Tag Archives: 1 Corinthians 14

Women in the synagogue

Women in the synagogue

Women in the synagogue

In 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 Paul speaks about women remaining silent in the church. At this time, Christians still used synagogues for worship. Have any of those who oppose women’s ordination been to a synagogue, or been part of a Jewish bar mitzvah in a synagogue? I suspect not. I found attending a bar mitzvah a very interesting experience, and it explained Paul’s words to the Corinthian women.

The synagogue’s “place of worship” and teaching was in the centre front of the ground floor. Here all the men and boys stood together while the rabbi addressed them. There was an upstairs gallery surrounding the sides and back of the building where the women sat, including the boys’ mothers, whose bar mitzvah it was. The mothers and the other women were completely segregated from the men and none of them understood, including the mothers of the boys, what was happening with their sons, or what they were being told because it was virtually impossible to hear what the Rabbi was saying to the men. The women were bored so they started chatting amongst themselves. But the talking and then laughing became increasingly louder, and was starting to intrude on the service below. The Rabbi suddenly stopped talking, turned around and looked upstairs to the women, and commanded them to stop making a noise. The women became silent for a short time, then through boredom, started to chatter again. They were reprimanded by the Rabbi 3 times during this bar mitzvah which I attended.

Suddenly it dawned on me – this is what the apostle Paul was talking about! The women were not an integral part of the service – it was for men only – and this would have been the custom in the early church. Of course it would have been disruptive if these isolated women tried to call out or say anything. When we got back to the host family, we  women had to ask the father what was being said. If any woman had called out for an explanation of the events, of course it would have been disruptive! So now, because some Christians don’t understand the Jewish customs or culture, they read words at face value in the Bible without understanding, and then stand against women’s ordination in the Lutheran church – using this scripture to say Paul forbade women to speak in church – without understanding why he said it.

1 John 4:18 tells us: “Perfect love casts out fear.” Why then are some Lutherans showing fear of women’s ordination? Why are they trying to hinder the preaching of the Gospel?

May the love of those in the Lutheran Church who favour women’s ordination grow and spread into the hearts of those who appear to be putting ‘law before grace’ and are hurting the Lutheran church and the spread of Christ’s love to the lost.

1 Corinthians:7 “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”              God is love.


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A layman’s view of women’s ordination in the LCA

The following letter is from Bob Unger of Indooroopilly.  It reflects the growing frustration that the considered opinion of membership and Synod delegates increasingly seem to be ignored in the LCA.  The letter is followed by another letter from a women who left the LCA to minister in another Australian church. It appears on Katie and Martin dated 6th April 2013.

I grew up in the Lutheran Church and have been a member for 60 years. I have watched the Church that I love struggle for 20 years with the question of Women’s Ordination. In the first decade, not being a theologian, I trusted the wise men of the CTICR to study the Gospel and to provide advice to the Church.

I was pleased with the first CTICR report and was even more delighted when after further examination; the second again found “that there are no theological reasons to prohibit the ordination of women”. For me there was now no longer a conflict; the Church I love and my own personal values were aligned. I was overjoyed!

Imagine my despondency when the Toowoomba Synod succeeded in gaining for the second time a simple majority (but not the required two thirds). I have sat patiently, watching the growing numbers of people quietly leaving the Church I love, watching a whole generation of children grow into adults and then leave the Church I love, because they are unable to reconcile the hypocrisy of a church that professes “love and compassion” while discriminating against half its membership. I have watched the humiliation of female Lutheran Pastors, ordained overseas, not being allowed to participate in full Ministry and even being denied the use of the title Pastor. I have watched as qualified women are denied the opportunity to answer their call to serve.

I have watched as groups opposed to female ordination have cried “you’ll split the church”. The Church that I love is deeply divided, clergy disillusioned, members quietly leaving to find another spiritual home and many like me staying around in the belief that sanity will prevail.

I am unable to understand, although I am of reasonable intelligence, how a minority of both clergy and laity have been able to bring the Church that I love to this current sad state of division, intransigence, intimidation and intolerance.

From my view from the pew, a majority of our learned theologians (CTICR) on two occasions have found “that there are no theological reasons to prohibit the ordination of women”. The High Court of Australia decides matters of Constitutional Law by a simple majority and there is no right of appeal. Worldwide, the majority of Lutheran churches and their members ordain women, appoint women as bishops and are ministered to by women clergy.

A majority of clergy at two General Pastors Conferences have referred Women’s Ordination to General Synod for decision. At two Synods a majority of delegates have supported the case for the ordination of women. The “Theology” to my mind is settled. I have been on this earth too long to believe human beings will ever reach unanimity on any topic, let alone women’s ordination.

From my place in the pew, no one in support of the ordination of women wants to divide the church, we have remained silent for so long on this issue, to avoid such an outcome. No one is suggesting that all congregations have to call female Pastors, our existing call system allows congregations to call pastors of their choice. No one is suggesting that those who are opposed to women’s ordination will be forced to receive the sacraments from a female Pastor.

From my place in the pew, the position is clear, we will never achieve unanimity or consensus on this issue, the theology however is settled: “there are no theological reasons to prohibit the ordination of women”. The question is, how do we move forward together in love to find an understanding that is acceptable to both groups? To achieve Union both camps had to give a little, it is time to “give a little” once more.

I am attaching a document containing a description of a woman pastor’s experience of a Jewish Bar Mitzvah. She has left the Lutheran Church and has for some years been a pastor in a large Australian city church where God is blessing her work abundantly. God gives her understanding.

We must find a way ahead for the Church that we All Love!

Yours in Christ
Bob Unger

Attachment to A Layman’s View of Women’s Ordination in the LCA

Women in the synagogue


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Love Builds Up

Megan Greulich

Megan Greulich is the editor of Mutuality magazine and the membership coordinator for CBE. She lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where she bakes special occasion cakes and volunteers with her church’s youth group.

“But 1 Corinthians 14 says that women should be silent in churches…right?” It was a shy question from a high school student, in the middle of a church fundraising supper. I had been chatting with this student and his family, and his father mentioned how the Bible passage had come up in discussion at their home a few days earlier. “I believe that women can be preachers. In fact, a woman pastor performed my wife’s and my wedding ceremony more than twenty years ago,” the father said to me as the mother nodded in agreement. “But we believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and I didn’t know what to say to my son when he read those verses. Maybe you can help us understand.” The father, mother, and son all looked at me with tentative but curious faces.

We launched into a great discussion about the cultural context of the Corinthian church, about the surrounding verses in the letter, and about Paul’s approval of women leaders in other sections of his writings (check out these resources on 1 Corinthians 14 for more information). I love these kinds of conversations. I was so inspired by this family’s honesty, humility, and willingness to ask tough questions.

As we chatted, I watched the mother. While she said very little, I noticed how her eyes began to brighten. She even gently leaned forward in her chair—a sure sign, in our understated Minnesotan subculture, that she was getting excited. I recognized it because it matched my own response when I first heard egalitarian Bible interpretations. It was hope. And relief.

But then another young man at our table decided to jump into the conversation. Interrupting me, he very assertively declared, “All I know is that God will use women leaders only when the men aren’t doing their job and stepping up.”

His words, delivered in such stark contrast to the kind and gracious manner of our conversation up to that point, surprised me. And they stung. I looked across the table at the mother. “Wait…what?” She said under her breath. She slumped back into her chair. “Where does the Bible teach that?” I tried pressing the man. But he had no interest in dialoguing. “It’s there,” he responded gruffly, authoritatively.

“There is no teaching anywhere in the Bible that women are God’s second choice.” I said this more to the mother than to the young man. Yet the damage had been done, and the conversation was effectively over.

Jesus help us, is the simple but passionate prayer I find myself silently saying whenever I think about this encounter. For whatever reason, our conversation made that assertive man very uncomfortable. So he merely repeated—unquestioningly regurgitated, actually—an unbiblical teaching he had heard at church all his life. In his effort to silence the dialogue, he held no concern for what his words communicated to that mother, or to me, the only other woman involved. His lack of empathy, his lack of love, deflated the mother at our table that night, inflicting a subtle but very real wound on a sister in Christ.

Why is it that so often in our conversations about God we are the most unlike God? It is a humbling realization that we are all susceptible to this lack of empathy in our interactions with one another. I could recount many times in which I responded to a complementarian out of pride and anger, more in an effort to silence a conversation, or be right, than to come alongside and support a brother or sister in Christ who is on a journey. But Paul, over and over, warns about this. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up,” he writes in 1 Corinthians 8. “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love,” he insists in Galatians 5:6 emphasis added. And, just one chapter before those tricky verses in 1 Corinthians 14, Paul so beautifully contends that even if he possesses spiritual gifts, all knowledge and wisdom, and faith that can move mountains, without love he is nothing. These are familiar verses to us, and yet sometimes the most familiar ones are the most difficult to live out.

Jesus help us. Jesus help me. May our conversations, as egalitarians and complementarians alike, be marked by love.


What are your thoughts on paying attention to a few verses in order to understand what Jesus is saying to us today?

Read the rest of this entry »


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