Monday, July 10, 2017

May Women Vote In Church Decisions? VI

In this posting we will continue to give scripture that supports a women's right to vote when a congregational vote is called for. After concluding this affirmative series, we will look at the arguments made by those who deny a woman's right to vote or to hold any church offices.

Example #6 - Chosen By The Church

"And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches; And not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, and declaration of your ready mind:" (II Cor. 8: 18-19 kjv)

Again, not a lot of comment is needed here. It seems the burden is on those who deny the women's vote to show how the choice of these churches was made only by the male members of the church. A brother was chosen by the churches. In the case of each church, this was a congregational decision. Surely the sisters are part of the church.

Example #7 - Church Approval

"Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem." (I Cor. 16: 1-3 kjv)

These words are addressed "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth" and not to the elders only, nor to the "brothers" only. This being so, when Paul says "whomsoever ye shall approve," the "ye" is a reference to the entire assembly.

Example #8 - Church Disciplinary Action

"I wrote to you in a letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—by no means referring to this world's immoral people, or to the greedy and swindlers, or to idolaters; otherwise you would have to leave the world. But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother who is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a reviler, a drunkard or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person. For what is it to me to judge outsiders? Do you not judge those who are inside? But God judges outsiders. Put away the evil person from among yourselves." (1 Corinthians 5:9-13)

The key question for us here, in regard to this passage and its relation to our study question, is to determine who does the pronoun "you" refer to in Paul's counsel. A prima facie reading of the text cannot draw any conclusion other than the entire congregation is in view and not simply the leadership or the male members. Paul did not begin by saying "brothers, I wrote unto you," nor "pastors, I wrote unto you," but "church, I wrote unto you." The whole church is here called to exercise discipline, which is in keeping with Christ's teaching on conflict resolution in Matthew 18:15-20, as previously observed. The body of believers is the final court of appeal, or "where the buck stops," scripturally speaking.

Further, when Paul says "do you not judge" he is not speaking to one group within the assembly, but to all the members of it. To "judge" involves decision making and voicing that opinion and decision in some kind of vote.

When Paul says "don't any of you eat or drink" with the immoral person, how are the women members not also addressed? Are Paul's words not as much addressed to them as to the male members?

In order to expand upon what Paul is here addressing to the entire membership of Corinth, let us cite from chapter six.

"Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?" (6: 1-5)

Surely "any of you" includes the female members of the church. If any member, male or female, has "a matter against another" member, then they are to "go to" or "before" those who are are called "the saints." Notice how Paul's instruction is in perfect keeping with the teaching of Christ in Matthew 18. How can one "go before" a court of law and not speak? How can a sister "go before" the saints, before the church, and remain silent? Obviously she cannot. Thus, Paul's later instruction to this same church about a woman being "silent" in the assembly, cannot cancel out this instruction. Obviously, his instruction about women being "silent" has some exceptions. But, more on that when we look at that particular verse and others that those of the opposing view offer to support their side.

I find it a bit ironic that those in favor of the view that women are forbidden to vote or speak in any way in the church would be forced to exclude women from the category of those Paul describes as being "least esteemed in the church"!

Who is to judge in the church? The saints at Corinth. Are the male members the only saints in the congregation? Who is to judge angels and the evil world at the Apocalypse? Is it not all the saints, male and female?

James Attebury ("Christian Theology and Apologetics") wrote the following good words (emphasis mine - see here) in an article titled "The Biblical Basis for Congregational Voting":

"Where in the Bible does it talk about church voting? Many Christians view the practice as an extra-biblical tradition created to reflect the democratic values of America rather than being derived from scriptural exegesis. But there is both explicit and implicit evidence from Scripture to support the practice in the local church. While not every decision in the church has to be decided by congregational voting (I’m not a fan of long business meetings and shepherds have an obligation to lead the sheep), major decisions involving church discipline must involve the decision of the entire congregation in order to be faithful to Scripture."

I certainly do agree with Attebury that a lot of decisions don't need a direct vote of the church and can be made by officers and committees appointed by the church. He is certainly correct in affirming that the NT teaches that "major decisions" must surely involve "the decision of the entire congregation," including women, "in order to be faithful to Scripture."

Attebury wrote further:

"In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul urges the Corinthian church to excommunicate and remove from its membership a professing Christian who was having sexual relations with his father’s wife. In 2 Corinthians 2:6, we see that the church followed Paul’s instructions and now this person has repented of their sins: “For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough.” The phrase “punishment by the majority” is an allusion to the majority decision within the church to remove this sinning member from the membership. A majority decision presupposes a means by which to determine whether or not a majority of the Corinthian church is in agreement with Paul’s instructions. It is true that the church didn’t have much of a choice in the matter because Paul is an apostle, but a decision still had to be made. Even apostolic authority does not override the necessity of a congregational decision on whether or not to exercise church discipline. This is in keeping with the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 18:17: “And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” The truth that the entire church is the last and final stage of church discipline makes necessary a means by which to determine whether or not the entire church is in agreement with the decision to remove the person from membership. Church voting provides the only means by which to assess the decisions of the members of the congregation. Because they are the ones who voted him in, they must be the ones to vote him out."

Again, these things seem perfectly clear from the texts cited.

No comments: