I do understand the concerns with upholding the qualifications for ordained leadership, but in our zeal to defend qualified male ordination in our churches, we need to be careful not to restrict women beyond what Scripture teaches. All men and women in the church have gifts and talents that should be used to bless the church, advance the gospel, and glorify God. It’s time to consider, “Where is the place for Priscilla in our churches?”
Mixed-gender theology classes should be taught by men. It is illogical to say a woman should train men to be Bible teachers and pastors when she shouldn’t be one herself. If women shouldn’t be pastors or elders in churches, then they should also not have that role in other contexts.
Should women teach theology to men? The role of women in the church and the wider Christian community has been the focus of debates for decades. The battle lines have been drawn, and both sides have made their positions clear, at least for one aspect of the debate.
The question of ordaining women to offices of pastor and elder has been asked and answered. One side says the ordained offices in the church should be filled by men and women who have been gifted and called. The other side says only qualified men should be ordained. I stand firmly in agreement with the latter group. But is ordination the only question we should ask in the discussions over women in the church?
Within the conservative, Reformed world, the opinions on whether or not women can teach theology to men cover a wide spectrum. Some believe that women can do anything in the church that a non-ordained man can do. Others believe that women can teach theology to other women and children but not to men in any setting. A few believe that women shouldn’t ever teach theology.
When it comes to writing and speaking about theology outside the church, opinions vary even more. Should a woman speak at a theological conference? Answers include “Yes, but only if the audience is all women,” and “Depends on if she’s teaching theology or speaking from her own experience.” Should a woman write a book or blog or have a podcast? Answers include “Yes, as long as the book/blog/podcast is intended for women, it’s OK if a man comes across it and learns from it,” and “Books provide a separation between author and reader so a man isn’t learning directly from a woman.”
In all these discussions, I wonder what the modern Reformed Christian community would make of Priscilla if she lived today. In Acts 18, Luke tells us about Priscilla and her husband Aquila. They were Jewish believers who had left Rome. Paul, who shared their occupation as tent-makers, stayed with them in Corinth. They traveled with Paul to Ephesus and stayed there when Paul continued on his missionary work. Verses 24-26 tell of how they instructed Apollos in the faith:
Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.