A female Quaker preaches at a meeting in London
Attitudes towards gender roles have rapidly changed over the past one hundred years. The doctrine of male headship and female submission had been held by the Church for hundreds of years, as we saw in excerpts from sermons by John Calvin and John Knox in the last issue. This is certainly unlike what you would find in some Christian circles today. The Reformers of the sixteenth century did not adhere to the radical egalitarianism [equality] views that have become the rage of our day.
Christian Egalitarianism is a moral doctrine which holds that people should be treated as equals. They believe the exercise of spiritual authority is deemed as much a female believer’s privilege and responsibility as it is for a male believer. In Christ there is no longer any distinction in spiritual privilege or status between Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female. They also believe that women and men share equally in spiritual rights and privileges. They believe that biblical equality is not founded on feminist ideology, which is derived from cultural and political philosophies.
Many traditionalists hold fast to the view called complementarianism. It is a term used to describe a conservative theological view that says that men and women have different roles and responsibilities, as manifested in marriage, religious leadership, and elsewhere. This viewpoint acknowledges that men and women are of equal worth and are both equally created in the image of God, but have distinct roles in church, home and society as a whole. Complementarianism recognizes that God has given women a sphere of responsibility and authority in their home, and a limited role within the body of Christ, which is what I believe the Bible teaches.
The Bible & Authority
The Institute of Basic Life Principles teaches that there are four basic structures of authority: family, government, church, and business. In each of these areas of our life, God has provided a hierarchy of authority for our protection, for purposes of building character and wisdom, and to assist us in making good decisions. Within the context of the home, our authority and protection falls under the umbrella of our husband (1 Cor. 11:3). If we step away from our God-given role, we at the same time step out from the umbrella of our husband’s protective authority. To do anything other than being a helpmeet, keeper at home and mother, God is not obliged to completely protect us, because we have compromised the Divine plan. If we choose to transgress these boundaries, it will naturally result is not receiving God’s best.
This is what has occurred when the Christian Egalitarian has given its approval for women to serve in the capacity of a pastor in their churches. The women who say they are called by God to be leaders in the Church, have stepped out from under God’s protective umbrella. When this occurs, they will be tempted in areas of their life where most women are not equipped to handle. They are tempted by relationships with the opposite sex, she can neglect the needs of her children, she gains an independent spirit that will hurt her marriage, she will transfer her affections from her home to the job, her softness of spirit will harden because she finds herself in competing worlds with destructive pressures, she sets a bad example for other women by giving an appearance of being able to do it all, and she makes financially unwise decisions. So, although God gives us the freedom to walk into an arena not designed for a woman, they will still suffer the consequences in the long run.
God teaches in His Word that He gives spiritual leadership in the Church to qualified male elders, and thus restricts the teaching office of the Church to men who meet the range of qualifications He has established in Scripture: “Let the women keep silent” and “women learn in silence” (1 Cor. 14:34,35); “I suffer not a woman to teach, nor usurp authority over a man”(1 Timothy 2:12); “The husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3:2 and 12); “‘he’ being the holder of sound doctrine.” (Titus 1:9). Nevertheless, evangelicals and fundamentalists need to subordinate their personal feelings and desires to the Word of God.
The First Women Preachers
By the late 1660’s, there was a constant undercurrent of uncertainty among Quakers concerning women’s participation in Christian ministry. Quaker views toward women have always been considered progressive in their time. In the late 19th century this tendency bore fruit in the American women's rights movement.
Elizabeth Hooton (1600 – 1672) was one of the earliest preachers in the Religious Society of Friends, which was another name for the Quakers. She was beaten and imprisoned for teaching her beliefs. Elizabeth first heard George Fox preach in England, and she was one of the first to be convinced by his teachings.
George Fox, the founder of the Quaker church and influenced by Theosophy (occult teaching), first started to teach in England, in 1647. He rejected the doctrine of the Trinity, he denied the deity of Christ, he rejected baptism by water, and disavowed the concept of the original sin. Fox had formed his radical religious society that has lasted for 350 years. His journal makes it clear that the Quakers were firmly rooted in a radical interpretation of Christianity, and the Church of England and the Puritans considered it heresy.
William Penn became sympathetic to the Quakers. He began to follow Quaker teaching, and was thrown in jail for preaching Quakerism to an unlawful assembly. In 1681, William Penn, who was a Freemason, accepted the grant of land, which became Pennsylvania, as the payment of a debt that King Charles II owed his father. He pronounced religious tolerance for all and opened Pennsylvania up to the Quakers and 250 other faiths seeking religious freedom.
Quaker ideals were considered left-wing, egalitarian, and anti-authoritarian. They were viewed as social reformers, and it becomes obvious that equality of roles in the Church was one of their objectives. During the 20th century, they have been advocates for homosexual rights, and more recently have formally approved gay marriage in the UK. Many Quakers have continued to have far-left leanings, and adhere to Socialists ideology.
Although the Quakers were the first to recognize female ministers, the Unitarians (who advocate New Age beliefs), followed shortly after during the late 1800s. But the Quakers have fought long and hard for religious tolerance, and presently have a position in the United Nations promoting world peace.
Although the Evangelical and mainline Egalitarian Christian denies that their concept of equality is founded in feminism, I believe they have never sought after the origin of the practice. The egalitarian took the Biblical belief that we are all spiritually equal before God, and extended equality into every realm of life. Using the illustration given earlier with the umbrella, the Egalitarian places the wife side-by-side with her husband. It revokes the spiritual hierarchy taught by Paul in 1 Cor.11:3. There is only the protection God provides over the life of the wife, and none is provided by her husband, since they are equals. Their viewpoint completely takes his authority and protection away – sort of emasculating him – in the spiritual realm.
Once the feminist/equal-rights advocates started down this road toting their new teaching to the Church, it seems as though the Enemy kept challenging them to see how far they could take it. Although there may be a possibility that early women pastors would never have intended it to go this far, now the sin of homosexuality has crept into the Church and has made it acceptable for ministers to be both women and gay. In our modern society, it seems impossible to turn this around to make it right without being called “sexist” and “homophobic” by the world, and practically destroying the Church of Jesus Christ. But it should not be our objective to change their views. It is our goal to obey the Word and not compromise in this area.
The modern feminist wants a woman in charge. Within ancient pagan witchcraft, women ruled over men. In Judah, the male leadership began to fail, and it was instinctive (because of the curse) that the female take over. Their overbearing nature led them to eventual doom. Their oppressive attitude of female dominance was in light of male weakness (Isa. 3:12-26). Now I ask you, how is this different than what is happening today?
When you consider the influence many of the early churches, such as the Quakers and Unitarians, had when they began to improperly appoint women ministers, it created great pressure on the other denominations to follow accordingly. But you must consider the source of change. The most significant work was started by two groups who would not be considered Christian. Heretics got the ball rolling, and the true Church picked up the ball and ran with the feminist teaching.
Women have a valued place within the body of Christ, and there are plenty of opportunities for them to serve. I’m sure these women are doing a wonderful job in their positions as pastors and preachers, but Scripture still says, “Let your women keep silence.”
~This article was originally written for the
Kindred Spirits Journal, Issue #46, Dec. 2009