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Re: Should Women Be Silent In Churches?

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  • Mathew
    A very apt question. I hope those in a position to affect change are listening. But I want to use this as an opportunity to try and figure out what St.Paul
    Message 1 of 8 , Mar 6, 2013
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      A very apt question. I hope those in a position to affect change are listening.

      But I want to use this as an opportunity to try and figure out what St.Paul meant.

      Imagine an early Church, especially the Church in Corinth. Unlike any of our churches today, it was pretty disorderly - probably by the abundance of gifts in the Church in Corinth - tongues,prophesy etc. So St.Paul seems to be here in this chapter trying to bring some order back by giving them some instructions about how to behave while handling those gifts.He is turn by turn asking different people to be silent - those who have gifts of tongue to be silent in some situations (see verse 28), then those who have gift of prophesy to be silent in certain situations(verse 30)

      Next he turns to married women. (note the reference to husbands in the context, the saint must NOT be referring to ALL women) Imagine the situation in the early Church times. Married women were more often than not bearing children from the time of marriage till their menopause. And they handled the children - so where is there any time for them to do any public speaking or listen to what was being preached? Most probably the situation was - the married women were running after their children, since they could not listen to the teachings, they asked each other questions, causing a sort of disruption in the church - so St.Paul, when he goes back and writes to the Church in Corinth, says to the married women - look, if you have questions, ask your husbands at home - not each other in the Church - that is the better way, what you are doing now is causing a disruption and is not permitted".

      Now if we try to put this situation into the current context of our Church today - the same verse could be taken to mean - (verse 14:34,35) "Men or women who cause a disruption in the Church (any kind of disruption - like talking among themselves, chatting in the basement, chatting at the back of the Church - cracking jokes in the kitchen) please note where you are and refrain from doing so."

      I think this could be an apt interpretation of the verse for today's times and would be closer to what St.Paul had intended to say. But since its original verses can be misleading in today's context, perhaps the Holy Synod could deliberate this in prayer and if the Holy Spirit so guides them, then someday the Church could take the courage to remove such references from the Lectionary as Mr. Oommen suggested.

      Regards
      Mathew Samuel,
      Albany, NY

      --- In IndianOrthodox@yahoogroups.com, Oommen Kappil <kappil1@...> wrote:
      > "Women Should Be Silent In Churches." Do We Mean It?
    • John
      Dear All, I read only the original message on this topic and the subsequent ones I didn t read it, because of my ill -health. However this is where I started
      Message 2 of 8 , Mar 10, 2013
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        Dear All,

        I read only the original message on this topic and the subsequent ones I didn't read it, because of my ill -health. However this is where I started writing articles and books long time back. I didn't dream of writing articles, books, other than assignments in the university courses. I am not a genetic elite or genius who dealt with high research and scholastic studies. I am an ordinary man with no scholasticism and erudition. But when the question of female ordination haunted some churches, one Malayalee catholic priest who was with the Vatican paid a casual visit to my house, and he whole-heartedly hailed the female ordination as a new era that his church should also open for it. But his confession dawned a new era in my life. Then I wrote a short article in English that our Malayalam periodical failed to entertain it by saying that time is not ripe to publish it. This prompted to write my first English book with my biblical knowledge and without any experience in this field.

        I agree with this message totally. When we have allowed women to have voting rights and equality in the decision-making committees, it is ludicrous, illogical and hypocritical to read such epistles in our worship. But the question comes about the prologue song, `PAUL THE BLESSED….- Poulose sleeha danyan…' that make the affirmation that anyone even an angel from Heaven, other than he or fellow apostles taught, he will be an accursed one of the church, Gal.1, 7-10. He gave the ideal role of women in many occasions, particularly in 1.Tim 2.4-15. He is the only apostle who was taken to Paradise and learnt the realities of Divine planes, 2.Cor, 12, other than st. John taken to the celestial planes when he was in solitary confinement in Patmos island. Read his 13 epistles and be aware of how much sufferings that he had undertaken to preach about his Lord who appeared to him to convert him and many times there after while he was perpetually engaged in mankind 3 missionary journeys by land and water in utter hazardous situations. For the last 2, 000 years he was the greatest among the apostles, co-equal with st.Peter, 4th thubden. He is the apostle of the gentiles.

        Alas!! After 2,000 years he became the male chauvinist of the Women's Liberation Movement lobby. St.Thomas, who put his hand in Jesus' wound, taught the theology of `my lord and my God' and completed the 3 perilous journeys by land and ocean similarly lost his white garment of apostleship by our own brethren. Forget all these sufferings. Vattasseril thirumeni who went through sufferings of such magnitude kept this lamp of sufferings and carried the yoke of Antiochian curse in order to keep this chaste faith. If thirumeni was not there this Malankara Dove would have uprooted and caged in beyond the Arabian Sea. It is the blasphemy if we change this apostolic faith.

        I sobbed wept loudly on Saturday morning AND ALSO WHILE WRITING by the sorry plight of the last global church, the church in Laodecea, Rev.3, 14-22, that is going to be the sumptuous diet of the emerging Beast, the king of the GREAT BABYLON, REV.17,5, by caricaturing the greatest apostles who, I repeat, took most 3 risky missions each, and the Iron Age dumped them in the materialistic drains. The mixture of iron, monstrosity of the global ruler, and clay, the church, depicted in the statue of Daniel's dream, portrays this last age, the Iron Age. The epistle to Laodeceans, likely addressed to the last-day symptoms of individual and church decay, that was written by st; Paul didn't last the test the tides of time, because the Lord seemingly might have thought that the believers should understand with minimum warnings for His coming. The god beloved by women, Dan.11, 37, is seemingly the false prophet, women's false church, the 3rd person in the Devil's, trinity, Rev.16, 13. It certainly is the sign of apostasy that propagate the hiccup of the Lord's coming. Our church that gave in to the women's lobby is a betrayal of the Lord and the Orthodox faith.Lk.18,8.

        However, going back is out of question. There is leverage for us. Jesus knew well in advance this predicament. He said beforehand that both wise and foolish virgins would force into slumber by the long wait of the Lord after a long journey, Mt.25. But as the wise had both the lamp and oil with them, they could go into the bridal chamber, unlike the foolish ones who had no oil, faith but only the lamp, the church. I wrote this one in haste by burying half of the body, except the head, in a corner, otherwise I could write more.

        E.S.John, Australia
      • suraj
        Dear Oomen Sir, Your post regarding 1 Corinthians:14 was interesting. Indeed this text often causes a lot of grappling and not a little heartburn. However I
        Message 3 of 8 , Mar 11, 2013
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          Dear Oomen Sir,

          Your post regarding 1 Corinthians:14 was interesting. Indeed this text often causes a lot of grappling and not a little heartburn. However I was a little surprised to see your suggestion that this text be excised and thus exiled from the Corporate Worship of the people of God.

          Indeed if every text of Holy Scripture that offends be removed forthwith then very little of it will soon remain for our reflection. Besides since the offending text itself was written as part of an Apostolic Encyclical giving pastoral directions to the Church in Corinth, the irony of the situation is most appreciable.

          Before the offending verses are removed from the Sacred Lectionary, we need to be know and understand two things with finality.

          1. What was St Paul saying in the text? The text is pretty unambiguous and absolute in its sentiment; however we need to know the context not only as regards this Chapter but also against the entire scope of the Pauline ministry; lest we fall into the same error we accuse the Sectarians of (reading the text literally).

          2. Know why this text was added into the Lectionary we read today. Why did the authors think it relevant enough to be added in? What was the motivation of the Fathers to do so?

          As we all know the role of women in Christian ministry is a hot button issue in the Western world today. Each article written on the Roman Conclave nowadays, touches on this issue as one of the most important facing the Roman Church today.
          Indeed this is becoming an issue in the various Orthodox jurisdictions in the Western world today and we will hear more in the days to come. As such to argue that the offending verses are irrelevant to the times would be most shortsighted.
          In fact as and when we need to reflect more fully on the contentious issue of "Women's Rights" in the Church, these and many such texts will have to be read much more carefully than ever done in the 2 millennia of Christianity.

          Besides what can be achieved by merely removing such passages from the Lectionary; anyone could pickup the New Testament read the passage and get outraged about how misogynistic St Paul was. If she goes up to the Vicar and ask him for an explanation, is he to say that the text was irrelevant and was to be ignored.
          Isn't all Scripture then inspired of the Holy Spirit? How then did such a fundamental error regarding the dignity of one Half of the Human Race enter it?

          To think that St Paul was basically asking all women to shut up is fundamental misinterpretation. In verse 26 of the same Chapter, the Apostle enjoins the brothers AND SISTERS to sing, instruct, prophesy and interpret in good order for the good of the Church.
          Does not St Paul then accept women as prophets and interpreters? Would not the Apostle have been aware of Philips daughters being prophets?
          In Philippians Chapter 4, St Paul names 2 women as co-workers in his ministry with St Clement of Rome. In other Letters, he speaks of Prisca, Phoebe, Junia and Chloe. Surely these women could not be co-workers without opening their mouths in Church; even to sing and give praise.

          Why then do Verses 34 & 35 take such a negative tone?
          The answer perhaps lies in the reference to the "Law " and to "submission" in the closing lines of verse 34.
          Clearly St Paul is connecting the act of public speaking (which could very well be Public Teaching) with the notion of Headship which was in agreement with the tenor of Jewish law.
          Headship often seems to be a topic particularly important to St Paul and he refers repeatedly to the same in the context of Man-Woman relations even in 1 Corinthians 11. In this context St Paul seems to (as was the custom of the churches all over) restricting women from publicly acting as the Head of the assembly which they would have assumed (even temporarily) during the act of Public Teaching.

          As are evident, the implications of the offending verses are very many and need to be discerned further. As of now, we might not know the depth of their implication; but surely they are most relevant to our times.
          Again these verses have nothing to do with women acting as Readers during the Qurbana, nor with them becoming Parish Council members. The Scope of the Pauline argument was limited to a particular function exercised in the Church when it gathered for public worship.

          I agree with you that these verses some times scandalize people; but that should only drive us to further reflect on the same. How much more better if the priest takes 5 minutes to touch on this topic and expound the teaching of the Church on this verse during the sermon, than pretending that these verses did not exist in our God Inspired and Divine Scriptures.
          Removing texts from public worship because they seem to offend us in these fleeting and transient times we live in, seems to be a quick-fix solution which fundamentally fixes nothing. St Paul's closing words in verses 36-38 then seem to speak directly to us.

          Regards

          C Suraj Iype
          Alibag.
        • Oommen Kappil
          From the responses to the original post, it is clear to me that everyone (or most people) believes that St. Paul’s intention was not to silence all women in
          Message 4 of 8 , Mar 13, 2013
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            From the responses to the original post, it is clear to me that everyone (or most people) believes that St. Paul�s intention was not to silence all women in Churches. Our Church has a history of honoring women. Our Holy Qurbana, for example, starts with honoring a woman, Mary, the Mother of God, with the prayer �Mary, who brought thee�� Mary Magdalene (who announced the resurrection of Christ) is considered as the first evangelist. As Mr. Joji Joseph from Bahrain rightly pointed out, our Church had prophetesses. The early Church had deaconesses. Our church never intended to treat women as subordinates. I thank Mr. Mathew Samuel (Albany New York) for explaining the historical/cultural perspective on St. Paul�s instruction.

            I�m grateful to Mr. Philip Ayyamplackal for writing about the importance of prayer, fasting, almsgiving etc, especially during this Lenten season. He also asked, �If the Holy Bible is given to the existing 0000�s of Christian sects around the world with a request to remove all the non-practical things that they cannot follow, what would remain?� Let me make it clear that I didn�t call to �remove all the non-practical things� in the Holy Bible. There is no need to remove non-practical things. St Paul asked slaves, �Obey your masters in Christ.� Such instructions had their relevance to some people at some point in history. Even though slavery is illegal and doesn�t exist, removal of St. Paul�s instruction from the Bible is not required. Leave those instructions in the Bible. They are still useful in interactive Bible study settings where people can ask questions and get clarifications from clergy. However, we should not hesitate to update lectionary. St. Paul�s instruction to the women of Corinth was based on a local issue that was not part of our fundamental faith. Removing this portion from the Epistle reading does not amount to a change in our faith.

            Mr. Alex Mathew (Tampa, Florida) wrote: �I don't know how many members of our Synod read these comments or opinions from laity. It is very rare that we get any official response from the Church leadership. Are these comments being lost in the vast ocean of our ecclesiastical and administrative system?� This is a genuine question. I�m positive that many among the clergy, including those in the decision-making bodies are paying attention to the comments made in this forum, even though they don�t respond as much as we would like them to. Even the decision to grant voting rights for women didn�t happen overnight. However, it�s a fact that repeated calls from the laity and clergy (including our Metropolitans) was the reason why our Church decided to make it a priority to decide on voting rights. So raising awareness through discussion is important for positive change.

            I�m indebted to Mr. Suraj Iype for his insightful analysis of St. Paul�s directive on the topic. Suraj did an exceptional job in explaining the context of St Paul�s teaching. After reading Suraj�s comments about St Paul�s writing missionary works along with Prisca, Phoebe, Junia and Chloe, I�m even more convinced that the literal interpretation of St. Paul�s directive (that women should be silent in churches) is wrong. Yet, I understand his concerns about my request to revise the lectionary. Suraj wrote, �.. if every text of Holy Scripture that offends be removed forthwith then very little of it will soon remain for our reflection.� I don�t have a disagreement. As mentioned earlier, removing these teachings from the scripture is not warranted. However, is it necessary to include the offending reading in the Lectionary for reading in public without any interpretation? Suraj wrote, �How much more better if the priest takes 5 minutes to touch on this topic and expound the teaching of the Church on this verse during the sermon, than pretending that these verses did not exist in our God Inspired and Divine Scriptures.� Part of the solution is here, which is to have the priest take 5 minutes to explain the context of these verses as Suraj did. Sadly, after the reading of the Epistle during Holy Qurbana, our priests seldom stop and explain the reading. Sermons during Holy Qurbana are almost always based on the Gospel reading. Our traditional worship and time schedule on Sundays do not allow our priests to touch upon all the Bible readings. Without proper explanation by the priests, reading the verses 34 and 35 during Holy Qurbana will only put down the women and embarrass the men.
            Suraj further asked, �Why did the authors think it relevant enough to be added in?� I�m sure the instruction was relevant for the Church in Corinth at that particular time. Some of you might have been to protestant prayer meetings during which when someone says a prayer, the rest of the group says �praise the lord� or �Halleluiah� or a combination of both repeatedly. I find it a nuisance and distraction since they are interrupting the person who is praying, and they prevent others from meditating on the prayer. (If St. Paul was alive today, he would have told them to be silent when someone else is praying.) This is not the practice in our church. Hence asking more than half of the congregation to be silent is unnecessary in our times, in our Church.

            Suraj asked, �Isn't all Scripture then inspired of the Holy Spirit?� I believe the Scripture in general is the word of God, written by ordinary people, inspired by Holy Spirit. We read only selected portions from the Bible during public worship. There are passages in Leviticus, for example, that are inappropriate for reading in public. Our Church fathers were sensible enough not to select such passages for public reading during the Holy Qurbana. There is nothing wrong in updating the selections after careful evaluation, as long as no change is made in the fundamental faith taught by the apostles and fathers of the church.

            Based on Mr. E. S. John�s response, it appears to me that he still believes that St. Paul really wants women to be silent in Churches even today. I understand that he has very strong views on women�s voting rights and their role in Church. I encourage him to read what Suraj wrote on the same.

            It is the Church that taught us the importance of treating everyone with mutual respect, love and compassion. If any reading does not bring honor and respect for any reason, it shall be considered for removal from the lectionary. The Scripture does not need revision, but what we select from the Scripture to read during public worship may need periodic evaluation and revision. The fundamental faith of our church does not need change. However, we should not be afraid to evaluate and revise our practices.

            -Oommen Kappil, Philadelphia
          • ruthmchacko
            I don t agree with this passage the women should be silent in the Church. God created man and woman equal. The male dominating world bring the women under
            Message 5 of 8 , Aug 18, 2013
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              I don't agree with this passage the women should be silent in the Church.
              God created man and woman equal. The male dominating world bring the
              women under their control for their benefit. St Paul said to the women of
              Corinth, not any where else. This is a offending and insult to the women. I am
              requesting Bava Thirumeni and the Holly synod to remove this passage from the Lectionary.

              Ruthamma M Chacko
              New Jersey
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