust issues that make our own power seem safest and most satisfying. If Adam has a duty to lead during the serpent’s sales pitch (let’s all agree he does), it’s because of the steadier faith he has in the truth of God and goodness of His will for us. Which is, of course, a situational, non-universal qualification unrelated to his masculinity.

The lesson for us today is that when those questions of “Who am I?” and “What am I here for?” ring in us, we will only hurt ourselves further by turning to created things for answers. This has always been the case. We will only be disappointed when we make God smaller and meaner to make ourselves bigger and better, for our power was designed to function as an avenue for His. It can’t satisfy apart from our Abba, Jehovah Jireh, and Redeemer. Instead, we must first treat uncertainty with a liberal dose of truth and empowerment– that we are expressions of the One True God who called us very good and stays close as we do life in this unnecessarily good world He designed for us to participate in — and then cling to these foundational truths in faith that security and direction spring from them.

Should we ever see the evidence of such core questions dominating our fellow Christians, regardless of how they “rank” relative to us, may we never hesitate to proclaim over them the certainty of their identity and purpose as God’s delegates, and bolster their belief in this deity that craves our hearts. May we take them outside to see the stars and smell the rain and touch the grass and scratch the generosity of the Lord into their doorposts. May we lift their chins and call them powerhouses– dwelling places of the Most High’s Spirit. May we call out and call down the slithering, subversive forces that suggest they are not enough. May we flex our God muscle before any other. And may we never present God’s gifts of wisdom or relationship or work or possessions or willpower or self-discipline or rule-mastery as alternate sources of the confidence that can only come through the wholehearted, transformative belief that we are His and—hallelujah— He has happily made Himself ours.

This is spiritual leadership. A mutual servanthood open to and required of every Christian.

May we foster an openness in our communities that welcomes onlooking “Adams” to speak authoritatively into the lives of wavering “Eves,” regardless of sex.

The most logical place, I originally thought, to start a Bible study on gender roles was the place where gender roles are most explicitly discussed. We all know those landmine verses of Ephesians 5, 1 Timothy 2, 1 Corinthians 11 and 14, and more.

Even leaving the verbiage at the most surface interpretations and traditional translations, I still wondered as many do about their intention. These teachings on gender roles are certainly purposed for their time and place, but what about ours? How universal are Paul’s commands on this topic, really? Given the reputation and rights of women in Jewish and Greco-Roman cultures, how do we apply such instruction in a time and place where it now feels degrading? And how do we maintain appropriate respect for the authority of the Scriptures in seeking to color them with their historical backgrounds? Again, a total minefield.

The strongest evidence of universal male headship is found, I think, where Paul references Adam and Eve’s creation circumstances as support for his thinking. And it was here, having found nothing too clarifying in the epistles and returning to Genesis yet again, that I realized where we often spin our wheels. When wondering: Why do we understand Paul to mean XYZ about all men and women? The favorite answer is: Genesis says so. And when wondering: Why do we understand Genesis to mean XYZ about all men and women? The favorite answer is: Paul says so.

Argh.

So let’s get back to where it all started. The gender role conversation makes most sense to me using the creation account as the primary text, isolated for now from the NT passages which serve as commentary. This is far from all my thoughts on Genesis 1-3, but I hope to provide some fruit for thought in these highpoints.

Up to the middle of Genesis chapter 2, the creation story rambles on comfortably, giving humanity an introduction steeped in unity and interdependence.  

When we wonder: Who are we? Genesis resonates: You are MINE. You are living, breathing, walking, talking, loving, feeling, thinking idols of the One True God, and you are good. You each are gifted in your own ways, as groups and individuals, and you’re meant to be a diverse, mutually benefiting body.

When we wonder: Where did we come from, and where are we now? Genesis answers: You are the purposefully planned works of My hands, formed from My works and from each other, sustained by My works and by each other, and dwelling with My works and with each other. You are altogether for each other, and you and your home are very good.

When we wonder: What are we here for? Genesis says: As higher beings instilled with My breath of life and made as My delegates, you are set as the peacekeepers and perpetuators of My creation. Your authority is given for the population, prosperity, protection, and harmony of the world. And your gifts, strengths, and weaknesses are brought together for the continuation, prosperity, protection, and harmony of humankind.

Alongside those big anthropological questions, there’s also a running theme of equality between men and women for questions of gender relations. Men and women are introduced as:

Equal in species
– Equal in essence
– Equal in authority over the earth
– Equally blessed for their joint mission
– Equally responsible for guarding and cultivating creation
– Equally necessary for supporting one another in the human mission

Here at 2:15-17, the basic equality of the sexes in essence, purpose, and value scoots over to make room for a bit of functional hierarchy. This is the moment where God and Adam are depicted alone, and according to complementarian interpretation, God entrusts the man with the moral law of human life. The central question of responsibility I posed in Part 1 finds its answer here: Adam set the pattern of men as the spiritual authorities in homes and churches when he is positioned as keeper of God’s law before Eve’s creation.

Factually, there’s no avoiding the plain events. God delivered the command to Adam first, using singular pronouns for him alone. Eve just wasn’t around. For this moment in human history, the man (if you can call the undifferentiated earthling that) had a spiritual equipping the woman didn’t.

Still, it’s the significance assigned to such circumstances that I’m calling a sour fruit of hierarchical interpretation— so sour that we can’t see straight. Such a lens for Genesis is one that only focuses on the no-no of 2:15-17. Its mistake is not in noting Adam’s primacy (a deeper topic for another day) but rather in positioning God’s rule of limitation as the most important thing He had to give in that moment… and glossing over the most lavish gift ever given: all creation as man’s playground and as his mission, and within that, an especially lush garden for his personal home. There’s that whole first chapter and a half of Genesis, and we still get hung up on the one place God says no despite the many, grandiose ways He says yes.

Walter Brueggeman has our number: “These three verses together provide a remarkable statement of anthropology. Human beings before God are characterized by vocation [v. 15], permission [v. 16], and prohibition [v. 17]. The primary human task is to find a way to hold the three facets of divine purpose together. Any two of them without the third is surely to pervert life. It is telling and ironic that in the popular understanding of this story, little attention is given the mandate of vocation or the gift of permission. The divine will for vocation and freedom has been lost. The God of the garden is chiefly remembered as the one who prohibits. But the prohibition makes sense only in terms of the other two.”

Taking the three gifts of 2:15-17 as a linked set raises an issue of interpretive soundness… if we’re willing to argue that Adam was anointed the unilateral spiritual authority over his wife (and more broadly, church brothers over sisters) because God entrusted him alone with the law prior to her creation, per v. 17, then we should also be willing to argue that he is a higher executive authority over creation per v. 15 and is primary owner of the garden and its food per v. 16. The gifts of vocation and freedom were also explicitly stated to man without woman present, so shouldn’t those too be as weightily interpreted as specially entrusted to men and delegated from them to women? The same way a complementarian approach expects Adam to be Eve’s spiritual leader in teaching and enforcing the law, shouldn’t we expect that it’s also his duty to instruct her in cultivating and guarding the earth, and to give her permission to eat of Eden’s trees? But Genesis 1:26-29’s rendition rules out any such delegation as man and woman are blessed and commissioned directly as God’s living idols.

The application issue in tunnel-visioning on 2:17 is the mischaracterization of God as rule master rather than caring counselor. Rules matter, certainly, but not as the maniacal manipulations of a madman deity. God’s limitations on human conduct are protections, not cheap thrills. To Brueggeman’s point, His prohibitions can only be properly understood with equal emphasis on the bone-deep satisfaction of productivity and creativity gifted through humanity’s vocation, and on the pleasure and adventure gifted through a beautifully ordered creation. It’s these things, and the community in which they’re enjoyed, that the prohibition protects. Anything that divorces the law from the lovingly-designed purpose and freedom for humanity that it protects risks centering our relationship to God on fear of misstep and the drudgery of obedience rather than on His fondness and generosity toward us.

Any ideology that highlights Scripture in ways that reinforce legalism rather than balance our checklist-loving humanness with a heaping load of grace is an ideology worth reevaluating. Ruthlessly so. Losing sight of our Papa Bear God will break us down at the core— more a catastrophe to our faith than a stumbling block. Fittingly, it’s precisely that kind of catastrophe that’s set to strike in the creation narrative.

On to Part 3…

These are brief: one tidbit each from the Hebrew Bible, the writings of the New Testament, and from the history of Churches of Christ.

Hebrew Bible

When Nehemiah finished building the wall, he appointed gatekeepers to watch over the entrances to the city and Levitical singers to serve in the temple (Nehemiah 7:1). Most of these singers were descendants of Asaph, who was one of the leading musicians and a prophet from the time of David (1 Chronicles 16:7; 2 Chronicles 29:30) as well as the author of several Psalms (50 and 73, for example). The Levitical singers, including Asaph’s descendants, led the worship of Israel (2 Chronicles 5:12; 35:15).

Nehemiah’s singers numbered two hundred and forty-five, and they included “both male and female” (Nehemiah 7:67). Women were part of the Levitical choir that led the worship of Israel at the temple. In other words, women were on the praise team!

New Testament

Why did God incarnate as a male? That is a good question.

Perhaps we don’t really know. Nevertheless, given that God decided to become human, God must become a particular human. That is, God must dwell in the flesh in a particular geographical location, as a particular ethnicity, and as a particular sex. But the point is not that God in the flesh represents only male Jews who live in Palestine but that God in the flesh represents all humans. The incarnate Christ is the image of God, and we are all being conformed to the image of Christ whether male or female, whether Jew or Gentile, whether slave or free. The particularity of the incarnation, necessary for authentic existence as a human being, does not limit its meaning for all human beings.

Nevertheless, whatever reasons we might assign to God’s incarnation as a male, they do not imply that only males are gifted for leadership any more than God’s incarnation as a Jew implies that only Jews are gifted for leadership. Jesus, as human, represents all human beings.

History

In 1848, John R. Howard published what became a popular and influential sermon entitled “The Church of Christ Identified.” He listed the “original marks” of the true church, including such things as Christ as founder, no creed but the Bible, terms of admission (faith, repentance, confession, baptism), and weekly Lord’s supper. Interestingly, one of the marks “of the true church of Christ” was that it would be organized  with “certain officers,” including “1. Bishops, or elders; 2. Deacons and deaconesses, 3. Evangelists.”

Howard was not alone but stating a common orthopraxy among congregations in the early Restoration Movement (or, Stone-Campbell Movement). Other advocates for deaconesses included Alexander Campbell, Walter Scott, Tolbert Fanning, Robert Richardson, Robert Milligan, Moses Lard, J. M. Barnes, E. G. Sewell, C. R. Nichol, G. C. Brewer, J. Ridley Stroop, and J. D. Thomas. This was a strong tradition within the Restoration Movement in the nineteenth century, but it died out in the early 20th century even though some prominent ministers thought it was an approved office in the church.

Why did it die out? The influence of David Lipscomb and J. W. McGarvey weighed heavily as they understood only men could serve as such. The rise of women’s suffrage and the emergence of the “New Woman” movement in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries probably shaped the response of churches who were threatened by those movements. They circled the wagons and excluded women from the diaconate. Yet, the church has always been filled with women deaconesses even if they were not permitted to wear the name. Churches may not have honored the office, but God still gave the gift.

First, A Note on Responsibility:

Before I ever get into the nitty-gritty on women’s roles, I’m careful to frame the entire topic in the idea of responsibility. We’re essentially in a conversation about whether and how men’s and women’s God-given personal responsibilities differ in our communities. Remembering this keeps both sides fair.

It is my firm belief that conversations around authority, leadership, submission, and followership of all kinds could be drastically clearer if we first defined the power at play. It is with power and ability that we are made influential and/or authoritative over folks in our lives, and because of that influence we have to effect change (with or without a designated position), we are responsible for the outcome of that change. When God grants us power or gifts, He comes calling for results. Recognizing and harnessing privilege for God’s glory is the crux of our Kingdom work.

So first off, treating the complementarian position as one primarily concerned with men’s responsibility is the fairest angle of approach. I’ll not pave the easy road from power to abuse as if having power essentially leads to harming with it. Cruddy argument. To take issue with the abusive practices and perverted mindsets of domineering men who misapply their equipping for leadership is not to take issue with complementarianism itself or headship itself. As headship bastion John Piper puts it: “Headship is not a right to command and control. It’s a responsibility to love like Christ: to lay down your life for your wife in servant leadership.” Same goes for men and women heading up the church family.

The solution to the problem of ungodly men is more of the “God” not less of the “men.”

Secondly, as we look at Genesis for gender role commentary with responsibility heavy on our minds, we’re going to come to many more instances where it’s possible to point out, “Look! Adam is especially responsible for Eve here! He has a unique obligation!” I myself pointed and exclaimed for years.

But!

Every time we think we’ve found some sort of obligation (responsibility/accountability/duty), we must also look for some sort of coinciding ascendancy (power/influence/ability/gifting/station/anointing.) It is power that begets responsibility, and this order is essential to a study on executive hierarchy between the sexes. When God grants us power or gifts, He comes calling for results, true. But the question, “What did you do with what I gave you?” hinges on something having been given. If the greater, unilateral responsibility we find for husbands in Genesis is genuine, then we’ll also find some sort of upper hand or greater ability that makes it possible.

While there is no respected complementarian to my knowledge who teaches that women are made more morally corruptible, with less spiritual depth, or with lower potential to know God and be transformed more like Christ, it isn’t a huge leap to hear such implications in the belief that men (be that husbands or male church leaders) are especially responsible to spiritually lead, develop, and discern for their families in ways women just aren’t. Men and women are different, of course. And thank God for that, because diversity makes the Body stronger. But which male attribute, exactly, is the gift that God grants to men alone that makes them most able to respond (response-able) to a calling to spiritual leadership? (or service, depending on how you look at it.)

Fairness to the egalitarian camp means we validate this question and sincerely investigate the answer with them. We don’t summarize the question as an angsty “How dare you?!” We see the heart many investigators like myself come with: one full of questions like “Who am I?,” “What am I here for?,” and “How do I honor God’s investment in me?”

From here, I’ll start with the best answer complementarianism has offered in its interpretation of Genesis 1-3 to explain how exactly men are made responsible for their respective women: Gen. 2:15-16.

It is just as true today as it has ever been, apart from Jesus people are lost. How are we going to reach them? It is also true that God expects us to grow in our faith and maturity in Christ. How are we accomplishing that?

The answer to both questions is the same answer – disciple-making.

There is no more worthy purpose of the church than to make disciples of the nations. One of our biggest hindrances to this is that too few Christians have been intentionally discipled. The result is a generation that has no model in hand to use to disciple other people. This leaves many Christians desiring to make disciples but uncertain of what it looks like.

What are we doing to turn this ship and re-engage our churches with healthy, biblical disciple-making approaches that are simple and reproducible?

Renew’s mission is to fill that gap, answer that question, and help congregations and individual Christians embrace approaches to discipleship and disciple-making for everyday people.

Whether you are just starting out and need some help and instruction or you have made many disciples and need some encouragement, we invite you to Renew’s annual Gathering. This is an event for those who want to turn the corner into a better future that is driven by Christ’s call and commission for us to make disciples.

This event is held November 6th in Franklin, Tennessee and we write this to encourage you to come. We have done our best to keep our cost low (starting at $59) to ensure as many people as possible can attend this event.

You can register here.

Please use the code WINESKINS to get the discount at checkout.

The big point we want you to hear is this. This event is for you. When we hear about events for ministry we think they are events for ministers (paid staff and elders). Christ’s commission to make disciples is for all Christians. If we would all embrace this call and be equipped to carry it out, we would see such an amazing opportunity take shape in our churches and we would each have a front row seat to watch God work!

Come to Franklin this November and hear from people like Dave Clayton of Ethos in Nashville. Dave has made efforts to reach the greater Nashville area, calling on Christians in the city to fasting and prayer. Hear from Jim Putman whose church of over 6000 has planted 10 other churches, 8 of which have grown to over 1000, half of which are formerly unchurched people. Gain insights from Mark Moore, teaching pastor at Christ’s Church of the Valley where they baptized over 3500 last year. If you have never heard of Shadonkeh Johnson, we want you to know what he is doing in West Africa. Fourteen years ago God used him to begin a movement that has grown to between 700,000 and 800,000 people, 70% of which were not involved in church before. We could also mention people like Matthew Bates, Orpheus Hayward, and Gary Johnson. Gary is doing much needed work on developing healthy elderships.

This event can change your life and change your congregation as we desire to participate in a movement of God in North American churches. Will you join us? Will you come and see what God is doing and prayerfully consider how you might participate in what God is doing in your city?

This event isn’t just for your staff or your elders. This event is for you and we are fasting and praying that God would use November 6th to help our churches turn corners in disciple making! We ask you to do the same – fast and pray with us and see if you believe God wants you to come November 6th!

If you are interested in this mission and ministry, please see our website for many, many resources about how you can help make disciples and make disciple-makers!

The question came up in my previous article about whether or not Junia was an apostle. I am thankful the question didn’t come up of whether or not she was a she. She most certainly was.

There are two standard works on this subject for further consideration:

Scot McKnight – Junia is Not Alon (2.99 on kindle)

Eldon J. Epp – Junia: The First Woman Apostle

First, we can be sure that Junia was a woman for several reasons. Why this is even in question is because of translations like the RSV which says this in the text,

“Greet Androni′cus and Ju′nias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners; they are men of note among the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. “

And the ESV which says this in the footnote on Junia,

“Romans 16:7 Or Junias”


Early English translations have “Junia” (Female). Early translations of the Bible have Junia as a female according to McKnight citing Epp, “First, all early translations of the New Testament into other languages listed Junia as a woman. Epp, a master of the history of our New Testament in all its various translations, says that Junia was a woman in the Old Latin, the Vulgate, Sahidic and Bohairic Coptic and Syriac.” – McKnight, Scot. Junia Is Not Alone (Kindle Locations 121-123). Patheos Press. Kindle Edition.

McKnight goes on to say it was Martin Luther whose influence solidified the shift from universally accepted Junias (female) to Junias (male),

“Martin Luther played a decisive role in turning Junia into a man. Clearly dependent on Jacobus Faber Stapulensis (or Jacques LeFèvre d’Étaples), Luther gave to the German name Juniam a masculine article (den Juniam [today, den Junias]). Then he said, “Andronicus and Junias were famous apostles” and were “men of note among the apostles.” Luther’s influence is inestimable, and some have suggested that he might be the one on whom to pin the blame for the sex-change from Junia to Junias. We are aware, however, that prior to him by two centuries, back in the 13th or early 14th century, Aegidius or Giles of Rome called Junia a male. Luther didn’t invent the change, but his influence made it significant. – McKnight, Scot. Junia Is Not Alone (Kindle Locations 126-131). Patheos Press. Kindle Edition.

Second, McKnight shows how the Greek New Testament NA13 made the change by changing Junia to Junias in 1927 and placing Junia in a footnote. This is the text students and scholars typically base their English translations off of. According to McKnight this was taken a step further in 1979 when that edition of the Greek New Testament even removed Junia from the footnotes! This was corrected in the 1998 edition.

This is a huge problem but one that demonstrates the point – Junia was a female in Rome. There isn’t any question about that. If the above evidence isn’t enough let me give you one more detail from Jewett’s commentary on Romans,

“Junia is a Latin feminine name, ordinarly given to slaves or freedwomen of the Junia family, of which some 250 examples have been found in Roman evidence. The modern scholarly controversy over this name rests on the presumption that no woman could rank as an apostle, and thus that the accusative form must refer to a male by the name of Junias or Junianus. However, the evidence in favor of the feminine name ‘Junia’ is overwhelming. Not a single example of a masculine name ‘Junias’ has been found. The patristic evidence investigated by Fabrega and Fitzmyer indicates that commentators down through the twelfth century refer to Junia as a woman, often commenting on the extraordinary gifts that ranked her among the apostles.” (p.961).

The last sentence from Jewett gets us to the second question, was Junia an apostle of some sort or was she notable to the male apostles of Jesus?

Exhibit A: Church history
According to Jewett the first 1200 years of evidence show that not only was she a she but that they considered her to be an apostle. Consider what Chrysostom said about her in the 300s, “Even to be an apostle is great, but also to be prominent among them – consider how wonderful a song of honor that is!” (Hom. Rom. 31.2)

Exhibit B: The Greek
The comments on the previous post both on site and on Facebook questioned her status as an apostle. I agree that the English seems a bit ambiguous, “outstanding among the apostles.” That could mean she was among the apostles and viewed as outstanding or she wasn’t an apostle but among the group who are apostles she was viewed as outstanding.

Jewett: “the adjective επισημος [outstanding/noteworthy] lifts up a person or thing as distinguished or marked in comparison with other representatives of the same class, in this instance with the other apostles.” He gives many instances of this where those being talked about are compared with people or things of the same type or class.

Our being troubled by something does not determine its truthfulness. Let’s back up a bit. We have already shown the assumption that because women cannot be apostles, and she is clearly called an apostle, therefore she cannot be a she so let’s make her a he – is erroneous. Then we have to wrestle with the next issue and that is “what is an apostle?”

Exhibit C: Defining “Apostle”
In Dunn’s Word Biblical commentary on Romans he believes that when Jesus appeared to people per Paul’s comments in 1 Cor 15:7 where it says he appeared to “all of the apostles” that at that time Jesus designated more apostles.

Literally the word apostle means a “sent one.” We might say a missionary or evangelist. Someone who is sent to preach/teach the good news about Jesus. That is the general meaning. We might add more specifically that to be an apostle at this state of the game in the first century would have been someone who witnessed the resurrected Lord. And note she is not alone but her husband is also called an apostle in Romans 16:7. It seems to me apostolicity expanded beyond the twelve for some of those who met the above criteria (witness and sent to proclaim). I would not count her as one of the 12 or them as #13 and #14. I would say Paul can freely call them apostolos and mean it and that shouldn’t trouble us or convince us to finagle a way to make her a man.

Here is Schreiner’s take in Baker,

“Murray (1965: 230) is virtually along among modern commentators in understanding it as ‘outstanding in the eyes of the apostles.’ The consensus view is that the phrase means ‘distinguished among the apostles.’…In saying that they are apostles, however, Paul is certainly not placing them in the ranks of the Twelve. In 1 Cor 15 (vv. 5,7) Paul distinguished between the Twelve and the apostles, and so it would be a mistake to think that the latter are coterminous with the former. Other members of the early church had apostolic authority in addition to the Twelve: Paul, Barnabas (Acts 14:1-4, 14), and James the brother of Jesus (Gal 1:19). It is improbable, however, that Andronicus and Junia had the same level of authority as Paul, Barnabas, and James. The term αποστολος is not a technical term (cf. 3 Cor 8:23; Phil 2:25…), and in the case of Andronicus and Junia the idea is likely that they were itinerant evangelists or missionaries…As a female missionary Junia may have directed her energies especially to other women.” (p.796-797).

We really don’t know about her level of authority compared with Paul and we really don’t know if she solely focused on women (“may have”) but I do appreciate his making clear how we absolutely do have others called apostles who were not of the twelve and what sort of role people like that would have filled. Understanding the passage through this lens I have no trouble calling Junia an apostle and see no need to translate Romans 16:7 in a way that is less accurate and/or negates her role for the sake of upholding my presuppositions or comfort zones. I hope you feel the same way.



I have already touched on two key points in 1 Timothy 2 – silence and authority. If you haven’t read those, I hope you will take a few minutes to consider those two articles.

Next we tackle Paul’s prohibition of women teaching in 1 Timothy 2:12-15 which turns out to be one of the strangest passages in the New Testament, in my opinion,

” 12 I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty. “

How are women saved through childbearing and what does it have to do with teaching and deception?

I wrestled and wrestled with this. It just didn’t make sense on several levels. The first level was this – how does Paul prohibit women from teaching men when women taught men in some instances in Paul’s day. We know this is a fact with Priscilla and Aquilla teaching Apollos. This is usually dismissed by Aquilla’s presence. And that may be the explanation. Then there is Junia who is an apostle. That certainly has a teaching function. One might presume she was only to teach women or to teach with her husband present only to a non-Christian per Priscilla/Aquilla and Apollos. We also have public women prophets like Anna (in the gospels pre-resurrection) and Philip’s daughters (post-resurrection in Acts). Some say the prophetic role and teaching role are not the same so that is also explained away per Eph 4:11. Timothy himself was instructed in the faith by his mother (2 Tim 1:5).

The presence of these women teachers in the New Testament at bare minimum gets my attention and leaves me with a few important questions to ask about 1 Timothy 2.

One question is, is this an all-time universal prohibition of all teaching by women to a mixed or male assembly? Or is it situational/occasional to what is going on in Ephesus? That is a very important question to ask. What clues can we get from the text to tease that apart? We do know Paul’s letters were written to address particular issues in particular churches and so we have to learn to listen to the letters through that lens.

Was there something going on in Ephesus (where Timothy is when Paul writes him – 1 Tim 1:3) that led to this prohibition or, again, is Paul intending this to be an all time, every time thing? If so, would Paul have been condemning of the examples listed above, which he doesn’t seem to have been? Again, we have our explanations of those other passages, which I have alluded to above, but are those explanations sufficient?

What would happen if we read 1 Timothy 2:11-15 in light of the entire letter of 1 Timothy? Here is what we notice:

  • False doctrine is being taught by “Christians” in Ephesus – 1:3
  • This teaching includes “myths and endless genealogies” – 1:4
  • Some have “deviated from these and turned to meaningless talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make assertions” – 1:6-7
  • “in later times some will renounce the faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared with a hot iron. They forbid marriage and demand abstinence from foods…” – 4:3
  • “Have nothing to do with profane myths or old wives’ tales.” – 4:7
  • Young widows have learned “to be idle, gadding about from house to house; and they are not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not say. So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, and manage their households, so as to give the adversary no occasion to revile us. For some have already turned away to follow Satan” – 5:13-15
  • “Whoever teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that is in accordance with godliness, is conceited, understanding nothing, and has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words. From these come envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, and wrangling among those who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” – 6:3-5

We get a bigger picture of what is going on in Ephesus. There is false teaching being taught. It has something to do with asceticism (to abstain from certain things/indulgence in pleasurable things – food, marriage/sex, etc). This teaching was catching hold in the church and was being spread by various people but especially by young, childless widows (5:13-15).

Is this false teaching that the young, female, widows, are teaching the impetus for Paul’s prohibition against women teaching? Paul says in 5:15 that some are now following Satan. Does that fit with what Paul wrote in 2:14, “and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.”?

These are important questions, again, are these universal, all time truths or situational to what is going on in Ephesus that Paul prohibits women from teaching when it was the women who seem to have been passing these teachings along at that time?

Paul isn’t saying women are more easily deceived than men as a general rule. We know that is not the case. He is making a parallel between what is happening in Ephesus with what happened in the garden where the women were not just the ones deceived (Adam was too) but the ones who were perpetuating the deception.

But what about being saved through childbearing? This connection was first brought to my attention in Gordon Fee’s book “Listening to the Spirit in the Text,” p.74-75.

How are women saved through childbearing? Paul uses two words for childbearing in 1 Timothy. One is in 2:15 and the other is in 5:14. Both are the only times these two words are used in the entire New Testament. They are rare. They are also connected. He tells how women are saved through childbearing in 5:13-15,

“Besides that, they learn to be idle, gadding about from house to house; and they are not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not say. 14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, and manage their households, so as to give the adversary no occasion to revile us. 15 For some have already turned away to follow Satan.”

Paul notes these women are spreading false teaching. They have been deceived by Satan and are now following Satan (much like Eve in chapter 2). How does this get better? They aren’t married and don’t have kids – they have time to be idle, to listen to the false teachings and to perpetuate the false teaching. So Paul instructs them to get married, have kids, and then they have households to manage which removes them from the influence of the false teachers. Saved through childbearing.

Saved through childbearing isn’t some existential change of status from lost to save when a woman has a baby. It is practical.

What we know for sure is that women were teaching false things in Ephesus. What we are less sure of is whether or not this is all Paul was prohibiting based on this verse alone. What you and I have to wrestle with is whether or not the body of evidence of women teaching and proclaiming freely in the early church is sufficient enough for us to say what Paul prohibited in 1 Tim 2 was universal or occasional.

At least a more coherent picture is formed out of what is going on in these verses than just a slam down proof text to end all discussion, which is how these verses are too often handled.

I hesitate to add my voice to the area of women’s roles in the Churches of Christ.  I say that, as a man, who gets to preach, and has no restrictions placed on him. I feel unqualified to add my words to the already full pools of thought going on in our congregations. Yet, sometimes you must speak.  There are times in our lives where we will feel like Jeremiah when he says, “ But if I say, ‘I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot” (Jer. 20:9, NIV). I believe fear, for the most part has kept me quiet on this issue.  I repent of that fear right now.

In my experience, there are places you don’t want to tread in a Bible study on a Wednesday night or Sunday Morning. The role of women is one of them. I have found that when even when the subject of the role of women is broached from a distance, it is immediately shot down with fury. Immediately the proof texts from 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy are bandied about and slammed on the table. This is where the terrible way of reading the Bible that says, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it,” comes into play.

These moments have become gatekeepers in our congregations that we have allowed to persist. Many of our congregations can’t even enter into any sort of meaningful dialogue, let alone serious studies of these passages without it devolving into an argument – an often-times very loud argument. This is tragic among a people who are born out of reconciliation and resurrection.

We’ve held our positions on the roles of women in the assembly and the church for a long time now. I don’t expect my voice to change your mind. Our heritage, which is a beautiful one, has preserved some of our general positions.  That’s commendable. I love our faith heritage and am proud to serve within it. Yet, on the roles of women in worship, let me just ask a simple, yet loaded question:

What if we’re wrong?

No one among us would even hesitate to admit that Jesus elevated the status of women in the first century.  They were integral in his ministry (Luke 8:1-3), and they were participants in some of the greatest moments in Jesus’ ministry. We read that they had an active, participatory role in the early church’s worship services (1 Cor. 14:26). Women even had leadership roles recognized by an Apostle (Rom. 16:1). I’m not advocating crazy changes – not at all.  I’m just asking if we’re honestly reading the text without dodging the uncomfortable parts.

I’m not promoting that churches begin immediately putting our dear sisters at the pulpit or to pass trays or lead singing or pray.  Instead, I’m trying to wrap my head around an idea; a question, really. First, let me bring up another Scripture before I bring out my question.  Writing to the Thessalonian believers, Paul writes, “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thess. 5:19, NIV). In context Paul is speaking of not treating the revelations and things of God with contempt.  He’s admonishing the believers to trust the Spirit, don’t block Him. Let Him lead. Don’t put Him in a box of “theology.” I know we’re all guilty of this from time to time, and repentance is required.  Here’s my question:  Are we quenching the Spirit?

Let me ask it in a way that terrifies me:

Are we keeping an entire group of believers from exercising their God-given abilities by hiding behind tradition and comfort?  Are we handicapping our women in their service to God?

These are honest questions.  And, if we find ourselves to be wrong in this, a deep repentance is required. How do we know God hasn’t spoken a word through a sister that someone needs to hear but never will because we don’t allow her to speak in front of everyone?  How do we know God isn’t raising up women with something burning in their hearts that we all need to hear? Are we so arrogant to hang our theological hats on one or two Scriptures that when read in the proper context reveals quite a different picture than we’ve been presented with?

We can go around and round on whether Scripture advocates an egalitarian view or a complementarian view. We can say, “Let’s talk about what women can do, not about what they can’t.”  To me, that’s become a fancy way of dodging the issue entirely.

The role of women in our assemblies will continue to be a contentious issue so long a we hide behind the demonic tyranny of statements like, “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” Being closed-minded or too sure of our positions gets us nowhere.  This is a big issue, church.  It isn’t going anywhere.  Maybe its time we sat down and talked about it. Publicly. Humbly. Together.

Look, I’m not advocating a massive, church-wide change. I’m not saying we throw everything we’ve ever known in the trash and walk away.  I’m not pretending that there aren’t many brothers and sisters who sincerely believe with their entire being that God has set up women’s roles in a certain way. I’m certainly not going to force women into something they don’t want to do.

What I am asking is that we sit down with open Bibles, open hearts, and open ears and listen to God.  We need our sisters.  We need to hear their prayers. We need to hear what God is speaking to their hearts.  We need the collective wisdom God has given His people through His Spirit to guide us in these tenuous days. We need each other!

We must have this discussion.  We must stop labeling each other liberal, conservative, progressive, or traditionalist.  We are dividing the Body when we do that. Instead, we must come together and discern through the Spirit and the Word, what God wants us to do in our congregation – not everyone else’s. We cannot ever change just because.  Yet, we cannot afford to stay the same if we are perpetuating a sinful tradition. This is where clarity and wisdom must come into play. 

I plead with you, brothers and sisters, that we come together and ask ourselves, “Are we quenching the Spirit?” If we find ourselves to be in that position, then it is our Christian duty to change. May we pray that we can empower our sisters and let them be who God created them to be.  May we all humble ourselves and pray for wisdom on this issue.

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