Blog Template Theology of the Body: Those Teachin' Women: Baptist Pastor Expels Female Sunday School Teacher

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Those Teachin' Women: Baptist Pastor Expels Female Sunday School Teacher

So a Baptist pastor expels an elderly woman from the Sunday School teaching position that she had held for decades. Why? As the very very crowd lauds it, this action was taken because the good Baptists "wanted to take Scripture literally," and I Timothy clearly rails against a woman not keeping silence.

This is a problem, I say. Why? Because this action does not accord with what the Church actually believes and practices with regard to its women. Sure, it would be wonderfully convenient to act however we decided on the basis of One's Taking Scripture Literally. The problem, friends, is that no one is a literalist. We are indiscriminately fallen, selfish, complicated, motivated, and largely ignorant creatures who cannot even read the New Yorker well, much less the Canon. So what we get in the case of this little Baptist is, once again, the tedious result of refusing to conform to the historical repository of Christian belief. When we stand outside of the Church's tradition, we are bereft of the whole deposit of actual principle and are left with isolated verses taken out of context, so easily manipulated; we are denied the precious opportunity to conform ourselves to truth, and are left with myriad reactions to personal zeal... as in the case of this dear Baptist.

In short, the Church permits women to teach. Period.

Scripture indicates that the "teaching," IE, "doctrine" of the Church, is an apostolic prerogative; the Church refers over and over again to "the deposit of teaching," "the faith once delivered to the apostles by Christ." In other words, it was the unique privilege of the twelve apostles and their ordained successors to provide the church with its doctrine of salvation, and this doctrine (as we have it in Scripture) must not be altered or added to. Apostles teach, and the apostles were men; hence, women do not "teach." But in the same way, neither can unbaptized men nor lay men "teach" in the way that the apostles and their successors "teach." "Teaching" in the church means the authoritative establishing of binding doctrine, as established by the apostles in Scripture and commented on by their successors, the bishops.

With that having been said, there is nothing in Scripture or the tradition that prohibits a woman from proclaiming or expositing the faith once delivered in the "teaching" of the apostles; indeed, Paul affirms and presumes this sort of proclamation when he refers to/endorses women "prophecying" publicly to and with men in I Corinthians 11 and 14. The Church has historically taken this endorsement of womens' proclamation of the apostles' teaching one step further in recognizing various female saints to be "doctors" of the Church (a teaching office) on par with such greats as Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.

The angel, and then Jesus, gives the order to WOMEN to "go and tell" His brethren what He has revealed to them (Matthew 28, Mark 16). Without investing women with the apostolicity enjoyed by the Twelve, this action of Jesus should become the definitive lense through which we may faithfully read every injunction to women's "silence."

In sum, a woman who extends the church's teaching in a Sunday school class is not "teaching" of her own accord; she is merely the Church's mouthpiece, as is every faithful minister. I simply do not see much that is Scripturally responsible in this pastor's actions. If I did, I would be the first to applaud him.