Is Patriarchy Intended for the Church?
by Alison Rowan
The structure of our westernised church has much to be questioned when the anti-hierarchical blueprint for the Church that Jesus gave is considered. He advocated servanthood that took no ‘authority over’ those being cared for and no pyramidal model of authority. Paul understood it too, since he said to the elders (plural) of the Ephesian church, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds (‘pastors’) of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28). Many nowadays would agree to that too. But can we be sure that leadership was only a male domain?
Take Phoebe in Rom 16:1-2, called a 'diakonos' and a 'prostatis' in v 2, translated succourer or nurturer here, but the usual connection is that of a shepherd 'standing before' and usually translated leader elsewhere. According to 1 Tim 3:12, a deacon should be the husband of one wife.... clearly not the case here if taken verbatim. Surely, that stipulation was meant to be a guide for the candidate, IF married, to be faithful in a monogamous marriage, otherwise single or widowed.
It is also interesting to note that earlier in that chapter, the use of 'someone', 'tis' rather than a 'man', 'aner' or 'anthropos' is applied to the person desiring to be a bishop/overseer. Likewise, the only time 'aner' is used is for the 'husband of one wife' section, which as for the deacon qualification, can also be taken to mean 'faithful within a monogamous marriage'. 'Tis' is also used to describe the householder in v 5, not aner or anthropos, so it is again not gender specific.
All the other qualifications for being an overseer, including being a hospitable householder are amply fulfilled by Lydia, in Acts 16:11-5, 40. There is much textual evidence that supports her likely leadership of the Philipian church in this article
In fact I find it quite amusing and enlightening to consider that Paul's writing, if taken as written in tablets of stone for rigid adherence throughout all ages, would have disqualified from leadership of God's people, all the polygamous patriarchs and kings, including David!!
I find it instructive to follow the trend of society as a whole, regarding patriarchy. It did not exist when Eden was 'Paradise' before sin entered. Why do I say that so ADAMantly (excuse the pun!)? Have you noticed that everything in God's heartbroken pronouncement to the guilty pair was to introduce something NEW, that had not existed before when all of creation and relationships were 'very good'? Patriarchy was a perversion of the mirror image, 'kenedgo' relationship they enjoyed with Eve supplying what Adam lacked as 'ezer' the helper meaning in Hebrew, one who gives active intervention on behalf of another (in Greek, boethos, one who runs swiftly to the aid of one who shouts) and vice versa as they co-ruled Creation.
Thus patriarchy and demeaning of womankind became the norm in every culture, where they were cheap enough to be used for procreation and male pleasure and to serve their needs. Thus Patriarchy became the prime resource for Satan to express his enmity against Eve’s daughters. This was still prevalent during much of the OT, but some cultures, including the Greeks and Romans, allowed women more honour and status. Unfortunately, despite having raised up women leaders in Jewish history, God's intent to remove patriarchy, floundered in the hardened attitudes and man-made traditions of His people
Have you considered how anti-patriarchal Jesus was? The talmud said that one must not teach Torah to a woman, yet Jesus allowed Mary the prime position at His feet as he taught and called it 'the better part' than 'woman's work' in the kitchen? He went directly against the tradition that forbade the testimony of a woman to be admissible in court, by selecting women to be the first witnesses and to carry the report to the eleven. Did you notice that when he appeared to them he not only rebuked them for their unbelief, but also for 'their hardness of heart' because they did not believe the report of the WOMEN? - Mark 16:14. (Luke 24:11 says they thought they were idle tales).
It was going to take a while to turf out the patriarchal prejudice, so when the Holy Spirit fell on the 120 in the Court of the Gentiles as the Jews dispersed after morning prayer, they witnessed women with tongues of flame and glorifying God supernaturally alongside the men. In this new temple made without hands, there was no more segregation: no more walls of any kind: God had broken out of the Holy of Holies and taken up residence in flesh. There was no longer a separate court for the priests because all are in the priesthood -- all anointed to minister: no more distinction of male and female -- all are equally ‘sons’ of God as New Creation spirit beings, the flesh that houses it to be regarded no longer (2 Cor 5:16-7)
It had to be taken slowly, so that the first 12 ‘witnesses of the resurrection’ had to be men for the Jews of Jerusalem, then Samaria to receive their testimony. But further afield, where the Gentile cultures had accepted the leadership qualities of ‘noble women’ there was also the acceptance of female leaders and ministries in the church, eg Priscilla was the main teacher of the couple, Phoebe the deacon and leader, Chloe (1 Cor 1:11), Second John’s two elect ladies and probably Lydia, to name a few as overseers.
The tide had turned and the outworking of our redemption regarding the removal of patriarchy had begun….and after a man-made imposition of male hierarchical leadership in the formalised church… it has continued to this day.