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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

WELS Documented Blog - Biblical Roles of Men and Women

Pastor Adam Mueller - DP  Jon Buchholz' District

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

WELS Scriptural principles of man and woman roles

Before we discuss specific examples of women's current roles in the church and Synod, this is to help people better understand what the bible actually says about the subject, as well as, the doctrinal position of the Synod regarding a woman's role in church. If you still have questions or need clarification, please do not hesitate to ask.

Introduction to the Scriptural Principles

The 1960s and 1970s witnessed many changes in the attitude and practices of American society concerning male and female roles in life. These developments naturally led to questions being raised concerning the practices of the church in this matter. In response to such questions and to encourage a careful scriptural evaluation of the practices of our synodical schools, the Commission on Higher Education in April of 1978 adopted theses entitled "The Role of Man and Woman According to Holy Scripture." With the approval of the Conference of Presidents (COP) these theses and an exposition of them were submitted to the 1979 WELS convention. The convention, in turn, encouraged the districts of the synod to study them.

As a result of feedback from this study, the 1981 convention directed the COP to prepare a pamphlet addressing this subject. A committee of ten pastors, one from each district of the synod, was appointed to produce that pamphlet. The pamphlet which they produced, "Man and Woman in God's World," was published in 1985 with the approval of the COP. In 1987 "Man and Woman in God's World—An Expanded Study" was made available to provide more detailed exegetical background to the first pamphlet.

All three of these studies concluded that Scripture teaches that already at creation God established differences in male and female roles for this life on earth and that these differences in roles are still applicable today. A number of voices were raised in the synod, however, questioning whether such an "order of creation" was actually taught in Scripture.

The 1989 synod convention received a memorial requesting that "Man and Woman in God's World" be adopted as an official doctrinal statement of the synod and a counter-memorial suggesting that the pamphlet not be adopted as an official doctrinal statement since Scripture itself serves as an adequate statement of the doctrine. The convention resolved to receive "Man and Woman in God's World" as a correct exposition of the scriptural teachings in this matter. It urged the COP to prepare a brief, formal doctrinal statement for consideration at the 1991 convention.

In response the COP appointed a committee of five pastors to draw up such a statement. A preliminary draft of the statement was published in the Northwestern Lutheran with a request for comments and suggestions. A revised edition of the statement entitled "Scriptural Principles of Man and Woman Roles" was submitted to the convention by the COP. The convention accepted the statement as a correct exposition of scriptural doctrine and asked that members of the synod be given additional opportunity to suggest refinement of wording. It also asked the COP to authorize the preparation of study materials to help members of the synod study this issue in Scripture.

 The committee responded by gathering additional suggestions for refinements in wording, and the COP submitted a revised edition of the statement to the 1993 convention, which adopted the reworded statement as a correct exposition of scriptural doctrine. The convention also requested a "brief, practical statement with a positive tone."

In response to the request of the 1991 synodical convention for study material, Prof. John Brug prepared a ten-lesson Bible study with teacher's manual entitled "A Bible Study on Man and Woman in God's World," which was published in 1992. In response to the request of the 1993 convention for a brief, practical statement, Pastor Walter Beckmann prepared "The Spirit in Which We Apply the Scriptural Roles of Man and Woman," which appeared in 1994.

"Scriptural Principles of Man and Woman Roles" is, thus, based on well over a decade of study by three different study groups. The doctrinal substance of its conclusions was adopted by three successive synodical conventions. This statement was not intended to be a comprehensive statement about scriptural roles for men and women. It is a brief doctrinal statement which addresses, both in a positive and negative way, specific issues which were points of controversy at the time the statement was composed. It strives to give balanced attention both to the spiritual equality which men and women share in Christ and to the different roles which God assigns to men and women in this earthly life. It emphasizes that the principles governing these different roles were established by God at creation and remain valid.

Sam Birner graduated from Michigan Lutheran Seminary, WELS.
Pastor Adam Mueller worked there.


Scriptural Principles of Man and Woman Roles

In order to express our harmony in doctrine and practice with what God teaches in the Holy Scriptures about man and woman, we present the following statements as our confession:

Creation

1. God created man and woman in His own image. The divine image gave man and woman spiritual equality in their relationship to the Creator (Ge 1:26,27; Col 3:10; Gal 3:28).

2. In love God established distinct male and female responsibilities (Ge 2:7,18,22) for the man and woman to whom He had given spiritual equality. These responsibilities involved headship for man and submission for woman. These roles demonstrated God's unchanging will for the complementary relationship of man and woman with each other. Two New Testament passages attest to this: 1 Co 11:3,8,9 and 1 Ti 2:12,13.

3. God established roles for man and woman in His creative plan before He united them in marriage and before they fell into sin (Ge 2:7,18,22; 1 Co 11:3,8,9). Therefore God's assigned roles apply beyond the marriage relationship and in every period of history.

The Fall

4. All commands of God and all roles established by God are for our good (1 Jn 5:3; Ps 19:8,11). To ignore or reject them harms our relationship with God and with each other (1 Pe 3:7; Eph 6:3; Ro 13:2-4).

5. When they sinned, man and woman lost the image of God and their perfect relationship with their Creator (Ge 5:1-3; Isa 59:2). Man and woman also lost their holy and harmonious relationship with each other (Ge 2:16,17; 3:12,16).

Restoration

6. God loved all men and women so much that He sent and sacrificed His Son to reestablish the holy relationship they once had with Him—Justification (Ro 5:8; 2 Co 5:18,19,21; Eph 4:24; Col 3:10).

7. Men and women enjoy equal status in their reestablished relationship with God when He brings them to faith in Jesus (Gal 3:26-29; Eph 6:9).

8. The restoration of God's image in us is a gradual process which goes on throughout our earthly lives—Sanctification (2 Co 3:18; Eph 4:12-16). The Holy Spirit accomplishes this restoration by the power of the Gospel (Jn 17:17; 1 Th 3:13).

Headship

9. As God restores His image in us, we grow in our ability to live in our God-assigned roles for Jesus' sake (Eph 5:21–6:9; Col 3:18–4:1; 1 Pe 3:5-7).

10. Scripture teaches that headship includes authority (1 Co 11:3,10; Col 1:18; 2:10; Eph 1:22; 1 Ti 2:11,12). Authority should not be used to dominate but to serve others (Mt 20:25-28).

11. Christ exercised His headship with sacrificial love (Eph 5:25), humility (Php 2:5-8), and service (Eph 5:28,29), and asks all believers to carry out their roles of authority in the same way (Mt 20:25-28).

12. In applying the principle of role relationship, the church will emphasize the duties and responsibilities of men. God holds Christian men accountable for the use of the authority He has given them and will grant His blessings when men exercise this authority out of love for Christ (1 Pe 3:7; Col 3:19).

13. Believers in Christ live under His headship with willing submission, respect, obedience, and love toward those in authority (Eph 5:21–6:9).

In the Home

14. The role relationships of man and woman find their fullest expression in the close union of marriage. In a Christian home a husband and wife are partners and co-heirs of God's gracious gift of salvation (Eph 5:22-33; 1 Pe 3:1-7).

15. Since God appointed the husband to be the head of the wife (Eph 5:23), the husband will love and care for his God-given wife (1 Pe 3:7). A wife will gladly accept the leadership of her husband as her God-appointed head (Eph 5:22-24).

16. As the head of the wife and family the husband has the prime responsibility for the spiritual instruction of the family (Eph 6:4).

In the Church

17. The biblical principle of role relationship applies also to the gatherings of the church. All believers, men and women, will participate at gatherings of worship, prayer, Bible study, and service. The scriptural applications that a woman remain silent (1 Co 14:34) and that a woman should not teach a man (1 Ti 2:11,12) require that a woman refrain from participating in these gatherings in any way which involves authority over men.

18. In church assemblies the headship principle means that only men will cast votes when such votes exercise authority over men. Only men will do work that involves authority over men (1 Co 11:3-10; 14:33-35; 1 Ti 2:11,12).

19. All Christians, men and women, are to use their God-given gifts to serve each other (1 Pe 4:10). Women are encouraged to participate in offices and activities of the public ministry except where the work involves authority over men.

In the World

20. Christians also accept the biblical role relationship principle for their life and work in the world (1 Co 11:3; Eph 5:6-17). Christians seek to do God's will consistently in every area of their lives. We will therefore strive to apply this role relationship principle to our life and work in the world.

21. Scripture leaves a great deal to our conscientious Christian judgment as we live the role relationship principle in the world. In Christian love we will refrain from unduly binding the consciences of the brothers and sisters in our fellowship. Rather, we will encourage each other as we seek to apply this principle to our lives in the world.

22. Because the unregenerate world is not motivated by the Gospel or guided by God's will (1 Co 2:14), we as Christians will not try to force God's will upon the world (1 Co 5:12). We will seek to influence and change the world by our Gospel witness in word and deed (Mk 16:15; Mt 5:16).

Martin Luther College, WELS,
"had no idea" about Sam Birner and his friend Zak Stowe.


Since we affirm the preceding statements as biblical truths, we maintain that the propositions rejected below are contrary to the Word of God:

1. We reject the attempt to define male-female role principles only on the basis of biblical examples of human conduct because doctrine must be drawn from simple, direct statements of God's will.

2. We reject as a confusion of Law and Gospel the opinion that our spiritual equality before God restored by Christ (Gal 3:28) sets aside our distinctive responsibilities as guided by God's Law (1 Co 11:3).

3. We reject the opinion that relationships of headship and subordination are incompatible with a state of holiness (1 Co 11:3; 15:28). All New Testament passages regarding the role relationships are addressed to reconciled and sanctified men and women.

4. We reject the opinion that 1 Corinthians 11:7 teaches that only man, not woman, was created in God's image (cf. Ge 1:26,27).

5. We reject the opinion that distinct roles for man and woman were first ordered after the Fall in Genesis 3:16 (cf. Ge 2:7,18,22).

6. We reject the opinion that male headship and female submission apply only to marriage or only to marriage and the church (1 Co 11:3; 1 Ti 2:12).

7. We reject the opinion that the principle of role relationships taught in the New Testament was culturally conditioned and is not applicable today.

8. We reject the opinion that the principle of role relationships applies only to some people, only for some periods of history, or only to certain aspects of Christian life.

9. We reject the opinion that in the church assemblies only matters pertaining to the Word of God are authoritative.

10. We reject the opinion that the mutual submission encouraged by Scriptures for all believers (Eph 5:21; Mt 20:25-28) negates the exercise of male headship.

11. We reject the opinion that the word "head" as applied to Christ and man in the New Testament does not include authority.

12. We reject the opinion that every woman is always subject to every man. Other scriptural role relationship principles and the injunction, "We must obey God rather than men" (Ac 5:29), also govern our actions.

13. We reject arbitrary applications of the principle of the role relationships which do not take into account that customs which reflect these relationships as well as conditions of life may change (1 Co 11:6,16).

14. We reject the claim that the biblical statement "women should remain silent in the churches" (1 Co 14:34) forbids all speaking by women in the assemblies of the church.

With these statements of what we confess and what we reject we offer the prayer as Christian men and women that God will fill us with His Holy Spirit, giving to each of us a better understanding of and appreciation for our God-assigned responsibilities, that in loving service to Him and to each other we hallow His name and share in His mission in every God-pleasing way.



Still have questions? Read More: 

WELS Q & A - Roles of men and women

Question: 
In a society that stresses equality between men and women, why do most confessional Lutherans and other conservative churches choose to limit leadership and authority roles in congregations to men?

Answer: 
We do believe and teach that men and women enjoy equal status and importance before God. Both men and women were created in the perfect holiness of the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Although that was lost in the fall into sin when as both men and women we became equally sinful before God (Romans 3:23), yet in Christ's life, death, and resurrection for us God has restored to us our position as his justified and holy children (Romans 3:24). As far as our status and importance before him as dearly loved children and heirs of heaven, whether we are female or male makes absolutely no difference (Galatians 3:26-29).

However, Scripture is also clear that while we are equal in status and importance before him, God has not made us duplicates or clones of each other in how we carry out our various God-given callings. Already in the perfection of the Garden of Eden he assigned unique callings or roles to the man and the woman when God made her to be helper suitable for the man and created her right from the man (Genesis 2:18ff). God gave to the man the unique calling of being a loving head and to his wife the unique calling of being a loving helper to him. In the New Testament, the inspired Apostle Paul assures us that these unique callings were indeed found already in the perfection of Eden when he writes, "Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God" (1 Corinthians 11:3). Later Paul reminds us that what we read in Genesis 2 is indeed where this was established when he says, "For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman but woman for man" (1 Corinthians 11:8-9).

While man's headship is intended by God to be lived out in loving servant humility like Christ for us (Ephesians 5:25), yet headship also includes the God-given authority to lead (Hebrews 13:17). That is why one part of the unique calling of helper is to respect and yield (submit) to that leadership (Ephesians 5:22).

In the church, one of the places that those charged with leadership in our congregations exercise such authority is in the voters' assembly. There those charged with setting the direction of the congregation set that path in the debate and voting that takes place. Just as Paul reminds us that teaching the Word with authority is an expression of the headship principle (1 Timothy 2:12), so also it is an exercise of authority when the governing bodies of our congregations set the direction for that congregation.

Of course, wise heads know that God has given them helpers for a reason. The wisdom and insights, the questions and concerns of everyone in the congregation, men and women, are important. Especially when a woman may have no husband in her home, it is very important that the congregation look for ways to gain her input.

Does WELS stand out as different among other Lutheran church bodies in so honoring the principle of head and helper? Yes. But does that mean we are closed minded and old fashioned, or does that mean others have been more affected by the culture around them than they may know? The question is never what the culture demands, but what the Scriptures teach.

*****

Question:
Why aren't women silent at WELS church services? The Bible states that women are to remain silent in church, (1 Corinthians 14:33-35) but WELS rejects this. How come this Bible verse is rejected but not other verses dealing with women's treatment around men? Women talk at my local WELS church. I'm sure there could be some solution to ensure women remain silent while at church.

I like going to my local WELS church. WELS (and the Bible) teaches women to be submissive to men and men to be head of the household, and not to have authority over men in any way (women can't vote at church). Clearly the Bible states in verses women are to be submissive to man, but the Bible also has verses that indicates man should love his wife as Christ loved the church. It is just my opinion that if a man loves a women he would not ask the women to be submissive to him, but rather he would respect and love and treat her like he would like to be treated. I just wish that a different "angle" or stance could be taken scripturally to encourage love and kindness from all. I know WELS stresses what is written in the Bible and I feel the WELS churches do their best to follow the Bible. There have been situations that have occurred at the local WELS church for me that portray it as a "good ol boys club." I feel that WELS and the people attending WELS would greatly benefit if the possibility of abusing Bible verses relating to roles of women and women "submitting" be lessened. Is there any way this could be accomplished, or handled?

Answer: 
WELS does not reject what God says in 1 Corinthians 14:33-35.  What we do is understand and apply those words according to their context.  You may or may not be aware of the booklet Man and Woman in God’s World, prepared under the auspices of our synod’s Conference of Presidents.  The booklet addresses the section in 1 Corinthians chapter 14 you cited and other portions of the Bible that direct men and women how to live in relation to one another.  Here are some excerpts from that booklet that address the “women being silent” instruction in 1 Corinthians chapter 14:

“Paul describes a worship setting that in many ways does not bear a close resemblance to our structured, more liturgical forms of worship…Paul does not want to squelch this form of worship as long as it can be put in line with the general principle of orderliness…

“…In this congregation as well as in any other congregation…both the principle of orderliness and the principle of headship could be overstepped.  Paul seeks to correct that with the statement:  ‘Women should remain silent in the churches’ (v. 34).

“…Yet it is also clear this prohibition is confined to a more specific context, ‘in the church.’  Again, we do not understand by the word ‘church’ a building or a piece of real estate but the gathering of the believers in an assembly.  In the context of 1 Corinthians 14 this is the assembly as it gathers to worship and be edified.  God often encourages all his people, as universal priests, to pray, to sing, to share the gospel, to build up and to support each other.  We cannot maintain that this verse in contradiction to the rest of the Bible forbids all speaking by every woman within the setting of the assembled church.

“The context suggests what kinds of speaking are forbidden, namely, the very prophesying and interpreting that Paul has just detailed in verses 29-33.  The activity of speaking a message from God in front of men and women, as well as giving a judgment on the meaning of those words for men and women, would overstep the principle."

I included these excerpts because they provide a synodical response, based on Scripture, to your assertion that WELS rejects what God says in 1 Corinthians 14:33-35.  You would derive benefit by reading the booklet from which these excerpts come.

Regarding “submission,” I would direct your attention to Ephesians 5:21-33.   That section begins with the instruction for Christians to “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  The Christian life is one in which men and women put others first; selflessness is to characterize the Christian life.

Then, God directs wives to “submit to your husband as to the Lord…As the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (vv. 22, 24).  As Christians, we submit to Christ and his loving leadership.  According to our new self we do not find that submission offensive, degrading, demeaning or insulting.  We look to Christ as our loving leader. The church’s attitude toward Christ is the pattern for a wife’s attitude toward her husband.

To round out the picture, Christ’s love for the church is the pattern for a husband’s love for his wife:  “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” (verse 25).  Selfless, sacrificial love is what God directs a husband to give his wife.

Do Christian husbands and wives follow God’s will perfectly in these areas?  Certainly not.   But when they fall short, they confess their sins to God, receive his forgiveness in faith and go forward, striving to live life according to God’s will as a way of thanking him for his forgiving love.

Answered by James Pope, professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn. Pope is a contributing editor to Forward in Christ magazine. He writes the monthly “Light for our path” question and answer column. 

A woman's "right" to vote
by John F. Brug

In order to avoid exercising leadership over men contrary to "the order of creation," WELS women do not vote in church meetings. By what right then do women exercise leadership over men and vote in political elections?

There is no biblical basis for claiming that such actions and participation are a God-given right. We would approach the question not from the point of view of right, but of how to best fulfill our duty to uphold the biblical principles.

The reason we do not have women voting in the governing bodies of the church is the scriptural command that women should not exercise authority over men, which is, as you say, based on an order established by God at creation. The voters' assembly in our form of church government is the highest authority of the congregation under the Word of God.

Concerning actions in society, WELS' statement on "Scriptural Principles of Man and Woman Roles" says, "Christians also accept the biblical role relationship principle for their life and work in the world. . . . We therefore strive to apply this role relationship principle to our life and work in the world. Scripture leaves a great deal to our conscientious Christian judgment as we live the role relationship principle in the world. In Christian love we will refrain from unduly binding the consciences of the brothers and sisters in our fellowship. Rather, we will encourage each other as we seek to apply this principle in the world" (Theses 20 and 21).

Since the principles of male and female roles are a good thing established by God at creation, we have no basis to limit their application only to religious matters. But since the Bible does not give us a set of rules and regulations specifying the application of these principles to work in the world, the church does not make such a set of rules. Rather, the church teaches the principles and gives its members help in applying the principles in their lives.

Christian women may have many motives that would lead them to vote in national elections other than a desire to exercise authority over men--for example, to oppose the voice of women who are advocating abortion or other causes contrary to Scripture.

The principle is not "don't vote." The principle is "don't exercise authority over men." There might be out-of-the ordinary occasions, even in the church, where honoring the principle might allow or even require women to vote. In one such case, in a church that allowed women to vote, several women who normally didn't exercise that privilege voted when it came time to uphold the biblical principle and change the constitution to disallow their voting. They correctly understood the principle and acted in a way that would uphold it.

When we encounter a situation in which we find it difficult to decide what to do, we can find help in determining the best course of action by stepping back and asking, "What is the principle?" and "How will my action defend it or undermine it?"

In the church we are working with Christians whom we can expect to work together in trust and love, according to the principles that God has established. We should be able to establish forms in governing the church that will show concern for the needs and desires of all the members without violating the principles of God's Word.

The church, however, cannot control the form and methods of the state. A Christian woman will have to conscientiously examine her aims and motives for political activity and voting and evaluate her decisions in the light of the biblical principles.

Other practical problems in applying the biblical principles in society are discussed in Chapter 10 of the Bible class "Man and Woman in God's World," available from Northwestern Publishing House, 1-800-662-6022.

John Brug is a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin.

Forward in Christ
Author: John F. Brug
Issue: November 2000
Sam Birner, Martin Luther College, WELS,
a few days ago.


Read More (from the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Essay Files):
Sam Birner - aka Amber Noel Birner - now.



Read more research on the WELS Documented Blog.