Scripture: 1Timothy 3:1-13; 2Timothy 3:1-9
This week for our sermon series Church and State: The Rise of Early Christianity, we are discussing the changing role of women in the church towards the end of the first century. In the early years of the church’s existence, women were not secondary to men, but played important leadership roles. Indeed, Paul mentions several women within his churches to whom he deferred in matters of running the church.
Interestingly, this deference is not demonstrated in the letters of 1 and 2Timothy. On the contrary, the author of 1 and 2Timothy often belittles and minimizes the role of women in the church. Sadly, these words are a reflection of a particular evolution that was taking place in the early church. When the church first got going it was comprised mostly of Jews, but over time, more and more Romans became part of the church.
In Roman culture, women were very involved in pagan religious ceremonies. This dynamic became important when Paul began planting many of his churches in the early 40’s. When women began to show up who were familiar with paganism, Paul’s churches reflected a leadership structure that included women so they would not feel alienated. Therefore, many of these Roman women had an expectation that they could play a role in the leadership of the church.
But by the time we get to 100 A.D., things had changed. Clearly, a group of men wanted to put this expectation to rest so these letters were penned and circulated in Paul’s name to silence the women who dominated these early congregations. Not only did these verses marginalize women in the church, but it created a culture where women assumed that they were less important in God’s eyes simply because they were women.
This Sunday is Mother’s Day and we are going to be discussing how women are playing a major role in the future of the church and why sexist and exclusionary attitudes towards women are the death knell for the church in the 21st century. I look forward to seeing you on Sunday. May you enjoy a beautiful and warm weekend with your friends and family!