The female Diaconate (the celibate deaconess ministry for virgins and widows) who catered for female catechumens especially during baptism, continued to a lesser extent in the Church, till about the 11th century, when it was overtaken or swallowed up by the conventual nuns. Reversal of this ‘clericalization’ of Church leadership began after the Reformation and during the synodical movement, which reincorporated the laity (first lay men and later lay women too) into Church leadership.
To be sure, today’s move to bring women into the Presbyterate and the Episcopate is a liberal cultural innovation, which is entirely revolutionary with no scriptural or historical authority whatsoever. In discussing the place of Women in the ministry of the Church, we must not muddle up:
• Cultural and Scriptural basis,
• Sociological and Theological reason,
• Our Rights to Power and God’s Call to Service,
• The Women’s RIGHTS of spiritual sonship or spiritual ABILITY and the biblical example of their taking up AUTHORITY for presbyterial RESPONSIBILITIES.
• Human Protestation or Presumption and Divine Revelation or Inspiration.
Such muddlings have produced a liberal modern Church that though it is of the Gentiles, yet it is not of the Gospel of Christ and His Apostles.
In the apostolic Church as recorded in the Scriptures, though women ministered in several prominent RESPONSIBILITIES and roles as *Deaconesses, Helps* (Act 18:26; Rom 16:1-3), *Prophetesses* (Acts 21:9), *Matrons* (John 19:27), *Financers* (Mar 15:41; Luk 8:2-3), and *Hosts* (Act 12:12; 16:14-15, 40) BUT WERE NOT ORDAINED AS OVERSIGHT PRESBYTERS. Spiritual GIFTS are variously given to all males and females alike as ABILITY for ministry and ministrations among the saints, who by their faith in Christ have the same RIGHTS of sonship irrespective of gender, age or race. Apostolic and presbyterial OFFICES and RESPONSIBILITIES are however reserved for a few as positions of AUTHORITY for oversight and presidency over the saints – all such ecclesiastical authorities in the Scriptures were held by males only. THIS DIVINE WISDOM AND RULE SHOULD NOT BE CHALLENGED OR CHANGED BUT UPHELD.
The Apostle Paul admonished that it is disgraceful for women to ask contentious questions and argue with opinionated assertions during Church fellowship/service (1Co_14:33-35). Women should desist from issuing authoritative directives and instructions (1Co_14:34; 1Ti_2:12) and from raising argumentative contentions in the Church (1Co_14:35; 1Ti_2:11). Women in Christ should not presume to contend with or dictate to men IN THE CHURCH. Such personal assertiveness toward or over men in the congregation should be eschewed. St Paul’s ‘not to speak’ and ‘keep silence’ and ‘not exercise authority over men’ in the Church here (1Co_14:34; 1Ti_2:11-12) indicates that women should not be ordained into priestly overseer office nor assume presbyterial authority IN THE CHURCH. Therefore, this does not mean muteness or dumbness but ‘courteousness’, ‘submission’ and ‘obedience’; which equally applied to non-leading male members. Notice that this does NOT extend outside the Church.
Again, this could NOT have abrogated other utterance or spoken ministrations enjoined and permitted for women in other portions of Scripture such as:
(1) prophesying, praying, tongues-interpretation and even singing (in public before all) Luk_2:36-38; Act_21:9; 1Co_11:3-12; Eph_5:18-21; Exo_15:20-21; Jdg_4:4-9, and
(2) teaching and even questioning (before women in the Church assembly, but before men in private and at home/school Act_18:26; 1Co_14:35; Tit_2:3-4; Pro_31:1-2), and
(3) other spiritual ministrations and helps (Act_16:14-15; 1Ti_5:10).
(4) Also their ‘subjection to authority’ does not exclude official delegation (Rom_16:1-4); even protesting maladministration and voting for lay Church leaders of their choice (Act 6:1-6).
One proviso is that such women should minister IN CHURCH GATHERING with their messianic worship veils of authority on their heads: not for submission to men or culture as is often mistakenly believed, but for dignity before the messianic Church and for authority before the liturgical Angels (1Co_11:5-6, 1Co_11:10). This apostolic ordinance and Church custom was meant to cover every symbol of human glory (long-haired women’s heads) and uncover only the symbols of divine glory (short-haired men’s heads) when in the Church’s messianic Assembly for the sake of the Angels.
WHY THE ANGELS? Angelic company (not demons) is always in attendance with God at any true Church assembly where God is present (Heb_12:12-14; 1Ti_5:21) and inside. Some Churches only have Christ outside the door (Rev 3:20), while seducing demons of error could comfortably manipulate such false assemblies into all manner of dangerous teachings (1Tim 4:1; 2Pet 2:1; 1John 4:6). Postmodern Churches are playing dangerous games with New Testament spiritual protocols of the Worship Veil, which were customary order and decorum followed by early Apostolic Churches without contention (1Cor 11:1-2, 16). Today some Christians presume they have subjective liberty to arrogantly disregard or revise Christ’s spiritual ordinances of decorum in Church (1Cor 11:3-5) and dignity before His Angels (1Cor 11:10). Angels are God’s liturgical (worship ministering or homage service) spirits (Heb_1:14). *THIS APOSTOLIC CUSTOM OR ORDINANCE OF THE WORSHIP VEIL HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH MARRIAGE TO HUSBANDS, NOR HAS IT ANYTHING TO DO WITH JEWISH, GREEK AND ROMAN CULTURES as often insinuated.*
In the secular society, OUTSIDE THE CHURCH, where the sacerdotal Priesthood and Presbyterate are not in charge, though women may be socially disadvantaged (1Pe_3:7), yet they are not forbidden from temporal prominence and authority over men. Like the men, they could come to ruling power by circumstance (*Debora*, Jdg_4:4-6; Jdg_5:6-9), by force (*Athaliah*, 2Kin 11; 2Chr 22-23), by political manoeuvre (*Esther*, Est_8:1-14), by popular acclaim and personal merit (Esther, Est_2:15-18), by prowess (*Jael*, Jdg_4:9; Jdg_4:17-22) or by royal birth. There were the *Queen of Sheba* (2Kin 10; 2Chr 9; Mat_12:42) and Candace the *Queen of Ethiopia* served by eunuchs (Act_8:27), who were well spoken of by the Scriptures. *BUT NONE OF THESE SOUGHT TO TAKE PART IN THE PRIESTHOOD.*
*Priscilla* (our first female seminary theology professor) provided academy theological update training for Apollos outside the Church assembly *BUT REMAINED UNDER THE OVERSIGHT MINISTRY OF APOLLOS (her college student) IN THE CHURCH* (Act_18:24-28).
Christian women should therefore be free to contribute their spiritual gifts/abilities in Church and could be licensed, commissioned, elected, delegated, appointed, into various roles, responsibilities and ministries as applicable to all laymen who are equally Spirit-baptised INTO CHRIST (Joh_7:37-39; 1Co_12:12-14; Eph_2:19-22), but to operate with their veil of authority IN THE ANGELIC CULTURE OF THE CHURCH ASSEMBLY (1Co_11:5-6; 1Co_11:10). *However, they should NOT assert themselves over men or be ORDAINED into priestly authority or oversight presbyterate presidency over men in the Assembly of God’s Church where ANGELIC CULTURE AND APOSTOLIC TRADITION are applicable* (1Co_14:34-35; 1Ti_2:11-12; 1Ti_5:21; Heb_1:14; Heb_12:22-24). Amongst fellow women in the Church, amongst their children and dependants in their homes, and in socio-political circles outside the Church, Christian women could oversee and preside at any level. (Tit_2:3-4; Pro_31:1-2; Jdg_4:4-9).
Peace to you.
I. U. Ibeme.