Women in the Church— American History, Slavery, and Feminism


Often we forget what was going on at various times in history. As we look at some American history and see how Christians were active in social issues at that time, we are reminded that not everyone believed the same way. It is, therefore, a good habit to look back at the historical record and grapple with what freedoms, or lack of freedoms, were experienced by people in their time.

I find that history is quite revealing. It allows us to better grasp how things really were, ponder the implications, and consider how we look at these things today. One topic that continues to draw my attention is how women were ‘considered and treated’ at various points in history! Let’s consider some of the implications of patriarchy found in the 19th century.

The following is an excerpt from a book detailing some history during that era.  I have taken these thoughts from historian and theologian, Rebecca Merrill Groothuis. Her book is entitled: Women Caught in the Conflict: The Culture War between Traditionalism and Feminism. This is an excellent book. It provides a keen historical overview as well as biblical and cultural insights. Rebecca clarifies much of the haze around these issues and provides excellent references for further study.

I invite you to consider ‘evangelical feminism’ in order to understand its solid Christian roots and then to recognize the impact that it has had on society as a whole. I ask you to reflect on what motivated people to change the way things were in favor of following Kingdom principles.

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“In the 19th century, the political ideas of classical liberalism interacted with the religious zeal of the Second Great Awakening to energize numerous social reform movements in the quest of a godly society of free individuals. Many of these reform efforts were led and supported by Christian women and men.”

Women and Slaves

“The ideology of anti-slavery was equality and independence for all human beings; many abolitionists became feminists when they realized that the principle that “all men are created equal” applied as well to women as it did to slaves.”

The following is a look at the legal rights of women then and how some godly people saw the need to take action and oppose what was an unjust and unreasonable reality regarding marriage laws at that time. From our perspective, their situations are often hard to fathom while living with the many freedoms in our day.

“The similar state of women and slaves prior to the reform movements is particularly notable. The 18th century English common law of William Blackstone—which early America inherited from England—upheld the “civil death” of women who married. Blackstone asserted in his Commentaries: “By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law; that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during her marriage, or at least, is consolidated into that of her husband under whose wing, protection and cover, she performs everything.” Even as he owned his slaves, so a man owned his wife. Andrew Sinclair notes,

“Early American women were almost treated like Negro slaves, inside and outside the home. Both were expected to behave with deference and obedience towards owner or husband; both did not exist officially under the law; both had few rights and little education; both found it difficult to run away, both worked for their masters without pay; both had to breed on command, and to nurse the results.”

In early America, neither women nor slaves had rights as individuals. Both were under the legal cover and control of their male masters.

The early feminists’ objection to legalized domination of wives by husbands led some couples publicly to renounce such laws upon their marriage. Before John Stuart Mill married Harriet Taylor in 1851, “he wrote out a ‘formal protest against the law of marriage’ for conferring on the husband ‘legal powers and control over the person, property, and freedom of action of the wife’; and he made a ‘solemn promise never in any case or under any circumstances’ to use such powers.”

At the wedding ceremony of evangelical abolitionists Theodore Weld and Angelina Grimke, Weld disclaimed any right that the law gave him to own and control his wife’s person or property. Their marriage of mutual love and equality served as an example to others, particularly to Henry Blackwell who diligently courted suffragist leader Lucy Stone for some time before she agreed to marry him. In his letters of persuasion to her, he wrote concerning Angelina and Theodore Weld, “If ever there was a true marriage it is theirs—Both preserve their separate individuality perfectly.”

Blackwell also wrote . . . The idea of equality and mutual submission is rarely considered as a possibility. Only two options are recognized: either a man dominates his wife, or he is dominated by his wife. Because the idea of a man being dominated by his wife is particularly repugnant to most people, his “right” to dominate her is retained. But Henry Blackwell saw through this false dilemma and promised Lucy that he would “repudiate the supremacy” of either woman or man in marriage. “Equality for me is a passion,” he wrote to Lucy. “I dislike equally to assume, or to endure authority.”

The minister who married Henry Blackwell and Lucy Stone commented, “I never perform the marriage ceremony without a renewed sense of the iniquity of . . . a system by which ‘man and wife are one, and that one is the husband.’” . . .

Because of the blatant injustice of the law toward women, early feminist efforts were directed toward equalizing marriage and property laws. Also promoted, however, were women’s rights to education, to decent working conditions, and to public speaking and leadership. As American feminists were successful in legal reform, “it allowed American lawyers to boast of the superiority of their legal system to those of European countries, most of which now possessed a version of the Code Napoleon that was based on his dictum, ‘woman is given to man to bear children; she is therefore his property, as the tree is the gardener’s.’”

Women’s suffrage was slower in coming than other legal reforms. The idea of women having the right to vote struck at the very heart of male authority by presupposing that women had minds of their own, that they had thoughts and opinions independently of their husbands, and that the ideas of female minds should be counted equally with those of male minds in determining the laws and leaders of the country.

Nineteenth-Century Liberalism

The application of the principle of equal rights for all people—regardless of race, sex, or economic class—is characteristic of classical (pre-modern) liberalism. The legal rights that were traditionally granted only to free men began to be extended to slaves and women in the nineteenth century. This advocacy of the rights of the individual was part of a trend in Western society toward abandoning the traditional practice of ascribing roles to people solely on the basis of the circumstances of their birth—their sex, race, socioeconomic status, and father’s vocation. The pattern in Western society has been an increasing awareness that these characteristics ought not determine a person’s role in life and that the only valid determining factor should be each individual’s competence to perform a given role or job. . . .

Abolitionism and the Church

The anti-slavery impetus did not come only from 19th century political ideals. Christian abolitionists believed the abolition of slavery to be in obedience to biblical principles. Most of the exegetical arguments of northern Christian abolitionists went along the lines of Presbyterian minister Albert Barnes’s 1846 publication, An Inquiry into the Scriptural Views of Slavery. He upheld that “The principles laid down by the Savior and his Apostles are such as are opposed to Slavery. . . . the spirit of the Christian religion is against it; . . . it is an evil and is displeasing to God.”

The pro-slavery faction in the church responded by firing a volley of proof texts against the abolitionist appeal to biblical principle. . . . But “Christian abolitionists rested their hermeneutical case not just on what decontextualized, individual passages of Scripture said but on their perceptions of where scriptural revelation in its entirety was heading.”

As theologian Cornelius Plantinga explains, “Despite what Paul says to slaves about obedience, despite what Peter says about obedience even to bad masters, the bigger historical-redemptive line of Scripture tells us that humans made in God’s image cannot be owned by anyone but their maker . . . and especially, that Jesus Christ came to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Those abolitionists who “learned to defend the egalitarian and liberationist ‘spirit’ of the Bible against status quo literal interpretations found that the same arguments could be used in support of the women’s movement. . . .

The pro-slavery proof text assault rested on the assumption that the apostles Paul and Peter simply accepted existing social institutions as God’s order for society.   Christian abolitionists, on the other hand, contended that, “for the sake of advancing God’s kingdom in a given time and place, temporary compromises can and often must be made with the societal status quo.”

Hence, a biblical command to cooperate with a particular cultural institution does not necessarily constitute an endorsement of that institution as God’s ultimate will for society. . . . Pro-slavery Christians had no patience with the notion that the Bible merely tolerated slavery rather than advocated it—any more than traditionalists accept the biblical feminist contention that biblical revelation accommodated itself to patriarchy but was not itself patriarchal.

Similar to the antifeminist of today, 19th century anti-abolitionists grounded the practice of slavery in order of creation, or the God-ordained order of things. African people were viewed as designated by God for poverty, hard labor, and subservience. Slavery was rationalized by the belief that the subjugation of certain classes of people to other classes of people is somehow built into the hierarchical order of the universe. . . . God, they said, had ordained slavery even as he had ordained the subordination of women.

In the biblical case for slavery, proof texts were exalted to the status of universal applicability, and fundamental biblical principles such as the equality of all believers in Christ were qualified and conditioned by cultural pre-under standing—the precise antithesis of the procedure that would normally occur in unprejudiced biblical interpretation.

In addition, anti-abolitionists claimed that because OT law allowed slavery and because people in both the OT (Abraham) and NT (Philemon) owned slaves and the Bible contained no specific rebuke of such activity, slavery was God-ordained. . . .

The assumption here is the same one that seems often to be made by antifeminists today: any aspect of the culture of biblical times that was not specifically condemned or prohibited in the Bible must be God-ordained. . . .

The correlation between the abolitionist cause and the feminist cause was not missed by the anti-abolitionists, who further defended their position by pointing out that if slaves were freed, women would most likely be next, and this, of course, would never do.

[T]he proof-text hermeneutic is still applied by evangelicals to the question of women’s roles but the broader hermeneutic of biblical principle is applied to the issue of slavery.

The traditionalist tendency is always to assume that tradition rests on Scripture and that any new or contrary idea is therefore a violation of biblical authority. Martin Luther exhibited this tendency when he wrote in support of slavery in his day, employing all four weapons of the anti-abolitionists: the example of the culture of biblical times, the proof texts commanding slaves’ obedience, emotional rhetoric, and an appeal to the God-ordained social hierarchy: “Did not Abraham (Gen. 17:3) and other patriarchs and prophets have slaves? Read what St. Paul teaches about servants, who, at that time, were all slaves.” The idea of freedom for slaves, therefore, “absolutely contradicts the gospel. It proposes robbery, for it suggests that every man should take his body away from his lord, even though his body is the lord’s property. . . . A worldly kingdom cannot exist without an inequality of persons, some being free, some imprisoned, some lords, some subjects.”

In propounding the biblical doctrine of justification by faith, the Protestant Reformers were able to counter elements of false theology in church tradition. Nonetheless, they were blinded by tradition when it came to defending not only slavery, but male supremacy, the divine right of kings, and a geocentric universe.

When Copernicus advanced his theory of a heliocentric cosmology in the 16th century, Martin Luther found biblical grounds for disapproving of that “upstart astrologer” in the fact that “sacred Scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, not the earth.” John Calvin demanded, “Who will venture to place the authority of Copernicus above that of the Holy Spirit?” Puritan leader John Owen deemed the Copernican theory “a delusive and arbitrary hypothesis, contrary to Scripture.”

The lesson to be learned from such historical misuses of Scripture to support tradition is not that traditional biblical interpretation is always or even usually wrong, but that in some cases it can be wrong, and we ought not assume that the traditional is always the biblical. Neither may we assume that any traditional biblical teaching may be evaded simply by dismissing as proof texts those references which support that teaching, and by claiming allegiance instead to some overarching biblical theme or principles to the contrary.

In the first place, there are objective criteria for determining which texts are culturally specific (i.e., applicable primarily to biblical cultures) and which texts are universally applicable. These criteria must not be dismissed in favor of personal preference. In the second place, those texts which seem to contradict a clear biblical principle and are rightly deemed culturally specific nonetheless mean something for us today, and that meaning must be determined by understanding the biblical author’s reason for writing the passage to that specific culture.

Suffrage and Temperance

After the cause of abolition had been won in 1865, the cause of temperance drew the enthusiastic support and leadership of many Christians, including Jonathan Blanchard and A.J. Gordon, founders of Wheaton College and Gordon College, respectively. . . .

After women’s right to vote was legally acknowledged in 1920, traditionalist Christian leaders were obliged to regroup, they redoubled their efforts to keep women subservient in the spheres over which they still had control—a project which in some denominations extended even to denying women the right to vote in church elections.

Today, of course, few if any traditionalists believe that women ought not be granted the right to vote in public elections; it is assumed instead that the biblical texts are intended to place women under male authority only in the church and the home, and to silence women only in the public worship service. There are, however, some conservative denominations that even today prohibit women from voting on matters of church governance.

Evangelical Reform Movements

While abolition, suffrage, and temperance were broad movements that drew followers form both within and without the church, the extent to which these movements were fueled by the evangelistic and reformist zeal of the Second Great Awakening (1795-1840) should not be under-estimated. . . .

Charles Finney was a principal leader behind evangelical social concern. In an issue devoted to North American spiritual awakenings, Christian History magazine notes that when Finney “propelled the awakening onto center-stage in America” its “side-effects became more widespread than ever before: out of it came power for the antislavery crusade, women’s rights, prison reform, temperance, and much more.”

Although Finney did not identify himself as a feminist, his insistence on women’s freedom to testify and pray aloud in mixed gatherings flew in the face of the traditional silencing of women in church meetings. Bur Finney’s “new measures” regarding women were not without precedent. In 1825 Theodore Weld had urged women to speak and pray in public meetings, and a number of women had responded, confessing their sin of being “restrained by their sex.”

The refusal of revivalists such as Finney to consign women to silence and inactivity in church affairs served as an important first step for the 19th century evangelical women’s movement. Ahlstrom notes that “one breakthrough [for women’s rights] resulted from the revivals, especially in the West . . . notably by Charles G. Finney’s new measures.” . . . that women be encouraged to pray publicly in “promiscuous” or mixed meetings. “Traditionalists considered Finney’s practice of having women and men pray together the most dangerous of the new measures, for it implied new kinds of equality between the sexes. Indeed some harried husbands recognized the revival as subversive of their authority over their wives.”

Not only did Protestant church membership increase from one in fifteen Americans in 1800 to one in seven by 1850 as a result of the Second Great Awakening, but thousands of evangelical societies for social betterment were formed during this time—to which “the support of local women’s groups came gradually to be almost essential.” . . .

Finney and other revivalists and preachers helped women “to achieve an attitude of self-confidence and a sense of mission that infected many of their later activities. Surely it is no coincidence that the areas where Finney’s revivals and women’s religious education flourished . . . were early centers of women’s reform work and feminism.”

According to the Dictionary of Christianity in America, “The rise of American feminism had its roots in the Christian reform movements of the 1830s and 1840s that were in turn generated by the Second Great Awakening. Following the Civil War, as the women’s movement increasingly focused on the suffrage issue, the traditional link with Christian thought remained strong.” George Marsden notes that the “ministries [of prohibition and women’s rights] were a part of the wider holiness revival,” which followed the Second Awakening later in the 19th century.

As sociologist David Lyon points out, “A simple correlation of feminism with secularism is hard to square with 19th century evidence. . . .What may appear to some today as the permeation of ‘secular’ ideas into the churches as a 19th century precedent which was quite the other way round! The ‘secular’ movements were initiated or boosted by the ‘religious.’” Lyon notes, “Of course, these feminisms were pro-family—a far cry from some contemporary counterparts (not of Christian origin) which doubt the necessity of any form heterosexual relationship for the nurture of children.”

1920-1960s: The Decades Between

Feminism began to fall out of favor after 1920 as reformist zeal waned in both church and society. The slaves had been freed, women had gotten the vote, and prohibition was in full swing. Suffragists and other reformers believed there was nothing more to do after the legal battles had been won, so they gave up the fight for social reform. . . . Women, for their part, did not take advantage of the legal freedoms that had been won for them. Succumbing instead to the prevailing cultural climate, they retreated from the public arena and sank back into retiring domesticity.

Feminists had assumed that once women were granted equal opportunity under the law everything would turn out as it ought. But it did not. The hidden force of patriarchal social custom prompted a cultural return to female subservience. . . .

Traditionalists contend that women and men had been perfectly content with the gender role prescriptions of the 1950s until feminism came along to unsettle and disturb everyone. But there is evidence that change had been on the way for some time prior to the cultural revolution of the 1960s. . . .

The groundswell that developed in the wake of The Feminine Mystique instigated a wide variety of feminist thought, from the revival of the evangelical and classical liberal ideas of early feminism to the fairly recent woman-centered ideology of radical feminism.

Comparing Early and Modern Feminism

Both early and modern feminism developed in a general cultural milieu of social discontent and reformist idealism. Social concern for the rights of African-Americans (the anti-slavery movement beginning in the 1830s and the civil rights movement beginning in the late 1950s) served as a catalyst for both feminist movements. When women began to fight against racism, it did not take them long to become aware of the ways in which sexism violated their own civil rights.

Their awareness of discrimination against themselves was hastened by their systematic exclusion by the male leaders of the movements: in 1840 women were denied seats at the anti-slavery convention, and in the 1960s women who were active in the civil rights movement “increasingly became conscious that they were not included in any of the decision-making processes but were instead saddled with domestic and ancillary chores.

Although the women’s movements in both centuries have been diverse, with internal squabbles and factions, they hold in common an insistence upon the idea of woman as an individual, as her own person, who does not need to be dependent on a man for her value and identity. Fundamental to any feminist agenda, therefore, is that woman’s personhood and equality be established, verified, and protected through social change wherein inequitable laws and social customs are made equitable.

. . . There is a conviction that woman’s silence and subservience unfairly restricts her from important spheres of activities. Feminism has therefore encouraged qualified women to take part in political, social, or church leadership. . . .

Nineteenth-century feminism testifies to the fact that sexual license is not inherent to the idea of women’s rights. The accusation that evangelical feminism is an offshoot of modern feminism and therefore intrinsically endorses sexual immorality betrays historical and cultural ignorance.

The evangelical denominations at the turn of the century that were most committed to women’s equality were part of the holiness movement—which could hardly be said to be promoting sexual promiscuity. The only motivation of these groups to “liberate” women was the desire to open up all the channels through which God wanted to bless the church. The notion of using liberation to engage in a lifestyle of sexual irresponsibility could not have been more alien to the convictions of early evangelical feminism.

. . . But early feminists campaigned to make home and family values central to the lives of both men and women in both the public and the private spheres. . . . Domesticating the marketplace, not commercializing the domestic realm, was the central focus of much early feminist thought. . . .

While 19th century feminism was not composed entirely of Christians or supported by the entire evangelical church, its goals and motives were in line with biblical principles. A significant percentage if not a majority of those involved in the suffrage movement were Christians or at least “God-fearing.” . . .

The anti-Christian element was a minority one in the 19th century, whereas today it characterizes the secular feminist movement. The evangelical support for women’s rights in the 19th century is apparent in the fact that a significant number of evangelical institutions encouraged women to be pastors and evangelists. This situation can hardly be said to prevail today!

Nineteenth-century feminists—both Christian and non-Christian—rightly viewed abortion as an instrument of male oppression rather than as a means of women’s liberation. Specifically, it was seen as an act that devalued women and enabled men to evade responsibility for the children they fathered. . . .

The roots of early feminism are in the evangelical efforts of social reform following the Second Great Awakening, as well as in the premise of classical liberalism that “all men [including women] are created equal.” Early feminists understood inequality as a function of inequitable laws, so the solution was perceived in legal terms.

. . . Observing that sexism remained even after most of the legal inequities had been removed, modern feminists have focused on the force of traditional social convention that views women as essentially—even if no longer legally—the property of men. In view of this vestigial patriarchy, feminists are now putting more energy into changing discriminatory social structures.

In this respect the feminist movement has seemed to follow a pattern roughly similar to that of the black civil rights movement. In the 19th century, the goal was to secure equal legal rights for both blacks and women.   . . . The 1960s saw blacks fighting to realize their constitutionally guaranteed legal equality by protesting the segregation customs of the South.

Following the inception of the civil rights movements by about a decade, women began to organize resistance to patriarchal custom. While legal reform continued as an element in both movements, both women and blacks were realizing that there was something deeper than law which accounted for their social subjugation. It was a deep-seated attitude, a cultural mindset that even new legislation would not budge. Members in both movements tended to respond with belligerence and anger to this intangible, ineluctable creation of culture called prejudice.”



History is a great teacher.  What we have learned about how things were and what people then did to change things, by the power of the Holy Spirit, along with a clear understanding of the biblical message of freedom for all, inspires us to seek justice—especially for women in the church and in the home.


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The quotations for this article are taken from Chapter 3 of the following book by historian and theologian, Rebecca Merrill Groothuis.

Dr. Groothuis’ book is entitled: Women Caught in the Conflict: The Culture War between Traditionalism and Feminism. Publisher: Baker Books, 1994.   Updated version:  Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, 1997.

The excerpts from this chapter provide a small taste of the expertise that Dr. Groothuis has regarding the context of evangelical feminism in church history and invites the curious reader to explore her entire book for themselves.


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For Further Reflection

Two sites which provide Free Articles for personal research are Christians for Biblical Equality and God’s Word to Women.

CBE           www.cbeinternational.org

    GWTW       www.godswordtowomen.org


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© 2014   Barb Orlowski, D.Min.



Women in the Church Women’s Headcoverings 1 Cor. 11:7-16

1 Corinthians 11:7-16

Man, the Glory of God, Woman, the Glory of Man.

Women’s Head Coverings in Corinth


This Corinthian passage has posed a challenge when it comes to interpreting it in light of what the Apostle Paul said in his other NT epistles. New Testament scholar, Gordon Fee, determined that: “this is a passage in which the apostle has been rather badly handled in the church.”* Many others would agree with this assessment. With this observation in mind, let us have a look at how Gordon Fee provides rich engagement with the text including how others have worked through the issues posed by this passage.

Beginning with Fee’s summary, we will briefly look at how he got to his conclusion. Fee also provides a stern warning to those who might jeopardize the intent of Paul’s aim in this passage:

“Although the paragraph begins with further arguments as to why women should be “covered,” Paul seems to leave that concern momentarily to affirm both that:

(1)  Women do have authority over their own heads (although that must be exercised in the context of not shaming their “head” and propriety) and

(2)  Even though in the new age the distinctions between male and female must be maintained, that does not mean that one is subordinate to the other.

To read the text as though it said the opposite of what vv. 10-12 seem clearly to say is to do Paul an injustice and possibly to put one in the position of disobeying the intent of God’s Word.”*

With that challenge and warning in view, the diligent student of Scripture can begin to examine more carefully Paul’s intent in this passage. The verses in this passage can be found printed out at the end of this article in the For Further Reflection section.


Looking Alittle Deeper

Paul looks at three areas of abuse in their assemblies:

  1. Concern about women’s head coverings or hairstyle when praying and prophesying (11:2-16),
  1. The abuse of the poor at the Lord’s Table (11:17-34), and 
  1. The abuse of speaking in tongues in the assembly (ch. 12 -14).

The 1 Cor. 11 passage has larger contextual questions and, even more, this passage is full of exegetical difficulties. Fee demonstrates the nature of these difficulties as well as the logic of Paul’s argument when the structure of this passage is illustrated. There is a simple comparison between the metaphorical usage of the word ‘HEAD’ and the literal use of the word ‘head’.

   2 Now I praise you

              because you remember me in all things,

                       and   even as I handed them on to you,

                                you keep the traditions.

  I.     3 But I want you to understand that—

                                            the HEAD of EVERY MAN is Christ,

                                    (and) THE MAN the HEAD of WOMAN,

                                    (and) God the HEAD of Christ.

            4 Every MAN                             shames his HEAD/head;

            praying or prophesying having down/against the head

            5 Every WOMAN

                  praying or prophesying uncovered as to the head

                           For it is one and the same thing

                                                 for her to be one who is shaved.

            6            For if a WOMAN will not be covered,

                                                      let her also             be shorn   

                But if it is disgraceful for her to be shorn or shaved,

                                                      let her                   be covered.


II.        7        For

On the one hand, MAN ought not to have the head covered,

                                being the image and glory of God;

On the other hand, THE WOMAN

                                                           is the glory of MAN:

8   [A]   For MAN is not from WOMAN

                                                     but WOMAN from MAN;

9   [B]    For also MAN was not created for WOMAN’s sake,                                                       but WOMAN for MAN’s

10   For this reason

        THE WOMAN ought to have authority over her (own)           head because of the angels.

         11 in any case (nonetheless)

                  [B’]   Neither WOMAN apart from    MAN,

                           nor             MAN   apart from WOMAN,

                                                                        in the Lord.

         12   [A’]   For just as the WOMAN (is) from     the MAN,

                            So also the   MAN   (is) through the WOMAN,

                                                but all things (are) from   God.

III.     13 Judge among yourselves:

             Is it fitting for a WOMAN to pray to God uncovered?

            Does not nature itself teach you that

14          On the one hand,

                              if a MAN grow long hair,

                                        it is a dishonor to him.

15          on the other hand,

                       if a WOMAN grow long hair,

                                it is a glory to her?

                       Because the hair is given to her

                                                           in the place of a covering.

16 Now if anyone seems to be contentious,

              We have no such custom,

              Nor do the churches of God.


The grammatical and structural signals point to a three-part division. By using sets of contrasts, there are distinct characteristics seen when reading about the man and the woman. In each instance, the argument seems aimed specifically at the woman. The problem has to do with her head being “uncovered” while praying and prophesying. These are made clear in verses 5-6 and 13.


Part 1   (vv. 3-6)

Argues from the metaphorical use of “head” that:

-The man would shame his “head” if he were to have (something) “hanging down the head”   and 

-The woman would shame her “head” if she were to prophesy “uncovered as to the head.” This shows an opposite.


Part 2    (vv. 7-12)

Although the argument here is more complex and full of surprises, it again seems to aim at the woman.

-The man ought not to have his head covered since his is God’s image and glory.


Part 3 

Paul takes up the issue one more time by appealing to their own sense of propriety.   Paul begins with a rhetorical question and ends with a word to anyone who would be “contentious” over this matter. That is, if they are contentious—the churches have no ‘such custom.”

The question is raised regarding what does it mean for the woman to pray and prophesy “uncovered as to the head”?

  1. The traditional view considered her to be discarding some kind of external covering. The difficulty with this view comes mostly from understanding v. 15 to say that a woman’s long hair is given to her instead of a peribolaion (lit. “a wraparound,” hence something like a shawl).
  1. It has been argued that the “covering” contended for in vv. 4-7 and 13 is actually the long hair of vv. 14-15, because some women were having their hair cut short. But, this is against the language and grammar of vv. 5-6—be shaved or shorn if they will not be “covered.”
  1. Some scholars have suggested “uncovered’ refers to “loosed hair.” That is, letting down one’s hair in public and thus experiencing shame.


While this may be an attractive solution in many ways, it still has its own set of difficulties:

a)  how the man’s not covering his head in v. 7 is the opposite of this;

b)  what to do with v. 15, which implies that long hair, not piled-up hair, serves in the place of a shawl;

c)  the fact that there is no sure first-century evidence that long hair in public would have been a disgrace of some kind.


Fee suggests that a modified form of the traditional view seems to have fewer difficulties. In either case, the woman’s action is considered shameful, and for that reason Paul is willing to offer theological justification for maintaining a custom.



So the question arises: Why were some women in Corinth apparently disregarding the customary mode of appearance? From church tradition, this passage provided a reasonable suggestion—that the problem had to do with some women who were being insubordinate to their husbands because of their new-found freedom in Christ. Interpreters regarded this passage as a way to “put women in their proper place” by insisting that they keep the traditional symbol of their subordination—which was the veil.

Fee suggests that it is much more likely that the problem is related to the overall historical situation in Corinth. It seems that some women were praying or prophesying or simply arguing for the right to do so without the customary “head covering.” Their concept of being “spiritual” (pneumatikos) was in play. They also may have had an “overrealized eschatology.” Fee clarifies:

“It seems difficult to understand Paul’s answer unless their spiritualized eschatology also involved some kind of break-down in the distinction between the sexes. Already they had arrived in the Spirit; they were already acting as those who would be “like the angels,” among whom sexual distinctions no longer existed. As part of their new “spirituality” they were disregarding some very customary distinctions between the sexes that would otherwise have been regarded as disgraceful. Paul feels strongly enough about the issue to speak to it, even if his argument lacks its customary vigor.”*


Paul Presents His Three Arguments

Paul proceeds to present his three arguments to them regarding how to appropriately look at this issue:

  1. An Argument from Culture and Shame (11:2-6)
  2. An Argument from Creation (11:7-12)
  3. An Argument from Propriety (11:13-16)


  1. An Argument from Culture and Shame (11:2-6)

Paul begins his argument by using the word “head” metaphorically to designate three kinds of relationships:

a)   Man and Christ

b)   Woman and Man

c)   Christ and God

The factor of shame for the actions of either the man or the woman is stressed.

“The metaphor in v. 3, which has traditionally been interpreted as defending the need for the woman to maintain her place of subordination to her “head,” namely her husband, is often seen as the point of the whole passage. More likely, however, this is simply an attempt on Paul’s part to remove the problem from the “head” literally by putting it into a broader context of relationships. In any case the literal problem came first, and Paul has used the word metaphorically at the beginning to set the literal problem into a larger theological framework.”

Though the Corinthians may be following the “traditions,” they may not be doing so in proper ways (11:2).

From 11:4, 5, we see the reference to “head”—used in three parts, each using the word “head” metaphorically to express a different relationship: man/Christ, woman/man, Christ/God. “What is not immediately clear, especially to the English reader, is the sense of the metaphor “head,” and thus the nature of the relationships that each of the clauses intends.”

Paul does not set out to prove this theological statement nor does he make it the main point of this section. What is important to him is the behavioral problem–having to do with women’s heads. This is seen in the fact and the form of this construct. Paul prods the Corinthian fellowship to go beyond individual freedom to a better focus of relational responsibility.

“The problem lay squarely on the women’s heads, but it was affecting male/female relationships in the present age.”

Even though the new age had been inaugurated, the behavior of the women in that society was bringing shame on the distinctions of the male/female relationship. This was not of benefit to anyone.

Regarding this section, Fee makes a significant observation. He highlights the fact that people have wrongly understood this passage to be a proof text for hierarchy. Yet, upon closer examination of this section, there is nothing that suggests this. Let us pay attention to what he exhorts:

“The metaphor itself is often understood to be hierarchical, setting up structures of authority. But nothing in the passage suggests as much; in fact, the only appearance of the word exousia (“authority”) refers to the woman’s own authority    (v. 10). Moreover, vv. 11-12 explicitly qualify vv. 8-9 so that they will not be understood in this way. Indeed, the metaphorical use of kephale (“head”) to mean “chief” or “the person of highest rank” is rare in Greek literature—so much so that even though the Hebrew word ros often carried this sense, the Greek translators of the LXX, who ordinarily used kephale to translate ros when the physical “head” was intended, almost never did so when “ruler” was intended, thus indicating that this metaphorical sense is an exceptional usage and not part of the ordinary range of meanings for the Greek word.”

The Corinthian understanding of the metaphor would have been that “head” means “source,” especially “source of life.” Paul confirms that man was the original source of the woman (v.12). Therefore, Paul’s concern is NOT hierarchical, that is, who has authority over whom, but rather relational, that is, one being the source of another’s being. This is further seen by the fact that Paul says nothing about man’s authority but that he is concerned with the woman being man’s glory–the one, without whom, he is not complete.

Anything that would blur that relationship in the Greek culture would bring shame on the woman’s “head.”

There is an interesting dilemma for the married woman in the Greek culture when it comes to the wearing of a suitable headcovering in public. Would the church gathering in one of the larger homes, be considered ‘public’ or not? Would their ecclesial gathering be considered being in a ‘home’ or being in ‘public’?

This would also be considered a ‘religious’ meeting where it would be in order for women to be able to prophesy, which would also include bringing a message from the heart of God, using the gift of tongues and interpreting that message in the language of those gathered.  Using the utterance gifts of the Spirit, as well as praying, were permitted spiritual activities for all present, including women.

The bottom line was that shame in the Greek culture needed to be addressed. If married women were not dressed in the way that their culture dictated, then it was wrong not to recognize that factor and then for the Christian women to comply when attending the gathering of the saints.

Paul’s summary was that if it is a disgrace for a woman either to have her hair cut short or to be shaved, which it was, then the end run was that: her head should be covered. This would not apply to her hair but would necessitate an external head covering. It seemed that some of the women did not sense the cultural shame of their own actions. Therefore, it was necessary for Paul to provide a corrective.

So, the question for today is: Should married women or women in general need to cover their heads when attending an assembled church? The brief answer is that Paul recognized that the issue was directly tied to the cultural shame of that society. This scarcely prevails in most cultures today.

Fee ponders the fact that “it would seem that in cultures where women’s heads are seldom covered, the enforcement of such in the church turns Paul’s point on its head.”

In addition, we simply do not know what the practice was that they were abusing. Thus, literal “obedience” to the text is often merely symbolic. Unfortunately, the symbol that tends to be reinforced is the subordination of women, which is hardly Paul’s point.


  1. An Argument from Creation (11:7-12) 

It a bit of a surprise for the reader to note, that it is Christ, and not God, who is designated as man’s “head.” “More difficult yet is what is said of the woman, who by way of contrast is called “man’s glory,” but with no mention of her being covered.” What follows explains why she is man’s glory (vv. 8-9).

“Then comes the truly surprising text (v. 10), which because of the verb “ought,” seems to correspond to v. 7a (over against “ought not”).” Instead of mentioning a covering, Paul argues that she should have authority over her “own” head because of the angels. Paul’s entire argument points to v. 10 as the crucial text. This is a very difficult text and scholars have guessed about it over the centuries. Yet, Paul has a rationale for his words and wants his explanation not to be misunderstood.

Fee confirms the point that the argument is quite involved and that it would pay to make the connection and not to miss it. What creates a problem here is Paul’s syntax.

In looking at Paul’s treatment of God’s image and God’s glory, in his reflections on the creation of man, he uses the term God’s ‘glory’. Obviously, this is a difficult term to define.

Fee summarizes his thoughts by stating: “By creating man in his own image God set his own glory in man. Man, therefore, exists to God’s praise and honor, and is to live in relationship to God so as to be his “glory.” What we are not told here is why being God’s glory means no covering; verse 4 indicates that it had to do with his not shaming Christ. But that, too, was left unexplained.”

Paul considers Gen. 2:23 and 18-20 which seems to affirm how man is the woman’s “head”—he is the source of her life. Since “the woman is from the man,” she is also his “glory” because “the woman was created for the man’s sake.”

The question posed is: “How does the woman’s ‘coming from the man’ and being created for his sake, make her his glory?”

The simple answer is that “She is thus man’s glory because she “came from man” and was created “for him.” She is not thereby subordinate to him, but necessary for him. She exists to his honor as the one who having come from man is the one companion suitable to him, so that he might be complete and that together they might form humanity.”

When the first man, Adam, sees the woman, he “glories” in her. Therefore, since man is the source of origin for woman, in Corinth, women in the church fellowship should not be uncovered when praying and/or prophesying. This would be a show of disrespect for one of the “visible expressions of differentiation” in that society and would bring shame on the man by trying to “dissolve the rightful male/ female relationship” that was there.

The key words: “author” and “angels” are very likely from the Corinthians . Verse 10 is “one of the truly difficult texts in this letter.” One crucial reason is the ad hoc character of the passage. There is only one side of the telephone conversation available with only these words as the clues.

Fee outlines the problems, being twofold: “finding a proper sense for exousia (“authority”), and determining the nuance of the preposition epi (“over” or “on”).” Fee shows the weaknesses in the traditional view, which he says “sees the context as referring to the subordination of women” and “tends to go one of two directions”:

(1)   Some take exousia in a passive sense. To “have authority over her head” means that she “has” someone else (in this case, her husband) function as authority “over” her. The “covering,” though not mentioned, is assumed to be the “sign” that this is so. . . . The difficulty with this view is that there is no known evidence either that exousia is ever taken in this passive sense or that the idiom “to have authority over” ever refers to an external authority different from the subject of the sentence.


(2)   Others take exousia as a metonym for “veil,” and epi as “on.” The difficulty with this “is to find an adequate explanation as to why Paul should have chosen this word as his metonym. Had Paul intended an external covering, he would surely have said that, since several such words are available to him.”


(3)   A third alternative is that some have thought that “the “authority” is to be understood as the woman’s new freedom to do what was formerly forbidden, namely to pray and prophesy along with the men.” That is, live up to her new found freedom in Christ. Though this sounds attractive, it is not adequately supported in the text.


(4)   This brings us to the possibility that the meaning “to have authority” is the sense of “freedom or right to choose.” Thus: “For this reason the woman ought to have the freedom over her head to do as she wishes.”


Since Fee assesses that “there is no evidence for a passive sense to this idiom, and that such a view basically came into existence for contextual reasons that do not seem to be in the text itself, solution (4) seems to be the best of the possibilities.

The next complexity is the phrase “because of the angels.” Over time, several solutions have been offered.  Fee affirms that Paul’s argument includes the fact that man should not be covered and that by implication that a woman should because she is man’s glory. Yet Fee suggests that this is not the whole story—since the woman is not independent of the man. In order that the woman properly exercise that freedom, she should continue the custom of being “covered.” That being said, there is still a lack of certainty since there is not enough information provided.

Fee observes that the structure of 1 Cor. 11:8-9 is a perfect double chiasm. (A chiasm is an X structure.)


     A      Not is man from woman,

              but     woman from man;

        B Not was created man for the sake of the woman,

              but                      woman for the sake of the man.


     B’   Neither woman without man,

              nor       man without woman,

                                                           in the Lord;

     A’     For just as the woman   from     the man,

                     so also the man       through   the woman,

                                and all things   from God.


From Paul’s teaching, Fee establishes that men and women are mutually dependent on each other:

“The qualifiers in the second sets (“in the Lord,” all things from God”) are what make the difference. While it is true that woman is man’s glory, having been created for his sake (v. 9), Paul now affirms that that does not mean that woman exists for man’s purposes, as though in some kind of subordinate position to his aims and will. To the contrary, God has so arranged things that “in the Lord” the one cannot exist without the other, not meaning of course that every Christian man and woman must be married, but that as believers man and woman are mutually dependent on each other.”

Fee goes on to say that the final qualifier, “and all things are from God,” which includes at least woman and man, puts the whole of vv. 7-9 into proper Pauline perspective that both man and woman, and not just man, are from God. At Creation, God made man from dust and made the woman from man, but after that, and as is now, both males and females come through the woman.

Again, it needs to be reiterated that this passage in 1 Cor. has been rather poorly handled in the church. Fee concludes this section by stating that Paul affirms both of the following:

(1)   That women do have authority over their own heads (although that must be exercised in the context of not shaming their “head” and propriety)     and

(2)   That even though in the new age the distinctions between male and female must be maintained, that does not mean that one is subordinate to the other. To read the text as though it said the opposite of what vv. 10-12 seem clearly to say is to do Paul an injustice and possibly to put one in the position of disobeying the intent of God’s Word.”


  1. An Argument from Propriety (11:13-16 )

Paul moved from “a concern over a woman’s being “covered” to a concern for her having “authority” over her head without being either independent of or subordinate to man.” This final paragraph now returns to Paul’s original argument of vv. 4-6.

“By appealing finally to their own sense of propriety, as “nature” by way of analogy helps them to see that, Paul brings to a close his argument over the “rightness” of women maintaining the “custom” of being covered. But Paul is never quite comfortable concluding an argument in this fashion. Hence he draws the whole together with a final appeal to what goes on in the “churches of God.” That he is dealing strictly with “custom” (church “custom,” to be sure) is not made plain, as is the fact that this argument, for all its various facets, falls short of a command as such.”

Fee notes that this is the third time that Paul has tried to correct Corinthian behavior by appealing to what is taught or practiced in the other churches. Although he has spent much effort on this issue, we can observe that it is not something which he has great passion for.

We can perceive that:

  1. Though Paul argues in this way, he does not give a commandment. This suggests that such a “church custom,” though important to the Corinthians, is not to be raised to Canon Law.

The very ‘customary” nature of the problem in that particular church makes it nearly impossible to transfer it to the multifaceted cultures in which the church finds itself today. This could be, if we knew exactly what the custom was to transfer—and we do not.

It is sensible to realize that in each culture there are likely to be modes of dress that are appropriate and those that are not.


  1. How Paul deals with this issue in comparison to how he takes on the abuses around the Lord’s Supper in the Corinthian church is noteworthy. Much more was at stake regarding their abusive practices of the Lord’s Supper.

To conclude, one notes that the “distinction between the sexes is to be maintained; the covering is to go back on, but for Paul it does not seem to be a life-and-death matter.”




To reiterate, Fee stresses that this passage has been badly handled in the church. This can be understood to mean that this passage has been unsatisfactorily, incompetently, and incorrectly dealt with in the church. By showing where there has been flawed exegesis and weak interpretive methods, these can be placed alongside a more precise handling of the passage for comparison. This should aid the enquirer to conclude the following points:

1.   Women do have authority over their own heads (although that must be exercised in the context of not shaming their “head” and propriety)   and

2.   Even though in the new age the distinctions between male and female must be maintained, that does not mean that one is subordinate to the other.

With careful study of a complex passage, a conscientious student of the Scriptures ought to have a reasonable understanding of these verses and be able to have answers for themselves and for others.

To conclude, in an interview with Gordon Fee by Julian Lukins in 2010, this interviewer finished their article with these words and a worthy admonition to the church from Dr. Gordon Fee:

“Clearly Fee loves the Word, noting that heresies are creeping into the church because of lack of theological understanding and misinterpretation of Scripture. What’s needed, he emphasizes, is Spirit-filled living and sound scriptural interpretation. “If I could say one thing to the American church,” he cautions, “it would be this:  Keep integrity with Scripture and spiritual experience.”**

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

*  All quotes have been taken from Gordon Fee’s book: The First Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 491 -524. Grand Rapids: William Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987.

** Julia Lukins is a writer based in Sequim, WA. This is an interview from Charisma Magazine, 9/1/2010. Link: http://www.charismamag.com/spirit/bible-study/11740-a-professor-with-spirit


* * * * *

For Further Reflection

1 Corinthians 11:3-16 from The Message

3-9   In a marriage relationship, there is authority from Christ to husband, and from husband to wife. The authority of Christ is the authority of God. Any man who speaks with God or about God in a way that shows a lack of respect for the authority of Christ, dishonors Christ. In the same way, a wife who speaks with God in a way that shows a lack of respect for the authority of her husband, dishonors her husband. Worse, she dishonors herself—an ugly sight, like a woman with her head shaved. This is basically the origin of these customs we have of women wearing head coverings in worship, while men take their hats off. By these symbolic acts, men and women, who far too often butt heads with each other, submit their “heads” to the Head: God.

10-12   Don’t, by the way, read too much into the differences here between men and women. Neither man nor woman can go it alone or claim priority. Man was created first, as a beautiful shining reflection of God—that is true. But the head on a woman’s body clearly outshines in beauty the head of her “head,” her husband. The first woman came from man, true—but ever since then, every man comes from a woman! And since virtually everything comes from God anyway, let’s quit going through these “who’s first” routines.

13-16   Don’t you agree there is something naturally powerful in the symbolism—a woman, her beautiful hair reminiscent of angels, praying in adoration; a man, his head bared in reverence, praying in submission? I hope you’re not going to be argumentative about this. All God’s churches see it this way; I don’t want you standing out as an exception.


* * * * *

© 2014   Barb Orlowski, D.Min.


Divorce: When Does the Bible Permit Divorce?  


In an online discussion that a number of us were participating in, the topic of divorce came up and I was asked what I understood from the Scriptures. The question put to me was: “When does the Bible permit divorce?”

I spent some time looking up a few well-known Bible passages and further pondering this topic. This was an opportunity to put into writing some observations about these Bible passages and to formulate some ideas into a reasonable answer. This is not an indepth look at this topic but a suitable response for the context of that discussion. The article below is that earnest endeavor.

I believe that this overview gets at the basics and includes an objective towards raising awareness about the plight of women when it comes to harmful advice given by church leaders–which so often hinders rather than helps serious marriage dysfunction.

To tell someone that spiritual, sexual, physical, and/or mental abuse has to be tolerated because of marriage vows, is not a message from God. Many clergy advise wives to stick with the marriage and avoid divorce at all costs. Under these types of circumstances, this advice is harmful and should be disregarded.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~


“The following is an answer to your question: “When does the Bible permit divorce?”

We are familiar with these passages:  Mt. 5:31, 32; 19:1-13; Mk. 10:1-12.

To begin, in the Matt. 5 chapter, it is not hard to notice certain recurring phrases that are used many times by Jesus to make his point distinct among his Jewish countrymen:  “You have heard that it was said . . .” “But I tell you . . .”   Jesus gave clear explanatory teachings on what he felt was important to highlight–based on those Old Testament passages.

For example, Matt. 5:27:  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

The Context:  Notice that in the Matthew 5 and 19 and Mark 10 passages that the question of divorce was in the context of the Pharisees coming to Jesus to ‘test him’ regarding the words of Moses and the law. They were determined when they probed him: Is it lawful—for a man—to divorce—his wife?

Jesus explained to those Pharisees what the main reason was behind Moses permitting a man to write a certificate of divorce to end his marriage:

“2 Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

3 “What did Moses command you?” he replied.

4 They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”

5 “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied.”                                      Mark 10:2-5

This is similarly stated in Matt. 19:8, 9: “Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Their pressing question revolved around: “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for ‘any and every reason’?” That is where this confrontation centered.

Jesus was directing his words to the Jewish leaders, men, and husbands. He was addressing them, along with the people who Moses spoke to, about their own reasons to divorce their own wives. The “anyone who divorces his wife” refers specifically to ‘any man’ who divorces his wife. Any and every reason–was the pivotal issue. 

Considering Marriage Dysfunction Biblically

So, how should we look at divorce today? What should be our guiding principles for helping to minister to those who come to us with severe marriage dysfunction? Obviously, as Christians, our first priority is to grasp what the Scriptures say and to consider Christ’s words in particular.

My response would be to echo what Jesus taught: When the hardness of the hearts of men disables the marriage covenant by sexual and emotional infidelity and/or by physical, sexual, mental, financial, and emotional abuse, these are biblical grounds for divorce. These grounds for divorce allow for a legal dissolution of the marriage contract.

Such abusive men, many who claim to be ‘Christians,’ have by their words and actions dismantled and destroyed their marriage covenant and have created a horrific place for a wife and their children to survive, let alone live. The woman is no longer bound to such a man and such a marriage.

It would be easier to give a straight cut and traditional answer, encouraging women to stick with their husband and their marriage vows.  But, from being exposed to those who work with domestic violence victims and women who have had atrocities perpetrated against them, by their husbands, fiancés, or boyfriends, begs for these accounts of traumatized homelife to be heard and understood–by those in the church and by those who might minister directly to them.

There is suitable help available through lawyers, police, safe houses, welfare programs, and secular agencies while huge lacks can be found in the church.

Relationships are complex, yet there is a crucial need to avoid re-victimizing women by holding them hostage to an already shattered marriage, broken by their abusive spouse—and using the Bible to do it. We can do so much better.

That is my answer to your question: When does the Bible permit divorce?” 


The topic of marriage dysfunction and divorce is a huge one. There are no quick or easy answers. Using the Bible inappropriately in severe marriage situations is not only insensitive but does not reflect the heart of God who exhibits care and justice for those who are oppressed by unprincipled spouses in harmful situations.

There is a need for listening, care, and support for anyone experiencing marriage distress of any kind. Couples need to be ministered to on a case by case basis in order to help to guide both the husband and the wife in the best possible outcomes–for them as a couple and as individuals.

For women experiencing severe marriage dysfunction, it may be essential to remove her and any children from an unsafe home environment. There is much that church leaders and a supportive church can do to help those enduring ruptured marriages.

There is a need to forgo the insensitive ways of treating those who find that getting a divorce is the only reasonable solution for a couple’s relationship. There is a need to offer the help and support to both partners going through this distressing time in their lives. Suitable support can be part of the aid a nurturing church community can provide during and after a divorce has ended a marriage. It is important to realize that divorce can be the best and only solution for so many marriages and that new life can arise after the dissolution of a severely unhealthy marriage.


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For Further Reflection

The Lord promises wisdom for those who ask him. Marriage distress is one of those times. Men and women can look to the Lord for strength and wisdom at such a period in their lives.

This passage is taken from Proverbs 2:1-9, from The Message:

1-5 Good friend, take to heart what I’m telling you;
collect my counsels and guard them with your life.
Tune your ears to the world of Wisdom;
set your heart on a life of Understanding.
That’s right—if you make Insight your priority,
and won’t take no for an answer,
Searching for it like a prospector panning for gold,
like an adventurer on a treasure hunt,
Believe me, before you know it Fear-of-God will be yours;
you’ll have come upon the Knowledge of God.

6-8 And here’s why: God gives out Wisdom free,
is plainspoken in Knowledge and Understanding.
He’s a rich mine of Common Sense for those who live well,
a personal bodyguard to the candid and sincere.
He keeps his eye on all who live honestly,
and pays special attention to his loyally committed ones.

So now you can pick out what’s true and fair,
find all the good trails!

This same passage, Proverbs 2:1-9, from the New International Version:

My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,
So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding;
Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,
If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will understand the fear of the Lord,
And find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;
He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk uprightly;
He guards the paths of justice,
And preserves the way of His saints.
Then you will understand righteousness and justice,
Equity and every good path.


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© 2014   Barb Orlowski, D.Min.


Biblical Equality

Christians for Biblical Equality  Founder: Dr. Catherine Clark Kroeger

Free Articles:



Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) is a non-profit organization of Christian men and women who believe that the Bible, properly interpreted, teaches the fundamental equality of men and women of all ethnic groups, all economic classes, and all age groups, based on the teachings of Scriptures such as Galatians 3:28:

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (TNIV).

Mission Statement:

 CBE affirms and promotes the biblical truth that all believers–without regard to gender, ethnicity or class–must exercise their God-given gifts with equal authority and equal responsibility in church, home and world.

Core Values:

We believe the Bible teaches: 

  1. Believers are called to mutual submission, love and service.
  2. God distributes spiritual gifts without regard to gender, ethnicity or class.
  3. Believers must develop and exercise their God-given gifts in church, home and world.
  4. Believers have equal authority and equal responsibility to exercise their gifts without regard to gender, ethnicity, or class and without the limits of culturally-defined roles.
  5. Restricting believers from exercising their gifts–on the basis of their gender, ethnicity, or class–resists the work of the Spirit of God and is unjust.
  6. Believers must promote righteousness and oppose injustice in all its forms.

Opposing Injustice:

CBE recognizes that injustice is an abuse of power, taking from others what God has given them:  their dignity, their freedom, their resources, and even their very lives.

CBE also recognizes that prohibiting individuals from exercising their God-given gifts to further his kingdom constitutes injustice in a form that impoverishes the body of Christ and its ministry in the world at large.

CBE accepts the call to be part of God’s mission in opposing injustice as required in Scriptures such as Micah 6:8. 


Quivering Daughters – Hillary McFarland

Offering gentle encouragement for women while addressing emotional and spiritual abuse within authoritarian families.