For Women, a Paradox of Orthodoxy

Written by Mark McElroy

How does one justify leniency for oneself while demanding orthodoxy for others?

I recently read a Facebook post by a woman celebrating her congregation’s disaffiliation from the United Methodist Church. She says Christians should relish being rebuked and corrected by Scripture. She cites disaffiliation as a triumph over culture and a return to the plain teachings of the Bible.

She is among a number of UMC members — including many women — who claim their vote to disaffiliate is rooted in their passion for orthodoxy. They want to attend a traditional church teaching “God-breathed” Scripture. They crave a theology free of cultural influences or progressive thought.

A sincere question: does this passion for orthodoxy extend to I Corinthians 14:34-35 and I Timothy 2:11-14?

In I Corinthians 14, Paul orders women to remain silent. They “are not allowed to speak.” If they want to learn anything, they should go home and ask their husbands to teach them, because a woman speaking up in church is a disgrace.

In I Timothy, Paul commands women to be quiet and submissive in church. He also bars them from positions that would give them any authority over men.

So what, exactly, should we expect from the female pastors, Sunday school teachers, committee chairs, lay leaders, lay readers, and church members who left the UMC to worship the golden calf of orthodoxy?

Will they renounce their call to preach, since it clearly conflicts with a plain reading of Scripture? Will they stop teaching Sunday school, as an orthodox reading of Scripture requires? Will they take Paul’s rebuke of their hard-won authority by stepping down from committee posts, refraining from leading during worship, and remaining silent in the congregation?

And if they will not, how do they explain these Scriptures away? Did Paul make a mistake? Are these Scriptures not “God-breathed” and “useful for doctrine, reproof, and correction?” Might these injunctions, so clearly rooted in the culture and prejudices of Paul’s day, no longer apply to women in our more liberal, more progressive age?

I haven’t heard any disaffiliating women speaking up on this subject.

Perhaps they are already practicing submissive silence.

About the author

Mark McElroy