Don Haymes is a faithful member of Churches of Christ and a serious, caring student of the Bible. He has responded to our statement of Purpose & Definition with “9.5 Theses.” We find these Theses to be as thoughtful and provocative as the original “95” that Martin Luther
nailed to the church door in Wittenberg 485 years ago. Don proceeds from a candid statement of something that is painfully obvious: “The witness of the New Testament” to the ministry of women “is ambiguous.” The remaining theses illustrate and address this uncomfortable ambiguity. Theses proposed in this way do not demand that we agree to the arguments they make, but rather are intended to provoke thought and thoughtful discussion that leads to understanding. We may not, for example, share the understanding of the Pastoral Letters expressed in these Theses, but we have nevertheless found them to be rewarding discussion partners.

9.5 Theses on the Ministry of Women in the New Testament and the New Testament Church

1. The witness of the New Testament to the ministry–service and
participation–of women in the New Testament Church is ambiguous. This ambiguity
should neither threaten nor discourage us; it is, rather, reassuring. God
has called no “plaster saints”; they are all flesh and blood,
and they all fail. We are called to patience born of love. We are saved
only by grace, and not by our understanding or by our work.

2. Women follow Jesus, and Jesus encourages their ministries to him,
for him, and with him. At the end of the Gospels, when the men who
followed Jesus have fled, women remain with him. Women are “faithful to
the end.” Women are the first witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus,
and the first witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. The men who have
followed Jesus, and then fled, do not see the resurrection and do not
believe the testimony of the women. Even when they finally see the
risen Lord, they doubt. The women never doubt.

3. In the Acts of Apostles the women who followed Jesus in the Gospels
are among the “120” who “devote themselves to prayer” and, on
Pentecost, they are “all” filled with the Holy Spirit. They receive
gifts from the Holy Spirit, but the men who have taken charge do not
set them apart for any “office” or “work.” The men ignore, overlook,
and deny the gifts and ministry of the women for the same reason that
they deny baptism to anyone who is not a Jew.

4. Jesus is male and the “apostles” of the Acts are all
male; they are also Jews. To assert on the basis of the masculinity of Jesus
and the “apostles” that women may not preach or pray or serve
the Lord’s table or perform any public function in the worship of the church
or serve in any public “office” of the church is to found the
church’s doctrine of ministry on genitalia. “Those who live according
to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh” (Rom 8:5).

5. Paul’s declaration in Galatians 3:28 that “in Christ . . . there is
no male and female” alludes specifically to Genesis 1:27 (“male and
female created he them”) and is based on Paul’s fundamental teaching
that “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old has
passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17). This teaching is
essential to understanding the authentic Paul, as opposed to his
opponents, compromisers, revisers, and rehabilitators. It is present in
every authentic letter of Paul. Its absence is a certain sign of
pseudepigraphy.

6. The “new creation” in Christ restores the primeval condition of
humankind before sin erected barriers between humankind and God and
between human beings. The barriers of the old creation–race, class, and
sex–are broken down by the reconciling act of God in Jesus Christ.
While the new creation shall in the end time, at the return of the Lord
Jesus, be fully manifest, it is not merely “eschatological,” but it is
intended to be present in the here and now. It begins at baptism, when
we “put on Christ.” If it does not happen now, it will never happen at
all.

7. Paul in Romans 16 names Phoebe of Cenchrea as a diakonos–a “deacon,”
not a “deaconess”–and also a prostates (“guardian”)
of himself and others. Prisca and her husband Aquila are “my collaborators”
or “fellow workers.” Mary “has worked hard among you.”
Junia, with her brother or husband Andronicus, is a relative of Paul, a
“fellow prisoner,” and a person “well-known” or
“outstanding among the apostles.” Tryphaena and Tryphosa are
“workers in the Lord.” In Philippians 4 Euodia and Syntyche
“have walked with me in the Gospel, with Clement and the rest of my
collaborators.” Paul does not distinguish the “work” of
these women from the “work” of men whom he names; clearly he
mentions them because of the value of their “work” and the faith
their “work” expresses. These names, mentioned only in passing, and
only in the letters of Paul, remind us that there are many heroes of faith
whose names and biographies we do not know, and many of them are women;
we do not know their “works,” because no one wrote them down.

8. In 1 Corinthians 11 women pray and prophesy. They are not forbidden
to speak, but they are instructed to cover their heads when they speak to
God or speak for God, “because of the angels.” In 1 Corinthians
14 “all” may prophesy, and “all” may learn and be
encouraged. Among most Churches of Christ in the twenty-first century women
are forbidden to pray and prophesy, but they are permitted to join in the
worship assembly and to join the men of the congregation in singing various
prayers and prophecies (many of them composed by women), with uncovered
heads. Here we may pause to marvel at the convoluted consequences of eisegesis.

9. The entire case against the public ministry of women among Churches
of Christ rests on a misunderstanding of two controverted prooftexts,
both attributed to Paul. 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 plainly contradicts the
instruction of Paul in 11:2-16 and 14:31. That is why Paul responds in
the way that he does in 14:37: “Did the word of God come out from you?
Has it reached you only?” Paul is quoting the letter or statement of a
Corinthian faction–just as in 1:11-12, 3:4, 5:1, 6:12, 6:13, 7:1, 8:1,
8:4, 10:23, 11:18, 15:12–and his response is swift, direct, and
appropriate. Those who presume to exclude women from speaking in the
worship assembly are claiming a monopoly of the word of God from which
they seek to assume the prerogatives of God.

In 1 Timothy 2:8-15 we should translate aner as “husband”
and gyne as “wife” (as in 1 Corinthians 11:3); read in
this way the text is more coherent, but no less troubling. The author is
concerned throughout not with teaching and encouraging a “new creation”
but with winning the respect of polite society. The vocabulary is unique
in the New Testament. The prooftext from Genesis is misapplied in a way
that “Paul” elsewhere never uses. Among other things, 1 Timothy
2:15 plainly contradicts Paul’s instruction in 1 Corinthians 7. The author
is attempting to rehabilitate Paul and align him with conventional mores.

9.5. The same “Paul” who wrote Romans, Galatians, 1 and
2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Philemon,
or Ephesians did not write 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus–although many members
of the Churches of Christ would gladly discard all the others if only they
could keep the “Pastoral Letters.” It is no accident that the
Pastorals are favorite texts for such second-century Christians as we are,
for these more than any other canonical documents consign women to the “place”
where men have since Adam been determined to keep them.