Shepherds Statement Regarding Women in Sunday Morning Assemblies
We, your shepherds, are grateful and humbled by the trust you have placed in us to lead this church. As your shepherds we are in continual prayer for you and are seeking to faithfully fulfill the responsibilities of leadership. We do our best to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and are constantly asking what God would have us do.
Central is blessed by a long history of faithful women and men who have served the Lord in many different ways. Sometimes this service is done publicly, sometimes quietly behind the scenes, but always trying to honor God. We believe the Gospel is best expressed when women and men serve equally to share the love of Christ. However, we are aware of some inconsistencies in the ways women serve during our Sunday morning assemblies. Women regularly teach, offer prayers, make announcements, and read Scripture in Bible classes, small groups, children’s ministry, student ministry, and church retreats. What women do regularly in all church gatherings, they do only occasionally during Sunday morning assemblies.
The shepherds and ministers began to study and reconsider these practices in 2006 with the results presented to the entire church on Wednesday nights in the chapel. In 2012, our leadership studied this again in preparation for a church-wide Bible class series on 1 Corinthians. In 2018, we committed again to study, pray, and discuss this topic.
A couple of texts in 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2 have traditionally been used to limit the use of women’s spiritual gifts in public worship assemblies. Other passages, such as Acts 2, 1 Corinthians 11, and Galatians 3, seem to contradict those interpretations. In trying to reconcile this tension in Scripture and our own inconsistent practices, we have continued to ask the question “What would God have us do?” As we have studied, prayed, and discussed together, we have unanimously concluded the passages in 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2 do not restrict women’s use of spiritual gifts in public assemblies but are specific correctives given to the churches in Corinth and Ephesus. This conclusion is the same as the conclusions reached in our previous studies. It was determined then the timing was not right to shift our practices at Central. Today, after carefully discerning the Scriptures and listening to the leading of the Holy Spirit, we believe the timing is right.
Throughout our long history, this church family has always affirmed the equal God-given value of both men and women. As a people, we have been blessed when we hear the hearts of our Christian sisters expressed in song, prayer, and in the reading of God’s Word. Now, as one body, your shepherds affirm that we should continue doing what we’ve been doing and do it even more. We bless and encourage those with the giftedness and desire, regardless of gender, to participate fully in our corporate gatherings. This includes reading Scripture, offering prayers, reading and praying at the communion table, serving the communion meal, making announcements, baptizing, singing, and speaking. This will align our practice with our belief that women and men are equally gifted by the Holy Spirit for the edification of the church and the glory of God.
Next Sunday, March 3, our shepherds will begin teaching a series on this topic in our Bible classes. Allan will bring two sermons that go along with the series. Additionally, on Wednesday night March 20 in Sneed Hall, the shepherds and Allan will facilitate a panel discussion and answer any questions you may have. We are also making available to you resources we have found helpful on this topic. It is our hope and prayer these studies and conversations will allow you to better understand how we came to the decision shared today.
For some this affirmation brings feelings of anxiety or concern. This may feel uncomfortable. We pray that where this is the case there will be patient understanding and trust. For others, this is long overdue. Our inconsistent practices may have communicated things, especially to women, that we did not intend. We pray that where this has been the case there will be forgiveness and healing. For centuries faithful Christians have wrestled with this issue and experienced similarly diverse feelings. However you feel, we pray you will trust your shepherds are trying as best we can to listen and follow the Holy Spirit’s leading.
We ask everyone to study the relevant texts, read the available resources, and pray. If, after this, you have questions or concerns, please speak face-to-face with your shepherds in a spirit of love and unity and a desire for mutual understanding. We pray that we might all honor Christ in the ways we speak and treat each other and that we continue to proclaim Jesus as Lord to the people of our city and to those around the world. May we all together live out Central’s vision of “Becoming like Christ for the sake of __________.”
Grace and Peace,
February 24, 2019