From the Board of Elders
Dear Members in Christ,
The Bible is very clear on the roles of women teaching and speaking in churches. The BOE, together with Rev (Dr) Quek Suan Yew, Rev Lee Kim Shong and Dn Lim Seh Beng hold the same view, which is affirmed herewith:
The role of women in the church concerning teaching
1 Tim 2:12 “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”
The epistle of Timothy is an instructional book for pastoral guidance over the affairs of the church and the people of God. In 1 Tim 2:12, the Apostle Paul points out to Timothy that the women are not to “teach.” This refers to the office of teaching coupled with authority and leadership over the church. We see this in Paul’s reference to himself1 in 1 Tim 2:7 as “… a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.” Paul as we know from scriptures had authority over churches, where he taught and preached the word.
The Apostle Paul writes “I suffer not” the woman to adopt the role of teaching authority over the church. This teaching authority is given to one who is often referred to as the “teaching elder” or the pastor. The church is ruled by elders2 (some are ruling elders), among whom the pastor is also an elder. This Bible verse teaches us that the role is for men, thus Paul writes that woman ought not to “usurp authority over the man.” Thus the qualifications for eldership in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 are in the masculine gender.
What about women in other teaching roles? The distinction here is the authority and role of the teacher versus the teaching function. The doctrine from this verse should not bar women from certain teaching functions within the church. Women may teach for example in Sunday school, sharing a bible verse (or testimony) at a Bible Study, or speaking to a ladies’ group. Or a sister may have a special gift of music or some area of service, she may teach others in these instances. Another example is women lecturers in the Bible College, in such circumstances, there is no bar for women executing the teaching function. The phrase “suffer not a woman to teach” has to be understood in its context of the highest leadership in the church. It refers to that of one who is a teacher and a ruling authority over the church or “ekklesia.” This is a role a woman ought not to usurp. That is why the B-P church does not ordain women or believe that it is biblical for women to be pastors.
Women speaking in public assembly
1 Cor 14:34 “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.”
Now, the key issue Paul deals with in 1 Cor 14 is the disorderly conduct of some who speak in tongues without proper interpretation. The context here is the public assembly of the church as Paul writes in 1 Cor 14:23, “If the whole church3 be come together in one place …” Paul here refers to the congregation of the church as a whole. But after having expounded the doctrine of the orderliness of the congregation in worship, the Apostle Paul goes on to say, “Let your women keep silence in the churches…”
It is quite clear that the setting for these doctrines is the assembly or congregation of God’s people. Paul is quite emphatic, he writes that women are to “keep silence in the churches” and reinforces the teaching with a prohibition, “it is not permitted unto them to speak.”
The question to be addressed is, what is a congregation? Given the context of 1 Cor 14:23, these will be the situations when the church is gathered as a whole. Some examples are the worship service, church prayer meeting, annual congregational meetings, etc. are all public assemblies of God’s people. This does not bar women from teaching or leading in prayer at Sunday School, in small prayer groups (if the church prayer meeting is organized into smaller units), in a ladies’ fellowship. As far as possible, men of faith are to take up the role of leading in prayer and the work of the ministry.
There are instances where there are no men in the congregation, or where the men are still immature in the faith, such as in the mission field, or in instances where a fledging church is small in number, and no men of faith are present. These are extraordinary circumstances where women may have to take a role of prominence. Quoting from Rev (Dr) Quek Suan Yew (https://www.calvarypandan.sg/resources/faqs) “However, whenever there are men in the ministries, they should grow spiritually and become godly leaders and examples to God’s people.”
1 The Apostle Paul refers to himself as again a “teacher” also in 2 Tim 1:11. In Eph 4:11 Paul cites “pastors and teachers” with a conjunction, linking the role and the function.
2 The role of elders as rulers over the church is cited in 1 Tim 3: 1,5 and Titus 1: 6,7,9. These are men who have authority as overseers over the church as a whole. Note that the Pastor of the church is also an “elder” and therefore the verses cited also applies to the pastor.
3 Note that the word “church” or ekklesia may also be translated as assembly e.g. Acts 19: 32,39,41.
Eld. Choe Tong Seng