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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Female headship in the family: Biblical examples

The first word in the description of this blog, "Sun and Shield," is musings. As I understand and use that word, it means that I put down my thoughts, often tentative or not well informed or thought through, about some subject that interests me. I do this mostly for the most faithful reader of this blog, namely me. What does Martin LaBar think about X, Y, or Z?

Related Matters
In this post, I shall muse about the topic suggested by the title. I have already mused about the related topic of women in ministry (or not) here and here. I don't have all the answers, but I believe that there is scriptural support for the place of God-called women in ministry. My church, The Wesleyan Church, believes that, although there are many more males than females in ministry within that body. It isn't the only one. Here is a defense by a writer from the Church of the Nazarene. An organization named Christians for Biblical Equity has a number of articles on this subject. Recently, the body that directs my denomination between its General Conferences decided that our first female General Superintendent (there are two others, both male) should be the head of the denomination, at least until the next General Conference. My local church has a female assistant pastor, who occasionally preaches, and carries out other ministerial duties. She was ordained by the South Carolina District of The Wesleyan Church a few years ago. See the links suggested in this paragraph for more information on the related topic.

I confess to so much ignorance on the topic of this post that I didn't know what the complementarian and egalitarian views were, in spite of the fact that the very titles suggest the meanings. I think that I do now. The complementarian view holds that women and men are to have different, but complementary, roles in the family and elsewhere. The link just before this is to the Wikipedia article on the subject. There is also a Wikipedia article on the egalitarian view. A quick Google search also turned up some pertinent material. Here is an article supporting male headship. The author distinguishes between male headship and male domination, claiming that there is a difference. Here is a defense of the complementarian view, and here is another. Here is a discussion of male headship, which article examines the Biblical use of the term, and finds that, Biblically, "Head is never given the meaning of authority, boss or leader. It describes the servant function of provider of life, growth and development. This function is not one of top-down oversight but of bottom-up support and nurture."

Biblical Examples
It has recently occurred to me that there are some examples of female spiritual leadership in families in the Bible. One such is the wife of Manoah, who was Samson's mother. Another is Hannah, who seems to have taken the lead, rather than her husband doing so, in praying and acting in the matter of having a child, in 1 Samuel 1. Another is Abigail, who, in 1 Samuel 25, acted without her first husband's knowledge, and was apparently blessed and scripturally commended for doing so. (She later married David.) In Exodus 4, Zipporah, Moses' wife, took action in relation to the circumcision of their sons,when Moses hadn't, and, in doing so, apparently kept God from killing Moses. In Exodus 2, it was the mother of Moses who was responsible for his escape from the command of Pharaoh that all male Hebrew babies should be killed.

Note that I am not including all of the women of faith from the Bible in this brief discussion. Rahab and Naomi may not have taken spiritual leadership while they had a husband. Deborah acted in leadership of Israel. We don't know whether she also acted as spiritual leader in her home. A church was begun in Lydia's home. She may not have had a husband. Dorcas may not have, either. There are other examples, in both the Old and New Testaments, of godly female leaders. Some of them may have been the spiritual leader of their husband. We don't know. 2 Timothy 1:5 says that Timothy's mother and grandmother were the spiritual leaders in Timothy's family. His father is mentioned in Acts 16:3. It is possible that that father died early in Timothy's life. Priscilla and Aquila seem to have been equals in ministry. I submit that most likely at least some of the women in this paragraph were spiritual leaders in their home, and had a husband at the time.

My conclusion is that wives and mothers, at least some of the time, took spiritual leadership in Biblical homes, and, therefore, God may expect many wives and mothers to do this now, in the twenty-first century.

Thanks for reading.

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October 11, 2010: I decided that I should change the title of this post, to make it match the content better.

February 19, 2011: I added the last sentence in the first paragraph under the "Biblical Examples" heading.

June 27, 2011: It occurs to me that the Virtuous Woman/Excellent Wife, idealized in Proverbs 31, is described as making business decisions on her own, and, also, as having a husband at the time.


Keetha Broyles said...

Over the years, I too have thought through this list of Biblical women and their God-given roles. I came to very similar conclusions - - - when God calls, we EACH must answer "yes," no matter our gender.

K10forHim said...

Thanks for writing! I hadn't noticed several of the initiatives that women took in the Old Testament like you describe. I wanted to mention Ruth approaching Boaz, which Candice Watters discusses here:

I'm also reading Paul, Women and Wives by Craig Keener, have you read it? He introduced me to the terms "complimentarian" and "egalitarian." Hopefully we can keep in mind Keena's encouragement to listen to the Lord in our

K10forHim said... our daily lives.

Martin LaBar said...

Thank you, Keetha. Yes, I think there are lots of examples of women being spiritual leaders of their husbands in our own time.

Thank you, biotek_ka, especially for commenting twice! I haven't read that book.

I read the article on Ruth and Boaz. Thanks.

Keetha Broyles said...

By the way - - - at the end of that first paragraph, I NOTICED you used the term "X, Y, and Z" - - - and I thought, how appropriate to use X and Y for THIS particular post!

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Keetha.

I hadn't thought of it. I should have used XX and XY, I guess.

Mike said...

As I read scripture, both men and women are supposed to lead others in the faith, but men are to lead their wives. As such, men should also lead their congregations. However, where a woman has leadership qualities that fill some gap left by the men (at any level), it would be foolish of us to deprive ourselves of her leadership, just because she is not a man. Therefore, I do not object to female leadership in the church per se. At some level though, I think the need for female leaders is to the shame of us men; but to deprive ourselves of such leadership? Even more so.

i am Grateful... Kerry i am. said...

Great post. I'm for it. Amen.

Martin LaBar said...

Thank you, Mike and Kerry i am. I appreciate your comments.