Friday, March 16, 2012

Now they tell me!

Would it be right for a minister to read a sermon or congregational prayer written out for him by a woman? Clearly not. Consider, then, whether it is right for him to lead the congregation in singing a song written out by a woman. As much as we may like the sentiments expressed by, say, Fanny Crosby, her words should not be given authority in the worship of the church. To sing her hymns in public worship is to make her a teacher, a worship leader, and a prayer leader in the church assembly.

But there is an out.

But wait! When Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:5 that a woman should keep her head covered "while praying or prophesying," isn't he presupposing that women will be speaking in church? 
Not really. In 11:5 Paul is referring to the situation where women are exercising the special spiritual gifts that chapters 11-14 focus on. Thus, the praying and prophesying in view in chapter 11 is inspired utterance, in which God is speaking through his chosen human instrument (2 Peter 1:21). 
On the other hand, the speech in view in 14:33b-36 is ordinary, uninspired utterance. Clearly, rules governing ordinary speech would not necessarily apply to inspired speech.
My songs are fine. They are inspired!
Quotes from here


  1. Scanned the article. He kind of lost me with the "clearly not" in your quote. I'm sure he's got some reasons that seem convincing to him as to why that 'not' is 'clear' (indeed, given it didn't need justification, it was apparently so clear it was transparent), but this mere mortal can't see it.

    I've lead services using the Book of Common Prayer. And while that is very different from free-form leading, I don't think dear Thomas Cranmer is leading the service from the grave - unless James W. Scott has a very unbiblical view about a person's ability to work from the grave.

    He makes what is in my view a typical 'reformed' error - he sees that the instruction 'do not speak' must either apply directly to women's writings or not at all. The idea that it may have implications indirectly - that, say, a service where a woman wrote out all the prayers, and the sermon, and the songs (assuming his take on those issues for the sake of argument) might well be coming up against the command in question.

    But the person up the front is the speaker, it's their voice, their relationship with the congregation, their responsisiblity. They can use whatever resources they think will forward that without handing over the mike in the process.

    Seriously, if he's right, then as soon as a service leader chooses a song, any song, they hand over the service to the song-writer of that song. It ain't that simple. You make your own mark on the service by the choice of song and what comes before and after it, you aren't simply handing the service over to someone else at that point.

  2. Absolutely.

    I may write the odd song, but the minister is in charge of choosing it or not and how they place it in the context of the overall service and everything else.

  3. Astonishing. I'm sure they are very sincere but sincerely wrong. It reminds me of the "fencing" rules of the Pharisees.... to make sure we maintain male leadership in the church, we'll set the fences way, way back so that there's no way they could even accidentally lead when they are not even present.

  4. I think perhaps you should also shut down this blog as there is a danger that us men will accidentally incorporate your ideas into our leading and teaching. Or at least have the decency to use a male pseudonym :)

    1. I'm liking the male pseudonym idea...Simon Richardson, perhaps?

  5. Can you imagine a church without any of the songs written by women... There'd be no "Be Thou my vision"...

  6. Personally, I don't have a problem with women in a 'teaching' role, whether that be songs or sermons. However, I've actually been wanting to comment on this issue for a while so I'm glad you brought it up.

    How do people learn best? What do they remember from a church service, an English lesson, a musical play - those things set to music. The Wesley brothers were a great evangelistic duo but what do we remember - John Wesley's sermons or Charles Wesley's hymns? Most people when asked to recite the alphabet will hear the ditty in their heads (even if they don't sing it aloud). Most people come out of a play that has a musical component with the songs in their heads, not the witty one-liners and, what's more, if asked about it a week later will still be able to sing snatches of the songs.

    I think you have to accept that as songs can be used to 'teach' and if you're keen to not have women 'teaching' men then songs written by women need to not be sung to, for or by men. You would also need to ensure that the song chooser is not a woman and that those playing instruments for such a song are not men (and certainly not have men in attendance at a women's conference, even if they're ostensibly there to play music - after all, they might learn something).

    As I see it, the writer is simply taking the passage (as he interprets it) to its logical conclusion. However, I do have issues with his interpretation of Genesis 3:

    "The man and the woman were created to function best as a closely knit partnership, led by the husband. But Satan was able to get Eve thinking independently, and deceived her into eating the forbidden fruit. Adam then ate in response to the urging of his wife. By maneuvering them into reversing the roles that God had created them for, Satan was able to lead them into sin (Genesis 3:1-6).

    To correct this situation, God made the subjection of women explicit in Genesis 3:16, which is usually translated, "Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you."

    The reference to "desire" is difficult to explicate, but the meaning of "he shall rule over you" is clear. The man rules, and therefore the woman is subject. Paul is probably referring to this verse in 1 Corinthians 14:34."

    Now a part of the curse is turned into a command for our 'good'! I bet he's quite happy to eat food produced (never mind cooked) by women and wouldn't see the curse on Adam - that he would obtain and eat food through painful toil, by the sweat of his brow - as applying only to men for their 'good'.