A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. (Timothy 2. 11-14)
A text to grab the attention. Two weeks ago (Tuesday Oct 16th) the lectionary had set 1 Timothy 2.18-end as a reading for the day. In which passage—in the context of Paul giving advice as to how both Timothy himself and the church he was leading should be best ordered—is the advice as to how women should conduct themselves.
It was the scripture for our Tuesday morning prayer at 11am that day. It is normally a small group of five to eight people. The smallness of the group allows us to talk together about the scripture passage and how each of us responds to it – rather than one person’s response to / interpretation of the passage. More of a conversation than a monologue. This works because over time our confidence in ourselves and, just as importantly, in each other has grown over the last couple of years for us to feel we can be increasingly honest.
The group comprised five women and two men. In an effort to energise the discussion the reading was placed in the context of a recommendation being put forward to our PCC by an external consultant as to how Christ Church should best order its affairs. Responses were engaged, honest and challenging. They included: “I was offered this text when my marriage was struggling…essentially go home and be obedient. That’s why I left that church.” “Is this another Paulism?” “If this were to happen the churches would empty … grind to a halt”. Another pointed out that we must read the passage in the context of its time when the role of women was different. And women’s expectations were different. Another: “This doesn’t sound like God speaking, compassionate, life-affirming and enhancing, offering in the words of Jesus, Life in abundance.”
It wasn’t just what people said. It was how engaged they were. This mattered. And a later conversation opened a rich seam of understanding which recognised how deceitful our reasoned argument is. Like a veil hiding deeper resentments or wounds. We argue sometimes from a position of self-righteousness behind the veil of Godly righteousness.
Among the many observations this experience might prompt, I want to highlight how it speaks to me of that God in the story of Israel who covenants with community. As community, the church is gifted with and is called to work out its understanding of, and commitment to, the new covenant we have in Christ. That community includes the voices that have spoken in the past. But has to include contemporary voices, especially those that have been or are excluded or marginalised. We need that all voices be valued in the conversations we have, that in the midst we may discern God’s voice, consistent with how he speaks in Luke (4.18-20):
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.“
Blessings in Christ,