First, I would like to commend the authors of this document for making it clear that women are not inferior by nature to men. In this document women are recognized as receiving the same spiritual gifts as men and special mention is made of the 'priesthood of all believers.' #6 in particular, is an affirmation that celebrates the role of women in relationship to Christ.
- #6 The Bible teaches the significance of women in the life and ministry of Jesus in that they were friends, supporters and followers (Luke 8:1-3; John 4:1-42; John 20:1-18). It is notable that women were the last at the cross and that the resurrected Lord appeared first to women.
In #16, many of the teachings are summarized. I believe that (1) is within marriage and is of a private nature. Then (2) is the teaching that I am most familiar with. It is a very traditional teaching and I will not argue with it today. (4) is commendable. Now read this paragraph and note (3).
- 16. The four over-riding Biblical principles in this issue, in no particular order, are that of (1) "headship" (I Corinthians 11:3-16), (2) "orderliness in the meetings of the church" (I Corinthians 14:40), (3) the responsibility of men to lead and women to respond to that leadership (Ephesians 5:21-24), and (4) the gifting by the Holy Spirit of all believers alike for mutual building up of the body of Christ (I Timothy 2:11ff).
If, as (3) says, it is the responsibility of women to respond to male leadership why did women remain last at the cross, and why did women go first to the empty tomb?
I would be interested in hearing where in the Bible this teaching that women have the responsibility to respond to male leadership is found or even an example is given. In the Bible women respond to God, to Christ and to angels. They relate to God in the same way men do, directly.
If a male is in a legitimate leadership position, then one must believe that either all Christians under his responsibility must respond to him, or none at all. There cannot be a differential in the responding of women and men. That would cause very innapropriate behaviour if women all responded to one man's teaching, leadership and 'strength' (as John Piper puts it) but their husbands did not, because it was not explicitly their responsibility to do so. How would the husbands feel?
If women are only responsible to respond, then who would tell women missionaries who have initiated work without male companions that they have gone byond their biblical responsibility and not remained within their boundaries?
Or is it only when men are around that they must be responded to? Is a woman on her own capable of responding to God, but a woman in the company of a man not capable of this? This two tier system is difficult to disentangle. If women are capable of responding to God on their own, then is it to meet the needs of men that women must respond to them. Is that taught in the Bible?
I do not think that this phrase found in #16 (3) is Biblical. It would be better left out entirely. It is an important teaching in complementarianism and it is one reason that I am committed to demonstrating that complementarianism is not Biblical.
Ultimately, I do not perceive of this teaching as a traditional Brethren teaching. In #16 only (2) "orderliness in the meetings of the church" (I Corinthians 14:40), and 4) the gifting by the Holy Spirit of all believers alike for mutual building up of the body of Christ (I Timothy 2:11ff) are traditional Brethren teaching. (Headship refers to marriage not to behaviour in the assembly.)
These are only my opinions which I am expressing because I was asked to. Thank you for asking me to respond to this document. Please understand that I do not seek to offend.