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Think Spot: Supporting Women at all Levels of Leadership

A leadership question in churches that has sometimes been quite polarising is that of what leadership roles women may hold. Though most have championed women at all levels of leadership for many years, some are still inclined to limit them to certain lower-level roles. Naturally, this is typically a result of how key passages in the Bible are read, notably 1 Timothy 2:11-15.

This text affirms the positivity associated with learning (and the associated quality of submission was used of Mary at the feet of Jesus in Luke 10). Women were not always afforded the chance to learn, so Paul seems keen to address this here. His prohibition against women teaching on this basis would also have applied to men if they were new converts, as knowledge was needed first, particularly at Ephesus.  

Ephesus was renowned for practices associated with the Temple of Artemis in which women sometimes exercised an unhealthy example of leadership that the local church needed to be protected from. To suggest that comments there should apply to all generations is not supported by most churches, though diversity of views and differing interpretations is respected.

Comparison to Eve here is due to her deception, again arising from a lack of knowledge. It was Adam who was instructed by God and therefore disobedient, not deceived. Eve’s error was to act independently. The text’s reference to salvation through childbirth contrasts the sin of the previous verse, so that learned godliness optimises her womanhood, symbolised in a first-century context through childbearing. 

That wives were to submit to husbands in Ephesians 5 was similarly affirmed as a clear expectation at the time of writing. A key emphasis for us still today is that Paul’s radical teaching was for husbands to love as Christ loved, their special case of the mutual submission affirmed in verse 21.

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