Women Leaders

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Women Disciples


Widow in Hebrew means "mute, silent" and was a term that focused on the weakness and helplessness of a woman without a man to protect and support her in the ancient world.  A great deal of the ministry of Jesus in the gospels, especially Luke, was centered in the special needs of widows.  Later, the first serious problem in the church was the equal distribution of food to needy widows in Acts 6.

Then, in the Pastoral Letters, a great shift took place. Widows changed from weak and needy into strong ministers of Christ.  They carried out arduous tasks of pastoral and practical care of people in need.  They were described as "washing the feet of the disciples" and "praying all night" just as Jesus was described in the gospels.  Widows were expected to meet the same requirements as other ministers in the emerging church.  See I and II Timothy and Titus.  The presence of Jesus in all believers, including women, gave gifts for ministry that no one could deny.   


Women were part of the praying group on which the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost in Acts 1:l4; 2:1-6; 4:31-33 and were included among the first preachers who gave witness to Jesus.  Women were prominent in the early churches as leaders and ministers.  A woman, Phoebe, was called by Paul in Romans 16:l "the minister of the church at Cenchrea."  "Minister" is Greek diakonos (deacon) and was used to describe Paul and Christ in Romans 15:8, 25, 27, 31 as "ministers" to the Gentiles!  Paul called Phoebe "my sister." The word "sister" and "brother" are the same in Greek, like our word "sibling."  "Brothers" as a reference to believers should always be translated "sisters and brothers" to be accurate.

Four of the first seven leaders of the church in Rome greeted by Paul in Romans 16 were women.  Paul said in Romans 16:6. "Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you."  I imagined Mary, which is also my Mother's name, working hard doing domestic chores.  But that was before I looked up "work hard" in Greek.  The word is used in Romans 16:12 for another woman, Persis, and in I Corinthians 15:10 and 16:16, Gal. 4:11, Phil. 2:16 and Col. 1:29 for "hard work" in preaching and teaching by Paul and others.  I Thessalonians 5:12 uses it for those who "give you instruction."  I Tim. 5:17 uses it for elders "who rule well who work hard preaching and teaching."  Mary was no domestic servant.  Mary was a teacher and preacher!  Careful examination of the Bible text shows that women were indeed Christian disciples and leaders who changed the world.

To obscure the role of leadership by women in the New Testament is to perpetuate a lie that distorts the Bible and denies the fullness of salvation and service given to ALL believers through Jesus Christ.  Women's issues are everybody's issues.  As long as the abuse of the Bible is allowed to oppress and to deny full discipleship to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, women or any other group, the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is distorted and diminished.

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