Bible Q&A: Since Women Are Not To Exercise Authority Over Men In The Church, Would It Be Wrong For Women To Attend Congregational Meetings?

Since women are not to exercise authority over men in the church, would it be wrong for women to attend congregational meetings in which the business of the church was discussed?

It is true that God inspired the apostle to write that Christian women are not to teach or exercise authority over men (1 Tim. 2:11-12).  The reason given for this command hearkens back to the sin of Eve, the first woman (1 Tim. 2:13-14).  The context of this passage shows that this directive is limited to within the church (1 Tim. 3:14-15).  Therefore, while it would not be scriptural for a Christian woman to preach a sermon, teach a Bible class, lead a song or prayer during an assembly in which Christian men are present, or take any sort of leadership office (such as an elder or a deacon – 1 Tim. 3:1-13; Tit. 1:5-9), it would not be sinful for a woman to teach a man in a secular setting, exercise authority over a man in a secular setting, or teach a man who is not a Christian the gospel (cf. Mk. 16:15-16).

The question before us is whether it is wrong if a Christian woman, being under these parameters, would attend and participate in a meeting of the whole congregation in which the business of the church was discussed.  In answering the question, it should be pointed out that what the early church did under apostolic oversight and approval serves as a positive example for us today (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Phil. 3:17).  With that in mind, we should take note that the very first church of Christ, located in Jerusalem, was specifically said to be made up of “multitudes of both men and women” (Acts 5:14).  We then read that when “a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution,” the apostles “summoned the full number of the disciples” and directed them to “pick out from among you seven men” who met specific qualifications “whom (the apostles) would appoint to this duty” of making sure that no one in the church was neglected in that benevolent work (Acts 6:1-3).  Luke then wrote that “what they said pleased the whole gathering,” and “they” (the “whole gathering,” “the full number of the disciples” of whom the inspired writer earlier said were made up of “multitudes of men and women”) “chose” seven men who met those qualifications and set them before the apostles, who then prayed and laid their hands on them, meaning that they appointed them to that particular work (Acts 6:5-6).

From this example we see that it is not necessarily true that Christian women take a position of authority over Christian men by participating alongside them in a congregational meeting in which input is given under the direction of the male leadership of that congregation.  Thus, it would not be sinful for a Christian woman to participate in a congregational meeting in which the business of the church was discussed.  Some congregations practice this very thing, and are not wrong to do so.  Other congregations, wanting to make sure that they do not violate the 1 Timothy 2:11-12 edict, have church “business meetings” in which only men attend, while also seeking in other ways input from the female members of that congregation.  Such decisions are made out of a desire to not go beyond the authority of Scripture, and thus should be respected.

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