WAMS 2018: Women Usurping Authority or Not (part 2)

[AssemblyHUB’s mission is “to facilitate open and honest interest and discussion about assembly principles, practices and the Christian life. To encourage acceptance and appreciation for the views of others in relation to personal conviction.”

In this Women and Men Series, we are introducing, what are to some, controversial topics. We intend to foster discussion not to come across as absolute authorities on any subject.]

In part one of this article, we discussed that women are created in the image of God, some have verbal spiritual gifts, and that there must be ways for women to use these gifts in the church. (read part one here)

The only two books in the Bible named after women are written about women who did bold things. Acts that were out of character, out of traditional women’s roles. Like sneaking into a guy’s bed in the middle of the night and proposing to him. Like seeking audience with the king, your husband, who wields the power of life and immediate death, to beg for the lives of your people.

Ruth was in sync with God’s plan, and seized it boldly. Esther’s choice was death or death, with a slim to nothing chance at life. She, a woman, did what a man couldn’t do.

We’d not accuse either of these women of usurping authority over men. Yet neither of these women’s actions would fit into what we’d define as traditional woman’s roles, gifts, or responsibilities.


I have a very strong personality (for a woman or a man), and I also tend to see things very black and white. Logic is my love language. I read these verses in 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians, and I take them at face value. The English translations of the Greek words are pretty accurate. Usurp means what it means. There’s not a whole lot of gray area or nuance in its usage. The Greek word silence means stillness, that is, desistance from bustle or language: quietness, silence. Teaching is teaching, and not is definitely NOT.

The wrestling comes from trying to reconcile these verse with the other verses and examples of women in the Bible. Women like Esther and Ruth and Hannah and Sarah are examples we are taught to admire and follow. We want to be godly, spiritual women who love the Lord, and know and obey His word. We see the value of seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Of developing inward character and allowing the Holy Spirit to produce his fruits in our lives.


There is a  tension between being, first and foremost, humans created in the image of God, spiritual beings with personal relationships with God versus being women, with specific caveats on how we live out our spirituality.

Usurp is a very strong, very specific word. In its specificity and strength is where we find our direction.

Valid questions

We should ask questions, and we should answer them from Scripture…

Is there a difference between usurping and delegating? (absolutely) And are there roles and practices that men can delegate to women without abdicating their responsibilities and roles? (yes) In the sphere of the church, are there ways a woman can share without teaching, be verbal without usurping authority? (yes. 1 Corinthians 14:3-4)

Can a woman write a book (or an article for AssemblyHUB) teaching Biblical ideas or practices or doctrine? Is that wrong? Is it contrary to Scripture? Are there any occasions when a woman is allowed to teach men Scripture? (three names…Aquila, Priscilla, Apollo, Acts 18:24-28)

What about (assembly) woman missionaries? The women who evangelize and disciple, sometimes baptize, lead Bible studies, and are often instrumental in church planting. Each of these activities would fit within the Great Commission, which is traditionally read as applicable to both men and women. (Matthew 28:19-20)

Why stir the pot?

This article was written because there are so many popular women preachers right now. Jen Hatmaker. Sarah Bessey. Shauna Neiquist. Beth Moore. They preach in churches and encourage other women to throw off their shackles and preach. Bill Hybels’ church has appointed a woman head senior pastor when he retires this year. This is mainstream Christian culture.

I’m not saying their example is right and that we should follow it. (Actually, it’s the exact opposite.) I’m saying that we need solid answers when we say it’s wrong. We need to make sure our practices are Biblically based, and not merely tradition.

We need to  obey what the Bible says without assigning limits it doesn’t include.

Bernadette Veenstra


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    I love these thoughts. Thanks dear solid, powerfully gifted sister for the proper tension and resolution to profer these questions..


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    I’m reading this at work, so this probably is not a well thought out reply– just some thoughts. First. I agree we need a good response. There are times of sharing (Bible studies etc) that I don’t see as teaching. I don’t see praying as teaching either. Why can’t a woman participate if her head is covered as in scripture? We do need to be very careful. The verse about being given authority — this is what churches use to justify women pastors and women teaching men. Scripture makes it clear that women aren’t to teach men, which means that a man doesn’t have the authority to give her that permission. I also have a theory about Priscilla and Aquila. She is always mentioned first, until the Apollos incident them Aquila is mentioned first. I think because she allowed him to take the lead as the spiritual head. The popular women teachers you mentioned. Over the years I have seen them get into some really questionable stuff. — advocating gay marriage and teaching that they have received special revelations of future events. Makes me nervous. Can we make some changes in the things women can do? I believe so, but we have to be careful.


    • Bernadette Veenstra

      Bernadette Veenstra

      I like that…”men don’t have the authority to give her that permission.” That is so true. Permission isn’t from man, it is from the word of God. I also agree with your take about that instance of Priscilla and Aquila. He probably took the lead, but she was teaching along with him. I also am not advocating anything that any of these women advocate. They are very popular voices in evangelical Christendom, and a lot of what they are teaching is very dangerous.


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    I worked on a mission field where may believers were executed in the civil war and 50 years later the believers were very few in some cities, and entire provinces and cities without one known believer This is where God called me to serve.

    Without churches the need was for people to go door to door NOT TO INVITE THEM TO A BUILDING TO HEAR THE GOSPEL, but to encourage them to read the Bible in their home. The Bible was a forbidden book in Catholic countries, and many considered that anyone who brought a Bible was a protestant and therefore condemned to hell. It was difficult to get them to take and read the gospel of John. None would come to a (protestant) church but a few would accept a gospel and agree to read it. I asked them to read the gospel and underline where Jesus talked about eternal life and then when I returned a month later they were to TELL ME what they learned. In many cases the family or priests told them not to let me in the second time.

    But some did and I had to overcome their fears that I was going to make them change religions, would come every week and they would not be able to get rid of me, so I let them be in control to stop me whenever they wanted to.

    Little by little women got saved, were TAUGHT doctrine etc. and after a year or so when all the false doctrines of Catholicism were discussed, they asked to come to the church (that was forming.) They came with their children, and assemblies were formed. It was a slow work and very hard, but the majority were all women.They did not come immediately when they were saved, but when they saw that they had to make a choice between the Bible or the teaching of the Catholic church. I was involved in evangelism and teaching of women outside of the church for 26 years. It was very difficult as a single woman teaching the Bible and evangelizing, because it was not encouraged.

    I returned home to care for my parents

    After spending a few years caring for my parents (they both had Alzheimers) I started to work on the University campuses in my home city. This was not received well. I started with One female post doctorate Scholar from China who wanted to learn about the Bible. After a few months she asked if two men could also study the Bible with me. I asked the elders and they said yes I could teach them because it is not a church meeting. This ministry grew and I now work on the three campuses in my city and have close to 30 post Doctorate Scholars from China and a few from Muslim countries every year in the Bible studies Over a period of 14-15 years about half of these become believers when they return home.

    I am a single woman, every page in the Bible has the gospel message, and mixed in is doctrine. I evangelize and teach doctrine on the University Campuses to Chinese Professors from the universities of China. God has given me the gifts of organization (administration) evangelism, and teaching. I was encouraged by some to continue in this ministry (15 years) but others felt that God would not approve of this ministry. I was ordered many times by different men to hand the ministry over to the men, but I have over 1,000 emails of Scholars that I keep up with every week and visit them in China as often as I can. None of the men who ordered me to hand over the ministry to a man ever asked me what I did, or the lessons I used, or how I follow up. So I said I have 1,000 email addresses, WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THESE PEOPLE? They dropped the issue but I feel that many disapprove, but they do not discuss it with the Bible open.

    If God gives the same gifts to women that he might give to men, there MUST be a way where she can use the gifts to the glory of God and not usurp authority.

    open to comments


    • Bernadette Veenstra

      Bernadette Veenstra

      “If God gives the same gifts to women that he might give to men, there MUST be a way where she can use the gifts to the glory of God and not usurp authority.” That is my point. I think parachurch organizations are different that THE church. I also think that it would be helpful to define just what exactly is meant by “church”. Which meetings, etc.. My husband and I have been talking about that distinction. I will talk more to our writing staff, and see who wants to take that up.


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    Excellent and well-balanced (emotional) discussion! I know the subject can get under the skin of some brethren too, so thanks for this.

    There is a lot to consider, even though the scripture references are few. But are very clear. First, the sphere we are talking about is the local church. “In church” has so many different aspects to many. What constitutes a local church, and when can we, as believers, say we are “now in church” or “now we are not in church?” (I believe JB Nicholson’s series entitled “Masterpiece of the Ages is very helpful.) A similar and related discussion could be brought in regarding “headship” and head coverings.

    All of the gifts we given “to the church.” We know that. But not all the gifts were to be used “in church.” We know that too, from Scripture (and I believe our sister Bev Boyle, who I believe I met many years ago gave many relevant examples).

    There are definite rolls for sisters, besides cooking at conferences. Many could put some of us men to shame regarding spiritual maturity and knowledge, but why should we be surprised at this? We are all at different stages in our walk for Christ – men and women.

    One thing I always keep in mind is how Adam failed his wife. Eve was deceived, tricked into doing something she should not have done, including going to her husband first. But Adam failed in not going to God and asking for help. I believe these two weaknesses are characteristic of the man/woman/God relationships we see all around us, and it is a serious weakness indeed. We like to be independent – doing our things our own way.

    But being “in church” is supposed to bring back that idea of dependence, so we don’t fly off doing our own thing. That’s why we are admonished to “not foresake the assembling” of ourselves, “as some are doing.”

    Thanks again, and looking forward to the next instalment.



    • Bernadette Veenstra

      I really appreciate your thoughts here. I especially like the summary of the two characteristic weaknesses of men and women. And the way regularly meeting with the body combats those weaknesses. Thanks for sharing.


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    I have belonged heart and soul to six different assemblies over the course of my 70 years at home and abroad and I have never seen a shred of evidence that women desire to usurp authority in any of them. What I do lament is the extent to which a fear of overstepping our bounds has kept many of us women from developing our gifts within the assembly because of the culture of being monitored always, and in some cases treated as a sort of servant class to prepare the meals, work with children, and facilitate invisibly behind the scenes, but with men entirely clueless as to the cost to us personally because as the beloved sister Bev said, “they never asked me.” I find it very troubling that the leadership in some assemblies find it necessary to control the extra-assembly activities of some who are simply bearing fruit as God intends. I also believe the full and free expression of the power of the Holy Spirit in us may result in very unusual occurrences which we should not attempt to monitor. He has not appointed us to police each other, nor to be focused on human behavior in our meetings but to be consumed with glorifying HIM. A previous AssemblyHUB description of the benefits of praying together as men and women has been my experience in the past, and I cannot begin to describe the benefits to me personally of hearing a brother groan with me through my prayers of anguish and then pray for me in a mixed group, though that is a distant memory, the assembly in a distant city has since dissolved. My most recent experience has been stifling, no speaking for women only men, not even in a Wednesday night Bible study in the coffee room. Only men are allowed to lead, to share, to pray. I am thrilled that we have an opportunity to look into the Word together in this way and air such important issues. It is long overdue.


    • Bernadette Veenstra

      Bernadette Veenstra

      Thank you for sharing your experience. It is convicting. I like the “HE has not appointed us to police each other.” So true.


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