Sunday, July 09, 2017

Women as Leaders in the Early Church

Doing a little reading in Early Christian Families in Context tonight and hit a wall.

"However, it is important to note that interpreters have usually not distinguished precisely between women's involvement in the expansion of early church groups and the other types of leadership they undertook among believers. This is no doubt due to the fact that the NT evidence by no means suggests a rigid demarcation between types of leadership. A woman leader of a house church such as Prisca is also depicted as engaging in evangelizing efforts. But for the purposes of this paper, it is essential to try to distinguish as much as possible between local leadership and leadership efforts with an outward orientation- indications of activities that clearly win new members."

Margaret Y. MacDonald in her paper "The Role of Women in the Expansion of Early Christianity

I know that the role of women as "evangelizers" is what she's exploring and I will finish the paper and learn, but I got tripped up on the above sentence in bold.

The NT does not provide evidence, according to MacDonald, that there is a rigid demarcation between types of leadership.


 What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.  If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret;  but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God.  Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment.  But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent.  For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted;

I Cor 14:26-32

It seems to me from this passage in Paul's letter that the meetings in Corinth were mighty disorderly. That everyone was speaking. That all were learning from "each one."  I'd give a kidney and my left arm to be in one of those gatherings. 

So, why, as modern attenders of a religious service, are we so all-fired eager to assign functions and to prioritize those persons of said functions  as "important" when clearly, in Corinth, anyway, EVERYONE functioned and EVERYONE was important. 

I mean, how I feel about this is nothing new, but I'm trying to figure out how to get through the scholarship with this in mind. The study of women's roles in the early church seems to get bogged down in what I think/imagine/feel might be an anachronistic view of "church." If we can peel back the layers of what "church" is now and has been through the centuries, we might have less of a problem figuring out how women functioned at it's beginning.