We’ve all heard idiomatic phrases that begin with, “A woman’s place is in . . .” I think any conversation about women in the workplace begins with a conversation about women’s roles in general. As evangelical Christians, we look to the Bible to determine our beliefs and to serve as a guide for our conversations about any topic. On the subject of women, women in the workplace and women in leadership – evangelical Christians are divided in their opinion.
Obviously, God has designed all humans to bear His image and reflect His glory. He also has created both men and women. He is the author of our differences. Some of our differences are obvious and easily recognized. Our physical differences are apparent to everyone. Our “male-ness” or “female-ness” can be easily discerned through physical characteristics. Those distinctions dictate certain limitations and create certain possibilities. For example, a woman is physically capable of bearing a child. On the other hand, a man is often larger in stature and bone structure with greater physical strength. Hence, there are no women in the NFL. However, these differences do not express superiority or inferiority. Not all men are in the NFL either! We have evidential differences that are inherent to our gender.
However, there are many examples of limitations placed on women and expressions of the supposed inferiority of women in the Christian family. Some denominations and churches across Christianity have developed theological convictions that limit the role of women at the least and some even promote teachings of inferiority at the most.
For example, the Southern Baptist Convention revised its theological confessional statement known as The Baptist Faith and Message in 2000 at its annual convention meeting in Orlando, Florida. In this updated version of its confession, the convention offered two major modifications to the existing document that had been revised in 1963. Both of these revisions had to do with the place of women.
First, in the article on The Church, the revised document reads, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”
Second, the convention messengers approved a new article on The Family. A portion of the confession reads, “The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.”
-The Baptist Faith and Message, 2000 – you can find an online copy of this confession at http://www.sbc.org/bfm/default.asp
Let me say – I was in attendance at this convention meeting and I voted against this revision of The Baptist Faith and Message. I disagree with the language in both articles. Here at FBC Arlington, we have adopted the 1963 version of The Baptist Faith and Message and it contains none of the limiting language with respect to women. (You can access an online version of the 1963 BF&M on our website at http://fbca.org/files/1963_bfm.pdf) However, my point is that the Southern Baptist Convention has voted to limit the role of women in church leadership and to offer a certain description of the role of women in a family. This just illustrates what I have already said – a woman’s place is a topic of interest and some controversy!