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Women and Threefold Ministry


Concerning the Ordination of Women

Department of Faith and Order
World Council of Churches Geneva 1964
and reproduced here with the usual permissions


At the Third Assembly of the World Council of Churches in New Delhi, 1961, the Department on Faith and Order was requested to establish a study in conjunction with the Department on Cooperation of Men and Women in Church, Family and Society, on the theological, biblical and ecclesiological issues involved in the ordination of women. The Department on Cooperation, which from its beginning has been keenly interested in the question, warmly welcomed this request.

Consequently, in preparation for the Fourth World Conference on Faith and Order in Montreal, 1963, the two Departments jointly gathered the material which makes up the contents of this booklet, including: an introduction summing up the issues involved, a statement drawn up by a small consultation, two papers on the scriptural evidence, and three personal comments from representatives of various traditions.

At Montreal, these papers were presented as study material for the Section on “The Redemptive Work of Christ and the Ministry of His Church”. The Section recommended that the study of this question be continued under the title “Women in the ministry and the ministries”. The two Departments are aware of the fact that the material herein submitted represents only an initial stage of the full study to be undertaken. But it is for this very reason that they have decided to publish and present it now to the Churches for wider reflection.

Geneva, February 1964.

The Ordination of Women


Initial Statement by Dr. Lukas Vischer
(Research Secretary, Department on Faith and Order,
World Council of Churches)

The question whether women can undertake the responsibilities of a pastor in the Church is not a new one. It came up from time to time in earlier centuries. A careful enquiry into the history of the office of deaconess, and the importance of widows in the Christian Church, would bring to light some interesting facts in this connection. But during the last few decades it has cropped up in an entirely new way. In earlier centuries the question was more peripheral and could be dismissed fairly easily. But more recently a much more fundamental question has been raised: does the life of the Church adequately reflect the great truth that in Christ there is neither male nor female? Does the Order of the Church adequately express this truth ? There is growing insistence that women should assume more responsible functions in the life of the Church; this demand has grown particularly strong within the ecumenical movement, in which so many women have played a leading role. It is , for instance, that women spoke at the very first World Conference on Faith and Order (1927). Six women issued a statement, which was recorded in the Minutes : “that the right place of women in the typical Church is one of grave moment and should be in the hearts and minds of all”. They pointed out that if the Church seeks deeper unity it must re-examine the question of the relationship between men and women, and that the mission task makes it imperative to put to better use all the gifts available in the Church. They deliberately refrained from raising the problem of church order in this connection. But already at that time it was clear that it would be impossible to avoid facing the question later.

The churches are therefore confronted by a new question, which they must answer in the light of their understanding of the Gospel. It is clear, they are bound to come to different conclusions. For since the churches are divided on questions of Faith and Order, they approach a new question like this from different assumptions. The assumptions of some churches are such that they hesitate even to examine the question at all. They do indeed see the need for examining the relationship between men and women, and giving women the position in the Church which God intended. But in the light of the truth they think it is clear that the ministries of the Church should be restricted to men. They are therefore inclined to say that the problem of ordination cannot be raised at all. If the relationship between men and women requires a fresh expression in the Church (they say), at any rate a solution should not be sought at this point. On the other hand, other churches see no fundamental obstacle to examining the question. In the light of their ecclesiology and of their understanding of Scripture they are convinced that the form of church order can never claim to be final: it must be modified in obedience to Christ in a new age where the situation is changed. They are therefore prepared to consider changes which involve a great change from the traditional forms. It must, however, be added that even in cases where this readiness exists, no agreement has yet been reached. The solutions proposed by the different churches differ widely in many respects, and again one realises how different are the assumptions from which the churches approach the question. Some churches draw a careful distinction between different forms and grades of religious office, allowing women a certain restricted place, with careful reservations. Other churches place men and women on an equal footing, in every respect. In some churches great difficulties are involved in overcoming the obstacles; in others the ordination of women for all the functions of the ministry is taken for granted.

We are confronted by a great variety of answers, some in direct opposition to others, and it is clear that this question has brought out a difference between the churches which did not exist centuries ago, at any rate not in this way. But should not precisely a question of this kind show that the churches form a fellowship ? Can the churches allow their divisions to continue, because they arrive at different decisions? Must they not explore every possible avenue, in order to arrive at a common answer ?

Or at the very least, must they not take their decisions in living fellowship with other churches, so that the particular course taken by one church is comprehensible to the other churches ? The churches which refuse to admit the question of the ordination of women at all will at first be tempted to say that the churches which do so are deepening the divisions within Christendom, owing to their arbitrary decisions. But is it permissible for them to pass judgement in this way ? They recognise that the Holy Spirit is also at work in other churches. Must they not therefore consider the possibility that the course taken by another church may be important for them also ? Should they not re-examine their own teaching and approach, in view of the attitude of that other church? And are they not obliged to express more clearly in what way they are safeguarding the cooperation of women in the Church? The churches which are prepared to consider the ordination of women will at first be tempted to regard the other churches as conservative and traditionalistic. They will tend to think that the refusal to consider ordination of women is due to lack of respect for women. But is such a view admissible ? If these churches take the ecumenical fellowship seriously, must they not see the importance of continuity in the life of the Church, and what a responsibility it is to introduce a new element at any point ? Must they not take serious account of the testimony of the churches which want to preserve that continuity ? And are they not forced by their testimony to express more clearly how they think of preserving it ? At any rate it is of great importance that the churches should not isolate themselves from one another in their attitudes.

It is essential to say this, as becomes still clearer if we take a few examples showing how the question of the ordination of women affects the unity of the Church. We select three examples:

a) In the Lutheran Church of Sweden, the introduction of the ordination of women led to serious upheavals, and these differences have given rise to a deep cleavage which has still not been overcome. There were long struggles before the decision was taken (in 1958), and although public discussion ended when the first three women were ordained (in 1960), the tension still continues. It is significant that the request to study the question at the ecumenical level came from Sweden.

b) Not only did the discussion about the ordination of women endanger the unity of the Church of Sweden. It also had certain repercussions upon the relations to other churches, especially the Church of England. The Church of England has intercommunion with the Church of Sweden. The fact that the Church of Sweden has retained the Apostolic Succession made this intercommunion possible. When the ordination of women was considered in Sweden, the Church of England asked itself whether the same close relations could be maintained in the future, and many Anglican theologians expressed their misgivings. Actually, however, the relations between the two Churches do not seem to have deteriorated.

c) Differences about the question of the ordination of women naturally constitute a considerable difficulty in some negotiations for union. One example of this is the negotiations between the Congregational Union of Scotland and the Church of Scotland. In one report published by the Congregational Union the question of the ordination of women is mentioned as one of the main obstacles to the union of the two churches. “If the Congregational Union were to stand fast on the principle of Women in the Ministry, then there could be no question of organic union of the two denominations in the immediate future”. (Congregational Union of Scotland, Annual Assembly, 7th-11th May 1962, p. 35.) Mention is indeed made of the fact that the question is being discussed in the Church of Scotland, and that it may possibly be taken up again later on. At the same time, however, it is explained that the Congregational Union must try to find a realistic solution in the existing situation.

Another example is the plan for union in North India and Pakistan (1957). It does not actually propose the ordination of women, but a comment reads as follows: “The question of the admission of women to the ordained ministry is left for the consideration of the Synod of the Church” (p. 17). This remark drew the following comment from the Lambeth Conference (1958): “Clearly, any autonomous Church can if it so desires consider this question, and therefore the proposed Churches of North India and of Pakistan would inevitably have freedom to raise the matter in their own Synods if they so desired. The admission of women to an Order of Deaconesses would raise no difficulty. If, however, the Churches of North India and Pakistan were to decide to ordain women to the presbyterate this would raise a grave problem for the Anglican Communion, the constituent Churches of which might well find themselves unable to recognize the ministry of a woman so ordained”. (Stephen F. Bayne, Ceylon, North India and Pakistan, I960, p. 193.)

Many more examples could easily be given. But the few given above suffice to show how important the question is for the unity of the Church.

As we have already seen, the problem of ordination arises in different forms in the different churches. We must revert to this point, in conclusion. We are not dealing with a question to which some churches say “No”, and others say “Yes”. The basic attitude is much more complicated, and many different points of view have to be considered, if one is to understand and appreciate the attitude of the different churches. How do the churches understand the nature of the Church ? What form does the ministry take ? Is it divided into different grades, or is there only one form of ministry ? And how is the theological significance of the ministry defined ? What is the teaching about ordination ? What functions are attached to the different ministries, and what functions are transmitted by ordination ? What is the predominant view of the Bible? How are the biblical passages concerning the position of women in the Early Church interpreted ? And lastly, what is the prevailing view of the relationship between men and women in the Church, and how is this view expressed in practice ? All these factors have a definite influence on the answer which a church arrives at, and one immediately realises that every church is likely to consider the question in a different way, according to its own Christian convictions.

It is therefore extremely important that in an ecumenical discussion the question should be couched in sufficiently wide terms from the very outset. We shall achieve no result if we simply ask ourselves whether or not the office of priest or pastor can be assumed by a woman. We must regard the question in its whole setting, and the conversation must provide occasion for a basic consideration of important ecclesiological, hermeneutic and anthropological questions. If the question is phrased too narrowly, it will be answered by an irreconcilable “Yes” or “No” and the arguments for and against the ordination of women will serve as heavy artillery in the fray. But if we consider the problem in its broad context, and the factors in every separate church, a solution may appear in unexpected places. Many churches which are inclined to reject the idea can be led to a modified attitude by consideration of the anthropological basis. And many churches which seem to see no difficulties at all about the ordination of women may find themselves obliged to re-examine the whole question of ecclesiology and of the ministry. When it comes to an exchange of views of this kind, the question of the ordination of women must not be regarded as “a fresh difficulty”, to be tackled against one’s will. It may rather prove to be a blessing for the ecumenical fellowship of the churches.

The Ordination of Women:
An Ecumenical Problem

(Report of a consultation organised by the Department on Cooperation
of Men and Women in Church, Family and Society and the Department
on Faith and Order, in Geneva, 10th-12th May 1963).


At the Assembly of the World Council of Churches, in New Delhi, 1961, the Committee dealing with the questions of the Department on Faith and Order expressed an urgent request to the Working Committee on Faith and Order “to establish a study of the theological, biblical and ecclesiological issues involved in the ordination of women”. The initial request was made with the situation in the European churches in mind. But in the general discussion it was emphasised that this study must not be restricted to Europe. At the same time the hope was expressed that it would be undertaken “in close conjunction with the Department on Cooperation of Men and Women in Church, Family and Society”. The proposal was accepted by the Working Committee of Faith and Order at its meeting in Paris, which decided to place the question of the ordination of women on the agenda of the Fourth World Conference of Faith and Order, to be held at Montreal, Canada, from the 12th to 26th July, 1963.

This decision was felt to be necessary because the problem is of practical concern to an increasing number of churches. Many churches welcome women to the ordained ministry and have found the policy advantageous. Others, having adopted this policy, face serious internal tensions. In others, the policy is under discussion and provokes heated debate. The matter frequently becomes acute in negotiations for church unity. And even apart from formal negotiations, it affects the mutual relations of churches which ordain women to those which do not. It would be_wrong, therefore, J.o view this issue as a result of feminist demands or agitation by a few enthusiasts. It concerns the total understanding of the ministry of the church and therefore has deep theological significance.

The range of the discussion and the urgency of the problem is something new in Christian history; it has been occasioned by social and cultural movements, although the solution of the problemjequires^ theological decision. Social and cultural movements have their proper place as a challenge to translate Christian doctrine into possible new forms of church life and church order. It is true that the danger must be avoided of accommodating Christian truth to the current ideology, but we must also say that God may use secular movements for showing his will to us. In our day there has beena rediscovery of two theological factors particularly relevant to our present study: a new insight into the nature of the wholeness of the body of Christ and a better understanding of the meaning of the partnership of men and women in God’s design. a)It is a basic tenet of the New Testament that the whole body is called to witness to the name of Christ; all members — men and women — have therefore their appropriate ministry to which they are called by him. This basic Christian truth was for many centuries overlaid. It has been rediscovered in our own day by all parts of Christendom.
b)It is an essential element of the Christian message that man and woman are created in the image of God and are therefore of equal dignity and worth before him. The developments in our time have shown us that this truth has not always been sufficiently understood and emphasized. All the churches are confronted with the necessity of finding a new expression for this basic truth.
It is in this context that the question of the ordination of women is raised. Even the churches which oppose such ordination will realize that these new theological emphases have a relevance for them. The question involves many controversial points of exegesis, of dogmatic formulation and of ecclesiastical life. We have concentrated upon some of these.

Exegetical considerations

Many are of the opinion that the evidence of the New Testament speaks clearly against admitting women to the ministry. However, it should be seen that the New Testament is not always used in the appropriate way in the discussion of this issue. Modern historical research on the Bible has given us a new awareness of the extent to which the biblical witness is conditioned by and oriented to historical situations. Therefore biblical teaching cannot be abstracted from the historical context in which the books have been written. The Bible is not a collection of proof texts, and questions cannot be answered by quoting single passages. Therefore if we are confronted with problems of today’s world we cannot find the answer by quoting single passages. Every quration must be understood and answered in the light of God’s revelation in Christ which is the centre of Scripture. This methodological' principle is very important for the discussion of ordination of women. Both supporters and opponents tend to quote single passages for or against such ordination. However, it should be clear that no answer is given by a single reference, e.g. to . 3 or I Tim. 2. An answer can be given only by taking into consideration the whole of the Bible and the historical situation to which each single passage refers. Sometimes it is said that the “biblical doctrine on men and women” does exclude any consideration of admitting women to the full ministry. But the New Testament does not contain a developed doctrine on this relationship. As the New Testament in all its parts witnesses to Christ, it is not concerned to establish a system of doctrine. Every question with which the Church is confronted is answered by referring to the central reality of Christ. The centrality of Christ even makes possible the use of different anthropological statements in the Bible. Therefore one cannot speak of New Testament doctrine on men and women and draw conclusions from such a doctrine we think is established. We have to examine the new situation in which we live in the light of Christ’s Lordship.

If the passages in the New Testament dealing with the position of women in the Church are seen in their historical contexts, it becomes clear that they are written with a particular intention and in view of a particular danger for the Church. For example, it is important to see that the passages of the Pastoral Letters have in view the danger that by the public activity of women marriage could be dishonoured. It is the intention of the New Testament which we have to seek in examining its literal content. Right exegesis does not consist of imposing biblical formularies on a given situation but of interpreting it in harmony with that intention. And though we have to avoid carefully any arbitrary freedom, this principle is of great importance.

Modem research has led also to a new understanding of the relation between the Old and the New Testaments. The results of historical research do not allow us to interpret Old Testament passages according to the methods sometimes used in the New Testament period. For example, we are no longer able to use the method of interpretation we find in I Cor. 11 and I Tim. 2. Thls does not mean that these passages are for us empty of meaning. They are still significant. But we discover their meaning for today only by distinguishing between the intention of the Apostle’s arguments and his patterns of presenting them.

Modem exegetical research has led to a deeper understanding of jthe eschatolgical character of the Christian message. The statements on the relationship of men and women are”to be”understood in this perspective. If it is stated that men and women are equal, it is said in view of the Eschaton. This does not mean that the differentiation of the sexes ceases to exist. We live in and are faithful to the order of creation, but at the same time the order of nature has been overcome by this new dimension. Men and women are not living any more either in isolation or in a restricted togetherness. They have received a new freedom also from the domination by their sexual nature. It is in this freedom that in the New Testament new forms of ministry are possible for men as well as women. It is in the same freedom that celibacy is offered as a way of life to men and women. It is important to take into serious consideration this eschatological dimension of the Church’s life. Though the Church lives in historical continuity with its origins, it is always called to open itself anew to the future and to give a fresh expression to its eschatological message.

These exegetical considerations apply equally to two larger but related questions : the message of the Bible regarding the Christian ministry and the meaning of ordination. These two questions are answered in various ways by our churches.

They must now subject these answers afresh to critical examination in the light of recent research on the Bible and on the early centuries of Christian history. Unable to venture into this vast field, this committee expresses its hope that discussions of the ordination of women will be carried on in close connection with discussions of the ministry and of ordination, and that concern for the former will strengthen concern for the latter.

Dogmatic considerations

The Bible views the persons of the Trinity as beyond the sphere of sex, which is fundamental only to human kind. This affirmation is specially clear for the person of Yahweh in the Old Testament who was carefully distinguished from the pagan background of gods and goddesses. But it is also true for the person of Jesus Christ, whose jmage of the new man (including men and women), and forThe person of the Holy Ghost. Therefore, as the ministry is the announcement to the world of the trinitarian reality and work, we must renounce the argument in favour of the masculinity of ecclesiastical ministry on the basis of the fact that God is called Father or that Jesus Christ is incarnated as male. This argument was used neither in the biblical sources (e.g. by St. Paul or St. Peter) nor in the early tradition. It distorts the parabolic and symbolic language in which trinitarian formulas describe the divine mystery and identifies language with reality and thereby literalizes the action of the tri-une God; thus it obscures the soteriological purpose of the ministry as a function of the body of Christ by overstressing the significance of the sex of the minister as a person in the created order.
Sometimes it is said that the subordination of the woman to the man is inherent in the order of creation and that therefore it would be a violation of God’s order of creation for a woman to take a public responsibility. Some biblical passages seem to indicate such an understanding of subordination, and it is rooted in Christian tradition. But it is doubtful that it can be maintained. The image of God is presented in the Bibje as the coexistence of man and woman. They are called together to dominate the world of creation (Genesis 1, 2). Their relationship is to be understood as complementarity rather than as subordination. The more we are aware that the meaning of creation is disclosed by God’s redemptive work in Christ, the more we realize that God created man and woman in partnership. It is true that Paul refers to Genesis 2 when he reminds the woman to be subordinated. But reading the New Testament as a whole it becomes clear that the first emphasis is laid on complementarity. It seems therefore evident that subordination does not belong to God’s order of creation but is part of the good order in society commonly accepted in Paul’s time.
In recent times there is in many churches a new emphasis laid on baptism as the consecration to a new life of witness and service to the world. This emphasis is to be seen in close connection with the calling of the whole people of God. It inevitably raises anew the question of the relation between baptism and the consecration to the special ministries in the Church. Many churches teach that ordination is a sacrament clearly to be distinguished from baptism; other churches consider ordination as a setting apart within the baptismal grace. However, all churches see a close relation between baptism and the ministry, and if it is true that baptism leads to participation in the ministry of the whole Church, explanation must be given on what grounds a baptized woman, who shares all the privileges given through baptism, can be excluded from the ordained ministry.

Many churches argue that the original apostolate was composed solely of men, that the ordained ministry of the Church is derived from and dependent — upon the apostles, and that therefore the ordination of women would compromise the apostolic heritage of the Church. It is true that Jesus appointed twelve men as his apostles, and that the earliest Church did not nominate a woman to replace Judas, even though women had been eye-witnesses of the Lord’s work and the first bearers of resurrection tidings. But the masculinity of the apostolate may be understood theologically more as a fulfilment of God’s promise to Israel than as a divine law governing the future of the Church. In the twelve the structure of the old Israel, with its patriarchs and tribes, was represented and fulfilled.

The apostolate brought the Old Covenant to its authentic consummation, so that Gentiles might share in the glory promised to Israel. (It may be noted that no Gentile was included among the apostles, although this fact has not excluded them from the Church’s apostolicity.) At any rate, it is by no means clear that the preservation of an apostolic ministry should forever exclude women (or Gentiles) if there are cogent theological reasons for including them.

The ministry of the Church consists in the edification of the body of Christ in order to witness to the world through administering the sacraments and preaching God’s word. It is to be doubted whether the New Testament offers sufficient theological support for drawing a sharp distinction between these two ministries and, e.g., allowing a woman to participate in all the church ministries with the exception of presiding over the Eucharist. Does it show any interest in the qualification of those who should administer the sacraments ? It seems clear at least that St. Paul did not separate the sacramental from the non-sacramental ministry.

He was far more concerned with the effectiveness of all the gifts of the Spirit in edifying the Church and in the reconciliation of the world.

Ecclesiastical life

Since it is impossible in the New Testament to obtain any concrete direction concerning the ordination of women other than the fact that they were not of the apostolic band, the question must be faced in view of a radically changed situation whether their exclusion from the ordained ministry rests upon divine law or upon human tradition. Some churches see divine law being promulgated through the tradition which has come down to them in the body of Christ. Others would question whether forms of ministry rightly belong to the tradition. There is therefore a call for a re-examination at this point of the value and content of ecclesiastical tradition. In this re-examination of their traditions and canon law, the churches should be aware both of the valid historical reasons for the shape of their old tradition and of the non-theological influences (such as out-dated patterns of sexual prejudice) which have entered all traditions.

The churches are faced today with the need to discover new forms of ministry to meet situations which did not confront them in the past, it is clear that women as well as men are called to take their place in these new forms of ministry which may differ considerably in form and function from any ministry the Church has yet known. It is the duty of the churches to seek such forms. In doing so, they may find that the ordination of women is the right response to new opportunities. This problem poses itself in most concrete terms jn some of the younger churches.

The problems raised by the ordination of women are too new for the churches to have reached a common mind on this matter. This means that they will be acutely felt in the field of inter-church relations, especially where churches which take a more traditional view are contemplating union with churches which believe that in ordaining women they have been led by the Spirit. When the churches seriously face the theological issues involved, it is much to be hoped that whatever decision an individual church reaches there will be no accusation of heresy but that its decision will be accepted by others as a genuine effort to foilow the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Moreover, in reaching its own decision, each church should consider not only its obligation to its own members and its responsibility for avoiding internal schism but also its loyalty to all churches in all countries. All policies regarding the various ministries are ultimately subject to the authority of Him from whom the one Church has received its ministry as a gift. Each church accordingly must decide not only its own way of obedience, but must also determine its attitude towards the status of ministers in churches whose obedience has taken a different path. Each must make its decision in the freedom which Christ has given from the Law, in the love which will not cause others to stumble, and in hope for the consummation of God’s kingdom on earth.

Possible points for discussion

Can it be said that

—churches face today a new situation with regard to the relationship of man and woman ?

—all churches have insufficiently expressed the calling of the whole Church, and need to find new ways of expressing the sending of all church members, both men and women ?

—the issue of the ordination of women concerns all the churches, those opposing change as well as those considering new steps ?

—the biblical evidence does not speak either clearly in favour of, or against, admitting women to the full ministry ?

—that biblical passages are always to be seen in their historical context and should be understood rather in their intention than in their literal content ?

Can we agree that some arguments against admitting women to the ministry are invalid, e.g.:

—because God is father, only man can be ordained ?

—because Christ chose only men as apostles, it would be against his will to include women in the apostolic ministry?

—the subordination of woman to man belongs to the order of creation?

Can we agree that the following points need to be re-examined by the churches:

—the relationship between baptism and ordination?

the evidence of the New Testament, and especially of the Early Church,
on the position of women in the Church?

Can we say that

—the churches recognize in charity the decisions taken in this matter by other churches ?

—the churches opposing the ordination of women are obliged to rethink the position of women in general ?

—the churches accepting such ordination without difficulties have to re-examine their understanding of the ministry in the Church ?

Names of the participants at the Consultation

The Rev. Dr. Hans THIMME, Chairman; ;

The Rev. H. R. T. BRANDRETH ;

The Rev. Dr. ANDRÉ DUMAS ;

WCC Staff



The Rev. Dr. PAUL MINEAR ;

The Rev. Father Paul VERGHESE ;



Biblical Anthropology and the Participation of Women

in the Ministry of the Church

by Pastor André Dumas

(Professor at the Protestant Faculty of Theology, Paris)

Published by the World Council of Churches 1964

Motives and difficulties

The question whether it is permissible for women to participate in the grace of the ministries which are destined to build up the Body of Christ is being discussed theologically at the present time in a large number of Churches belonging to the World Council of Churches. The intense interest raised by this discussion is explained by several external factors.

Sociological motives

This discussion is taking place at a time when, in most countries, women have obtained, or are obtaining, equal participation side by side with men in the different sectors. This applies not only to work (in which they nearly always have participated in this way) but in the organisation and direction of society, which is something quite fresh in the history of mankind, with the exception of the very old civilisations which regarded women as the very heart of life and of religion. This first factor explains why this question has given rise to a much more general debate — how to effect the renewal of the Church? By listening to the call which God addresses to us through the needs of the world and through the challenge of history; or by opposing to the “ways” of the world a Word of God which is salutary and different? The discussion about the ordination of women is therefore only one striking illustration of a much wider controversy — how to discern between true and false adaptation, between St. Paul’s exhortation “to become all things to all men” (I Cor. 9 : 22) and his other exhortation not to “be conformed to this world” (Rom. 12: 2). To express it in the terms of the Second Vatican Council: how are we to discern between the integrity of the Church, which restricts it to its own formulations in the past, and on the other hand a belief in progress which places the Church at the mercy of fluctuating secular influences, but through which real renewal is taking place ? And what should be its criteria ?

Ecumenical concern

Secondly, this discussion arouses divergences of opinion and different decisions between the churches, and usually within those churches, at the very moment when great efforts are being made to overcome other divisions inherited from our dogmatic history. This discussion creates, or rather brings to light, latent differences in the interpretation of the Bible, in the nature of biblical anthropology, in the meaning of the Church’s mission, and in the importance of tradition as a norm for the Church. It therefore seems directly opposed to the efforts to heal the divisions and to rediscover the common source. Here again the question of the ordination of women is an active illustration of a very general debate: how should ecumenical policy be envisaged? Should its essential aim be to smooth out the differences which have arisen during the history of the Church ? Or should it tackle fresh problems which were not so important during the classical periods of Christianity, or which received answers at that time which no longer seem to us illuminating or convincing ? What is really the course of wisdom ? Is it to maintain what already exists, even if we are no longer certain that it is right ? Or should we consent to a new stage, even if the theological discussion is still going on, and if the ecclesiastical experience in this field is too short to be unanimously patent ?

Emotional background

Thirdly, this discussion is bound to give rise to emotional reactions. Although it takes place in the Church where everything (especially the ministry) is a grace and not a right, granted by our Lord, not claimed by man, the contention that it is theologically justified for women to exercise the special grace of the ministry is bound to create frustration in some people, and fear in others. The very fact that the discussion is taking place, and that no decision has yet been reached, creates this atmosphere. We all suffer from it, and we should all wish it to take place on the objective level of what is God’s will, not on the subjective level of human desires or fears. But the old example of the discussions between Jewish and Gentile Christians shows us that theological reflection involves personal reactions. “The right hand of fellowship” extended by James, Cephas and John to Paul and Barnabas, when the latter went to the Gentiles, and the former to the circumcised (Gal. 2 :9) did not put an end to the conflicts which continued throughout the history of the early Christian Church. The collection for the poor recommended by the Christians in Jerusalem, and scrupulously practised by St. Paul, was the sign that the personal suffering caused by a theological difference was never forgotten, but that Christians still wished to remain in fellowship.

Scriptural difficulties

However, these three first factors — sociological, ecumenical and emotional — are still external to the real discussion concerning the inconclusiveness of the Bible on this particular point. I deliberately use the word inconclusiveness, despite the fact that usually both the advocates and the opponents of the ordination of women quote the conclusive evidence of the Bible in support of their view. The realisation that certain biblical passages may be interpreted in opposite ways does not in itself prove that the Bible is inconclusive on this question — for one of the viewpoints might be clearly contrary to the witness of the Bible as a whole, and the other viewpoint merely a later justification either of a traditional attitude in the Church (due rather to historical than to biblical reasons) or of an evolution in contemporary habits (with no relation to the theological object under discussion). In either of these cases, the evidence of the biblical view should carry universal conviction. A decision could be taken to confirm or change one’s view, merely by reading the biblical passage in an enlightened way. In actual fact, however, this is not the case. I do not think that the Bible has explicitly solved the problem before us. But I think the Bible provides a number of facts_on which there should be general agreement, and that the Church is calfed to reflect “responsibly” on the basis of these facts.

Method: I therefore propose to adopt the following method. _First I shall try to classify the scriptural facts which are certain, without commenting either upon what they say or what they do not say, simply enumerating them as the sole evidence at our disposal. Secondly, I shall endeavour to undertake a “responsible” consideration of this evidence,"which will force us to apply the consequences of what we believe in regard to the person of God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, to the human image of God, to the Church and its ministries, and lastly to the world in which the faith is witnessed. In conclusion I will briefly enumerate the conditions for a sound renewal in all churches in this field.

Classification of the New Testament data concerning women and the ministry

I will confine myself to the New Testament, using the Old Testament as an argument but not as a norm. The ministries under the New Covenant are indeed a new creation (1). They are not a continuation of the priesthood exercised by the tribe of Levi, which culminated, and came to an end, in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ; he was a member of the tribe of Judah, “a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 5 : 6), “the mediator of a New Covenant” (Heb. 9 :15). Thus the priestly ministry of Christ acquires a new people consisting of Gentiles and of circumcised Jews. In Jesus Christ Christians become “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God”; in him “the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” (Eph. 2: 19-22.)

How is this structure to be built up for God, through the Holy Spirit in Jesus Christ, if questions are raised about the place occupied by women in that structure, according to the New Testament ? Here a distinction must be drawn between three categories of facts which enable us to co-ordinate texts which are scattered over a number of different contexts. The first category concerns the royal priesthood of all believers; the second concerns the ministries regularly acknowledged in the life of the Church; the third concerns the ministries which are recognised sometimes.

1. The royal priesthood of all baptised believers

The royal priesthood applies without distinction to all the members of the new people who live by the mercy of God, as signified by baptism in the death of Jesus Christ. It is to this priesthood that the statements in I. Peter 2 : 9 apply (derived from Exodus 19 : 5-6): “Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” This priesthood concerns the mediation of God’s Word and His Covenant to the whole world. In Exodus, as in I. Peter, it is a priesthood which announces the fulfilment of liberation : it is the only case in which the New Testament uses the word ierateuma (which is of sacred origin), apax in I. Peter 2 (apax is a very special technical term). In the case of all the other ministries within the Church the words used are of secular origin (apostolos, didaskalos, evangelistes, episcopos, diakonos, presbuteros...). It is thus quite clear, even in the vocabulary carefully chosen by the New Testament, that the priestly mediation accomplished by Jesus Christ is henceforward continued by the whole people of Christ. Baptism is the sign of this involvement of all Christians, without distinction. That is why the four passages which insist on this point all begin by stressing the greatest difference which was to be abolished: that between Jews and Greeks. All these passages (except Rom. 10:12) refer explicitly to baptism, obviously as opposed to circumcision which was reserved for Jews, the male sex and generally for free men (Gal. 3 :27-28): “For as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (I Cor. 12:13): “For by one Spirit we were all baptised into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (Col. 3 :9-11): “having put off the old nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator. Here there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free man...”

These statements on the royal priesthood of all believers are at the same time crucial and unsatisfactory as answers to our particular problem. In the first place they are crucial, for they affirm that every baptised Christian, and (according to Rom. 10:10) “everyone who believes with his heart... and confesses with his lips” is henceforth a mediator, or to be more exact a proclaimer of the mediation accomplished by Christ (2).

The fact that women are only mentioned once in these four passages proves that the early Christians had no doubt about this fact, although it represented a complete break with the customs of ancient Israel. From the very outset baptism was administered to both sexes, and baptism implied being able to preach the Christian message to the world. Let us briefly recall the examples quoted in the Gospels: the woman of Samaria with whom Jesus talked about true worship in spirit and in truth, before his disciples arrived and were surprised “to see him talking with a woman” (John 4: 27); the Canaanite woman whose faith he said was “great” (Matt. 15: 28); the woman with the precious ointment of whom Jesus said “wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (Matt. 26:13). She was the only person who foretold his death and burial. Then there are the women who came and told the disciples of the empty tomb and the resurrection ; they used to be called “the evangelists of the apostles” : the Mary mentioned in Matt. 28 :1, and Mary of Magdala mentioned in Mark 16: 9 and John 20:1. Last of all, there are the Galilean women who accompanied Jesus to the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. They brought spices and ointments to the tomb at early dawn on Easter Day, and afterwards told what they had seen to the disciples. But the eleven disciples thought it was “an idle tale” (Luke 23 : 55 and 24:11). Amidst the women and foremost among them was Mary “the favoured one” (kecharitomene, Luke 1:28), who proclaims the grace that she has received in the Magnificat.

These few references show that women, in just the same way as men, not only received and recognised grace, but bore witness of it and proclaimed it. As co-heirs, women are also co-announcers of the good news. That is why the Apostle Peter, on the day of Pentecost, quotes the Prophet Joel (2: 28-32), who emphasises that prophecy has nothing to do with sex or age: “It shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams,)and your young men shall see visions. Even upon the menservants and maidservants in those days, I will pour out my spirit.” That is why St. Paul also affirms that the believing wife can consecrate the unbelieving husband, just as the believing husband can consecrate the unbelieving wife (I. Cor. 7:14); this authority (exousia !) is exercised both by men and by women, without distinction of sex, just as the same chapter makes no distinction between the wife’s authority and the husband’s on the sexual level (I. Cor. 7:4). This possibility for everyone to evangelise, on the basis of the royal priesthood of all believers, is confirmed by the closing salutation to the Epistle to the Romans (Rom. 16:1-16) which mentions eighteen men and eight women among the leaders of the church in Rome, without any distinction of title (except in the case of Phoebe, to whom we shall refer later). The list of examples could be enlarged by recalling Priscilla who, with her husband Aquila, “expounded the way of God” to Apollos (Acts 18:26); her name is frequently mentioned before that of her husband in St. Paul’s salutations (Acts 18:18; Romans 16:3 ; II. Tim. 4:19).

2. The regular ministries

But the large number of references to women as proclaimed of God’s grace to the world does not answer a second question: if it is true that women shared with men in the priesthood of the New Israel, is it also true that they shared in the ministry within the Church of the New Testament (see I. Cor. 12:28-30; Eph. 4:11-13; Rom. 12:4-8) ? As far as facts are concerned, the general answer is in the first place negative. Among the twelve apostles who were called there were no women, nor apparently among the 70 disciples. St. Luke merely says that the women who accompanied Jesus and his disciples during his itinerant ministry “provided for them out of their means” (diakonein) (Luke 8 : 3). Mark uses the same words to describe their presence after Jesus’ ministry in Galilee: they “followed him and ministered to him” (Mark 15 : 41).

The names of women were not proposed when lots were drawn to replace Judas, although their presence among the brethren in the Upper Room is explicitly mentioned, and although they certainly fulfilled the sole condition referred to: to “have ‘accompanied’ us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us” (Acts 1:14, 21, 22). When Paul reports the account of the eye-witnesses on which the message of the Resurrection is based, he disregards the accounts given by all four Evangelists (who for once are unanimous), and says nothing about the angels seen by the women (I Cor. 15 :3-7).

We are familiar with the well-known passages which not only make no reference to the participation of women in the ministry of the church, but actually forbid it, where that ministry is public (I. Cor. 11 : 2-16). This and the following verses (17-34) describe how to arrange the gathering for worship pending Paul’s return to Corinth.

This first passage refers to worship within the Christian community, with prayer, prophecy and the Lord’s Supper. The aim of the Apostle’s recommendation is to maintain the “traditions” delivered to them (v. 2), and to avoid “condemnation” (v. 34). Involved in a difficult argument, Paul recalls his own practice and that of the churches of God (v. 16). He asks women, when they pray or prophesy in the congregation, to cover their heads, as a token that by exercising these spiritual gifts they are not dishonouring their state as married women (v. 4-10). However, in the verses which follow and as mentioned in chapter 7, he stresses the fact that in the Lord man and wife remain inter-dependent and equal (v. 11-12). But he does not want married women to bring disgrace upon Christian marriage through their behaviour in church (v. 13-15).

The second passage (I. Cor. 14:1-40) refers to worship which was open to people who were not members of the Christian community, “outsiders” (v. 16), “unbelievers” (v. 22-23). At these gatherings the teaching given had to be comprehensible, rather than in the form of the mysterious “speaking in tongues”. Paul insists that the prophets should put their own thoughts in order, so as to convince outsiders with their intelligent words. In these larger gatherings, especially because more outsiders were present, Paul asked the women to be silent and to wait till they returned home before asking questions of their husbands (v. 34-36). Paul did not want to stifle spiritual gifts; he wanted them to carry a good testimony to the non-believers.

The third passage (I. Tim. 2:11-15) strengthens Timothy in his mission to Ephesus, where he was confronted by the Jewish Christian Gnostics. These Gnostics exalted spiritual discourse and disparaged marriage. As in I. Cor. 14, Paul asks the women to listen in silence (v. 11-12) ; and as in I. Cor. 11, he exhorts them to persevere in the dignity of marriage, envisaged here mainly as the dignity of motherhood (v. 15).

In these three passages the argument is based on an exegesis of the Old Testament which has to be shared by those to whom it is addressed (as it was by Paul), if it is to carry conviction. The discussion is not concerned, moreover, with these references to the creation story and the fall, the “law” as expressed generally in I. Cor. 14: 34. It is concerned with the implications of these passages for Christian worship, in accordance with the nature of the gathering and its environment.

Women share in the universal priesthood of the people of God and in the evangelism of the world; but they do not seem to share in the ministry of the Church (in the New Testament writings). They were not included among the apostles, nor in the recommendations to the churches concerning their internal organisation (3). We must ask ourselves whether there are any possible theological reasons for these omissions and for these recommendations.

3. A glimpse of the ministries

A third series of passages has still to be considered, however, which refer to the part played by women within the ministries of the Church. They must not be generally applied, for they were not the basis of a permanent institution. But they should not be omitted either, for they testify to a possibility which is theologically permissible.

The first is the ministry of prophecy, mentioned in Eph. 4:11 and I. Cor. 12:28 immediately after apostleship, and as the first of the gifts of grace enumerated in Romans 12:6. Already in the Old Testament prophecy seems to have been the public ministry in which women were most pre-eminent. There was Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron (Ex. 15 : 20) who is quoted with Moses and his brother by Micah (6:4). There was Deborah, the wife of Lappidoth, a prophetess and judge in Israel (Judges 4:4), who commanded Barak to attack the army of Sisera, and who governed the people for forty years. There was Huldah tfye prophetess, the wife of Shallum, who was consulted by Hilkiah the high priest during the reign of King Josiah in Judah (II. Kings 22: 14).(4) And lastly a prophetess named Noadiah is mentioned in Nehemiah 6:14; she was an enemy of Nehemiah... Despite their widely differing functions and the great differences between the times at which they lived (the exodus, the judges, the kings) they all bear the same title of “prophetess”.

In the Talmud Sarah, Hannah, Abigail and Esther are also called “prophetesses”. It is the only ministerial function explicitly recognised for women in the Old Testament. The other passages either mention exceptional theophanies (Hagar in Genesis 16:7 and 21 :17 ; Sarah in Genesis 18 : 9; the wife of Manoah in Judges 13 : 3-5, 9, 22), or else personal Nazirite vows which included a sacrifice of expiation and thanksgiving (Numbers 6:2), or else a form of ministry at the door of the tent of meeting which is not clearly defined (Ex. 38 : 8,1. Sam. 2 :22), (5) or inclusion in the great processions to the Temple (Ps. 68 :25, Ezra 2: 65; Nehemiah 7 : 67 ; I. Chron. 25 : 5-7). In tracing the forms of ministry regularly performed by women in the Old Testament, therefore, the main one is that of prophetess (6). It is the wonderful extension of this prophecy in the last days of the Messiah which is referred to in Joel 2:28-32 (quoted by Peter on the Day of Pentecost), in the mysterious 11th verse of Psalm 68 (“The Lord gave the command; great was the host of those who bore the tidings”), and also in the' theophanic announcement in Isaiah 40:9 (“Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings ; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings”).

This ministry of prophetess is also mentioned in the New Testament. As we have already seen, St. Paul protects it against dishonour in I. Cor. 11, and encourages it in I. Cor. 14 : 39. Acts 21 : 9 refers to the four daughters of Philip the evangelist (one of the seven elected deacons on whom the apostles laid their hands (Acts 6:5-6). The text says that these four virgins “prophesied”, as if this was a regular form of ministry familiar to everyone. However, this ministry of prophecy, which occupies such a prominent place in the lists of ministries given by the apostles, rapidly disappeared. In Titus 1:12 prophecy already has a bad connotation.

However, another form of ministry was very widely exercised by women in Eastern Church during the first centuries: the ministry of deaconess. The Syriac Didascalia (in the second half of the third century) says that “the deaconess is to be honoured in the place of the Holy Spirit”, while the deacon is to be loved “in the place of Christ”, and the Bishop to be revered “with the honour due to Almighty God”. In Romans 16:1 St. Paul commends “our sister Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cenchreae”. The title of “deacon” or “deaconess” is used twenty-two times by Paul; he applies it to himself, to Tychicus, to Epaphras, to Timothy and to Apollos. It was a ministerial vocation with the same status as all the other ministries within the church. The term may be translated either by the word “deaconess” or by the word “minister” (in accordance with the vocabulary of the New Testament), but it is quite incorrect to translate it as “servant” solely in the case of Phoebe.(7) Paul recommends not that she be “assisted”, but that she be “helped in whatever she may require from you” (paristemi), “for she has been a helper (prostatis) of many and of myself as well” (v. 2). This substantive is an apax, but the corresponding verb (proistanai) is found eight times in the Epistles, where it always has the sense of “governing” : it signifies “presiding” in Rom. 12: 8, “directing” in I. Thess. 5 :12; “directing” also when speaking of the bishop in I. Tim. 3 :4-5, and in speaking of deacons in I. Tim. 3:12, and about the elders in I. Tim. 5:17. In Titus 3 : 8 and 14 the word has the sense of “looking after”. In applying to Phoebe a term specifying the functions of church-leader, president, leader, bishop, deacon (or minister) and elder, and mentioning her alone at the beginning of the longest list of apostolic greetings in the New Testament, Paul undoubtedly reveals something of what the actual situation was in the churches at that time. Have we not lost sight of this fact, by paying so much attention to Paul’s recommendation to wives in Corinth or Ephesus to preserve the dignity of marriage in church-gatherings ? The same chapter (Romans 16) contains a reference in verse 7 to Andronicus and Junia (so many translations persist in rendering this in its masculine form Junias, which is incorrect). “They are people of note among the apostles, and they were in Christ before me”, writes Paul. In his commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, C. H. Dodd explains that the title of apostle “was widely given to persons properly commissioned by the Church to preach the Gospel...” Andronicus and Junia would be a husband and wife working together as missionaries, like Aquila and Prisca. Chrysostom preaching on this passage saw no difficulty in a woman- apostle : nor need we” (p. 238-239)(8).

These greetings in Romans 16 were certainly interpreted in very different ways by different generations of theologians. Commenting on verse 13, “Greet Rufus, eminent in the Lord, also his mother and mine”, John Knox wrote : "It is perfectly clear here that the administration of God’s grace was denied to all women” ! ! (Laing’s edition of Knox’s Works IV, p. 382, Quoted in "The place of women in the Church”, p. 30, Edinburgh,

Within this context of special responsibilities entrusted to women in forming and directing the Church, reference should be made to Dorcas, who was a deaconess in the Church at Joppa (Acts 9:36), Lydia who was an “elder” in the young Church at Philippi (Acts 16:15,40), to Euodia and Syntyche who “laboured side by side with Paul in the struggle for the Gospel” (Phil. 4:2), to Apphia “our sister” mentioned between “Philemon, our beloved fellow worker” and “Archippus our fellow soldier” (Philemon, v. 2), Damaris who was converted at Athens at the same time as Dionysius the Areopagite (Acts 17 : 34), and others. The Second Epistle of John is also literally addressed to an “elect lady”, a mother of the Church (v. 1).

We know little about the actual situation behind these greetings, as little as indicates the first secular description of Christian worship — the letter from the young Pliny (Governor of Bithynia in the year 112 A. D.) to Trajan. In this letter we read: “The Christians are in the habit of meeting on fixed days, before dawn, to sing together a hymn to Christ... I wanted to assure myself of the truth of all that by torturing two maid-servants whom they call “ministers” (duas ancillas quae vocantur ministrae) ; but I discovered nothing but excessive superstition and, interrupting the trial, I am writing to ask for your advice” (Pliny, Book X, ep. XLVI). However we know enough to be sure that women existed in the Church who had responsibility for special ministries and that St. Paul especially greets them and commends them to the other members of the Church, as if this did not constitute any contradiction with “the customs of the churches of Christ”, of which he sternly reminded the Corinthians.

If there is any “biblical evidence”, therefore, it seems to me to be threefold:

a)The royal priesthood, which is the mediation of grace, applies to all baptised Christians without distinction.

b)However, the regular ministries which shaped the Early Church were usually occupied by men. Women were not called to be members of the group of apostles (the twelve) either by Jesus, or by the community in Jerusalem. St. Paul was afraid that it might bring dishonour upon married women if they prayed and prophesied unveiled in the closed community of believers. He instructed them not to speak in the public meetings which were open to non-believers.

c)Nevertheless, women occupied various ministries in the churches in apostolic times, especially as prophetesses, but also as deaconesses, presidents, and perhaps as apostles in the wider sense.

If we are in agreement about the sober evidence of these three categories of facts, how are we to interpret their implications with regard to the Trinity, the creation, redemption, and the world ?

Systematic theology and the position of women

in the ministry of the Church

The divine Persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit transcend any sexual differentiation

From the very beginning Yahweh was one God (Ex. 3 :13-15 and 20:1-3); “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord” (Deut. 6:4). He alone is God, because the other gods did not deliver Israel, nor create the world. Also He is alone, in contrast to the divine couples who filled the mythologies of the Middle East at the time when the religion of Yahweh started. The Sumerians believed in a god and goddess who were the father and mother of all life: Enki personified the ocean and Ninhursag the earth-mother. The rain (or the storm) represented the life-giving sperm which touched the earth and so engendered the world. The Canaanites of Ougarit worshipped the god El who had two wives; he engendered two sons — the dawn and the dusk. In Babylon the cosmogonies were still more sexual; Ishtar was a goddess-lover rather than a goddess-mother. In the epic of Gilgamesh, the mythical background of the Yahvist story, the hero ironically enumerates the list of Ishtar’s lovers: Tammouz, the god of vegetation, but also the horse, the bird, the lion, the shepherd, etc. The gods were envisaged as creators, procreating like human beings. It is from them that sexuality draws its power to engender life, that marriage owes its stability as an institution, and that love derives its inexhaustible attraction. The divine archetypes were bound to be masculine or feminine, because the life of the world was thought to depend on its relation with the eroticism of the gods.


Yahvism represents a complete break-away from this background. Sexuality disappears completely from the divine sphere. Yahweh is the Creator; but He is never the procreator, as Baal was, in the form of a bull (Ex. 32; I. Kings 12:28-30). The Person of God is completely severed from the web of myths and rites which worshipped sexuality. God is unique, which means that He is not in the likeness of man, nor of woman, nor of them together. As soon as this basic principle was forgotten, Yahvism became corrupted, for instance among the Jews of Elephantine who, in the fifth century, worshipped the Canaanite god and goddess Baal and Anat side by side with Yahweh. The struggle against religious prostitution is a sign of the struggle for this principle (Deut. 23 : 18-19 ; I. Kings 14 : 24 ; II. Kings 23 : 7). On the other hand, the choice of Israel by Yahweh is often compared to the adoption of a son (Ex. 4 : 22-23 ; Deut. 1 : 31 ; Hosea 11 :1 ;Isaiah 1: 2). The Covenant between Yahweh and His people is still more frequently compared with a marriage of affection (Hosea 1 and 3 ; Jeremiah 2:2, 3 : 1-5, 31 : 31-34; Ezekiel 16 : 22; Isaiah 54). However, these two relations — paternal and conjugal — do not mean that sexuality is attributed to God, in this case masculinity, which we have seen as a sign of reversion to paganism. (9) Like all the parables, it was based upon the patriarchal realities of existing society, and was an explanation of the acts of God, not His nature. Like a father, but better than any human father, God constantly protects and supports His son. Like a husband, but better than any human husband who would repudiate an adulterous wife (Deut. 24: 1-4; Jer. 3 : 1), God does not repudiate His adulterous people, nor does He destroy them, for He says rightly, “I am God and not man” (Hosea 11:9). These parables do not imply that the character of God is predominantly masculine (and not feminine), paternal (not maternal), marital (not “uxorial”). They are expressions of Yahweh’s infinite love for His chosen people, expressed in terms of a patriarchal society.


That is why the Old Testament also contains passages in which the love of God is compared with the love of a mother for her child, or with the loyalty and affection of a wife for her husband: “You were unmindful of the Rock that begot you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth” (Deut. 32:18 — parallels in Isaiah 46:3 and 51:1). “Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me.’ ‘Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb ?’ ” (Isaiah 49:14; parallel in Psalm 131 : 2).


These passages are less numerous than those comparing God with a father or a husband; but their presence shows that the masculinity is merely symbolic. It is not one of the attributes of Yahweh, who cannot be described in terms of sex. Sex is a characteristic of God’s creatures, but not of the Creator Himself.


It is on the basis of these fundamental statements that the question must be asked: was Jesus Christ, the Son of God, a human being (anthropos) in the general sense, or was he specifically masculine (aner) ? He was clearly incarnate in the human condition which involves sexuality, even if John 1:13 states( perhaps in connection with his miraculous birth) the exclusion of the masculine element in the engendering of those who, through the Word, receive “power to become children of God, who were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh, not of the will of man (andros, not anthropou), but of God”. Jesus Christ, “bom of woman, bom under the law” (Gal. 4:4) was therefore masculine (anir).


But the fact of this masculinity does not qualify the theological meaning of his acts, still less or his nature, any more than the parables comparing Yahweh with a father or husband could “masculinise” the nature of God. That is why the Epistles, when speaking of the work of Jesus Christ, always carefully speak of him as anthropos: “The grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man (anthropos) Jesus Christ abounded for many.” (Rom. 5:15.) In accordance with the current usage in Judaism, the whole of chapter 5 uses Adam as a common name designating the whole human race, not as a proper name applying to a masculine individual, Jesus. “Being bom in the likeness of men (anthropos)” (Phil. 2 : 7). “The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven” (I. Cor. 15 :47), etc...


If Yahvism was particularly opposed to the feminine archetypes, the pagan goddesses, and drew a clear distinction between creation and procreation, the New Testament was mainly opposed to the ideal of virility handed down by Greece to the whole Hellenistic world. With the exception of the apax of I. Cor. 16 : 13 (“Quit yourselves like men”, andrizesthe), the writings of the apostles do not contain any exhortations to virile perfection such as were characteristic of the whole wisdom of antiquity ; they speak of growing up into the stature of the new man (anthropos), becoming adult and complete.


The Person of the Holy Spirit is also completely independent of the category of sex, although Syriac theology (and sometimes Orthodox theology) often regarded it as an archetype of femininity and of hypostatic maternity. The reason for this was the duality of the word Spirit in the Semitic language. Thus the Syriac texts speak of the Spirit as the “Comforter” (feminine), and the Gospel of the Hebrews ascribes to Christ the words “my mother, the Holy Spirit” (10). But if we keep to the biblical texts, the work of the Holy Spirit expresses itself in struggle as well as in consolation, in commitment as well as in giving birth, in all kinds of forms which are usually divided between men and women in human anthropology.


By their nature and by their work, therefore, all three Persons of the Trinity transcend the category of masculine or feminine. Admittedly, Yahweh is usually called Father. Christ was incarnate in Jesus, who was masculine. The first-fruits of the Spirit exist in the sense of a creation which “has been groaning in travail until now” (Romans 8 : 22). However, the Revelation defended itself successively on three fronts: against the pan-sexual cosmogonies of the Middle East, against the Hellenic ideal of virility, and against the Gnostic idea of childbirth. The Revelation constantly refused to apply the anthropological concept of sex-differentiation to the nature of God the Creator, the Redeemer and the Reconciler.

Man and woman created in the likeness of God

Genesis de-sexualised God the Creator, by correcting the sacred myths and rites of the Middle East. On the other hand it strongly insisted on the importance of the sex-differentiation among mankind. It is the only differentiation between human beings which is described as inherent, preceding the fall; it is also the only differentiation which is directly related to the likeness of God (Gen. 1: 26 and 27 : “So God created man in his own image... : male and female He created them”) and to God’s purpose in the creation (the whole of Genesis, chapter 2, especially verse 18: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him”). The origins of these two accounts are very different: the sacerdotal source (which is quite recent) is a “genealogy of the heavens and of the earth” (Gen. 2: 4a) formulated so that Israel should have a creed about the creation of the world, with which to confront the cosmogonies of the nations by which it was surrounded. The Jahvist source, which is older, is quite different. It is an aetiological(11)description of what happens between man and woman in their intimate relationship, where man’s sex-instinct attracts him to the woman and proves stronger than his patriarchal attachment to his parents (v. 24). This relationship also includes shame, fear and enmity between the sexes (Gen. 3:7, 12, 16), and after this perversion it also includes the desire to propagate and have children (Gen. 3 :20) until the possible day of deliverance, after the necessary time of fragility and protection. But although these two versions are so different, they both stress that originally there was a human couple. In this respect they complete one another. Genesis, chapter 1, describes God’s creative act in entrusting dominion over the creation not to man in the singular, but in the plural. This plural is used already in verse 26b, even before the mention of “male and female” in verse 27. Note also that their common mission is primarily to rule (v. 26b and 28b), while their fruitfulness (expressed in the same terms as the fruitfulness of the fish and the birds on the 5th day of creation, v. 28a = v. 22) is described as God’s blessing upon them. But human fruitfulness is not a sign of the species, as animal fruitfulness is (“according to their kinds”, v. 21, 24, 25); it is placed under the sign of that joint authority which characterises the mission of man and woman. Genesis, chapter 2, in a sense confirms in human terms the order of divine creation described by chapter 1. The male exercises his authority by giving names to all the living animals. But this leaves him with “no helper like himself” (2:20). God then created woman, and in her man discovered his feminine counterpart.


If one stops at this stage in reading “the order of creation”, one sees that it consists of a “joint authority” entrusted by God to man and woman over the whole creation (Gen. 1). This joint authority is ratified by the male, who felt very lonely in his domination until God created his counterpart (Gen. 2). In that case, the order of creation would be the joint exercise of authority, thus expressing the likeness of God.


However, the New Testament, especially the Epistles of Paul, read a different order of creation into these two chapters of Genesis. In order to reconcile these readings it is not sufficient to say that St. Paul refers to the order of the Fall (as is in fact the case in I. Cor. 14 : 34 : “The women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says”, probably refers to Gen. 3:16: “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you”, perhaps also to Numbers 30: 8-9 or to Isaiah 3 :12, or to Eccles. 7: 26-28). It must clearly be recognised that in I. Cor. 11 : 8-9 and I. Tim. 2: 13-14, St. Paul insists on the subjection of women in marriage, which was the reason for her not exercising authority over men, and her silence in church; he based this on the order of creation in accordance with Genesis, chapter 2. The two passages explain that Eve was made out of man, created because of him and after him. I. Tim. 2:14 adds that Adam was not tempted, but that Eve yielded to temptation. And I. Cor. 11:7 states that “man is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man”. They are therefore not jointly “the image of God” as stated in Gen. 1:26. If the order of creation is interpreted in accordance with St. Paul’s reading of Genesis chapters 2 and 3, there are two logical consequences. The first is that in marriage the authority is not in the hands of the wife. The second is that, in order to preserve that order of marriage in the Church or, if preferred, in order to confirm the order of creation by the order of redemption, it is necessary that women do not participate in the authority of the ministry.


This brings us to the heart of the problem.


Before trying to clarify it and to answer it, I think it would be useful to quote several of the different solutions which have been proposed. Some people think that the problem is primarily concerned with respect for the order of creation. Thus the Lutheran Zerbst_holds that “the exclusion of women from the office of preaching and administering the sacraments cannot be based on the nature of that office (12.) On the other hand, in his view the New Testament confirms the order of creation “by withholding women from the office of proclaiming the Word in the congregational assemblies” (13.) In the view of others, however, the problem mainly concerns the ministry. Thus in 1956 the Convocation of Canterbury saw no evidence in the Pauline writings against women leading prayers, but held that such evidence did exist against women holding office as priests, or occupying apostolic functions. St. Thomas would be inclined rather to put the two reasons side by side: “Even if a woman had become the object of everything contained in the orders conferred, she would not receive them. Since the sacrament is a sign, not merely the thing itself but its signification is required in all the sacramental actions. For instance, in the case of Extreme Unction, it is necessary to have a man ill, in order to signify the need for healing. Consequently, as it is not possible for the female sex to signify an eminent status, woman being under subjection, it follows that she cannot receive the sacrament of the order”. (14) Calvin argues on similar lines in his Commentary on I. Cor. 14 : “The responsibility for teaching and preaching occupies the highest place in the Church, hence it is contrary to subjection. How unsuitable it would be for a woman who is subject to a (church) member to have pre-eminence and authority over the whole body (of the church) ? It is an argument based on things which are repugnant. If women are under subjection, they cannot exercise public authority in preaching and teaching (15.) The central argument is always to stress the subjection of women, i.e. St. Paul’s interpretation of Genesis chapter 2,


Several hypotheses have been put forward to explain the obvious contradiction between this interpretation and the one which we have already examined — the joint authority of man and woman in the likeness of God.


M.E. Thrall (5) describes the heavenly likeness of God in mankind, which is to be realised eschatologically in history. On the other hand Genesis chapter 2 (according to Thrall) describes an order of creation which is incomplete, provisional and temporary (17) It describes the growth of human personality in the likeness of the Creator, starting with an earthly man called to use his freedom. The Fall described in Genesis, chapter 3 (according to Thrall) represents the misuse of this growth of personality, a bifurcation towards man’s domination, and the provisional exclusion of woman from the religious destiny of Israel. “Born of woman” was henceforward pejorative in meaning and meant “carnal” (Job 14:1, 2, 4; 15 :14; 25 : 4). Redemption re-opened the possibility of advancing from the order of Genesis 2 to that of Genesis 1. However St. Paul, through fear that women might have a paganising and contaminating influence, continued to exclude them (as in Genesis 2). Today St. Paul’s reasons for fearing the religious influence of women are no longer valid. We ought to admit them to full participation in the ministry. By doing so we would recognise the sanctifying influence of the redemption which effaces the effects of the Fall —just as the Early Church recognised that the “Gentiles” also shared in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Hence (concludes M. E.Thrall) women can exercise apostolic and prophetic authority in the Church, while at the same time remaining under the authority of their husbands at home.


Three difficulties arise which make this hypothesis rather unconvincing:

1.  How do we know that Genesis 2 is incomplete in comparison with the “perfect” character of Genesis 1 ? Does not Gen. 2 : 23-24 say that before the creation of woman the earth and the heavens were already completed by God (2:5)?

2.   Why was St. Paul, who was so open-hearted towards the Gentiles, so seriously mistaken in his attitude to women ? Did the New Testament (like the religion of the Rabbis) suspect them of idolatrous influence ? Apart from the enigmatic allusion to “angels” (bad angels, no doubt, who look at unveiled women in meetings) mentioned by L Cor. 11 :10, in my view the New Testament gives no examples of women being influenced by evil spirits, which might have justified Paul’s attitude.

3.   Lastly, is it possible to draw a distinction between the wife’s submission to her husband and her participation in the ministry of the Church, when St. Paul quotes that very submission in order to justify his refusal ?

Canon R. W. Howard (18) supports a similar hypothesis. In his view the insistence on men-priests in the Old Testament was a reaction against the feminism of the pagan religions before the time of Israel. Jesus stopped the pendulum from swinging back and forth in this way; he indicated a priesthood which would include both feminine and masculine characteristics in its nature (19). Unfortunately during the course of Church history the presence of women became associated again with heresy (Gnosticism, Montanism with Prisca and Maximilla, whose memory was not effaced by the women-martyrs, Anabaptism with the prophetesses of Munster). Today, however, this no longer affects our thinking. Many women exist with a thorough cultural and theological training, so that we could at last open the ministry to women — a step which ancient Israel did not dare to take, nor “the episcopal churches until quite recent times” (p. 10).

This line of argument is very sensitive to human destiny. Unfortunately it does not seem to answer the exact problem raised by Paul’s interpretation of Genesis 2.

The study of Russell C. Prohl (20)is much more enlightening, in my view. It begins by showing that Paul’s remarks are limited to the case of married women in relation to their own husbands (the adjective idios is found in most of the passages about wives and slaves : I. Cor. 7:2,4; 14: 35 ; Ephes. 5 : 22 ; Titus 2:5, I. Peter 3:1, 5 ; I. Tim. 3:4, 5 ; 5: 4 ; 6:1; Titus 2: 9, etc...). The issue is therefore the family (or domestic) order, and not an order applying to the status of the sexes or to social situations in general (21). The veil mentioned in I. Cor. 11 is the sign of this marital condition. Going unveiled would be behaving like a prostitute in Corinth. Here the Jewish customs seem decisive: if a man saw his wife out with her head uncovered, it was a valid ground for him to divorce her (22). The priest unveils the adulterous woman (Numbers 5:18). In those days veiling a concubine in the presence of six witnesses constituted her public marriage ceremony . Rebecca veils herself when her fiancé Isaac approaches (Gen. 24 : 65-67). "Converse with all sorts of men” (i.e. in an open meeting) was a form of dishonour in a wife ; she would be depriving her husband of the respect due to him (23). “The hair of women is sexually stimulating” and men must be on their guard against it. The same applied to a woman’s voice (24). These few indications show that it is the Old Testament which forms the background of I. Cor. 11, 14 and of I. Tim. 2, but in a very definite sense : the Old Testament interpreted as “the law”, indicating the conventions of marriage. St. Paul was anxious to maintain these conventions at Corinth and in all the Christian churches, so that the Church as a whole should not into disrepute because a marriage had been dishonoured. Paul’s vocabulary stresses this aspect of “conventions” — natural, social and scriptural, with many warnings and giving various motives. When reading fall this mélange of instructions and reasons, it must be recalled that in the first century it was more serious for a married woman to go out unveiled than for her to speak in public; the former was a much surer sign than the latter that she was unfaithful to her husband (25).

Prohl concludes that St. Paul had to protect the young churches against two forms of calumny: that of sedition against the political authorities, and that of destroying family life (26). Hence his well-known insistence on subjection to the established authorities (Rom. 13 :1-7,1. Tim. 2:1-2, 6:12, Titus 3:1,2; also I. Peter 2:13, 14; II. Peter 2:10). It also explains why he laid such stress on correct sexual behaviour and on the subjection of wives in meetings. These views have been misinterpreted by being applied too much to the Church, whereas they were really intended for married couples (I. Cor. 5:1-5; 6:18; 7:1-40 and I. Cor. 11: 1-16; 14: 35 ; Eph. 5: 22-31; 6:1-9; I. Tim. 2: 11-15; 4: 1-3 ; Titus 2:4-5; also I. Peter 3 :1-7).

This line of argument seems to me convincing, for it takes scrupulous account of the context. It explains in particular why St. Paul can speak of husband and wife sharing authority as equals in the private sphere (I. Cor. 7 which, as we have seen, recognises the authority (exousia) of the wife exactly like that of the husband on the sexual, personal and missionary level, v. 4 and 14), whereas he insisted on the wife being subjected to her husband in a hierarchical order when it was a question of marriage in the setting of the Church and of society (I. Cor. 11,14; I. Tim. 2 and also Eph. 5).

Unfortunately the conclusion drawn by Prohl is wrong. According to him, the hierarchical “order of creation” is still valid Tn the family, but not in the Church. This is also the conclusion drawriby Charles Westphal in his report on “women and the pastoral ministry” : “Although it is true that, in the family, the tran is the head of the woman, it is different in the Church, which is a body of which Jesus Christ is the sole Head, thus prefiguring the Kingdom in which God will be all in all. And as man and woman together are ‘the image of God’, they must take care of the Church of God together” (I. Tim. 3 : 5). (See Foi et Vie, Nov./Dec. 1949, p. 486.)

These conclusions are disconcerting. Are they not contrary to the Pauline passages which insisted on reciprocity in the family, but on hierarchy within the Church ? Are they not also contrary to the affirmations of Genesis 1 (“together forming the likeness of God”) and Paul’s interpretation of Genesis 2 (man as the direct image of God, and woman receiving that image through her husband, according to I. Cor. 11:3)? Do they not carry the difficulty a stage further without answering it? For if, according to the immutable order of creation, man is the head of woman, are not Paul’s conclusions irrefutable that women should keep silence and have no authority in the Church ?

One is forced to formulate the basic question: do St. Paul’s statements in I. Tim. 2:14 (Eve created second, but the first to fall), and also all the other passages which are equally perplexing (27) — are these statements in accordance with the order of creation described in Genesis 2 ; or are they an interpretation of that chapter shared by the recipients of the Epistles, both Greeks and Jews? In a word, are these passages written by St. Paul normative, both in their intention (which was to help the Church in its witness to the world) and also in their content ? Until this basic question has been decided, we shall be forced into false expedients, in my view, such as that of separating the concepts of ministry and authority, or speculating about the progressive evolution of the Church.

If we now re-read Genesis 2, after this long digression into the ideas of Paul, the crucial word seems to be verse 20 : “For the man there was not found a helper fit for him”. The Hebrew word used for “helper” is which is found 21 times in the Old Testament. It is used to designate Yahweh in Ex. 18:4, Deut. 33:7, Ps. 27:9; 33:20; 94:17; 115:9, 10, 11; 146:5. In 16 cases the word indicates a superior who “assists” us.ezer, In the other 5 verses it has no hierarchical sense (28). Woman, created after man, is therefore brought “into his presence” (cf. Ps. 16: 8) to be a support to him. If the word “ezer” is to be interpreted as “an assistant of inferior status”, this would contradict its constant use in the Old Testament. Thus Genesis 2 seems to confirm Genesis 1, although it was written much later. The Old Testament, therefore, does not describe two orders of creation, but a single order formulated twice for different purposes. The Epistles of Paul, on the other hand, are based on conventions which were indispensable to the Church’s testimony, but which do not interpret an “order of creation” (as was wrongly assumed by the Church for a long time, owing to incorrect exegesis).

If we adopt this point of view, we shall no longer see any permanent obstacle in the order of creation to the possibility of women sharing with men in the ministry of the Church, for according to Genesis 1 and 2 they hold “authority” jointly over the world. On the contrary we shall enquire into the “laws” and “conventions” which always prevented women in the Old Testament, nearly always in the .New Testament, and very generally in the history of the Church, from participating in the “presidence” of the sacrifices and of the Torah, in accordance with the Old Covenant, and in the Eucharist and the preaching of the Word in the New Covenant.

The ministries of redemption, and woman

It is not easy, it is true, to find theological justification for excluding women from the priesthood in the Old Testament, especially as the soteriological significance of woman and her children appears already in Genesis 3:15, and culminates in the faith of the Virgin Mary in the words of the angel (Luke 1:38), in accordance with the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 : “Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Woman thus appears to have been designed to mediate the grace of a redemption which begins immediately after the Curse, when Eve is called “the mother of all living” (Gen. 3 :20). In spite of this, in the Old Testament the priesthood was reserved for men, the Levitic priesthood being restricted to Aaron and his descendents (Ex. 27:21 ; 28:1 ; Lev. 16 : 32 ; Num. 4: 2-3). Furthermore women did not join the people in sacrificing to Yahweh : “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God at the place which he will choose : at the feast of unleavened bread, at the feast of weeks, and at the feast of booths.” (Deut. 16:16.) They occupied an inferior status among the priestly people : “You stand this day all of you before the Lord your God ; the heads of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, all the men of Israel, your little ones, your wives, and the sojourner who is in your camp, both he who hews your wood and he who draws your water.” (Deut. 29:10-11.)

Women were excluded from circumcision. They are not mentioned in the genealogies (only the fathers are given, not the mothers), they are not mentioned as personal members of the Chosen People. The last of these genealogies is in Matthew 1 :1-17 which says that “Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab” (v. 5) and that “Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth” (v. 6a),and that “David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah” (v. 6b). The last man mentioned in the genealogy is “Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was bom, who is called Christ” (v. 16). So that, despite the Virgin Birth, it is through Joseph that the genealogy of Jesus is traced back to David and to Abraham !

How can one explain this exclusive masculinism in depicting the relation between Israel and Yahweh ? Three explanations are possible. The first is a general and ancient one. Israel constituted itself as a nation with a patriarchal régime, in which the men were the heads, fathers and priests of the tribe. Women therefore formed part of the household of their husbands, in which they were merely the first element : “You shall not covet your neighbour’s house ; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbour’s.” (Ex. 20:17.) As Dr. S. Schechter writes : “The majority of Jewish women were entirely dependent upon men, and in religious matters they became a sort of appendage to their husbands.”(29). That is why, in Deuteronomy 16:16 the males officiated for everyone under their protection, “your son and your daughter, your manservant and your maidservant, the Levite who is within your towns, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are among you” (v. 11 and 14), the wife being tacitly included as the first of those under a man’s protection.

The second explanation is more specialised and more recent. Women are regarded as a possible source of idolatry, as the foreign woman who leads the people astray. In Proverbs 5 :T-14~; 7 :1-7 a portrait is given of a woman who leads men to death (as Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph, the last of the patriarchs, Gen. 3:9:7-20). In Nehemiah 13:1-3, 23-29 and Ezra 9-10 the constitution of Judaism was secured, and the laws against foreign women were stiffened. At the same epoch the Book of Ruth draws attention to the fact that the grandmother of David was a Moabite ; it is in fact a prophetic protest against this introversion practised by the Jewish people. The “Wisdom Literature” develops this theme of woman as the source of fall, right up to the Book of Tobit, in which Tobias saves Sarah from her demons which are the perdition of men by marrying her, and sanctifying the marriage by prayer. Then Ecclesiasticus 25:24 for the first time contains the famous exegesis, which is taken up by St. Paul in I. Tim. 2 :14 : “It is through woman that sin began, and it is because of woman that we shall all die”.(30)

But the third explanation is the most constant, the deepest, the only one which is reaily theological. Before the birth of Christ woman was blessed as the mother of all living people. Her true and special priesthood was to bring into the world sons who would perpetuate the Chosen People until the coming of the Messiah. Her fruitfulness was a sign of the blessing of Yahweh ; if she was sterile, it was a sign of being forgotten by Yahweh. She was not repudiated merely on account of this sterility, but no honour was paid to her. Whereas when she was a mother she was honoured on the same footing at the father. This is shown by the contrast between the 10th commandment (Ex. 20:17) and the 4th commandment, “honour thy father and thy mother” (Ex. 20:12) ; repeated in another form in Lev. 19:3 : “Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father”. Similarly men were punished for adultery just as severely as women. The anti-type of “the foreign woman” here is “the wife of your youth” (Prov. 5 :18 ; Malachi 2 :15) who promises children (Tobit 6:21-22). All the laws of Israel made provision in her favour : the Levirate law whereby she gave children to her husband’s family, or if he died by his brother or even by her father-in-law, if the brother’s promise was forgotten, as in the case of Tamar with Judah (Gen. 38 :1). A letter of repudiation protected women, giving them higher status than widows, and much higher status than unmarried women. The law concerning impurity protected her blood, the sacred home of life. Not only affectively, but also theologically, maternity was the specific vocation of women, according to the Old Testament. By giving the people male children, women mediated the grace of God; whereas men mediated that grace through sacrifice and (in Judaism after the Exile) more and more through the Torah.

These three reasons — the first two negative, the third positive — explain why the problem of women-priests never entered people’s minds in the Old Testament.

What is left of these reasons in the New Testament ? The patriarchal régime was still quite general, although tribal life had disappeared ; so had polygamy. Malachi even makes excuses for the patriarch Abraham on this score: “The Lord was witness to the covenant between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. And did not he make one ? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed.” (Mal. 2:14-15a.)!

Another source of fear is the idolatry introduced by women, sometimes expressed in I. Cor. 11:10 (“A woman ought to have a veil on her head, because of the angels”); in Rev. 2:20 (“You tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and beguiling my servants to practice immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols”); Rev. 9: 8 and 14:4 (“Those who have not defiled themselves with women”) — an interpolation by an encratite, or an allusion to ritual prostitution —17: 3,6,7,18 (31) But this fear was merely incidental. A great many other passages mention the sanctifying grace of women. Even the Book of Revelation speaks of woman as “the Bride of the Lamb” (21:9) and of the marriage of the Church (12:1 ; 12: 6).

It is the third motive especially which has disappeared. Since the birth of Christ maternity in itself is no longer a vocation which mediates grace. Only on two occasions does the New Testament speak about bearing children (technogonia, I. Tim. 2:15 and 5:14). On both occasions it is an exhortation to “continue” in maternal faith and love. But they are certainly not supplications (as found in the Old Testament) for God’s blessing on fruitfulness, because the same Epistles contain warning against Judaising reversion to religious speculations about the genealogies (I. Tim. 1:4; Titus 3:9). The mother’s joy when her child is bom is as great as the disciples’ joy when they discovered that Christ had risen from the dead (John 16:21). But there is nothing vocational or sacred about her joy.

Of the three reasons for excluding women from the priesthood in the Old Testament, the New Testament therefore regards the first two reasons as conventions observed for reasons of prudence, and it fundamentally rejects the third as an anti-messianic regression. Therefore one can no longer say: the ministry is for men, and maternity is for women. If one did, one would be failing to realise the radical difference between the Levitical priesthood and the Christie priesthood. The New Testament contains no positive indication of the precise will of God. _Women are given grace to evangelise, just like men; and the task (ministry) of building up the Church also seems to be open to bothsexes. Only one reservation is made, to which attention was drawn in the previous paragraph : that the “laws” and “conventions” conducive to building up the Church and making a good witness to the world should be observed today as attentively as they were by the generation of St. Paul.

But why was apostleship reserved for men, just like the priesthood in the Old Testament ? If a radical change was to be manifest here, as in the change-over from circumcision to baptism, why did it not take concrete form? The question is all the more important because Jesus addressed himself to women just as much as to men, and the apostles were quite capable of breaking away from Jewish traditions on much more serious matters that that of women-ministers.

We must admit that we have no convincing answer. Those who interpret this Fact to mean that apostleship and masculinity are congruent are forced to interpret I. Cor. 11 : 3 in the form of a ladder: “The head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” On this ladder man is the mediator between woman and Christ(32). But the idea of a ladder with superior and inferior rungs is precisely what is not implied here. Quite the contrary : it expresses St. Paul’s argument that “the head of a woman is her husband” in two statements, one soteriological, the other trinitarian. It is a verse which has recourse to persuasion by analogy; but it does not announce a hierarchy of God-Christ-man-woman; moreover this was contradicted in all the other Pauline texts. Here I merely quote the correction which St. Paul immediately added, in order to avoid any misunderstanding of his statement: “For as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God” (v. 12).

The same applies to the argument whereby man would be the sacramental sign of grace bestowed, and woman the sacrificial sign of grace received. Men and women are “joint heirs of the grace of life” (I. Peter, 3 : 7-9), and both are to offer their “bodies as a living sacrifice” as their “acceptable and perfect service” (Rom. 12 : 1). Women may therefore announce grace to the. world and be direct missionaries of Christ’s mediation — not as the result of the failure or faithlessness of man (as M. von Allmen maintains).

However, there were no women among the Twelve Apostles. In my view this fact should not be minimised, or ascribed (as Mr. Howard does) simply to the fact that it was impossible in the first century A. D. for a woman to undertake missionary journeys. (33) Personally I think there may be a strong reason behind it : the Twelve Apostles correspond to the new Israel. They were all Jews (although Jesus had found “greater faith than in all Israel” (Matt. 8 :10) in the centurion at Capernaum); and they were all men. Jesus did not break away from Israel. He answered the Canaanite woman, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” and told her: “It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs” (Matt. 15 : 24-26). In Jesus’s view, it would have meant breaking away from the Israelite tradition to choose a woman as one of the Apostles, just as it would have been to choose a Gentile. It was only after his death and resurrection, when his presence had been testified by the Holy Spirit, that this break occurred in the case of the centurion Cornelius : “If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?” (Acts 11:17), was then Peter’s conclusion. It was before this discovery that an Apostle was chosen to replace Judas. If the twelfth Apostle had been chosen after the conversion of Cornelius, the Eleven might perhaps have chosen a converted Gentile, or a woman, instead of a Jewish man.

The question certainly arose when Paul opposed opening the ministry of the Church to women. The arguments which he invoked were not the male priesthood of the Old Testament, nor the fact that Jesus Christ "was a man, nor that the Apostles were all men (the three great traditional arguments in church-history). The last two cases, at any rate, would have been theological reasons of singular weight. As we have seen, the reason he gave was the need for the young Church to safeguard the honour of marriage, the building-up of that Church by teaching submission to the Apostle’s words, as the women within it did. “Did the word of God originate with you, or are you the only ones it has reached ?” (I. Cor. 14:36.) His last reason was that the Church should make a suitable witness to the Gentiles “as befits women who profess godliness” (I. Tim. 2 :10), “so that, when you are abused, those who revile your good behaviour in Christ may be put to shame” (I. Peter 3 : 16).

Later on the Church, especially in the East, threw open to women the regular ministry of deaconess, which was directly under the jurisdiction of the bishop and involved the laying on of hands (cheirotonia, cheirothesia). The existence of the gynaecea made their work extremely valuable ; they also performed baptism and instructed women-candidates for confirmation. , this Order of deaconesses was always limited. In 451 A.D. the Council of Chalcedon recommended that women should not be ordained as deaconesses until they were over 40 years of age, and the Council declared its anathema against married deaconesses. When the Moslem influence came too close, the order disappeared towards the twelfth century. In the West, we know nothing about deaconesses before the fourth century, perhaps because they were less useful, and also because of the strong influence of Africa. In 394 A.D. the Council of Nîmes rejected the claims of women-immigrants Howeverfrom the East to exercise the “Levitical ministry”. For a century the Councils continued to discourage them, on the pretext of “the weakness of their sex”. However, their influence was gradually extended between the Vth and the XIIth centuries, although they had no right to teach men, to pray aloud, to go towards the altar, nor to bestow a blessing. Then monasticism conferred sex-equality with the advent of the nun, and the Abbess was invested with extraordinary power, both liturgical and administrative. (34)

I have left my comments on the Bible here, simply in order to show how, in the later history of the Church, the conventions of the church and sociological circumstances influenced the ebb and flow of women’s participation in the ministries. With regard to the weight of tradition, M. E. Thrall’s conclusion therefore seems to be perfectly sound : “If the ordination of women can be justified on the biblical bases, within the context of orthodox church life, the evidence of tradition during the first three centuries should not be regarded as a decisive argument against it ”(35).

On the basis of the New Testament it seems as if the exercise of the ministry is completely open to women, without it being possible to draw a theological distinction between preaching the Word (36), administering baptism, presiding at the Eucharist (37), and pastoral counselling. For dogmatically the elements in the Church’s ministry are equal in dignity and in divine presence — as St. Paul affirms in the lists of ministries where he enumerates the manifestations of the Spirit bestowed for the common good (cf. especially I. Cor. 12:6 : “There are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one”).

The honour due to the relations between men and women, and the evangelisation of the pagan world

I can be briefer here, forthe material to be considered has already been quoted. According to the New Testament, the Church exists in order, through its Word and through its behaviour as a community, to announce the good news of God’s mercy in Jesus Christ. It was for this reason that the apostolic Church was on its guard against the regular participation of women in the ministry. Its reasons were not based on the nature of the Persons of the Trinity, nor on the nature of the order of creation according to Genesis 2, nor on the essence of the ministry of Christ. The founders of the churches, and then the bishops and presbyters at the head of them, were afraid that women might take off their veils, express an opinion, or exercise authority ; this would have caused confusion in the Church, destroying its peace, delivering it to confusion between what was spiritual and what was sexual, between preaching and idle talk (, I. Cor. 14: 35), between authority and subjection to their husbands as was "suitable "(prepon, I. Cor. 11:13; Ephes. 5 : 3 ; I. Tim. 2 :10 ; Titus 2 :1).lalein The word is so often repeated, precisely in this context, that the motives of the apostle are perfectly clear.

Is it “suitable” today (to use the same word as St. Paul) for Christian testimony to be given in this way ? Is it always “suitable” with regard to men and women in their mutual relations, in the assembled Church, and in face of the world watching the Church ? Here the Churches should assume a “responsible” attitude, for in principle there is no biblical evidence against the participation of women in the ministry. It is only on the level of facts that the Bible expressed misgivings. The replies will differ, because they will have to be based on responsible consideration, and not on obedience to Scripture (38).

If it is true that the answer is based on “conventional” considerations, is the answer bound to be in the affirmative ? I do not think so, for the “bene esse” of the “conventions” is binding upon the “esse” of the Church — or rather, there is no “esse” in the ministry which can be separated from the “bene esse” of its incarnation. St. Paul’s answer took due account of the incompatibility of public ministry with the position, nature, culture and exegetical interpretation of woman- hood at that time. Today we must examine the question on the same level, very seriously, if we want to be really true to Scripture and tradition.

I will briefly indicate what seems suitable, and what seems unsuitable (in my opinion) today. Of course, the responsible decision will depend on each situation — just as Paul did not ask the “deaconess-president” Phoebe to observe his recommendations to the wives in Corinth — a congregation filled with charismata, paganism and disorder...


1.The honour and respect due to married women no longer involve (as they did in St. Paul’s time) that they should wear veils, keep silent, and be in subjection to their husbands. It would be inverting the meaning of St. Paul’s statements to assume that they meant that Christian wives should be obliged to “become” subject to their husbands in this way, contrary to the practice of the society in which they live. The Epistles exhort Christian women to “continue” living in accordance with the marriage-tradition of that time, and to give new meaning to this existing reality by living in Christ. (The wife is compared to the Church subject to its Lord; the husband is compared to Christ, the head of the Church, giving himself for her. Eph. 5). So that marriage is no longer compromised by women exercising authority in public life. Today secular society does not see anything to be ashamed of if women exercise such authority. The Church has no reason to forbid it, because it was only in view of a non-Christian society that St. Paul asked Christian wives to keep silence and to wear veils. It is a direct infringement of St. Paul’s words if one inverts the order and prevents women from bearing witness to the world on the pretext of the custom of the Church.

2. Neither anthropologically, nor biologically, can the nature of women any longer be described merely by the adjective “weak”. “Husbands, live considerately with your wives, bestowing honour on the woman as the weaker sex” — literally vessel (I. Peter 3:7). Weakness and strength are more equally divided between the sexes . Here again the New Testament based its attitude on the actual situation at that time, but did not proclaim it as a theological necessity.

3.The education of women is the tremendous new phenomenon which makes the independence of women today entirely different from the talkative, "indecent" emancipation of the Hellenistic era. When a woman is trained in theology, espe­cially, she becomes edifying (no longer disturbing) in a Church. This does away with St. Paul's argument about women speaking in I. Cor. 14: 1-40.

4.St. Paul's exegesis of Genesis 2 was "conventional", tuned to the intellectual convictions of those to whom he was writing, just as the scriptural typology of the author of Hebrews was suited to them (Harnack attributed this Epistle to Priscilla, the wife of Aquila). This does not mean that these conventions are part of the content of the revelation. It means that, in one case, they announced that the submission of women would be beneficial for the Church; in the other case, they announced Jesus Christ as the sole Priest.

On the contrary, today we must agree to honour Christian marriage, to respect the natural, cultural fact that women are cooperating with men (without being interchangeable with them) in building up the Church and in evangelising the non-Christian world, so that in future the Church may no longer be calumniated as a hotbed of masculine conservatism filled with prejudice about sex and taboos which carry no conviction, because they are not scriptural. In deciding "respon­sibly" to open the full ministry to women, a Church takes account of all these factors. Like the Apostles, the Church shows that it is being careful not to cause the pagans to blaspheme against the Word of God and to criticise the Church for its unrealistic conduct in face of facts, its injustice to persons, and especially for the sterilising effect upon itself, when it should be the light of the world.


But by taking this decision to open the ministry to women, a Church may merely be yielding without conviction to the wishes of individuals, or to extra-theological pressure. Its decision is in that case unsuitable. It gives rise to "dis­order" and not to "peace" (I. Cor. 14 : 33) ; it causes division and counter- evangelism. I give below some of the "unsuitable" results which may occur today. They are different from those at the time of St. Paul. They are not literal, but faithful.

1.The danger of the Church becoming more "feminised". Christian men, and non-Christian ones, make it a pretext to absent themselves, or at any rate to efface themselves, so that women can monopolise the work of the Church. It may be added here, however, that there has been no "invasion" of the ministries in the churches, because the spiritual demands were greater than the claim which was rejected by the opponents of ordination for women.

2.The danger of measuring qualification for the ministry by the cultural level of the candidates and not by the need for building up church life and for influencing the non-Christian environment in which it lives. A diploma from a Faculty of Theology does not in itself entitle anyone to enter the ministry. But this argu­ment applies to men just as much as to women.

3.The danger of speaking about the ministries as if they were "rights" to be acquired and not forms of grace to be recognised. This would mean confusing the opening of the last "profession" that is closed to women with the "emanci­pation" of women, or "raising of women's status" — whereas every form of ministry is essentially submission to God's will and to human needs. Those who make "propaganda" for the ordination of women are always in danger of creating such confusion, especially if the ministry is presented as an intrinsic authority, whereas its authority exists only "for building you up and not for destroying you" (II. Cor. 10: 8-10; 13: 10; these are the only two passages in the New Testament where an apostle is recognised as holding authority over his congregation in his pastoral function)39

4.Lastly, the difficulty for a woman pastor of reconciling her family life with her pastoral ministry. On the theological level this question presents a problem for all women, both married and single. If there is dogmatic justification for the ordination of unmarried women, such justification must also hold good in the case of married women-pastors. Here we enter a sphere of practical questions, on which Howard and Thrall have made excellent suggestions 40

The arguments about suitability and unsuitability do not balance one another, however, for the former indicate new opportunities of placing capable women in the full-time service of the churches, which need to rally all their forces in order to evangelise the pagan world 41. The examples of "unsuitability", on the other hand, seem rather to indicate dangers to be avoided, misunderstandings to be dispelled, and sometimes pretexts to be eliminated. Nevertheless they should be carefully considered by every Church when taking a responsible decision, i.e. a decision which is ecclesial and ecumenical.


This ecumenical task does not consist in returning to the common traditions, but in participating together in a renewal 42. The Churches which are most opposed today to the ordination of women — for instance Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and in some respects the Anglican episcopate — are also the churches which are most sensitive to the new needs of a changing world. Their refusal to admit women to the ministry is based on tradition rather than on Scripture. On the other hand the churches in which the ordination of women is most discussed (the Lutheran Churches, the Presbyterian Churches, and some Anglican trends...) come up against the problem, what is the right interpretation of the Bible. Is there not room for hope, therefore, that rather than aggravating the divisions between the churches the discussion concerning the compatibility of womanhood with the Christie ministry may be recognised by all the churches, not as an influence of secularism, but as a fruit of biblical and liturgical renewal ?[4]

If this question had been raised in the XlXth century, it might have been regarded as purely modernistic. But in our contemporary situation the question is, in my view, entirely theological; from the ecumenical standpoint it is therefore just as fruitful as the (equally new) questions about episcopal equality, the renewal of the diaconate and the ministry of the laity. All the churches today are seeking ways of rallying all their forces in the service of the Gospel, in a world which is relapsing into paganism. Recognition of the full ministry of women is deeply related, not primarily to the evolution of society, but to this creative search by the Church which is the light of the world.

Paris, 7th March 1963


1. Cf. the Smalkaldic Article : “The New Testament ministry is not bound up with places and persons like the Levitical ministry... It exists wherever God bestows His gifts : apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers. The ministry is not based on personal authority, but on the authority of the Word given by Christ... It is of little importance who preaches it or teaches it.” The same affirmations are made in Article 34 of the Confession of Westminster : “It is not necessary that tradition and ceremonies be in all places one and utterly alike... (provided) that nothing be ordained against God’s word.”

2. It was on this royal priesthood of all believers that Catherine of Siena relied for her courage in undertaking her vocation, which was to prove so important for the Church and for the world. We quote a very beautiful extract from her diary : "O Lord, how can I act as thou hast done... my sex is an obstacle, as thou knowest.” But the Lord answered : “I pour out my Spirit upon whomsoever I will. There is neither man nor woman, plebeian or noble. All are eaual in my sight... Therefore my daughter, it is my wilHhat you should appear in public.” (Quoted by Howard in Should Women be Priests? page 2.)

3. This exclusion of women is continued in the history of the Church. Although he is a vigorous advocate of change, Howard tersely recognises the fact: “It is as clear as crystal that no woman has ever been ordained to the full priesthood in the episcopal churches until quite recent times (except among heretics). The tradition against it was clear and invariable.” Op. cit., p. 16.

4. It must be noted that neither Deborah nor Huldah were prevented from full exercise of their prophetic gifts, because they were married. This might indicate that there is no opposition in principle to married women in the ministry, if the ordination of women were recognized by the Church.

5. The Septuagint was to restrict still more the scope of women’s participation in worship (mentioned only twice in the Old Testament). The expression “ministering” in Ex. 38 : 8 is replaced by "fasting” and the verse I. Sam 2 : 22 is omitted. The same trend towards excluding women from worship was seen in the architecture of the Temple. The Temple built by Solomon had no separate court for women ; this was an addition after the Exile.

6. According to K. H. Rengstorf (quoted by Thrall), the real successors of the Old Testament prophets were the apostles. Whether this is true or not, the ministry of the prophets and prophetesses is of central significance, even if it is only episodic in time.

7. Cf. Prohl, Woman in the Church, p. 70. The author expresses the hypothesis that Phoebe may, before her conversion, have been dike Damaris who is mentioned in Acts 17: 34) an Athenian Hetaira, i.e. an intellectual woman who moved in philosophical circles.

8. Cf. C. H. Dodd, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, London. 1932. These greetings in Romans 16 were certainly interpreted in very different ways by different generations of theologians. Commenting on verse 13, “Greet Rufus, eminent in the Lord, also his mother and mine”, John Knox wrote : "It is perfectly clear here that the administration of God’s grace was denied to all women” ! ! (Laing’s edition of Knox’s Works IV, p. 382, Quoted in "The place of women in the Church”, p. 30, Edinburgh,

9. The practice of wearing priestly robes is theologically derived from this de-sexualisation of the wearer, in the image of Yahweh who was de-sexualised from the gods and goddesses of paganism.

10. Texts and commentary in PAUL EVDOLOMOV Sacrement de I’amour, p. 42-51, Paris 1962.

11. "Regardless of Paul’s redactive preface, does the Genesis 2 account express an immutable theological principle ; or does it, in fact, simply rationalise in myth form the empirical situation of woman in contemporary society ?” (SHERWIN BAILEY in Theology, September 1954).

12. Fritz Zerbst (tr. by Merkens): The office of woman in the Church, p. 105, Saint Louis. Concordia, 1955.

13..Idem, p. 68.

14. Summa theologica III. Supplement a. 34 LXVIII.

15. Commentary on I. Cor. 14 : 34-40 ad locum.

16.The Ordination of Women to the Priesthood,SCM Press, London, 1958.

17. Thrall bases her ideas on the tradition of Irenaeus, as opposed to that of Athanasius. Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas, Calvin, etc.

18. Should Women be Priests? Blackwell, Oxford, 1949. Especially pp. 22-25.

19. The author quotes Luke 13 :34 : "O Jerusalem. Jerusalem ! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings”, to prove that in his priesthood Jesus Christ is both paternal and maternal, the Bridegroom of a Church consisting of men and women. The quotation is interesting, for its Old Testament source (II Esdras 1 : 28-32) spoke of God as a Father.

20. Woman in the Church, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1957.

21. Prohl bases his views here on Saint John Chrysostom, Calvin Meyer Zerbst, Calvin, Meyer, Zerbst.

22. See Strack-Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Mischna III, p. 429, Munich, 1954. Cf. J. M. Powis-Smith, The Origin and History of Hebrew Law, p. 232, Chicago 1961, quoted by Prohl, p. 27.

23. Talmud XVIII, Kethuboth II, 448, 552. "The voice of a woman uncovers her nakedness” (Rabbin Eleazar), quoted by Me Blocher-Saillens, Libérées pour Christ, p. 128. It was a rule a woman accused of adultery should have her hair cut off, while pronouncing this formula : “Because thou hast not observed the custom of the daughters of Israel to veil thy head, thou shall bear the consequences”. (Talmud Nedarim XIX, 56, 57, quoted by Dr Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life

24. Talmud Berakoth XXX1 145

25. Text of Valerius Maximus, Roman orator in the first century, quoted by Prohl, p. 60.

26. Fronto of Cirta, tutor of Marcus Aurelius, accused the Christians of "confusing the sexes” at the expense of marriage. Quoted by Prohl, p. 56.

27. I do not follow F. J. Leenhardt’s exegesis here. La place de la femme dans Eglise d'après le Nouveau Testament, p. 40-44, Montpellier 1948, he opposes I. Tim. 2 to I. Cor.
4 and 14. The atmosphere of the pastoral Epistles is certainly different from that of the great Pauline Epistles, as Dr. Marga Bührig shows in her report. But the arguments do not differ much, although I. Tim. 2 is cruder than I. Cor. 11.

28. References given in Prohl, p. 35-37.

29. Dr S Schechter Studies in Judaism p.389

30. This interpretation was discussed throughout the history of the Church. Saint Ambrose comments upon it as follows : "In the Fall of our first parents, there is more excuse for the woman. For the man allowed himself to be tempted by his sister, his equal. Whereas Eve was tempted by an angel — a fallen angel, it is true, but nevertheless a creature superior to a human being. Moreover repentance manifested itself sooner in the heart of Eve, and the excuse which she gives for her fault was inspired by a more general feeling, since she blames the serpent ; whereas Adam defends himself to God by accusing his companion.”
31.Vestiges of this association between women and impurity were still found in the Church’s reservations concerning women partaking of the sacraments during the menstrual period. (See especially Pope Gregory the Great’s reply to Saint Augustine in 597. Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica LI, chapter 27.)

32. This is the decisive factor in the argument of Prof. J. J. von Allmen, and others. (Address given to the Commission on the Pastoral Ministry of the Reformed Church of France, 4th February, 1963, published in Verbum Caro, 1963, No. 65.)

33. Should Women be Priests? p. 18.

34. Many indications concerning the ministries of widows, virgins and deaconesses during the first centuries are given in D. Sherwin Bailey, The Man-Woman Relation in Christian Thought, p. 64-69, Longmans, London, 1959.

35. Thrall, op. cit„p. 113.

36. Cf. Charlotte von Kirchbaum, Der Dienst der Frau in der Wortverkündigung, Theologische Studien. No. 31. Zollikon-Zurich, 1951, and Découverte de la Femme, Roullet, Genève, 1950, 144 p.

37. “There would seem to be nothing theologically inappropriate in a woman’s acting in the eucharist as the representative of Christ” (Thrall, op. cit., p. 97).

38. In 1958, out of 168 Churches which were members of the WCC, 48 Churches admitted women to the full ministry, 9 to partial or occasional ministry ; 90 Churches did not admit them at all ; 21 Churches did not answer the enquiry. Cf. the document published in May 1958 by the department of Cooperation between Men and Women, Report 25 p. Summary of facts 33p. A systematic check to bring this information up-to-date is now proceeding. Cf. also the introductory chapter in Prohl's Woman in the Church which gives the exact facts about the Lutheran Churches throughout the world. For information about the Anglican Churches see Howard, for the Presbyterian Churches see The Place of Women in the Church ,A study document issued by the Church of Scotland, Edinburgh,1959. Lastly the whole picture is suumed up by KATHLEEN BLISS The Service and Status of Women in tne Churches LONDON, 1952

39. For an analysis of the New Testament concept of, authority in connection with the ministry, see ANDRE DUMAS, L'Ordre dans VEglise ("Foi et Vie", Nov./Dec. 1955, p. 489-511).

40. HOWARD, p. 37;

41.THRALL, p. 108.

42. The German book Die Vikarin (Der Dienst der Frau in den Ämtern der Kirche), Burck- hardthaus-Verlag, Gelnhausen änd~Berlin, 1956, is a convincing presentation of this new source of wealth for the Church , especially in Eastern Germany7~<7Dne won^ered wTetherTHe ordination of women was explained solely by The emergency situation. But since 1945 it has become more evident every year that the congregations approve the service of the Pfarrvikarin" (p. 76). "It is therefore difficult to see why the woman-theologian cannot be called Pfarrerin, pastor" (p. 88). I 4 We quote from the Report submitted to the First Assembly of the WCC at Amsterdam in 1948 on the Ordination of Women : "The churches are not agreed on the important question of admission of women to the full ministry. Some churches for theological reasons are not prepared to consider the question of such ordination ; some find no objection in principle but see administrative or social difficulties ; some permit partial but not full participation in the work of the ministry ; in others women are eligible for all offices of the Church. Even in the last group, social custom and public opinion still create obstacles. In some countries a shortage of clergy raises urgent practical and spiritual problems. Those who desire the admission of women to the full ministry believe that until this is achieved the Church will not come to full health and power. We are agreed that this whole subject requires further careful and objective study. "Information and guidance in connection with these and other problems might usefully be provided by the World Council of Churches, and it is therefore urged that the "Life and Work of Women in the Church" remain one of its particular concerns." {Official Report on the Amsterdam Assembly, 1949. SCM Press, Ltd., London, page 147).

43. In his preface (dated 25th March, 1949) to Howard's book, LEONARD HODGSON, former Secretary of Faith and Order, expresses the following ecumenical wish: "Personally I am in favour of the ordination of women to the ministry and of their being consecrated as bishops. Sooner or later I believe that every Church on earth - Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant - will obey the voice of Our Lord on this question." "But in the meantime", he added, "we must expect a great deal more emotional dynamite about it." "There is at least a possibility that we are resisting the Spirit" (THRALL, p. 114).

The question of the ordination of women in the Light of some New Testament Texts

by Dr. Marga Bührig

 (Director of “Boldernhaus”, Zürich, and Editor of the“Evangelische Schweizerfrau”)

The question of the ordination of women, which is now being discussed in various churches of the world, makes it necessary for us to face up to our understanding of Holy Scripture. It is a fact that arguments both “for” and “against” are based on the Bible, which makes urgent a critical examination of the basic conception of the binding nature of particular statements in the biblical books, and of the Bible as a whole. This urgency is all the more pressing, in that the particular N.T. texts, which are frequently quoted (e.g. I. Cor. 11, 3ff., 14, 33ff.; Gal. 3 : 28,1. Tim. 2 :11-15) are not uniform, and can only be harmonized with difficulty. The differences, which are seen today within the “Ecumene” of the churches, are already to be found in nuce in the N.T. Can criteria be found — (or how can they be found ?) — for the comparative evaluation of the two sides ? What is prevailing in this varied evaluation of the texts, when the supporters, for example, take their stand exclusively on Gal. 3 :28, and their opponents on I. Tim. 2: 11-15? A deliberate theological understanding of scripture as a whole, which is similarly applied to all other areas of church life ? Or, in this particular field which concerns man in his inmost being, is it “non-theological factors” which prevail ? In what follows, the attempt is made to bring to bear some hermeneutic considerations.

In the understanding of these texts, two extremes must, in any case, be avoided. They must not be taken out of their original contexts, and treated as absolute norms of everlasting validity (the very fact of their disagreement excludes this). But they must also not simply be rejected as conditioned by, and applying to, their own age alone (this is contradicted by respect for Holy Scripture as a whole). If both these courses are excluded, what possibilities remain ?

According to the new trend in theological research, even biblical texts of both Old and New Testaments are to be read as historical texts, i.e. they can only be heard and understood, and they are only binding, when they are seen in relation to a particular situation. In the Bible, God never speaks into a vacuum; He speaks through men to men. So He speaks through Paul to men and women of the community in Corinth, a community living in a particular historical situation. When we, as men of our day, read these texts, we will of course ask ourselves if we have the same needs and queries. It is clear that we both meet amazing coincidences, and also that we have to realise that our questions and presuppositions are basically different from those of the N.T. This last is especially true of churches with long traditions, and for countries with a social order which is essentially conditioned by the influence of the Gospel or of the Christian Church (Western Christendom, the so-called “post-christian world”). Here the biblical witness is no longer — as at the time of the first communities — brand new, in a world untouched by the Gospel; it is confronted by men and relationships, already under the sign of Jesus Christ, and developed under the influence of the Gospel. It will be essential to bear this in mind during any discussion of the texts, particularly in the matter of the position of women, for it can be shown that the impetus towards the equality of women came from the Gospel; this is something which is repeated in all the missionary churches (e.g. founding of girls’ schools by missions, and the beginnings of “emancipation”). The fact that arguments for a conservative and obstructive attitude on the part of the churches are being drawn today from the same Bible, must make us think anew — i.e. it faces us inexorably with the question of our understanding of these texts, and of the validity of their message for us, who live in a changed world, indeed in a world which has been changed by them ! Is there one pure, timeless message to be drawn from this situation, some kind of standing doctrine on the service of women in the Church, or at least a basic minimum which is valid for all time ? Something like this seems presupposed in the following sentences by Charlotte von Kirschbaum Der Dienst der Frau in der Wortverkündigung, Eyang. Verlag Zollikon/Zuffch 1951, p. 21), which in general comes very close to what is said here: “The apostolic exhortations and injunctions are not legal prescriptions, but living finger-posts, pointing in a definite direction, marking out a particular area, within which we have to hear that instruction today. They have someting precise to say to us today. We are not undermining the timelessly valid presupposition of the Pauline exhortation, that woman within the order which conditions the relationship of man and woman, is in a subordinate position...”.

It seems to me doubtful whether we really can and should hear that “instruction”, or whether the texts really say “something precise” (i.e. with a particular content) to us to-day. Is it possible — how is it possible ? — to subtract what is conditioned by its age, and find a timelessly valid message ? Should we not start from quite a different place ? Paul, in his exhortation and injunctions to the Corinthians, for example, appeals to the fact that both he and they are members of the Body of Christ (see the introduction to the Letter : both his apostolic office and their “office” as Christians mean membership of the body of Christ, even if the office of an apostle has a particular and unique position). That he and they are rooted in Christ is the ground and background of all he has to say. So also is his extreme interest in the building-up of this body. Even where he speaks of husband and wife, or of marriage and celibacy, he is not primarily, but only secondarily, interested in these. The important thing is that they all, men and women, married and unmarried, are members of the body of Christ, children of God and heirs of the promise, and that they ought now to live in accordance with this calling. At this point we can certainly join in the conversation. Here we are contemporary with the Apostle, for this presupposition is also valid for us. We likewise speak of the ordination of women i.e. of their position in the Christian Church, from this point of view. For us, as well as for the Apostle, the important thing is the building-up of this body, so that it can properly fulfil its mission to the world. This mission is bound for all time to the mission of Jesus Christ himself, and this means that in the question we are discussing christological and ecclesiological criteria must be decisive, not our understanding of the psychology and task of women, although this understanding, which comes from the historical situation, will always be a factor in the conversation.

Here again is a point where the N.T. texts can give us standards and direction. We can learn from them how temporary circumstances presupposed in the world are taken up, and then taken into the Christ-event, into the proclamation of the gospel and the teaching and admonition of the community. This goes so far that functions and “callings” of the then world — or at least their names — were taken over from the world into the community. This can be shown in the case of the words episkopos and diakonos (see Kittel ThWbNT), though of course this says nothing about the change in their content through the new relationship to Christ and the integration into His body. In any case this procedure presupposes considerable freedom and ease with regard to the so-called world — that freedom to which Christ frees those who belong to him.

A further example of this procedure is given by the so-called “Haustafeln” (e.g. Eph. 5: 21ff.). Here it is quite clear that the contemporary situation of the large family is presupposed and taken over. It is based on a clear super-ordination of husband over wife, which is of course, like the whole social order of the day, patriarchal. Similarly, slavery as a social institution is not shaken or questioned. Neither Jesus nor his Apostles appeared as social reformers. Nevertheless, that does not mean that these conditions are not to be transformed from within precisely because they are consciously related to Christ. The most impressive and also most extreme example of this is probably I. Peter 2: 18-25, where slaves are admonished to be subordinate, even to be subordinate to “froward” masters, i.e. to accept the given social order even in individually questionable circumstances. This attitude is given an interesting basis: in doing this they are following the example of the suffering Christ. As he took suffering upon himself, so now they are to take upon themselves and bear their special suffering, which is caused by the injustice and cruelty of their masters. They are the more able to do this, because Christ was not only an example, but also suffered for them; they can now go this way together with him as victor over suffering and death, with him as risen and ascended Lord, and in the power of his death and resurrection. Through this relationship however the particular situational suffering of the slaves is put into a quite new perspective. The second part of the verses quoted shows how paramount these are. Here we are suddenly confronted with a piece of proclamation of Christ. What he suffered and achieved through this suffering is so great, that it breaks through the given situation and overflows. The human, historical vessel is too small to contain this message. However —or, perhaps we should say, therefore — it took several centuries until there happened within history and under the influence of quite different spiritual currents what was already hidden in the proclamation of Christ: the emancipation of the slaves.

From this point of view, however, it would now be foolish to pass on the situation itself as something normative. Neither unjust suffering under “froward” masters, nor slavery as such, can be passed on as facts accompanying the proclamation of Christ. The proclamation itself, however, remains binding, and includes the obligation to set all the situations of our life, without exception, in conscious relation with Christ and not in a purely individual one — for he is not only, or even primarily, the personal saviour of each individual believer — but in a relationship which is part of the life within the body of Christ, i.e. to him as Lord of history. The situations change and with them the possibilities of relationship with Christ. What remains binding is what he himself has done and brought, and thus the ordering of the life of his body.

What is extremely clear in this passage of Scripture which has nothing to do with our theme, is just as valid when we consider the other “Haustafeln” and what they have to say about husband and wife. Here too the existing patriarchal relationships are put into the new ordering of life in the body of Christ and are thus changed from within. So in the famous passage Eph. 5 : 2Iff., the “superordination” of husband over wife, which was then a matter of course, is certainly presupposed and taken over. It is, however, given a new meaning and changed by being related to the relationship between Jesus Christ and his community. Only from this point of view is it understandable that the whole section can be placed under the title: “Be ye subject one to another in the fear of Christ”, whereby the whole social order which then prevailed and which is entirely accepted in the following verses, is radically called in question from within. (This is convincingly shown by Else Kahler in her book Die Frau in den paulinischen Briefen_, Gotthelf Verlag, Zürich^ I960, p. 88ff.). The husband, who must measure and practise love towards his wife according to the love of Jesus Christ to his Church, is freed by this love from the desire for mastery, and the compulsion to regard his wife as an object. The wife, who must measure and practise her attitude to her super-ordinate husband according to the attitude of the Church to Christ, is thus freed from bondage, and liberated for a freely-given response to her husband and at the same time to him who stands behind him: Christ. A confrontation is sketched in the relationship between them both, which relativizes and disarms the patriarchal structure of society from within. What has to be proclaimed however is not this “hierarchy” of man and woman, as though it were given for all time, but God’s action in Jesus Christ, which touches upon various forms of marriage and the man-woman relationship at different times and establishes a relationship with them. So in the present age when the tendency in many cultures, both eastern and western, is towards the partnership of husband and wife, and perhaps even eventually towards complete levelling of the relationship, we must ask anew where the relationship between Christ and his Church shines out. Perhaps, in our “pluralist society” with its multiplicity of roles for man and woman we should begin with the presentation of the body of Christ as a community in which the many varied gifts of the individual members delimit and fulfil each other in manifold and ever changing super- and sub-ordination. It is from here that we must seek today forms for marriage and the family, and also for the building up of the Church, the ecclesia.

Comments on Some Pauline Texts

We turn now from these premises to our proper theme — the confrontation with some texts which are always quoted in connection with the ordination of women. What has to be kept in view with all of them is that they are answering specific questions of the day (it will also be necessary to present these questions as clearly as possible). We cannot therefore expect to get from them any doctrine of woman as such.

I. Cor. 11:2 ff.

In this passage Paul presupposes that women pray and prophesy in the Church. It should especially be noted that in this text, where Paul emphasizes the inequality of man and woman, this fact is in no way doubted or questioned. He lets it stand, and, as in other contexts (cf. I. Cor. 7), addresses man and woman together and separately. They are both doing the same thing — both praying and prophesying — but they ought to do it in different ways, because different customs are proper to man and woman. Clearly, the women in Corinth have broken this custom. Under the overwhelming influence of the Spirit and trusting in the complete renewal of their life through Christ, they have crossed a boundary and behaved as is proper for men. This is the occasion, perhaps rather trivial in our eyes, which brings the Apostle into action. In his arguments we feel how, wherever the question of man and woman is raised, we are touched in our inmost being (that this is so today, is proved by our present discussion). He is clearly looking for arguments, in order to show convincingly why the custom must be retained.

The arguments which were available to him in his day come from quite different sources : from the apparent evidence of the natural order (by nature woman has long hair, therefore... v. 14) which is raised to the level of a norm. From the social background of the custom (v. 10 for the sake of the angels woman should wear a veil), from the creation story (especially from the second account, v. 8 and 9, but perhaps also from the first, see v. 7b), Moreover, he expounds a basis of judgment — Beurteilungsgrundsatz (Wendland), — the so-called haddès which has been used a great deal as an argument against the full participation of women in church-work. A closer look shows that it has nothing to do with a ladder. This can be seen best if the affirmations of the text are represented in the order in which they occur:

Christ the head of the man,
the man the head of the woman,

God the head of Christ.

Karl Barth (Kirchliche Dogmatik III 2 p. 374 f.) and Ch. von Kirschbaum (Die wirkliche Frau p. 42) have shown conclusively that the statement on man and woman is taken in a christological “parenthesis’. It is therefore no ladder; but the human man-woman relationship, by being set in the heilsgeschichtliche God-Christ relationship is not fixed but opened up. An unchangeable order of being is not established, but an abiding social fact (which undoubtedly is rooted in the differentiation of man and woman in creation) is put in a new light.

In Paul’s day the superior position of the man was taken for granted. This however is now relativised by the parenthesis which is indicated above, for man too is subjected to a higher power; and apart from that the God-Christ relationship shows how differently his subordination is to be understood within the Christian Church, as compared with the patriarchal social order (cf. Else Kahler, op. cit. and especially her remarks on the idea of subordination — which is found implicitly though not explicitly in this passage, and which appears in I. Cor. 15, for example in relation to Christ).

Verses 11 and 12 show the same attitude as this “parenthesis”. They are found in the middle of Paul’s argument for the establishing of a custom to ensure — in modern terms — the differentiation of men and women; and yet everything is changed as soon as what is said is set in the direct context of the new reality, which is given through Christ. The completely reciprocal nature of the man-woman relationship shines out “in the Lord”. Because this reality embraces everything, Paul is not disturbed by the really strange fact that in Corinth women pray and prophesy just as men do. Even in this respect the man is not without the woman and the woman not without the man “in the Lord”. The confusing argumentation of the text, which in detail is difficult or even completely impossible to understand, shows that Paul is not able to maintain this insight consistently.

If we now ask ourselves, with all caution, what this text yields for our question, we have to say : not very much directly, because there is as little reason to draw a direct line from the charismatic speech for the men to the present-day ministry as to do this for the women. But one thing we can learn from Paul’s argument: that in Christ men and women are associated with each other in a new way; and it can be said that in him God’s intentions for man are made plain, if we take seriously the idea that Christ is the true man, the real image of God (II. Cor. 4:4; Col. 1 : 15). This association and “equalization” (for in this text both men and women are doing the same thing !) breaks in upon the custom of the day, which means that because it must take an external form, it has to take account of that custom and come to terms with it. This custom reflects something of the natural created differentiation of the sexes, but Paul’s argument shows that everything here is fluid. He draws his weapons from various armouries, just as we today have recourse to psychology and sociology. Everything is changing. We should no longer seriously start with the same presuppositions as Paul. Covering of the head is no problem for us, but the forms and the cultures which confront us today. What must be preserved ? What given up ? All these things are confronted with the new reality “in the Lord”. This new reality is binding; yet it does not exist in a vacuum, but always in confrontation with changing forms, which it does not simply overpower, but takes over and transforms from within.

This is the text which is most often quoted in the question which concerns us, and which apparently adopts the most negative attitude. It is interesting, we may note in passing, that the text in question is usually quoted incorrectly. Even in Protestant books one is always coming across the translation of the Latin text : “Mulier taceat in ecclesia “Let woman keep silence in church”, while the Greek text unequivocally says “Let your women (i.e. your wives) keep silence in church”, which must be understood in a much less apodictic way than the rendering of the Latin Bible. This correction is not invalidated by Paul’s reference in verse 33b to “all the churches”. In the context of the whole passage (see v. 26-33) the real issue is the ordering of worship, which must be conceived of as very flexible. It does not help the building up of the Church, if two people talk at once, any more than if too many speak one after another. There must be order, in which each may hear the other “that all may learn and all may be exhorted”. The question of “all” is always important in the Church. The body of Christ is neither whole nor capable of action if one member oppresses another (see ch. 12). The command that the women should keep silence must be seen in this context. It must have been a question of undisciplined speaking on their part, speaking which disturbed the balance of the service. Judging by verse 35, it was a question of interruptions. Women who did not understand what was being said, interrupted the service with cries and questions in no kind of order, and it may be that this kind of spontaneous reaction was already regarded as a special danger for women. There must be no such disturbance of worship. Wives must ask their husbands at home, because it is not right that all should have to put up with their spontaneity. So the women are told that they must keep order, indeed be subject to order (v. 34). This verse does not deal with the men at all, and the verb to be “subject” (hypotassesthai) is used once in a similar sense in the same chapter : the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets i.e. to their conscious ordering in the fellowship. This suggests very strongly that with regard to women, hypotassesthai also refers here to their fitting into the community, and not to their place within marriage.

Paul again looks outwards for a basis for his attitude. He refers to “the law” (v. 34c). It is difficult to tell what he means by this law. Paul generally means the whole Old Testament. But what does that mean in this context ? Reference is usually made to Genesis 3 : 16. But is that what is meant? And if so, what weight does it have ? Can it be said, perhaps, that wherever it is a question of woman, reference is made to certain honourable religious traditions, to custom ? (cf. I. Cor. 11). In this sense, Paul is referring more or less vaguely to “the law”. It is something known to his readers, something immediately intelligible to them. In the human uncertainty vis-à-vis the new thing which has come into their lives in Christ and which is shaking the fixed ordering of the man-woman relationship, even Paul clutches at what can give certainty, and perhaps he must do this. (The history of missionary work in our day could provide many parallels !) Nevertheless the “law” remains on the margin ; everything is still held in a living equilibrium and his main concern in this chapter is always the question of order in public worship (cf. 39f.). It is only from this starting point — only that of the Christian Church — that he is thinking about men and women, which means that their relationship is never a primary question. It is always included in the question about the Church.

If we also ask of this text results for our question about the ordination of women, perhaps we may go a little further than we could with the previous text, and say : that in any case there is no refusal. Anyone who wishes to deduce from these verses a permanent prohibition on women speaking and teaching during worship (or in public at all), must seriously ask himself, if he has got it from this text with a good conscience, and with the same criteria that he would use for other passages of scripture, or whether he has not unavowedly transposed what is said in I. Tim. 2: 15 into this verse. But if one is to take the methods of recent exegesis seriously, one must realize that it is necessary to listen primarily to what is said in each individual text by each individual author. We will come to the specific problem of the Pastoral Epistles later. But if we stay with I. Cor. 14 and Paul, we can scarcely find a general prohibition on speaking, and even less a general rejection of the full co-operation of women in the Church. What we do find is the reminder that the edification of the Church and the disciplined ordering of worship are of primary importance even in this field of concern. Men and women each have their contribution to make, and one thing that has to be taken seriously into account with any regulations, is that our services are generally quite different from those in Corinth. Charlotte von Kirschbaum says very pertinently : “And today ? Today the whole congregation, men and women, keep silence, and only a few hymns in ‘liturgical’ churches and perhaps some versicles and responses before and after the sermon, interrupt the silence of the congregation. One man speaks, Sunday after Sunday — and also on a weekday evening —, and proclaims to the congregation the word of God. This man has studied theology and passed his examinations, he has shown himself to be competent during his Vikariat, and he is now called and installed by the Church for this service. He performs it during services of worship in great solitude vis-à-vis his congregation which remains, at least outwardly, in a state of almost complete passivity. The fullness of voices is silenced, the activity of the Holy Spirit is at best confined to this one voice... Can silence still be a form of witness among the silent ? Does the congregation need further quenching of its super-abundant enthusiasm, or is it much more necessary to remind it that all members are called to service in the Church?... In this situation the question arises, whether the witness of women in the worship of the congregation today should not be a worship of speech, as opposed to the witness of silence in the church at Corinth — whether women today could not be called to cooperate in the service of the proclamation of the word ?” (Der Dienst der Frau in der Wortverkiindigung, p. 26 f.)


Galatians 3:28

As the last text from the epistles which are certainly Pauline, Gal. 3 : 28 must at least be touched upon. In what context does Paul come to speak here of man and woman ? The epistle to the Galatians is addressed to a church which is gripped by faith in Christ, the members of which are baptised, but which is in danger of being persuaded (by false teaching) to fall back into old ways. Paul, on the contrary, reminds them of what they are in Christ; and he uses the most varied expressions, to characterize this new reality: they are in the spirit, not in the flesh (3 : 3), they are the children of God, not slaves (3 : 26 and 4 : 3-7), adults who no longer need a disciplinarian, and who are no longer under guardians and stewards (4:2), redeemed slaves (4:5). The new status, the new community is characterized by the presence of the Holy Spirit, who is the spirit of turning to the Father (4: 6) and who also strengthens this new position by helping and encouraging man really to turn to God as Father.

One thing about this new life in the Christian Church is that old distinctions are no longer relevant. Three are named :

—the different positions of Jew and Gentile in the history of salvation;

—the social distinction between slave and free;

—the distinction between the sexes.

All three occur in the man’s thanksgiving (which has come down to us in varied forms from Persians, Greeks and Jews and which is still to be found in the Jewish prayer book), that he is neither unbeliever, slave nor woman (for the material, see Kittel I 776 f.). Before we ask ourselves what it really means, that these distinctions are irrelevant in the Church of Christ, let us look at what it was from which Christ set them free and redeemed them and to which they had been subject. Paul makes it quite clear, that he understands the “law” as this enslaving power (3 : 23, 4 : 5) but strangely enough he treats Jews and Gentiles in the same way: both have the same past, for both stand under the enslaving power of law, both were living in the same prison; the expressions “in bondage under the elements of the world” and “under the law” are juxtaposed and interchangeable in ch. 4, v. 3 and 5. “The elements of the world” include cosmic powers, especially the constellations (4:10), which are raised (4: 8) by the faith of those who fall victim to them, to a which really and essentially they do not have. But before Christ they did have this power, and however foolish it may seem after Christ, they provide a standing temptation for his Church — just like the O.T. , e.g. the demand for circumcision — to fall back into a pre-Christian situation. Is it going too far to say, with regard to the pairs of opposites of 3 :28 and the meaning of the thanksgiving quoted above, that in this pre-Christian situation, in which the Jewish law and the pagan elements again come to power, the Jew is confirmed in his superiority as Jew, the freeman as freeman, and man as man ? But under the rule of Christ they are bound together with those under them into one body, for Christ has overcome the law and the power of nature.

If we now ask what this in fact means, the N.T. gives very instructive examples for the first two groups. Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians together form the body of Christ, the Church, but the differences between them are not simply ironed out. In his missionary work Paul always goes first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles, and in the image of the olive tree which he uses in Romans 11 to describe the Church, Israel is the root, and the Gentile Christians are the twigs that are grafted in. Nevertheless it is only one tree. So far as slave and free are concerned, the epistle to Philemon is the most beautiful evidence. Here too the distinction is not merely ironed out. Paul sends Onesimus back to his master Philemon, no longer as a slave, but as one who is “more than a slave”, as a “beloved brother” (v. 16). The end of this verse shows that this new attitude certainly has not only spiritual consequences but also real, earthly ones : it is to be so “in the flesh as well as in the Lord”. This brotherhood must be visible not only when master and slave pray together in worship, but in their daily life together — in contrast to much that has been written and experienced on this subject in Christendom, and which according to Paul should certainly be described as falling back under the power of the elements of the world.

What does this mean with regard to the third pair, man and woman ? Certainly the differences here too are not ironed out (cf. what is said about I. Cor. 11). But it can also be said that there the new category of “sister” comes into play (cf. Phil. 4:2-3, where Paul speaks in the same way of men and women as those who “have contended with him for the Gospel”, see also Rom. 16:1-3). The new reality of life in the Church takes woman seriously as sister, just as it does man as brother. (It is interesting that there is no reference to maternity or motherliness. We shall come back to this.) The sister remains of course a sister and does not become a brother, or, to express this in a less banal way, sisterhood will always be something other than brotherhood, but brother and sister are on the same plane, and they come from the same “parents” — which in the case of the Christian Church means that they stand in the same relationship to God. But must this also not have consequences for their actual position in the Church, and also for their position in the world ? Church history shows that wherever the Gospel is preached anew, women are freed from hundred- or thousand- year-old chains (see the beginning of this article); that, for example, because they were suddenly taken seriously as sisters, as fellow human beings, as persons of infinite worth to God, they were given schooling and thus came level with men in a new way. Galatians 3 : 28 is the place in the N.T. where this new relationship of men and women is most clearly formulated and it should be pointed out that this new relationship (whether it be called common humanity or partnership or common pardon or equal value) has been an essential element in the history of the West, as it has been and still is among the peoples that have been reached by Christian missions. It is hard to understand why today, especially within the Christian Churches, the question of the co-operation of men and women on an equal footing is so difficult, and why in the inner circle, i.e. the formation of the orders (or better, ministries) which serve the edification of the Church, there is often little to be seen of true brother — and sisterhood of man and woman.

It should be clear that the ordination of women to the pastoral or priestly office, which is frequently available only to men and which is often the sole ministry that remains of the fullness of N.T. gifts and services, is not the only solution. But where churches refuse to think consistently about the given relationship of men and women in the Christian Church, and in some way or other to make it real, then they will have to be questioned from “outside”, by the so-called world, about the basis of this attitude; and it may well be God Himself who is putting the question.

Timothy 2 : 8-15

The passages which we have considered so far stood in those epistles which are considered by almost all scholars to be genuinely “Pauline”. That is not necessarily a judgment on their worth and significance for us. Still, the factor of greater proximity to the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ is significant when one is considering N.T. texts as historical texts (see above). “Since the revelation of God really is a revelation in history, the first witness of this revelation is always closer (at least in time) than what has been derived later” (W.Marxsen, Der Frühkatholizismus im N.T., Neukirchener Verlag, 1958, p. 19). With the Pastoral Epistles we are clearly in a different age. The Church is no longer expecting the immediate breaking in of the Parousia, she is establishing herself in this world in evident controversy with those who threaten her, i.e. with the gnostic heretics. The multiplicity of gifts has not yet been replaced, but it is delimited by the establishing of specific “orders” (though these also are certainly not yet rigidly fixed, or unequivocally to be recognized by us in the range of their work). For instance, it is not clear whether elders and bishops are the same or two different groups (see E. Schweizer, loc. cit., note 334; he thinks that v. 11 is more easily applied to female diakonoi than to the wives of the deacons), or whether widows, who certainly form a clearly recognizable group, had other tasks than that of intercession (I. Tim. 5 : 3ff.). What is also not at all clear is the question of ordination— only with regard to Timothy and Titus themselves is there mention of the laying-on of hands, and that not in connection with the orders which they pass on (Schweizer, loc. cit. 6h).

It is possible that in these churches all men had “freedom of the word for prayer in services and perhaps also for teaching” (Schweizer, loc.cit.6i), which is also essentially different from a large part of our present-day church life. One thing that is certain is that the Church is trying to make herself safe against the attacks of gnosticism by emphasizing the apostolic tradition and even the handing down of the law (I. Tim. 1).

“Do not these orders acquire in the cause of this development an importance which they did not originally have? To begin with, they were a self-evident datum to which scarcely any thought was given; and now suddenly they have to serve as defensive walls against threatening dangers. Thus they change from being a possibility, supported by all sorts of practical considerations, to a necessity, without which the Church can no longer be the true Church. But does not this dislocate everything? If this happens, is the thing which makes the Church the Church, still visible in her order?... Is salvation not seen onesidedly in the repetition of the old message, without the possibility of translation and thus of risk, but also of opportunity to experience the living spirit of God? This cannot be answered with a simple “Yes”. The prophetic order which first led to the ordination of Timothy is too important, the really, if unconsciously, achieved translation into the new situation is too evident. But we have reached an extreme point within the N.T. This onesided emphasis was necessary in the struggle against gnosticism. But it is clear that there are other dangers, and that from the N.T. point of view, development is taking a wrong course, if the other side, the witness of the living Lord and of the freedom of the Spirit, may not also take a clear form” (E. Schweizer, op. cit., p. 78).

If we go back from here to the question of women, we must first establish the fact that nowhere in the N.T does the family come into view so clearly as in the Pastoral Epistles. Marriage and the children of the bishops and deacons (I. Tim. 5:6-16) interest the writer and the Church, and we get an insight into the “home” of the period, as nowhere in the Pauline letters. Where the eschatological voice is weaker, the family is heard more clearly. Of course “eschatological” is not the same as “imminent expectation”, but should also be understood as the urgency, which comes from the presence of the living Lord and the effectiveness of His body the Church, which is already living in the new age. Is it just chance, that the expressions “in Christ”, “in the Lord”, do not occur once, expressions which in Paul (as also in Eph. and Col.) describe the new reality of life, in which what God has done in the cross and resurrection of Christ becomes valid for the Church ? We cannot avoid the suspicion that the family, as the closest and most important order of this world, is becoming more important at the cost of the order of life in the new age. It goes without saying that this must have consequences for the position of woman, because she is essentially bound to the family, in all cultures, by her role as mother.

' It is therefore not surprising that something is said in I. Tim. 2: 8fF., which Paul, as we think, did not say: woman is strictly forbidden to speak in church meetings, either to teach or to ask questions. She is referred unequivocally to her “proper” place, the home and motherhood, and that is based on a reference to the creation story (only Genesis 21) and the fall. She who comes second in creation is now first in sin. JElse Kahler shows conclusively (Die Frau in den Paulinischen Briefen, p. 156ff.) that this use does not do justice to the witness of the O.T. in Gen. 2 and 3. We can no longer read the O.T. in this way, and so these conclusions are not final for us. Unfortunately they have been accepted in a frightening way — compare many sayings of Luther about women and marriage ! She is saddled with this, and the result is that she remains confined to her “natural” place. The new order “in Christ”, which shines out in all Pauline texts (even if it is not realised, even if it is in controversy and intermixture with current opinions ; in respecting the biological data, e.g. as in Paul’s sober appreciation of marriage !) is replaced by what looks just like a bourgeois morality (cf. the “clothing laws” of verses 9f.) in which the places for men and women are fixed for ever . Behind the allusion of these texts arises for the present-day reader the whole history of “Christian” morality through the ages, for strangely enough it is precisely these allusions which have had so great an effect in the teaching and admonition of the Christian churches. It is in this context that the reference to motherhood follows, and in an alienating way. “She (woman) shall be saved through child-bearing.” It is clear that the writer himself was not too certain Ttbout what he was saying for he adds immediately “if she continues in faith and love and sanctification with sobriety”. In the first part of the sentence a verb, which in all parallels in the Pastoral Epistles is only used in connection with God’s redemptive work in Christ, is too harshly juxtaposed with the adverbial qualification “through child-bearing”. Even if we do not foist upon the writer an understanding and definition of child-bearing as the means of redemption, setting it, as it were, in the place of faith (for that would contradict what is said elsewhere in the epistle) the juxtaposition is still striking, and we must agree with E. Kahler when she says, “Here wejire faced with a powerful natural theology” (op. cit. p. 158). It is understandable in the situation of those days, that such formulations could arise.

If we go right back into the situation of the Pastorals (struggle with gnosticism and the anti-creational asceticism of the heretics — Jeremias), if we try to understand with the writer, that woman could be thus diminished (this may be also in a sexual sense — so Dibelius), then according to the writer “salvation” must also occur on the same plane, i.e. through child-bearing. That is the special situation of the Pastoral Epistles, and it must be understood as a polemical situation, with polemical words, i.e. fitted to the occasion. Such expressions become difficult for later readers, such as ourselves today. Anyone who still regards v. 15 as the “way of salvation” for woman, burdens her with an “original guilt” which cannot be justified and therefore unbearable, and forgets the great company of the unmarried (for how can they be less guilty ? The writer, it is true, can scarcely have thought about unmarried women at all). How should these achieve their “salvation?” We see that it is quite impossible to apply this regulative part of the Pastoral Epistles just as it is. In any case it requires “translation”, “sensible application”, and now not partially but wholly. The question arises at this point in the Pastoral Epistles, as to whether the words are to be read “evangelically” or “legally”. To read them evangelically means that they are to be understood as neither unimportant, nor out-dated, but also as not intended to be taken word for word. We have to ask what the words meant in their situation, and also — in the light of the whole revelation of Christ — what their significance is today (E. Kahler, op.cit.,p. 158fF.).

Before we try to ask in this way, what this text has to say in our situation today and in answer to our particular question, may we be allowed to say something which transcends the purely exegetical findings ? It seems important to us and worth further consideration and investigation, that this is the only place in all the N.T. epistles where physical motherhood is emho phasised.(The only verbal parallelis 1.tim.5:14 referring to young widows, who are to marry and have children.Cp. the Pauline evaluation ofcelibacy in 1 Cor. 7, precisely for Youngmen and women!) Of course, this is everywhere presupposed, but that is just it: presupposed but not imposed. That is a great difference. In contrast to Paul a part of the natural data - doubtless an important part - is raised in the Pastoral Epistles to a norm,possessing an unshaken, unrelativised validity even in the sphere of salvation. We see then how the "elements of the world" (cf. above on Gal. 3 : 28) creep into the sphere of the Church. Is it merely chance that this goes exactly parallel to the establishing of “order” ? Or are both not closely related ? Do not both come from the same need for security ? Where the body of Christ is formed in the multiplicity of services and gifts which of course are always incomplete and broken through human sin and human failure (cf. the warnings in the N.T. epistles), the need arises for rigid leadership, the establishment of command, the delimitation and clarification of power. So in most churches the multiplicity of gifts and services is de jure or de facto melted down into a few orders or into only one. And, parallel to that, wherever the man-woman relationship in a fixed order of family and kinship (which of course is based always and everywhere on unchanging biological facts, and which in some sense gives order to these facts) is disturbed by their common memberhsip of the body of Christ, uncertainty arises, as soon as the charismatic mutuality of this body falls apart or solidifies. At the moment when one begins to look for security, woman is referred back to the place where she always was and where she always will be — motherhood. Here she is secure and protected — protected from the encroachments of enthusiasm (which certainly occurred in the early days of Christianity and not only to women !). But she is also cut off from direct responsibility for the building-up of the Church. Perhaps a further step in this direction is the elevation and over-evaluation of the maternal — either in certain forms of Mariology, or in the massive joy in family life of many Protestant churches. In any case it is worth considering seriously that the establishment of orders and the fixing of woman within the realms of home and maternity occur together in the N.T. Much that should also be investigated psychologically plays a part here. Perhaps the condition, which persists up to the present day, that women, if they are granted access to an “order”, must be unmarried, comes in this sphere, at least if it is a question of a fundamental condition. The fact that the full exercise of an office in the Church can no longer be combined practically with the task of a mother of several children, is something quite different. A woman minister who marries and has children shares this complex of problems with all the other women of our day who before marriage had a differentiated profession in which they found fulfilment. That is basically different from forbidding a married woman as such (and then certainly with regard to her biological function) to continue in the work which she has mastered. Perhaps the fundamental attitude which is found in I. Tim. 2: 15 is still active here.

If at this point we ask what I. Tim.2:15 contributes to our problem, we have to say that here we find, in a text which stands within the canon, an explicit prohibition of teaching by women, which cannot be explained away can and must, reject the writer’s argument in itself, and will therefore come to different conclusions. But, if we do this, is his concern removed or dealt with ? In spite of everything this seems to us to be highly questionable.

In order to reach a conclusion, we need to be clear about the position of the Pastoral Epistles in the canon. Everything we have said here about particular N.T. texts came under the explicit presupposition that all were to be understood as historical texts. Looking back we can now say that we are experiencing a piece of church history within the N.T. canon. If a certain “suspended equilibrium” is to be found in Paul — who was very close to the Christ-event — with regard to the Church and to men and women (cf. E. Kahler, op.cit., p. 51 and p. 87), then this equilibrium is absent from the Pastoral Epistles. May we go so far as to say that a different situation demanded this answer? Here the particular standpoint of the critic will play a very decisive part. Personally, I would underline all the critical questions of E. Schweizer which are quoted above, and sharpen them with regard to the question of women. But we still have to accept the part that these letters have found a place within the canon. At the extreme other end stand the Johannine churches, with their emphasis on the spiritual gifts of all members and the absence of titles of office. Unfortunately nothing is said there about the man-woman question. It would have been interesting to have something, and to use it to test the validity of what is maintained above !

What remains then from this extreme position within the canon ? The consequence that we cannot just take one stratum of sayings and use it as a basis for the exegesis of others. Paul certainly seems to us to be of especial significance, but even in his writings not everything can be reduced to a common denominator and there are different strata of argumentation, from which we cannot take one as absolute at the expense of the others. We will have to remain in this tension, and in the present ecumenical situation it may be helpful to see that the same tension which today exists between separate churches, already exists in the different layers of argumentation and in the different situations. Can nothing binding be deduced, then ? Is everything still open ? We think that we have nevertheless discovered something worthwhile.


1. A careful and differentiated questioning of the N.T. does not yield a biblical basis for the rejection of the ordination of women. If anyone tries to understand the Bible in a biblicistic and legal way, then all his conclusions become fraught with insoluble contradictions. That is true of a biblicistic basis in favour of the ordination of women, just as it is true for the ordination of men, and of all present-day “orders”, none of which are to be found in the N.T.

2. The regulative criterion for all the texts discussed here is the building up of the body of Christ. This would have to be primary in all present discussions. The contemporary question about the ordination of women should help to shake up all orders of ministry which have become too solidified. For example, it would be a pity if the admission of women to the traditional ministries, which bear the masculine imprint, were to hinder a new appraisal of the rightness of these ministries, by means both of the Scriptures and the contemporary situation. Or, to say the same thing in another way, the question of the ordination of women is primarily a question of ecclesiology, and only secondly and thirdly one of sociology and psychology.

3.In the N.T. the building-up of the body of Christ is always done with a view to its mission to the world. So no ecclesiology can be formulated without reference to the contemporary situation (cf. our exegesis). To take the Church seriously as a body which achieves a form in the world, will help us to take seriously the various historical expressions which are bound to their own age, and also the various forms of the Church.

4.The fact that the relationship of man and woman in the N.T. is everywhere grafted into the manifold relationships of the body of Christ, is also binding on us. It is from this point that we have to consider our own situation and God’s call to us within it.

5.There is a rising demand for partnership between men and women (cooperation, or equal rights, or whatever it is called) as well as for the equality of women in education, work and public rights. This grew up in the Western world, the culture formed by Christianity, whence it has spread to the rest of the world, not by chance, but as a historical consequence of the preaching of the Gospel (cf. recent mission history). What comes to us from outside today — often in a distorted form — is what is laid down at the very core of the biblical message. We are asked if we want to legitimise this child, or let it run about the world illegitimate. To be plain, should not the building-up of present day churches and congregations show in an exemplary way, what a true mutual relationship of men and women, received from God, can be both in marriage and in celibacy ? Would we not receive guidance from this, in so many pressing contemporary questions which threaten the relationship of men and women (e.g. sameness instead of partnership, transgression of bounds, misunderstanding and misuse of marriage and celibacy) ?

6.These results would also have to be continually measured against this regulative criterion: does the admission of women to full service in the Church help in its edification and in the fulfilment of its mission to the world? Again, does the confinement of women into the realm of the family alone, hinder the service of the Church ? Only a Church which is using to the full all the gifts and powers at her disposal, without atrophying any of them, is an instrument which her Lord can use. This is where, in our problem, we have to keep on asking for the coming of the Holy Spirit.


The Ordination of Women

A Comment on the attitude of the Orthodox Church

by Professor Nicolae Chitescu.

(Professor of Theology at the Theological Institute, Bucharest)

In the Orthodox Church the opinions of theologians do not count. The only thing that matters is the traditional regulations established by the Church as a whole in its canons and in its practice.

We shall therefore begin by giving a short summary of the question as contained in our own Manuel de Dogmatique et Symbolique (published at Bucharest in 1958, in collaboration and with the blessing of His Beatitude Patriarch Justinian, pages 914-915). We shall then go into the question at greater length, showing on what authority the practice of our Church is based.

Women cannot receive the sacrament of ordination in the Orthodox Church. The ordination of women is prohibited both by Scripture (I. Cor. 14 : 34) and by the subsequent rulings of the Church. The Montanists ordained women in the Early Church. But deaconesses (who were found up to the XHth century) “did not receive the ordination of a deacon. They only received a blessing (a hierourgie) whereby they were entrusted with a mission in the life of the Church as a whole. They carried out a large number of services: instructing women-candidates for confirmation, helping with the baptism of women, standing at the doors by which women entered during the services of worship, and helping widows, old women, girls, etc.”

The justification for this attitude is found above all in the Apostolic Constitutions (VIII, 6, 28, etc.). St. Epiphanius also states that “although an order of deaconesses does exist in the Church, it is not intended for priestly functions or anything of that kind, but in order to supervise the good conduct of the female sex” (Haer. LXXIX, 3). He adds, “ever since the world began, no woman has ever served the Lord as a priest” (ibid. XLI, 2, cf. Tertullian, De vel. virg. IX: Non permittitur mulieri in Ecclesia loqui, sed nec docere, nec tingere, nec offerre, nec ullius virilis muneris, necdum sacerdotalis officii sortem sibi vindicare).

The titles of priestess (presbytera, presbyterissa) and of bishopess (episcopa) provide no justification either for thinking that they implied an order of women priests. These words were used to denote the wives (and mothers) of priests and bishops, especially when they divorced so that their husbands could enter the monastery.

Later on the abbesses (abbatissa) were not entrusted with priestly functions either, although they received a solemn blessing.

We shall now give a few details.

The biblical justification for this is primarily the fact that our Lord did not include any woman among the twelve or the seventy to whom he gave power to perform the sacraments. The Holy Apostles themselves did not appoint women as heads of Christian communities, although women played an important part in forming these communities, when they were called deaconess, presbytera presbyterissa and (episcopa.).

Then there is the period when women are “impure”, stressed in the Old Testament (see Leviticus 12 and 15 : 19 sq.), during which according to certain canons women were not permitted to receive baptism. During this period women could not carry out priestly duties. There is a special canon prohibiting women- priests, based on this point of view. It is the second canon of Denis of Alexandria (cf. Synt. At., IV, 7). The sixth and seventh canons of Timothy of Alexandria express the same point of view (Synt. At., vol. IV, pp. 333-336). The fourty fourth canon of the local Synod of Laodicea forbade women to approach the altar in churches. The service of women was valuable when adult converts were received into the young Church. They were needed to help in administering baptism and unction to women. But as infant baptism became general, women were no longer needed for this sacramental service.

As my personal opinion, I would add that deaconesses may be maintained for the same reason as in the early Church, where the conditions are the same.

The fact may be mentioned that in Russia, during the Crimean War, there existed an association of Russian deaconesses called Vozdvizenske Zadruje.

Who were the deaconesses frequently mentioned in the New Testament (e.g. Rom. 16:1, 2, 6 and 12 ; I. Tim. 5 : 9fF., etc.) ? They were virgins or widows who took a vow not to marry, and devoted themselves to the service of God. They lived in their own homes until they were 40 years old, under the supervision of the Church. In the beginning they dressed just like other women ; but later on they wore a special costume, which distinguished them from lay women. After reaching the age of 40, the best of them were consecrated by receiving a special blessing from the bishop.

The Apostolic Constitutions refer to them in this way (VI, 17). The fifteenth canon of the Fourth Ecumenical Synod, and the fourteenth canon of the Sixth Ecumenical Synod also refer to this consecration at the age of 40.

We shall now give a few brief indications of the regulations contained in the Apostolic Constitutions and some other details given by the writings at the time of the Early Fathers, with the comments of the authors of the commentaries on the canons.

The Apostolic Constitutions speak of the service which can be undertaken by deaconesses. They watch at the doors of the Church (II, 57), they help the priests when women are baptised; but they do not administer the sacraments, or carry out the other duties of priests and deacons (VIII, 28).

Deaconesses are needed in cases where (because of the infidels) a deacon cannot be sent to visit women; deaconesses are also needed at baptisms and to perform

unction (III, 5). They also accompanied the women who went to see the bishop, looked after women who were ill, looked after aged widows, and gave instruction to female candidates for confirmation.

Clement of Alexandria (Paedag. Ill, 12) speaks of the services rendered by deaconesses in preaching to women. Tertullian (De vel. virg. IX), St. Epiphanius (Adv. haeres, LXXIX, 3, 4) and St. John Chrysostom (Horn. XXXI) show that they rendered service “apart from the ministry of the altar”.

The canonist N. Milasch (who is a great authority in the Orthodox Church) commenting upon the fifteenth canon of the Fourth Ecumenical Synod, writes that «the function of deaconesses, and the services which they carried out, were unknown in the XIIth century». The same remark had been made by the canonist Vlastare in the XIVth century (Syn. At. VII, 171).

The Apostolic Constitutions clearly state that deaconesses were consecrated by the bishop, by the laying on of hands (VII, 19-20).

Matthew Vlastare describes this consecration as follows: “The woman was presented to the bishop who laid his hands on her bent head, pronounced the special prayer which began with the same words as the prayer used at the ordination of deacons, and placed the orarium over her head. She took communion after the deacon and the bishop gave her the communion cup.” This consecration was called hirothesie to distinguish it from “hirothonie” (the form of consecration used for the orders). (Cf. the fifteenth canon of the Fourth Ecumenical Synod in Synt. At. VI, 172.)

There is some discussion among the canonists about the age at which virgins or widows could receive consecration as deaconesses. According to St. Paul it was 60; according to the canons it was 40.

The canonist Zonara explains that the difference is due to the fact that St. Paul speaks of widows, whereas the fifteenth canon of the Fourth Ecumenical Synod speaks of virgins — adding that virgins who are not married by the age of 40 will not be likely to marry. Stress was laid on the dignity of the petitioner rather than on her age.

Vlastare emphasises the fact that women took the vow of chastity when they became deaconesses, although they were not enclosed nuns.

The canons of the Sixth Ecumenical Synod did not permit women to speak during the liturgy, as they were included among the general category of “laity” to whom this prohibition applied. (Cf. canon LXIX of Trullo, Synt. At. II, 453-6 ; as well as canon LXX of the same Synod, Synt. At. II, 467-469; I. Cor. 14:34-35 is quoted therein ; Tertullian De praescriptione, LXI), but they were permitted to speak outside the Church.

At the time of St. John Chrysostom the deaconesses were praised for their zeal in instructing women and abandoned children in the houses set up by Christian charity.

With regard to the negative aspect of the problem, the ninth canon of Laodicea (IVth century) is quoted. It forbids the appointment of presbytesses (priestesses), who are mentioned in I. Tim.5: 2 and Titus 2 as carrying out the office of teaching in the Church, but not during the liturgy. These also gave instruction to candidates for confirmation, and prepared women for baptism. They were consecrated by a ceremony resembling that for deaconesses.

The Synod of Laodicea forbade the appointment of presbytesses, because of the abuses committed by certain “presbytides” due to pride and material interests. (See the eleventh canon of the Synod of Laodicea, Synt. At. Ill, 181 ; cf. canon LXIX of Trullo, Synt. At. Ill, 312).

Some of the decisions taken by the Synods of the Western Church show that, from the VIth century onwards, the position of deaconess disappeared “because of abuses and feminine weaknesses” (Synods of Arausicanum, 441 ; Synod of Agathen, 506; Ilnd Aurelian Council, in the XVIIIth canon. Cf. the Hefele or Mansi collection.)

Consequently in the Orthodox Church the canonical doctrine and actual practice have always remained the same, absolutely prohibiting the consecration of women to the hierarchy. Their services were used in the Church, after a blessing which some of them received from the bishop.

In the Orthodox Church of Roumania this doctrine and practice have always been respected.

In the organisation of our Church, of which more is known after the XIVth century, the order of deaconesses was not known. The only title and function known was that of abbess or egoumenissa, which was conferred through the blessing of the bishop. The abbess was specially responsible for the supervision of nuns.

According to the XVIIIth article of the Statute of organisation of the Orthodox Church of Roumania, which has been in force since 1949, the women who are elected as members of the parish council can perform certain functions which do not involve any special blessing, for instance :

a) beautifying churches, the courtyards outside churches, and cemeteries, and keeping them in good state ;

b) training and supporting the church choir;

c) helping the poor, and looking after orphans and widows;

d) visiting and helping the sick ;

e) setting up and running the parish library; organising colportage in the parish;

f) helping the priest in giving instruction to candidates for confirmation, and in setting up missionary circles;

g) instituting and running any form of Christian charity work.

In the Orthodox Church of Roumania old women are also employed especially to prepare the “artos” bread needed for Holy Communion, and to keep the church clean — excepting the altar.

The Ordination of Women

A comment by the Rev. Archimandrite Georges Khodre
(Director of Christian Education in the Diocese of Tripoli
of the Patriarchate of Antioch)

In the pagan world women were priestesses, as a result of the naturalistic concept of womanhood. Women played a leading role in the cults of fertility. St. Epiphanius accuses the Collyridians of having offered sacrifices to the Virgin Mary, and mentions that they were in favour of the ministry of women (Haer. 1, xxix, 4). Women certainly played an important part among certain ancient sects.

But what is the place of women in the Church ? In order to answer this question the only thing we can do is to examine the Word of God, regarded as a final revelation. There is indeed a temptation to interpret it in the light of a naturalistic claim which ignores or minimises the mystery of womanhood, and wants to make woman the equal of man in the sense that all their functions are interchangeable. There is certainly an anthropological question at the root of the problem of the ordination of women. If one adopts an equalitarian anthropology, one is tempted to interpret the Bible to mean anthropological relativism. But it would be wrong to dismiss what the Bible affirms about the nature of man by invoking St. Paul’s Jewish background and the errors this may have induced him to make in this connection. Any attempt to draw a distinction between Paul’s own ideas and the biblical revelation (apart from the passage where he expressly mentions it) is doomed to failure, just like any attempt to separate the historic Jesus from the other facts of Scripture. The distinction can only be arbitrary; it can only spring from the philosophical or theological concepts of the exegete.

Furthermore, anthropology cannot be dissociated from the Bible like cosmogony. Any attempt to do so would be prejudicial to our understanding of God’s Word, because mankind was created in the image of God, and because it is through our human nature that we know God. The resemblance between the image and the prototype is so strong that man is called through grace to become deified. The created order reflects the uncreated order and is drawn by it into the movement of redemption.

On the plane of natural anthropology, is the feminist movement well-founded ? Does it not express the dissatisfaction of those women who suffer from the Diana- complex ? As Dr. Pichon said, “most feminists are really hominists”. Clearly, it is difficult to distinguish between what is due to nature and what is due to culture in our concept of womanhood. But one thing is certain: the biological rhythms fluctuate more in women than in men and their moods are affected by these rhythms.

Maternity seems essential for a woman who lives in the world. Experience shows that public activity, however extensive, can never fully meet the need that women have to be loved. There is a specifically feminine quality which eludes definition. But between man and woman there exists a complementariness, a reciprocity, which has its roots in human nature. It is not necessary to define the particular nature of each sex; their polarity — both physical and psychic — cannot be ignored. They can never behave as if they were asexual or independent. The nature of each is fixed through their encounter with the opposite sex. There exists a correspondence between them, an encounter and a history orientated towards liberty, which excludes all possibility of levelling-down; their physical union is incompatible with any confusion of their functions and tasks.

In the Christic order this unity is assumed in accordance with the words of Paul: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female ; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3 : 28). Paul’s intention was clearly to stress the dignity of women, and of slaves, in the world of antiquity. There is no reference here which could be understood as a contradiction of Eph. 5:22ff, which sums up Paul’s ideas on the question. The words “neither male nor female” are not a concrete expression of emancipation, because Paul rejects the very temptation to emancipate women in the Church (I. Cor. 11 : 2-16). The human dignity shared by men and women does not imply equality in the sacred functions. In Moslem countries, although not socially emancipated, Christian women were fully aware of their own dignity, as compared with the status of Moslem women; they understood the difference due to the fact that, according to the legal precepts of Islam, the sole purpose of a Moslem woman’s existence in marriage is to give pleasure to her husband. But the Christian woman was free within herself.

The diversity of tasks is preached by Paul, especially in I. Cor. 12. In verse 13 of this chapter he defines the unity between Jew and Greek, slave and freeman, as a unity in the Spirit through baptism. “Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman” (I. Cor. 11 : 11). Through obedience to Christ we shall get beyond sexuality completely in the Coming Kingdom. In the meantime we are living on the plane of the first Creation, and this must be expressed in the Church through a diversity of functions corresponding to the anthropology of the Bible.

Basing his arguments on the primacy of man in the natural order (I. Cor. 11; I. Tim. 2), Paul is opposed to the participation of women in the priesthood (I. Tim. 2 : llff.; I. Cor. 14 : 34 and 27). Women can prophesy and participate in prayer (I. Cor. 12), but they cannot speak liturgically as teachers. In Paul’s view, this is one of the Lord’s commands (I. Cor. 14: 37).

The natural primacy of man springs from the fact that he is “the image of God, and the mirror of his glory” whereas “woman reflects the glory of man”. According to Paul the fact that man was created first establishes his primacy in the hierarchy of nature. Is not the submission of the wife to her husband “as to the Lord” an acceptance of that hierarchical order as a divine order, in which the wife regards her husband as the mediator of God’s splendour ? The idea is somewhat similar to monastic obedience. As the superior is the representative of God, by obeying him one obeys God. So that if women are not called to be mediators in the natural order, they should not assume the role of mediator in the supernatural order either through the priesthood. The scale of functions described by the Bible as regulating the relation between the sexes cannot be destroyed by the supernatural order.

The question of the ordination of women should be considered in the light of the bishop, who carries the fulness of the priesthood and of his Church. The bishop is not the delegate of the congregation ; he is the representative of Christ. He holds the power of Christ to preach, celebrate the Eucharist, prophesy and guide God’s people. He is the living image of the Lord, His sacrament, the head which renews the members. The Church is the Bride of Christ. The bishop carries out the functions of the Bridegroom toward the Church. That is why in principle he holds office for life. It is therefore normal that the charisma of representing Christ in relation to the Church (the Bride) should be borne by a man.

These few lines taken from the teaching of the Bible are confirmed by the canonical tradition of the Church, which excludes women from the ministry. The sole ministry which they exercised as deaconesses was that of charity, and some other minor liturgical tasks. With the exception of the Nestorians and the Monophysites, women did not take part in the sacred functions; they simply introduced the female candidates for confirmation (Canon 12 of the Fourth Council of Carthage). Admittedly they were consecrated by the laying on of hands (cheirotoneisthai) (Canon 15 of the Council of Chalcedon, and Canon 14 of the Trullan Synod). But the First Council of Orange (Canon 26) and other Councils of the Eastern Church (Epaon and the Second Council of Orleans) prohibited the ordination of women. The laying on of hands is thus to be interpreted simply as a blessing. In speaking of the Order (tagma) of Deaconesses, St. Epiphanius says that “they were only women-elders, not priestesses in any sense, so that their mission was not to interfere in any way with sacerdotal functions, but simply to perform certain offices in the care of women” (Haer. 1 xxix, chap. 3).

Balsamon, commenting on Canon 11 of the Council of Laodicea, which prohibited the appointment of presbytides, women who presided over the work of deaconesses, says: “For a woman to teach in a Catholic Church... is, in the highest degree, indecorous and pernicious.”

Deaconesses assisted the bishop in certain acts of his ministry (catechesis, charity, home-visiting, immersion at baptism), but only when women were involved. It seems that the canonical tradition should be interpreted in the sense of a special ministry for women exercised only among women, and excluding any form of ministry within the Christian congregation as a whole.

Although the Church has not yielded to the temptation of feminism in the form of its ministry, it extols certain women as the equals of the Apostles. The Holy Women were the first to see the open tomb and to announce the Resurrection to the Apostles. They received the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room. And one of them was considered worthy to bear the Word of life. The ministry of virginity is particularly theirs. They share with men in the glory of martyrdom. Woman is the sign of the religious life, because womanhood means sacrifice and selfsurrender. The advent of woman is the advent of sainthood, which is a life hidden in God (Col. 3:3). If she removes the veil behind which she lives a secret life with the Bridegroom, this does not constitute a progress of the human person within her.


The Ordination of Women

An Anglican View by the Rev. Henry R. T. Brandreth, O.G.S.
(Chaplain, St. George's Church, Paris)

It is the purpose of this paper to set forth the general Anglican view of the ordination of women as it appears to-day, rather than to state the writer’s personal opinions. In the third section, however, we shall examine certain criticisms of the Anglican tradition in this matter. It has seemed well to start with a short survey of the ministry of women as it has developed in the Anglican Church over the last hundred or so years, to proceed thence to the present position in Anglicanism with regard to the admission of women to the full ministry of the Church and, finally, to our third and more critical section.

In the past hundred years the Anglican Church has fostered the service of women in a wide number of ministries and, although some of those ministries have been slow to win recognition, yet in general Anglicanism has been more forward-looking in this respect than some other Churches normally regarded as less traditional. The religious life for women was restarted in the Church of England in 1841, and today there are more women professed in religious orders than at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries in England. There are both contemplative and active orders, members of the latter being engaged in teaching, hospital work, the foreign mission field and in parochial ministries. In the last two cases they will be engaged in giving religious instruction, pastoral visiting and preparing candidates for baptism and confirmation.

In addition to the professed religious there are in many parishes full-time, trained women workers, licensed by the Bishop and thus having a professional status; these assist in the pastoral work of the parish.

The Order of Deaconess was revived in 1862 when the Bishop of London ordained Elizabeth Ferard to that office. The Order was slow to gain recognition and it was not until 1920 that the Lambeth Conference urged its restoration in unequivocal terms throughout the Anglican Communion, though the Conference of 1897 had shown itself ready to urge such recognition.(The Six Lambeth Conferences, ed.Davidson, pp.216-217; Report of the Lambeth Conference 1920, pp. 102ff.) The Order of Deaconess is the only ordained ministry open to women at the present time in the Anglican Communion, and the regulations governing their ordination are almost identical with those governing the ordination of deacons, though the rite is different. The Lambeth Conference of 1930 stated that “the Order of Deaconess is an order sui generis; the only order of ministry open to women, but an order which both from the solemnity of its ordination and the importance of its functions can satisfy the fullest desires of women to share in the official work of the Church. This may be thought to be a departure from primitive practice, but the times have changed, and though we value historical precedents, we do not think that they need entirely restrict us in our endeavour to enlist the great gifts and special contribution of women to the varied and immense needs of the Church to-day.” (Report, p. 178.) The Anglican Church has, indeed, always insisted that the deaconess is not a female deacon, believing that thus it was basing itself upon patristic precedent. Patristic evidence is, however, far from clear and in certain places the deaconess appears not only to have acted as a female deacon, but to have had the status of one. It has to be admitted that the conditions under which deaconesses and lay women are employed are still very far from ideal in spite of the efforts of the official Church to improve them. This is particularly true of their financial status.

In addition to these more formal types of ministry, women serve the Church in a voluntary or paid capacity in a wide variety of ways, and it would be true to say that hardly a sphere of Church life is untouched by their activity. In more recent years, also, they have been elected members of diocesan conferences and of the Church Assembly. Women are not eligible for membership of the Convocations, the most authoritative governing bodies in the Provinces of Canterbury and York. Legislation is, however, in prospect for a fusion of Convocation with the Church Assembly, and one assumes that women will be eligible for election to this new body. In other parts of the Anglican Communion the right of women to sit on such legislative and consultative assemblies differs in practice, though not in theory.

This short survey of the actual position and ministry of women in the Anglican Communion will show that, although Anglicanism takes a traditional view of their admission to the priesthood, this in no sense implies any derogation. The best general survey of the part women play in the ministry of the Anglican Church is contained in Dr. Cecilia M. Ady’s The Role of Women in the Church, published by the Press and Publications Board of the Church of England, in 1947.

The statement that we have already noted, that the order of Deaconess is the only ordained ministry open to women in the Anglican Church, has been reiterated in a number of reports of commissions on women’s work, as well as in a series of Lambeth Conference resolutions. In general it is true to say that this statement has been repeated without any attempt at theological justification. It has usually been considered sufficient to state that the admission of women to the higher orders of the ministry is contrary to Anglican tradition, which is assumed to rest upon an adequate theological basis. A report entitled Gender and Ministry, prepared for the Church Assembly by the Central Advisory Council for the Ministry in autumn, 1962,has asked that the theological basis of the Anglican tradition in this respect be given a theological re-examination, and a commission to this end has now been appointed, under the chairmanship of the Archbishop of York and composed mainly of those whose theological acumen Anglicans have learned to trust.

It must be stated that the traditional Anglican view has had a certain number of opponents, but their arguments have not carried conviction to the Anglican Church as a whole. Anglican arguments in favour of extending the full ministry to women may best be read in Women and Holy Orders by Canon C. E. Raven (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1928), Should Women be Priests? by Canon R. W. Howard (Oxford, Blackwell, 1949], and Should Women be Priests and Ministers ? by E. Picton-Turberville (London, Society for the Equal Ministry of Men and Women in the Church, 1954).

The priesthood of women has not, until recent years, posed a practical problem for the Anglican Church, and consequently very little theological thought has been devoted to the question. In the standard Anglican treatises dealing with Holy Orders the subject is normally not even mentioned. In recent years, however, the problem has been brought before Anglicans in three ways, two dealing with internal policy and one with external Church relations.

During the last war the Anglican Bishop of Hong Kong, Dr. R. O. Hah, raised a deaconess of his diocese to the priesthood on the plea of urgent pastoral necessity. It is doubtful whether much theological thought was devoted to the matter at that time, but in the event the Anglican Church repudiated his action and the lady in question reverted to the status of deaconess without any formal judgment being pronounced as to whether, in fact, she was capable of performing priestly functions in virtue of this ordination. The Archbishop of Canterbury at the time was William Temple and it is interesting, as showing how some Anglicans tend to view the matter, to give his views on the subject, written many years earlier, but which, says his biographer, he maintained to the end. “Personally I want (as at present advised) to see women ordained to the priesthood. But still more do I want to see both real advance towards the re-union of Christendom, and the general emancipation of women. To win admission to the priesthood now would put back the former and to moot it would put back the latter.” (F. A. Iremonger, William Temple, p. 452.)

The second case where the matter has presented itself to Anglicans as a question of internal policy concerns a request received by the Lambeth Conference of 1948 from the Anglican Church in China, the Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui, asking the bishop to consider whether liberty to experiment with a proposed Canon allowing the ordination of a deaconess to the priesthood during an experimental period of twenty years, would be in accordance with “Anglican tradition and order”. A deaconess so ordained was to remain celibate and to retain her priestly status whatever might be decided at the end of the twenty-year period. A special committee of 14 bishops was appointed to consider the question, including three bishops from China and Bishop R. O. Hall. They state in their report that “they have been made aware of the special conditions prevailing in China and, in particular, of the high standing and wide opportunities of women there. But it seems to them plain that an experiment of so radical an order could not properly be made without the fullest previous consideration by the Anglican Communion as a whole, for ‘Anglican tradition and order’ have certainly not hitherto recognised or contemplated the ordination of any woman to the priesthood.” Lambeth Conference, 1948, Part II, pp. 119-120.) Unfortunately the committee also stated that they were “not asked to discuss the principles upon which that tradition and order rest”, and they did not do so.

The ordination of women by the Church of Sweden has brought the problem to Anglicans in a more acute form than either of these domestic incidents has done. Anglican relations with the Swedish Church have long been close and cordial and though, in the strictest sense, there is no full formal relation of intercommunion between the two Churches, in fact widespread intercommunion is general, and many Anglicans visiting Sweden have been accustomed to communicating in the local churches and, of course, members of the Church of Sweden have in like manner been welcomed at Anglican altars. The question has now presented itself to many Anglicans, however, as to whether, in view of the negative attitude which their own Church has always adopted towards a female priesthood, they have the right to continue to accept such hospitality at Swedish altars. Many others feel that they can continue to do so where the celebrant of the Eucharist is not a woman. Many Anglicans have shown themselves openly sympathetic with those elements in the Swedish Church which are opposed to the ordination of women, and such sympathy with a part of the Church of Sweden opposed to the official policy of its Church could, if it became widespread and vocal, introduce a considerable element of restraint in the relation of the two Churches.

It is now time to examine the basis on which the Anglican tradition of restricting the full ministry to men rests. It must be admitted that certain presuppositions which have gone to the forming of that tradition will not stand the test of theological examination. What may be called the “paternal” argument has been shown to be untenable by Professor Andre Dumas and by Professor E. L. Mascall (Women and the Priesthood of the Church, p. 24). It is equally true, as Dr. Marga Biihrig has shown, that arguments based upon certain passages in St. Paul and the Pastoral Epistles are inconclusive and, indeed, both proponents and opponents of a female priesthood can build cases on a selection of equally valid passages.

It would not, however, be true to say that all Anglican opposition to the priesthood of women can be so easily dismissed. The Anglican tradition has always been based on Scripture, Tradition and Reason. It is rooted in the Bible, but in its classical expression has always been unwilling to separate the words of Scripture from the tradition of the living Body which recorded them and later gave them canonical status. In a case such as this, then, Anglicans would wish to take account of how the scriptural provisions were interpreted in the primitive Christian community and it is here that the negative evidence is seen as most remarkable. “For”, says Dr. Mascall, “it is this same primitive Church, which is appealed to as witnessing to the absolute equality of all Christians, both male and female, in their status as members of the Body of Christ through Baptism, which restricted the Church’s ministerial functions to men. And behind the action of the Church in this matter there lies the example of her Founder, who (as we see for example in his condemnation of the Jewish attitude to divorce) was full of sympathy for women but who nevertheless founded the Church’s ministry by giving it a purely male Apostolate. It would be absurd to suppose that, in doing this, Christ was depriving women of their legitimate rights and misleading his Church as to their true status, as a concession to the conventions and prejudices of the time; even his enemies never accused him of conventionality or cowardice, and and it would ill become his disciples of the twentieth century to do so” (op. cit.9 p. 12).

The argument, too, that our Lord did not number women among the Twelve because “it should surely be sufficient to enquire what would be thought of a young prophet and teacher, even in these days of female emancipation, who encouraged women to share with men the intimacies of his wanderings in lonely deserts and robber-infested hill-country, or in the crowded life of cities, especially the bazaars and market-places of an Eastern town” (A Memorandum in Response to the Questionnaire issued by the World Council of Churches, by the Society for the Equal Ministry of Men and Women in the Church, 1947, p. 9), has only to be stated to be shown to be untenable. It appears to be precisely what Jesus Christ allowed a number of women to do and the fact that he did so, and yet did not number women among the Twelve, argues in precisely the opposite way than this Memorandum would wish to do.

There is an influential strain in Anglican thought which believes that Apostolic Succession depends upon a tactual succession from the Twelve Apostles. The Preface to the Ordinal in the Book of Common Prayer is based upon this notion ; it was put forward strongly by the Caroline Divines of the XVIIth century, re-stated by the Tractarians of the XIXth century and again put forward in 1946 in the composite volume The Apostolic Ministry edited by the late Dr. K. E. Kirk, Bishop of Oxford. This view has never received the assent of all Anglican theologians, and it was powerfully challenged in 1920 by the late Dr. A. C. Headlam in his Bampton Lectures entitled The Doctrine of the Church and Christian Reunion. The proponents of this form of the doctrine of Apostolic Succession see the process as a kind of chain — Jesus Christ, the Apostle of the Father, sends twelve men “as the Father hath sent me”, and these, in turn, sent others as they had been sent. If anyone who held this view were asked whether women could receive the Apostolic Succession they would be bound, from the nature of their premises, to answer “No”. On the other hand, Anglican ecclesiology is at this point in the process of being radically re-thought in those very quarters which formerly held the traditional Catholic view. The succession may, or may not, have come through a tactual succession from the Apostles, but what matters is that it is a continual partaking of the Apostleship of the Lord. It is the Body of Christ which accepts this call to an individual to participate in the Lord’s Apostleship and which seals it by laying-on of hands by its appointed ministers. These new views of the Apostolic Succession have by no means yet obtained universal Anglican acceptance, but it is clear that they allow much greater freedom in the definition of an apostolic ministry.

So far as one dare predict, it seems reasonably certain that the Orders of priest and bishop will not be open to women in the Anglican Church in the foreseeable future. It is equally clear, however, that in the years to come new forms of the ministry will have to be evolved, as they were evolved in the ancient Church, To meet the needs of a new situation. In these new forms of the ministry it seems fully in accord with Anglican “order and tradition” that women should take their full part. Such ministries will be just as “full” ministries as those which now exist. The fact that they will be different seems to be fully in agreement with the doctrine that each member of the Body of Christ is of equal honour and takes an equally full part in its life, for the doctrine of the Body is nullified if all its members have the same office and ministry.

It is greatly to be hoped that the new Anglican Commission sitting will give a lead in defining what these new forms of ministry will be.

Selected bibliography


D.Sherwin Bailey, The Man-Woman Relation in Christian Thought, 314 p., London, Longmans, 1959.

D.Sherwin Bailey, Women and the Church's Lay Ministry in “Theology”, Sept.1954.

Kathleen Bliss, The Service and Status of Women in the Churches 208 p., London, SCM Press, 1952.

Julius Bodensieck, Theological Principles determining the Role of Christian Women in Church and Society(mimeographed), Lutheran Social Ethics Seminar, Valparaiso University, USA, Dec. 1955.

Church of England, Central Advisory Council for the Ministry, Gender and Ministry, A report prepared for the Church Assembly, Church Information Office, London, Autumn 1962, 31 p.

Church of Scotland, Reports of the Committee on the Order of Deaconesses, 1958, 1959 and 1960, Edinburgh.

Church of Scotland, The Place of Women in the Church, A Study Document, 40 p., Saint Andrew Press, Edinburgh, 1959.

G. F. Hilder, Women and the Ministry, in “Theology”, Dec. 1954.

R. W. Howard, Should Women be Priests? 49 p., Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1949.

O. Jessie Lace, The Ordination of Women to the Historic Ministry of the Church, London : 10 Clarence Gate Gardens, 1958, 14 p.

E. L.Mascall, The Ministry of Women, in “Theology”, Nov. 1954.

E. Picton-Turberville, Should Women be Priests and Ministers? 52 p., Society for the Equal Ministry of Men and Women in the Church London, reprinted 1954.

Russell C. Prohl, Women in the Church, A Restudy of Woman’s Place in Building the Kingdom, 86 p., Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1957.

Lord Quickswood, The Ministry of Women in Statutory Services London, SPCK, 1951, 15 p.

Cyril Richardson, Women in the Ministry, in “Christianity and Crisis” XI, 21 Dec. 1951.

Charles Caldwell Ryrie, The Place of Women in the Church, Macmillan’s, New York, 1958, 155 p.

M. E. Thrall, The Ministry of Women in “Theology”, Jan. 1955.

M. E.Thrall, The Ordination of Women to the Priesthood, A Study of the Biblical Evidence, 115 p. Studies in Ministry
and Worship, London : SCM Press, 1958.

N. P. Williams, Deaconesses and Holy Orders, London, SPCK, 1954, reprinted,)

Marguerite Woodruff, Underlying Factors Contributing to Paul's Teaching Concerning Women (Doctor’s Dissertation),
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Footworth, USA, July 1949.

Fritz Zerbst, The Office of Woman in the Church, Transl. from German by Merkens,Concordia) Saint Louis, USA, 1955.

In French

J. J.von Allmen,Conférence a la Commission du ministère pastoral de l’Eglise reformée de France, le 4 février 1963
, in “Verbum Caro” 1963, No. 65.

Madeleine Barot, Les femmes et le ministère in “La Communaute des disséminés” No. 9, Juillet 1960, p. 20-29.

Mme A. Blocher-Saillens, Liberées pour Christ, 228 p., Les Bons Semeurs, Paris 1961.

Georges Casalis, L'homme et la femme dans le ministère de L'Eglise. en Etudes théologiques et religieuses. Montpellier 1963, No. 2.

Eglise et Liturgie, La femme dans L'Eglise, Sainte-Croix, Vaud, 1958, 31p.

Albert Greiner, La place de la femme d'apres le temoignage de L'Ecriture, in “Positions luthériennes”, février 1954, No. 2.

Charlotte von Kirschbaum, Decouverte de la femme, trad, de l’allemand, 147 p., C.P.E. Geneve 1951.

F.J.Leenhardt, La place de la femme dans L'Eglise d'apres le Nouveau Testament, Etudes theologiques et religieuses, Montpellier 1948, No. 1.

Charles Westphal, La femme et le ministère pastoral de L'Eglise, in “Foi et Vie”, Nov./Dec 1949.

In German

Elisabeth Hahn, Partnerschaft,Ein Beitrag zum Problem der Gleich- berechtigung von Mann und Frau, im Laetare-Verlag, Niirnberg, 1953, 83 p.

Else Kähler, Die Frau in den paulinischen Briefen,Gotthelf Verlag, Zurich, 1960, 311 p.

Charlotte Kirschbaum, Die wirkliche Frau, Evang. Verlag, Zurich, 1949, 96 p.

A.C.Kroeger, Die Stellung der Frau in der christlichen Kirche, in “Concordia Theological Monthly” IV, Feb. 1933.

Erwin Metzke, Anthropologie der Geschlechter, in “Theologische Rundschau” No. 3, Tübingen 1954.

Anna Paulsen, Die Vikarin,Der Dienst der Frau in den Ämtern der Kirche, Band I, 88 p., Burckhardthaus-Verlag, Gelnhausen und Berlin, 1956.

D.Anna Paulsen, Geschlecht und Person, Das Biblische Wort über die Frau, Furche-Verlag, Hamburg, 1960, 182 p.

Vollversammlung des Lutherischen Weltbundes. Studiendokument für Sektion VI — Frauen der Kirche, Hannover 1952, p. 159-199, heraus-gegeben vom L. W., Genf.

C. M. van Asch van Wijk, Zweisam ist der Mensch, 92 p., Kaiser, München 1952.



The Ordination of Women - Lukas Vischer

The Ordination of Women : An Ecumenical Problem (Report of the WCC Consultation of May 1963)

Biblical Anthropology and the Participation of Women in the Ministry of the Church — André Dumas.

The Question of the Ordination of Women in the Light of some N. T. Texts  —  Marga Bhürig

A Comment on the Attitude of the Orthodox Church Nicolae Chitescu A Further Orthodox View  —  Georges Khodre.

An Anglican View  —  Henry R. T. Brandreth


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