Women preaching in church - do we have a responsibility?

(34 Posts)
sushistar Sun 01-Jun-08 17:41:09

Ok, bit random, but...

I preach sometimes at our church. I enjoy it, i'm not a wonderful speaker but I can do an ok talk based on the bible which hopefully is useful to someone, and is what I feel God is saying.

I am the only woman who preaches at our church. Sometimes, when things feel a bit much, I think about not doing it anymore. BUT I think it's important that different voices - from women as well as men - are heard from the front, so I kind of feel a responsibility to carry on. Does that make sense? Or is it really not my problem?

(BTW, I know some people reading this will come from more traditional denominations where only the ordained person speaks. In my church the church leader usually does the sermon, but other people do it sometimes too.)

Tommy Sun 01-Jun-08 17:48:21

you go for it, sister! grin

sushistar Sun 01-Jun-08 17:51:53

So you think I do have a kind of duty to woman kind to carry on? grin

ScienceTeacher Sun 01-Jun-08 17:53:12

We have quite a few lay people, men and women, who preach in our church.

I think the important thing is to give a quality talk - well researched, well paced, interesting, on topic etc. I do think that those who are trained, clergy and licensed readers, are much better. But we all have to start somewhere.

I gave the talk once - 10 minutes and it took me a whole week to prepare. Our sermons are usually 20 - 30 minutes - I can't imagine the work that goes into one of those.

sushistar Sun 01-Jun-08 17:58:30

Yes, ScienceTEacher, and hopefully something that will in some way help people's faith. I think I do that, and because our church is not a traditional denomination, our church leader is not ordained.

If it was all men doing the sermons, would you feel like a woman in the church who was able to give a talk as you describe would have a responsibility to get involved rather than sit in the pew and fume that there were no women preaching?

beansmum Sun 01-Jun-08 18:00:03

I think it is a good idea to hear from different people, men and women. And if they keep asking you to do it again you must be doing a good job and saying something worth listening to. I don't think you should feel you HAVE to carry on though, you are not the only one who can do it (even if nobody else has come forward to do it so far) so don't feel responsible.

sushistar Sun 01-Jun-08 18:04:08

Thanks beansmum. It's just on those days when the baby's grumpy and the house is in chaos and I have to prepare for Sunday, I think 'WHY oh WHY did I agree to do this AGAIN?!?'

I think if there other women speaking I would feel less like I should do it. But theres just me. And I don't WANT to be in a church where only men speak - therefore, I must speak. I do enjoy it too, but as ScienceTeacher said, it's a lot of work...

beansmum Sun 01-Jun-08 18:05:02

Are you the only woman in the church?

sushistar Sun 01-Jun-08 18:15:58

No! grin

I'm the only one who asked why there were no women speaking when in theory the church didn't have a theological problem with it - and so I've ended up being the only one on the list...

suedonim Sun 01-Jun-08 19:36:56

My dil is training to be a rabbi (her older sis is already ordained) so she has been preaching to congregations quite a lot in the past few years. 'Start small' is probably as good a motto as any! smile

CarGirl Sun 01-Jun-08 19:39:59

I don't mind who is giving the sermon provdided they've clearly listened to God about what they should preach on & what should be said IYSWIM, interestingly (to me) the "best" sermon giver at out church is the one who hasn't got any theological training!

MaryBS Wed 04-Jun-08 18:49:35

I preach at our church too, and it does get a bit much sometimes, but I'm glad that God has called me to serve him in this way.

I'm sure you're a wonderful preacher, who preaches from the heart!

pinkdolly Wed 04-Jun-08 20:27:39


I believe that God has anointed many women preachers, however, I cannot ignore 1 Timothy 2:12 which says;

"And I do not permit a women to teach or to have authority over a man."

I think it is down to the individual to identify their calling and their giftings and if they believe they are called to preach then thats good.

It is important whether a man or a woman, to fully understand the responsibility of being a preacher and conveying God's word. I feel therefore, that a person should not be preaching merely from obligation. But should be doing so out of obedience to God's direction.

Do you feel that you are being called as a preacher?

Whatever answer you come up with I pray you find a peace and when you are feeling things are getting on top of you remember 2 Timothy 1:7.

Hope that helps.


MaryBS Thu 05-Jun-08 07:39:11

Pinkdolly, you make a good point, and its one I struggled with, along with a couple of other of Paul's statements on women.

However, for me anyway, the gift of preaching was given to me, unasked, yet I submit to His will, for He gave it to me for a reason.

Prior to starting my lay minister training, any public speaking I had to do invariably involved my being sick in the loos beforehand. I was the last person anyone would consider should be a preacher. Yet with God's help, I've been able to overcome this, and many other problems, to serve Him as he has called me to do.

Sushistar, have you someone in the congregation that could give you constructive feedback on how a sermon went? I had to have an assessed sermon back in March, and it made such a difference some of the comments that were coming back.

KayHarker Thu 05-Jun-08 11:04:40

It's a funny old thing, I'd love to preach and teach, but I feel totally constrained by the verses about authority. I've taught women, but wouldn't feel right at all about teaching an entire congregation.

I suppose we all just have to go with our conscience on the matter.

I do teach in our church but only to women. I just can't make the verses on authority say that it is alright for me to teach the whole congregation. And when I was younger I really tried hard to interpret them in such a way that my conscience would let me.

I think my responsibility is to teach well in whatever context I do it. And I do think that God has given me a teaching gift for a purpose - I've got a bible study group and a little congregation of four DCs who are just as important as a Sunday morning congregation, if a little more immediate in their feedback. smile

However, I am married to the (main) preacher so if I feel overburdened with wonderful illustrations I pass them on to him. (Everyone always comments on how well he uses movies in his sermons when it is really me that it is the film buff!).

sushistar Sat 07-Jun-08 00:36:12

For a long time I felt constricted by those verses in Timothy too, but I read some wonderful books by Elaine Storkey (among others) which made me rethink. I found this one particularly interesting, and I really recommend it because it's fascinating and useful and informative WHATEVER direction you're approaching the issue from.

Pinkdolly, I agree with what you say about preaching from God's direction rather than obligation. I guess sometimes God's direction FEELS like an obligation! But I also strongly feel the 'voice' of the church should reflect all of God's family, and maybe He has called me because of that?

MaryBS, our church leader has been very good at mentoring me and a couple of others (men) who aslo regularly speak. We give each other constructive criticism and pray together about what we speak about.

I guess sometimes I get really busy and tired and preparing for my next talk just seems like ANOTHER thing to do, and I'm tempted to quit, and think 'If God REALLY want's to say something he can tell someone else!'. But one thing that stops me quitting is that then there would be no women speaking - and I don't think that's what God wants. Hmmm.

I've found your rersponses all really interesting!

Trsut me, sushistar, I've read just about every interpretation, feminist and otherwise of 1 Timothy etc but I am unconvinced. In all conscience, I just couldn't do it.

sushistar Sun 08-Jun-08 19:57:13

That's cool, procastinatingparent. I do think that God gave us brains, and wants us to use them to think about stuff and reach our own conclusions, which it sounds like you have done.
You have to go with what your concience tells you.

sushistar Sun 08-Jun-08 19:58:23

Can I ask, if you hear a woman speaking in church, do you sort of think 'that's fine for them but not me' or do you think it's actually WRONG? (Don't want an argument, interested in what you think!)

Roseylea Sun 08-Jun-08 20:18:05

I've read that Elaine Storkey book, Sushistar. It's good, as is all her stuff. And I preach regularly at our church, and I'm hoping to become a vicar. I've wrestled with the "authority" verses and have come to the conclusion that in some geographical areas of the early church women were involved in leadership and speaking, but not in other areas (such as Ephesus where there were complex problems with the women converts, hence IMHO the words in 1 Tim, where the women could potentially have undone all the good work that Paul etc had done in preaching the gospel there).

I come at this from a Greek angle because that's my speciality grin and I do honestly think that the words used are not easy to interpret - the Greek word interpreted "have authority over" in 1 Tim is not used anywhere else in the New Testament, so in order to understand it you have to delve into the wonderful world of Greek drama. It's certainly not related to the word used in Matthew 28 (the "Great Commission - All authority has been given to me...therefore go and make disciples..."), or in 2 Corinthians 13 when Paul describes his own God-given authority. So what is it exactly that women are not allowed to do? Hmmm, it's not that simple when you scratch beneath the surface.

Disclaimer: I realy want to study gender roles in the New Testament for my Master's! There is a lot to it, a lot more than can be said by quoting a few words (no offence). smile I am an evanglical and the way in which I engage with Scripture is to take it seriously by delving deep into it! smile

Roseylea Sun 08-Jun-08 20:21:58

And to answer your original question, then I'd ay yes, if God has gifted and alled you to preach, you do have a responsibiliyt to exercise that gift. And by doing so you will enable other women to fulfil their gifts too. But your primary responsibilty is not to them, it's to the giver of gifts, God. If you don't feel called / led / however you want to put it, if you're only doing it because no-one else will, I'd question whether that's the best reason.

Roseylea Sun 08-Jun-08 20:22:27

sorry! typing atrocious... blush

sushistar Sun 08-Jun-08 20:24:18

Ohh, ROseylea, how interesting to hear such a well-informed opinion.

KayHarker Sun 08-Jun-08 20:38:20

Personally, I'm very keen that everyone comes to the reasoned conclusion they're happy with about anything in scripture. If you can't see something in scripture, then there's no sensible way to pretzel your conscience to act contrary to itself.

Trust me, I'm working this one through on loads of issues where pretzeling scriptures has left my view of my own being at rock-bottom. I'm not suggesting that anyone here is doing that, I'm just trying to explain how serious I think it is to be fully convinced of your convictions on a scriptural issue.

I used to believe that I had to wear dresses all the time, and that my purpose on earth was to bear children and any attempt to stop bearing them was sinful selfishness. It left me disabled for a long time, and very very keen that the next time I make any big choices based on scripture, I needed to be 100% sure it meant what I was told it did.

I believe very firmly in the literal, infallible inspiration of scripture, and that's what I'd preach if I did. But then, there's these glaring great passages that require squaring away, and I've just never felt comfortable or been convinced about the squaring.

I'm perfectly comfortable sitting under a woman teaching because I'm a woman anyway, so it doesn't bother me. I have female friends who are vicars and leaders themselves, and the most important thing to me is that they are following God's leading and their honest beliefs about the scriptures.

It's just not my style of Christianity to be worrying about whether or not others understand the scriptures the way I do, because I honestly believe that the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth. I'm still learning, so I'm not in any position to judge, iyswim. He guides each one of us in the way we should go, He doesn't force us into lockstep conformity and uniformity.

good gravy, I've written a book...

Bridie3 Sun 08-Jun-08 20:56:03

Six months ago our small community lost a boy of 11. The female C of E minister was inspirational that day, even though, as a friend of the family, she was distraught herself. She guided us through.

Keep going!

(I'm a kind-of Catholic, so women ministers are new to me, but I like them.)

TinkerbellesMum Sun 08-Jun-08 21:29:52

Haven't read all the responses, so this is my response to the OP.

It isn't unBiblical for women to minister in church in any way. There were plenty of female ministers in the early church. It was decided by the organised church in the early days to play the role of women down, they did this by declaring Mary a prostitute and banning women from ministering.

There is a passage that says that women shouldn't speak in church, but you have to understand the background of why that was said. Most women were uneducated in those days and were causing disruption in the service by asking their husband (who would have been sat in a totally separate area to them) what the minister was talking about. The next verse does say "And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home".

As with anything in the Bible you have to ask yourself these questions:

Who was it written for
When was it written
What was the situation the writer was living in
Why was it written
Where was the writer and the reader living
How was it written.

If we try and make the context fit today without understanding those questions it will seem confusing and contradictatory. I'll stop cause I can go on forever on this topic.

sushistar Sun 08-Jun-08 22:40:06

It's so lovely to have a reasoned and thought out conversation on such a controversial subject!
Kay, I relate to some of what you say about looking into scripture ourselves before accepting what someone else says it means. I think lots of the more 'embarrassing' episodes in church history (like some South African church's approval of apartheid)perhaps might have been avoided this way...
I also relate to what was said about still not being sure of everything myself, so not judging others for their different interpretations of scripture. But I have visited churches which have a theological objection to women preaching, and extend this objection to a hard-and-fast rule - "we think this is wrong for us, and for everybody else too!" sort of thing, which I do find hard.

Roseylea Mon 09-Jun-08 09:49:58

I have lots of friends in churches like that, Sushistar. In fact one of our cloeset friends is a (male) minister who strongly disapproves of women in leadership / teaching roles. Oh well. I've grown up with hearing women preach and so it wasn't until a couple of years ago that I'd even have seen it as an issue (although I'd have seen the overall leadership of a church by a woman as an issue - the old 'headship' debate).

Culture has a lot to do with it, probbaly much more than we realise. As it did in new Testament times, of course...

Smithagain Mon 09-Jun-08 11:11:31

Coming back to the OP, I come from a church where there is a long tradition of female preachers - and indeed a long tradition of lay preaching, so that our preachers offer us an enormously wide variation in:

- gender
- age
- background
- intelligence
- comprehensibility


I think there are differences in the way men and women approach things, so it is healthy to have female viewpoint. But if preaching is becoming a chore that is conflicting with family life, you need to look at that as well.

Is it feasible to set firmer boundaries about how much preaching you will take on. And also start a campaign to get some other sisters up to the lectern!

(I am a worship leader and do a lot of all-age teaching. I know all about how the level of commitment can creep up and up and up. You need to be constantly reassessing what you can offer and be firm about it. People will cope if you say no. They really will!)

Ummmm. I'm considering your question, sushistar. I'll get back to you. smile

sushistar Tue 10-Jun-08 17:19:46

Smithagain, your post so made me smile! But your church should be proud that it has such a diverse teaching team. Even the incomprehensible ones will never improve if they're never given the chance to practice
I think that's wise advice about putting limits on it. It's something I'm able to do to serve God and my church family, but it's not my ONLY job, or only MY job! I would so love it if some other women in the church would be willing to preach sometimes. I've broached the subject with a couple, but they weren't keen...

sushistar Tue 10-Jun-08 17:20:56

Roseylea, don't get me started on 'headship' hmm grin

Smithagain Tue 10-Jun-08 17:49:00

Thanks Sushistar!

Actually, it's great to see how many of those who start out timid and incomprehensible gradually gain in confidence and authority over the years.

And one of the best preachers I ever heard was a 17 year old girl who stood up there in her black, scruffy gear, with her hair all over her face and knocked everyone's preconceptions out of the window! She was so honest and sincere and full of insight.

I love the diversity of preaching we get. It's one of the things I like about my church tradition (Methodist). The inconsistency can sometimes be an issue - but it's also good to hear so many different approaches.

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