DOES THE BIBLE PERMIT WOMEN TO PREACH IN OUR LORD’S DAY WORSHIP SERVICE?
Opening Statement by Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr.
Ascol/McKissic Debate/Dialogue
Westin Birmingham
June 10, 2019, 4:00 p.m.

In the Kingdom, God values women. Neither complementarianism, nor egalitarianism are biblical terms, and they fall short of biblical definitions and parameters when it comes to certain gender roles in Kingdom ministry. Jesus would not label Himself a complementarian or an egalitarian; therefore, neither will I. The word I have coined to label my position on gender roles in ministry is –“Kingdomarian.”1 This appellation—‘kingdomarian”—focuses on Jesus’ central teaching on all things as matters “pertaining to the Kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

A Kingdomarian is one who believes men and women are coequal under God.  Both are valued by God in their essence and function.  Both are called into the ministry of disciple-making and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom to the ends of the Earth.  And both do this with the recognition that in the local church, women and men function under God’s authority, under the leadership of a Kingdom-focused, male lead pastor because of God’s sovereign purpose(s) and Kingdom assignment(s) (Matthew 24:14).

My thesis proposes that the Bible reveals that in God’s Kingdom, God gifts and calls women to preach to whomever He wills, on any day He wills, at any gathering He wills, without limitation with respect to gender (Acts 2:17-18; I Corinthians 11:5).

The Son of God, The Spirit of God and The Saints of God, have sanctioned and commissioned women to preach the Gospel wherever and whenever “God would open…a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ” (Colossians 4:3).

I. The Son Of God Affirmed Women in Proclamation Ministries Without Regard to Gender under His Authority.

A. At Jesus’ birth Anna the prophetess “spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). She “did not depart from the temple” (Luke 2:37). Whatever prophesying Anna engaged in occurred at the temple in Jerusalem, and we know she spoke to “all”—men and women (Luke 2:38).

B. During Jesus’ life “many women…followed Jesus” (Matthew 28:55), funded His ministry (Luke 8:2-3), were discipled by Him (Luke 10:38-42), stood by Him at the Cross (Matthew 27:55-56; Mark 15:40), and came to His tomb, “very early in the morning, on the first day of the week” (Mark 16:2), “that they might…anoint Him” (Mark 16:1). Male disciples (with the exception of John) were conspicuously absent at the cross and at the tomb (Mark 14:50). John, alone, eventually stood by Jesus at the cross (John 19:25-27).

C. Jesus rewarded women for their faith and faithfulness to Him, by commissioning two women (Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary,” Matthew 28:1) to deliver the first Lord’s Day Worship Sermon, in the history of the Christian Church (Matthew 28:6, 10).

Jesus fully entrusted women to deliver the first Lord’s Day message to men. The angel told the women, after inviting them to inspect the empty grave, “go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead” (Matthew 28:7). Jesus instructed these women, “Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me” (Matthew 28:10).

I agree with Southern Baptist pastor, Steve Bezner2:

“In the days after the Resurrection, as the church was formed, the New Testament is clear — women were integral. Women were the ones to discover the empty tomb, and, therefore, the first to preach the gospel. We read that Philip’s daughters prophesied. We read that the Spirit falling at Pentecost was a fulfillment of Joel’s prediction that sons and daughters would prophesy. We read that, in Christ, there is neither male nor female — there are no categories of salvation in Jesus. We read that Phoebe is a diakonos of the church — a word usually translated as “deacon.” We read that Junia is “highly esteemed among the apostles,” which means that either a) Junia was a woman highly respected by the apostles or, b) that Junia was a woman who was a highly respected apostle (but not one of the Twelve). We read that Lydia hosted a church in her home. We read that Priscilla helped disciple Apollos — a popular early Christian teacher.”

Basically, Pastor Steve Bezner’s point emphasizes that: “Women were…the first to preach the gospel”; they preached the gospel to men, including on the Lord’s Day of worship (Matthew 28:1-10); and women were gifted and allowed to use those gifts in the early church.

II. The Spirit Of God Anointed And Appointed Women To Preach The Gospel, Under God’s Authority, Without Regard To The Day Of The Week, Under God-Appointed Male Authority.

A. Women were in the upper room on the day of Pentecost, when God poured out His Spirit upon the church (Acts 1:14).

B. God poured out His Spirit upon women at Pentecost to proclaim “the wonderful works of God” just as He did the men (Acts 2:11).

C. Peter quoted Joel on The Day of Pentecost, as a promise being fulfilled at Pentecost:

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,” (Acts 2:17. Joel 2:28-29)

Obviously the text of Joel is appropriated to establish an authoritative basis which underscores the significance of Pentecost for both men and women.

D. The Holy Spirit distributes to “each one for the profit of all” (I Corinthians 12:7). The Holy Spirit distributed to “each one” individually as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:11). One of the gifts The Spirit gave without regard to gender was “prophecy” (I Corinthians 12:10).

E. What is prophecy? The common reformation answer appealed to 1 Corinthians 14:3 (Prophecy & Hermeneutic in Early Christianity, E. Earle Ellis, Baker Books, 1993) 3:

“But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.”

Prophecy also includes learning (I Corinthians 14:31), and evangelism (I Corinthians 14:24-25).

The gift of “preaching” is not listed among the list of spiritual gifts. No one would argue that men and women are gifted by God’s Spirit to preach. So where is the gift of preaching among the list of spiritual gifts?

I agree with the Late Dr. Jack Gray, 4 who believes that the gift of prophecy equates to the gift of preaching. The gift of prophecy is mentioned in all three lists of spiritual gifts (Romans 12:6-8; I Corinthians 12:7-10, 28; Ephesians 4:11). Prophecy is the Spirit’s gift to preach the message of God with clarity and power, to be God’s spokesman to His people, both forth telling and foretelling. It is the gift to receive and deliver God’s message to people.” Prophecy is primarily communicating the gospel, with a view towards persuasion.

In I Corinthians 11:5, Paul affirms women praying and prophesying with their heads covered, which was customarily indicative of male presence and a sign of modesty in that culture. Women prophesied without any restrictions on the day or location where they would prophesy.

III. The Saints of God in Baptist History Have Sanctioned Women Preaching under God’s Authority and Kingdom Male Leadership.

A. The Second London Confession of Particular Baptists (1689) states: 5

“[T]he work of preaching the Word, is not so peculiarly confined to the [elders]; but that others, also gifted and fitted by the Holy Spirit for it, and approved, and called by the Church, may and ought to perform it.”

Note that these other preachers, who did not hold the pastoral office preached because they were “gifted” to do so. In other words, the local church recognized the gifting by the Holy Spirit and approved of their preaching. An autonomous local church can approve of anyone they desire to occupy the preaching hour as they deem “fitted by the Holy Spirit”—male or female.

B. Dr. Curtis Freemen, a Research Professor of Theology and Director of the Baptist House of Studies of Duke Divinity School, wrote an 842 page tome entitled: “A Company of Women Preachers: Baptist Prophetesses in Seventeenth-Century England; A Reader,” 6 in which he documents, details and delineates the messages of seven Baptists Women who preached in Baptist churches in Britain from 1641-1679. Their names were Katherine Chidly, Sarah Wright, Elizabeth Poole, June Turner, Anna Trapnel, Katherine Sutton, and Anne Wentworth.

C. Leon McBeth, “The Baptist Heritage, Four Centuries of Baptist Witness” (pp. 690-695), 7 states that, “Women served as deacons and deaconesses, and sometimes preached, among the English Baptists from the 1600’s. In the American South, the Separate Baptists recognized both deaconesses and eldresses, and some women, like Martha Stearns Marshall, were notable for their fervent preaching and praying in public.”(pp. 690-691) (The Sandy Creek tradition).

D. In more recent history, we know that Missionary Bertha Smith delivered the “Lord’s Day” morning message at Bellevue, Memphis, FBC, Dallas and Atlanta and many other SBC churches during her career. Retired Oklahoma SBC Pastor, Paul Burleson, writes about the privilege of hearing “Miss Bertha” many times in conferences where they shared being keynote speakers. Burleson summarizes a Denver speaking engagement within a SBC context where, “Miss Bertha did not give a testimony, she did not bring a devotional, she ‘preached the Word in power.’” Burleson goes on to write:

“The SBC historically has been blessed by women, anointed by the Spirit, sharing the Word of God. It may not have been mainstream, but it was God, from my perspective.” (Paul Burleson, Friday, May 31, 5:49 p.m., Istoria Ministries Blog, comment section).8

Charles Stanley stated in Baptist Press, October 24, 2003:

“There are a number of women who are preachers who are preaching the gospel today, and they are being very successful at it and they are meeting people’s needs…You can’t tell a woman who is called by God to teach that she cannot teach the Word of God…so I think that there’s a difference between the authority of a pastor and a Bible teacher.”9

R C Sproul stated in a “Lecture from the Teaching Series The Role of Women in the Church:

”I see nothing in Scripture that precludes a woman from being a preacher…I believe you [a woman] can be a preacher in the church on a Sunday Morning Service.” 10

I give God praise for Sproul’s affirmation of the proclamation gifts given to women biblically allowed in worship.

Dr. W.A. Criswell stated, “The apostle [Paul] says that the woman is to pray and to prophesy (speak out for Christ) in the church. She has a worthy place of honor in the household of God’s redeemed.” 11 Dr. Criswell’ wife, Betty Criswell, taught men and women in church on Sunday’s in a group three times larger than the average SBC church.

E. God has raised up Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer and hundreds of Baptist/Evangelical women who are filling pulpits on Sunday morning at a male pastor’s request.

F. If God’s Word is true (and it is), we will see more of this in Southern Baptist churches in the future. Let the Church Say Amen!

“The Lord gives the Word, Great is the host of women who proclaim it” (Psalm 68:11).

Dr. Sheri Klouda Sharp, a Hebrew scholar, comments on this verse:

“The Hebrew actually says:  The Lord gives forth His word, the ones who are proclaiming it a great host (company, etc.). The piel participle is feminine plural and you could even translate the participle as “the women proclaiming it a great host (number, company, etc.). The participle has a definite article on the front, typically translated as “the ones who are ‘doing an action.’”12

G. Bill Victor raises a great question on this topic: “If Phoebe came to your church with a letter from Paul, would you let her read it in the church?” 13 And I will add—will you let her read it on Sunday morning in worship? My answer would be, “yes”!!! Hard complementarians would answer, “No”!!!

There is something profoundly wrong with the idea that a woman cannot speak or preach from the pulpit, because that is exactly what Paul instructed Phoebe to do, and instructed the men  to, “assist her in whatever business she has need of you” (Romans 16:1-2). It is time for the church to let Phoebe, be Phoebe, Priscilla be Priscilla, and Phillip’s four daughters conduct the ministries under God’s authority, and God ordained male leadership, as He has instructed them to do, even preaching in a Lord’s Day Worship service.

ENDNOTES

1 “Kingdomarian – arian is a suffix that forms the ending for nouns corresponding to Latin adjectives that ended in -arius. The suffix is for personal nouns.” (Statement Providing Etymological Support for the term “Kingdomarian” by Marcus Jerkins, New Testament, PH.D. Candidate, Baylor University, Waco, TX, June 2019).

2 Pastor Steve Bezner Blog, “Room for Moore”: https://medium.com/@Bezner/room-for-moore-468d26bc8ef

3 Prophecy & Hermeneutic in Early Christianity, E. Earle Ellis, Baker Books, 1993.

4 Dr. L. Jack Gray, Studies of the Holy Spirit, Self-published Class Notes, Paper, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, TX.

5 William L. Lumpkin, The Second London Confession of Particular Baptists (1689), Baptist Confessions of Faith, Judson Press, 1969, p. 288.

6 Dr. Curtis Freemen, “A Company of Women Preachers: Baptist Prophetesses in Seventeenth-Century England; A Reader”

7 H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, Four Centuries of Baptist Witness.

8 Paul Burleson, Friday, May 31, 5:49 p.m., Istoria Ministries Blog, Comment Section.

9 Charles Stanley, Baptist Press, October 24, 2003

10 R C Sproul, “Lecture from the Teaching Series The Role of Women in the Church,https://www.ligonier.org/learn/series/role_of_women_in_the_church/role-of-women-in-the-church/.

11 W.A. Criswell, Chriswell’s Guidebook for Pastors, Broadman Press, Nashville, TN, 1980, p. 94.

12Dr. Sheri Klouda Sharp, Associate Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, Former Chair and Director, MARS Program, Taylor University, Upland, IN. (Statement).

13 Bill Victor, Tweet by Bill Victor on Twitter, Bill Victor (@billyv_33), 6/1/19, 9:29 PM.

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