Sunday, July 9, 2017

May Women Vote In Church Decisions? IV

In this posting we will continue to offer reasons from scripture why it is allowable for women to vote in the church when a congregational vote is called for.

Example #2 - Tell It To The Church

"Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican." (Matt. 18: 15-17)

Nobody denies that "the church" includes both male and female members. Thus, for something to be told to "the church" is to be told to all the members, both male and female. Further, none will deny that this advice, though directed towards two who are "brothers," and who have become involved in a dispute involving trespass and fault, is also applicable to sisters. The advice takes into consideration offences that come between 1) two brothers, or 2) two sisters, or 3) one sister against one brother. If a sister trespasses or offends another sister, then they are to each follow this advice. This being so, who can deny that a sister must at some point bring such a matter to the church and "tell it"? But, how can she "tell it to the church" if she is forbidden in all cases to speak in the assembly? Or to remain absolutely silent at all times in the assembly?

Those who interpret I Corinthians 14: 34 ("Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak") strictly and absolutely, and without exceptions, must not allow aggrieved sisters to exercise the godly discipline of Matthew 18 and to eventually "tell it to the church" when reconciliation has not occurred. Those who would favor the strict absolutist view of I Cor. 14: 34 could argue that sisters, in such cases, could tell it to deacons or elders, or to some other male members, who then would "tell it to the church," and thus the sisters would be telling it to the church indirectly. But, this seems unbelievable. Church trials are no different from other trials. At some point the parties involved must speak directly to the judge and jury, which is what "the church" is.

Consider also that such church trials involve the whole church, which must include the women. "Tell it to the church" means "tell it to the whole church," which includes female members. But, why "tell it" to the female members if they are not to have any "say" in the judgment to be rendered by the church? Again, a strict interpretation of I Cor. 14:34 could lead one to argue that the female members, in having a "say" in the trial, would have to give their judgments to a male member who would then relate it to the church. But, again, I find this not tenable or likely.

All in all, I believe that Matthew 18: 15-17 upholds the women's right to vote in the church when a decision is needed by the church in such trials. Of course, every sister in such cases needs to always speak only when spoken to, and should never, on such occasions, "usurp authority over the men," and should reserve comments and questions and not speak unless something is being overlooked by the male members. Further, sisters who have believing husbands who are also members of the church, should let their husbands speak for them.

Example #3 - "With The Whole Church"

"Then pleased it the apostles and elders with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas and Silas, chief men among the brethren:" (Acts 15: 22 KJV)

Who can deny that "the whole church" includes the female members? This being so, the act of sending, being an act of the congregation, involved the whole congregation making a decision. Obviously some kind of canvassing of the membership took place, probably by a vote, a vote in which each member took a part. This being so, the prohibition of I Cor. 14: 34 does not forbid women voting in such things.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers says this about the passage (emphasis mine):

"The apostles and elders, with the whole church.—The latter words are important, as showing the position occupied by the laity. If they concurred in the letter, it must have been submitted to their approval, and the right to approve involves the power to reject and, probably, to modify."

This verse therefore clearly upholds a congregational form of government and women members having a right to vote and voice their opinion. This commentary also, like others, correctly points out that a better translation of "To send chosen men" is "to choose and send men," saying "Literally, the participle being active in meaning, to choose and send men." Thus, the whole church not merely voted to send men, but voted on who to send.

Albert Barnes in his "Notes" writes:

With the whole church - All the Christians who were there assembled together. They concurred in the sentiment, and expressed their approbation in the letter that was sent, Acts 15:23. Whether they were consulted does not particularly appear. But as it is not probable that they would volunteer an opinion unless they were consulted, it seems most reasonable to suppose that the apostles and elders submitted the case to them for their approbation. It would seem that the apostles and elders deliberated on it, and decided it; but still, for the sake of peace and unity, they also took measures to ascertain that their decision agreed with the sentiment of the church.

Thus, so far, we have presented three passages of scripture that seem clearly to give female members of the church the right to vote when the assembly is convened to conduct business. In the next several postings we will continue to present such evidence from the scriptures.

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