"What must be noted in conclusion is: (1) That the prohibition of speaking in the church to women is precise, absolute, and all-inclusive. They are to keep silent in the churches — and that means in all the public meetings for worship; they are not even to ask questions…"
Paul on Women Speaking in Church by Benjamin B. Warfield
(Originally Published in The Presbyterian, October 30,1919)
Nearly a century has passed since B.B. Warfield, a professor of theology at Princeton Seminary, penned Paul on Women Speaking in Church. It seems that there continues to be much confusion regarding what women can and cannot do in church. Recently, the Sharper Iron website featured a forum which posed the following question:
Should women be called upon to publically pray in a Sunday morning worship service? link
Before we go any further, please allow this blogger (who majored in English) to correct a couple of grammatical errors in the above question. First, the correct spelling is "publicly", and that word is splitting the infinitive 'to pray'!
So what is Sharper Iron (SI)? According to the website:
SI is a site hosted by people of historic fundamentalist conviction (See "Fundamentalist?!” It may not be what you think).
Our aim is to provide a place where Christians can interact thoughtfully and respectfully on a wide range of topics, including our articles and the news items and blog samples we post daily.
So far the responses to the above question break down into these percentages:
30 % – Yes, women should be allowed to pray aloud during the worship service
53 % – No
17 % – Undecided
As you might imagine, there has been some interesting commentary on SI's website to go along with the responses. Here are three:
I voted "yes." Not sure exactly why this would be a problem for anyone, although I am sure that y'all will let me know if you disagree. If there is concern about a woman "usurping authority," the fact that she is called on, presumably by the pastor/worship leader, indicates that she is acting under the authority of the male leadership of the church.
I voted "no" because I see public prayer as a male activity.
The role of men, as best we know in the New Testament, is clear – men are called to be spiritual leaders. Men are called to be the leaders of their homes. Men are called to be leaders (Elders/Deacons/Pastors) in the church. To allow women to lead the church in corporate prayer, chips away subtly at that teaching.
We would be very interested to know how our readers would respond to this question, so please chime in!
John Piper, who recently retired after a long career as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, addressed a similar question — Why don't women read or pray in Bethlehem's church services? Take a look…
Much to our surprise, there are differing opinions on the matter among those belonging to The Gospel Coalition. Thabiti Anyabwile, a Council Member and blogger for TGC, weighed in about women and prayer in a post entitled: I'm a Complementarian. Here is a key excerpt that makes his position patently clear:
Women and Prayer
I’m a complementarian, but women should pray to God in public. Restrictions in public prayer provides an example, I think, of the protective fences of complementarity being pushed over into our neighbor’s yard. In an effort to rightly protect areas God sovereignly reserves for qualified male leadership, some have began to annex and “protect” anything that looks like “leadership.” In their practice, some have basically reduced the complementarian vision to “never allow a woman to do anything ‘up front’ in the public meeting,” including prayer. In the process, they’ve also reduced “leadership” to up front marquee performance, rather than humble, loving, sacrificial service to all.
But it seems clear to me that women prayed in the public gatherings of the early church. As the disciples waited for the promised gift of the Holy Spirit before Pentecost, they “were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” (Acts 1:14). Presumably as the Lord added thousands of women to the ranks of the disciples (Acts 2:41), these women were among those devoting themselves to prayer (Acts 2:42). During times requiring fervent intercession, the disciples gathered and prayed together with women–even in the home of a woman (Acts 12:12). The book of Acts generally depicts the female disciples devoting themselves to prayer along with the rest of the church.
In August 2009 the Desiring God website featured John Piper's response to the above question (via audio and transcript). A year and a half later, Anyabwile felt it necessary to address the matter in a blog post. We are grateful that there are those in the Calvinista camp who support women praying publicly during worship.
We absolutely LOVED how Thabiti Anyabwile ended his post:
"May our sisters pray for us–publicly!"
Never let it be said that we failed to compliment a Calvinista…
If you are involved in a congregation (or have been in the past), we would love to know whether women are allowed to pray publicly during the worship service.
Lydia's Corner: Nehemiah 7:73-9:21 1 Corinthians 9:1-18 Psalm 33:12-22 Proverbs 21:11-12