We live in the day of women’s liberation, women’s rights, and the feminist movement. Women are clamoring for equality with men and are seeking fulfillment not in the home and not in raising a family, but in the profession, and careers traditionally occupied by men. The women’s movement has become highly organized, a political force to be reckoned with. All across the globe, organizations traditionally open only to men, from high school soccer teams to the Jaycees, are being pressured to admit women. Equal representation in politics and positions of policy-making is the cry of the day. It is not surprising, therefore, that there is also a parallel movement in the churches pushing for the admittance of women into the special offices of minister, elder, and deacon. The general assemblies and synods of the churches have been preoccupied with this question in the last few years. Women are enrolling in increasing numbers in theological seminaries. And many churches have already swung the doors wide-open and allowed women through, by actively ordaining them into the church offices.

At the outset, we want to clear up a common misconception and misrepresentation. Often the two sides on this issue are divided into those who are “for” women and those who are “against” women. The position “for” women means that women can do anything men can do, may hold any office that men may hold. All possible distinctions are to be erased. The position “against” women means that women are not allowed to do all that men do, are not allowed to hold every office that men hold, and are called to be in submission to the man in the home and in the church.

As Reformed Churches, we are challenged to give a clear answer to the deeply divisive matter of the place of women in the church. No doubt the times have rapidly changed, and the social position of women is far higher than it was a century ago. At the end of the twentieth century, the women’s emancipation movement has widely influenced our family, church, and social life. Most Reformed Churches accordingly have debated the position of women in the congregation. The Church does not live on an island, she exists in the world. Many sisters have risen socially and often take on leading positions, especially since they are better educated than was the case in previous centuries. In such situations some Churches have accommodated their structures to the spirit of the times and accepted a new hermeneutic: the idea that the teaching of the Bible is bound to a certain time and culture. And they eclectically find statements in the Bible that are said to be out of date and difficult to uphold. On this basis, they have introduced women to the office of the Church, and assigned roles to them which are clearly forbidden in the Word of God.

It is for this reason that we dedicate this third issue of Reformation Zambia, to this crucial question of the place of women in the Church. We will seek to answer the question as to whether women are forbidden or permitted to pray during public worship. What is the biblical, Reformed theological position on this matter? Succinct arguments to buttress this position and a response to objections raised against it are given. An equally thorn question we should not neglect is what role women must play in the church. In another article, an exploration is made, negatively of those roles which our women are not allowed to assume in the church, and positively those which God has foreordained for them.

It has also become evident that there is a growing demand for the acceptance of women in the diaconal office. Therefore it is very necessary to examine whether God’s Word allows female deacons. The church today and the individual believer must stand over against the movement to ordain women into church office. Whatever the cost, whatever sacrifice is required, whatever personal injury is suffered, we must stand! We must maintain the Scriptural position, without compromise. Martin Luther once said to those who were hedging in his day:

If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God, except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefront besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.

This stand of the church and of the believer must be a thoroughgoing and consistent stand. There’s an old proverb out of the Far East that the time to keep the camel out of your tent is when the camel sticks his nose into your tent. You let his nose in and you may be sure that his body will soon be following along. Reformed Churches would do well to keep the nose of this camel out of their tent.