On preaching: or why an Evangelical/Fundamentalist stance against women preaching is the most anti biblical stance around

If 2preach=2speak the gospel of Jesus resurrected & the bible is clear women don’t preach; why’d women preach the 1st sermon #literalismftw

If you’ve been to an evangelical or fundamentalist ministry, you’ve probably been confronted in some way by the argument that women are not to teach or have authority over men. For me, it was most obvious in college when I was sitting in a planning meeting for a summer camp and the female co-leader of the whole camp got up to talk. She began by telling us not to worry, she would only be exhorting us in Scripture, not preaching. And so for the next 20 or 30 minutes she walked us through about 30 or 40 verses of scripture, each time offering a word or two about how this verse applied to our task ahead. I suppose if she had started preaching rather than exhorting, the Bible itself would have become a tool for Satan by tricking us poor men into hearing a woman preach.

This was the first time I’d been struck so concretely by the implications of a tradition’s refusal to let women preach or lead churches. I was bothered at the time, but did not know why it felt so problematic. I have since come to recognize that any form of the argument is no more persuasive to me than “separate but equal.” The contortions required to justify any particular set of practices have never made sense and have often caused and justified harm.

I find that the more ‘literal’ we view the whole of scripture, the more often we really just mean we take the parts that justify our conclusions literally to the extent that they literally mean what they need to mean to justify our literalistic conclusion. In practice, literalism tends to mean something along the lines of being too lazy or afraid to have to explore the mysteries of God and nuances of living out God’s love. Needless to say, I don’t put much stock in a strict literalism when it comes to scripture. But I was struck by a new literalist reason to disagree with those traditions that prohibit female preachers last year when preparing for Easter Sunday. In good literalist fashion, I’ll use the clear and specific words of scripture to further make my case against prohibiting female preachers.

I’m confident this has been pointed out before, but I can’t recall having seen it anywhere in particular. Preaching, to the extent that it is a unique form of public speaking and thereby something worth doing, is a proclamation of the Gospel message. Namely, that Jesus lived, died, and was resurrected in fulfillment of the promises of God. Even Paul, author of the greatest battle cries against women in ministry, says as much in a variety of ways in the first chapter of 1st Corinthians. Most succinctly stating in verse 23 – “we preach Christ crucified.” Unless he just changed his mind by the time he arrived at 15:14 (if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless), crucified would be nothing without resurrected.

I was struck to recognize that to accept that preaching is the art of proclaiming Christ’s death and resurrection requires that we also accept that women preached the first recorded sermon. Matthew (28:7) and Luke (24:9-10) make it crystal clear that the two Marys and other women were the first to be told that Jesus is risen and the first to go and proclaim that good news to others. The implication is the same in John’s gospel (20:18) as well and the ending of Mark’s gospel makes no clear statement. If God did not intend for women to preach, it seems quite odd that women were clearly the first to preach the gospel message. Women can preach. The Bible tells me so.

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