What about the position of women in the early Christian churches? The biblical findings are full of contradictions. How does the New Apostolic Church see this? Here is the second interim conclusion on the question of what the New Testament says about the ordination of women.
This much is clear: just as in the time of Jesus already, women also played a prominent role in the early Christian churches. They held leadership positions which, even for men, only later became ministries. There are many examples of this: the deaconess Phoebe, the teacher and congregational leader Priscilla, or the daughters of Philip who prophesied and proclaimed the will of God.
However, when it comes to the role of women in divine service, the Bible paints a contradictory picture.
- 1 Corinthians 14: 34 and 1 Timothy 2: 12 require women to keep silent in the churches.
- But 1 Corinthians 11: 5 explicitly allows women to pray and prophesy in worship.
The logic of the theological argument also leaves one wondering:
- The commandment of silence is justified by the fact that Eve introduced sin into the world.
- But Romans 5: 12–21 sees Adam as the author of sin.
What lessons does the Church draw from such contradictions?
Isolated verses do not constitute a basis
Under no circumstances may we just pick a biblical passage that suits us personally. Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider made this clear at the divine service in Banjul in Gambia in September 2022. It makes no sense to make decisions on an isolated passage in the Bible. On many points you can find everything and its opposite in the Bible. The Chief Apostle explained as follows:
- Sometimes God wanted the people of Israel to fight, other times not.
- Sometimes Jesus wanted the disciples to go only to the Jews, other times He wanted them to also go to the Gentiles.
- In 1 Corinthians Paul recommends not marrying to please the Lord. But the first epistle of Timothy refers to those who advise others not to marry as heretics.
- 1 Timothy 2 says that God wants to save all people. And a few verses later it says that women who were childless could not be saved. That would mean: God wants the salvation of all, except women whom He Himself does not allow to have children.
These few examples show that decisions must not be based on isolated Bible passages, the Chief Apostle said. “We believe that Jesus entrusted His Apostles with the task of interpreting Scripture through the Holy Spirit,” he said with reference to the Catechism (CNAC 184.108.40.206).
The apostolate builds community order
Based on the biblical evidence, the International District Apostle Meeting adopted the following statement in November 2021:
- “Some New Testament letters contain statements which outrightly rule out the active involvement of women in church life.
- “On the other hand, there are accounts in the letters of Paul and the Acts of the Apostles that paint a different picture: women were active in church life and divine service. They were missionaries and they were involved in establishing congregations.
- “The biblical testimony is therefore ambiguous with respect to the role of women in the church.
- “Individual negative statements found in some New Testament letters concerning the active participation of women in divine service and the congregation cannot serve as sufficient grounds for excluding women from ministry.
- “Consequently, the apostolate—which is endowed with teaching authority and charged with establishing the order of the Church—has a decision to make.”
The result of this decision corresponds to the answer regarding the question of Jesus calling the Apostles. However, can the Church simply go ahead and establish such an order? That will be the subject of the next part .
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