WIDOWS AS LEADERS
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.
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 LEADERS IN THE EARLY CHURCH
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.
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.
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.