What People Say
What People Say
These are genuine remarks made to us either by word of mouth or in
writing, or reported to us. We add our comments beneath.
“It says quite clearly that women shouldn’t speak.”
Comment: It is a principle of any valid Scriptural exposition that we must
look at the context. We have sought to do that in this book. It can also be
replied that “It says quite clearly that women do speak, and with Paul’s approval” (1 Corinthians 11:4-5, 14:5
& 26). Simply quoting a text, any text, without a context is likely to be
misleading. What, for example, did Jesus mean when he said “Truly, I say to
you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43)?
“Women have a presence
[and therefore shouldn’t be on the platform].”
Comment: So, obviously, do men, and we become used to it.
“If you don’t like it here, go and join a church which does have women speakers.”
Comment: This is an argument from church tradition, and is not a relevant
response to the arguments we have put that we should go by Bible teaching.
“Sisters don’t read at services.”
Comment: This is not an accurate comment, and again it seeks to go by
tradition, not by Biblical exposition.
“I wouldn’t want to be exhorted by a sister.”
Comment: If exhortation is appropriate, we should be prepared to take it
no matter from whom.
one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be
hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
“We don’t want sisters taking over the Breaking of Bread.”
Comment: We are not in favour of anyone “taking over”. A male take-over
could be said to be the fate the church suffered as it departed from New
Testament standards and belief. We would like to see the sharing and
partnership which was part of the unity in Christ of the New Testament
“My wife tells me what to do
at home: I’m not having her telling me what to do at the meeting!”
Comment: Perhaps Ephesians 5:21 is the best comment: “Be subject to one
another out of reverence for Christ.”
“Believers in Paul’s letters
are addressed as brothers (adelphoi)
because the letters are written to the brothers, who then taught the sisters.
It is incorrect, therefore, to translate adelphoi
as ‘brothers and sisters’ as is done in modern translations.”
Comment: This is based on 1 Thessalonians 5:27: “I adjure you by the Lord
that this letter be read to all the brethren” and on the similar passage in
Colossians 4:16. It does not take long to examine the usage of “brethren” (adelphoi) and similar expressions such
as “to the saints” to see that Paul is addressing everybody in the ecclesia by
the term “brethren”, not just the males.
See Chapter 6 “ ‘Brothers and Sisters’ in the New Testament” pages
40-47. The common form of address “Dear Brethren and Sisters” is a mixture of
old English and modern. To be accurate and inclusive we should say “Brothers
and Sisters” as otherwise we imply that “brethren” does refer only to men.
“When we go there [to
ecclesias where sisters are actively involved] we are impressed with the
prayers and addresses given by some of those talented sisters. They are a real
treat to hear and we appreciate the differences.”
Comment: People who have not heard Christadelphian sisters speak are
rather afraid of the unknown. It is good to hear appreciation of the spiritual
tone and value in meetings where sisters take an active part in services.
“A brother said to me that
if a sister said anything at a business meeting the whole proceeding would be ultra vires [beyond legal authority]”
Comment: If this means that a sister may not contribute to discussion at a
business meeting (though she is entitled to vote at it), it is a good example
of misusing the Bible in an anti-woman manner to enforce male control. If it
means that the whole proceedings of the meeting become invalid if a sister
comments, it is an example of how extreme some brothers can be.
“Our meeting has just agreed
to have sisters on the Arranging Committee.”
Comment: A sensible move, following the logic of New Testament teaching,
and a wise move in a world where discrimination against women is more likely to
turn people against the Gospel than towards it.
“There was a shortage of
brethren and it was proposed that sisters should read the Scripture portions at
the Breaking of Bread service. It has not yet been acted upon as we rely
heavily on visiting speakers. The sisters themselves felt that inter-ecclesial
harmony was more important.”
Comment: It is sad that inter-ecclesial harmony is likely to be disturbed
by encouraging what many feel is a sensible implementation of Biblical
teaching. On the other hand, many visiting speakers, if asked if they find it
acceptable for a sister to read, say “Yes”. So one answer to this particular
dilemma is to check with each visiting speaker first. There are better reasons,
of course, for having sisters read, apart from a shortage of brothers. It helps
to return to the all-inclusive nature of first century meetings as described in
1 Corinthians 14:27: “When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a
revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation.”
“I only had a year or two in
……... ecclesia but became Mutual Secretary and gave several papers at the
Mutual. I found it very hard when I went to …...... ecclesia and could do nothing. They did eventually have one Bible
Class a month at which we could comment or ask questions but it didn’t last
long because one brother refused to come to the class on those occasions. They
went through all the nonsense of sisters passing notes for brethren to read and
sometimes closing the meeting in prayer before sisters could speak.”
Comment: This illustrates varied practices within the Christadelphian
world. It also shows the frustration sisters are made to feel, especially when
they can be prevented even by one brother who insists on his own understanding
being implemented despite the wish of others to do things differently.
Sometimes Sisters’ Classes are adopted as a solution, since this is considered
Biblical as sisters are teaching sisters. But the reference in Titus 2:3 is to
older women teaching younger women, and is strictly, therefore, not applicable
to younger women giving talks at a Sisters’ Class.
“Advice I was given: If you
want to get on well in the Christadelphian community, say nothing, do nothing.”
Comment: Sadly, this advice has more truth to it than we would like to
believe. Those who study and say what they think are likely to be regarded with
“How odd it is, that a
seventeen year old brother is preferred to lead a discussion group which includes
sisters older and more experienced than he! How crazy it is, that four senior
sisters in isolation can run their own meetings for years, until one day they
convert a young man, a ‘novice’, and thereafter he has to do everything, all
the teaching, reading, praying, while they sit in silence, until, tragically,
frustration and depression drives the little ecclesia apart!”
Comment: We can quote someone else’s remark to us as a reply:
“It has a bad effect on the brothers. It cannot be right that a
young, newly-baptised brother should be encouraged to feel superior to an
older, experienced sister. If a sister has taught the Truth to a man, her work
should not cease just because he has been baptised.” To be truly and deeply
Biblical we would agree with Stella Blackmore that “The work is the thing that matters. Where a
sister can do a particular piece of work better than a brother, it cannot be wrong for her to do it.” See page 206
“... the usual treatment of
sisters has such bad effects, not only depriving the Lord of potential workers,
but causing those brothers who are so inclined, to consider themselves above
all sisters, regardless of their age and experience.”
Comment: The bad effects of the unbiblical idea that any brother can
regard himself as head of any sister has been seen in young brothers who feel
entitled to tell older sisters off for wearing women’s trousers or for not
wearing a hat. This type of teaching unfortunately can encourages arrogance in
young brothers, and is warned against in 1 Timothy 3:6, which although about
bishops, warns about the danger of new converts becoming too full of
themselves: “He must not be a recent convert or he may be puffed up with
“Paul would be chagrined;
and I am sure that Jesus is grieved to see his ecclesias and missions run on
half the staff, and so many sisters take the centre of their lives out of the
ecclesia, to the work-place, to the shopping mall, into crafts, friends, kids,
houses, holidays and a host of trivial but more rewarding distractions. Or as
Sister …… observed to me ‘They just get depressed’.”
Comment: It is important that those with power, mainly the brothers, take
this sort of problem on board. It is caused by an unbalanced, male-orientated
view of the Bible. Although some brothers and sisters may feel upset when
change is advocated, it is damaging to the brotherhood not to change.
“It used to bother me a good
deal that sisters were not made full use of in service to the Truth. It was
only my love for Jesus and his teachings that kept me going for many years!”
Comment: Jesus freed women from the restrictions of the society of his
day, and it is sad when this is not followed through in a positive way in
ecclesial teaching and practice today.
“For me, it is a real relief
to know that my desire to increase the passion of my brothers and sisters for
the Lord, is actually encouraged in Scripture, and not discouraged or
forbidden, as we often hear.”
Comment: It is sad that such willing involvement in service to Christ is
actively discouraged. An unbiased reading of the Bible would correct this, but
correction needs to be in practice, not just in theory.
“[Not to use sisters] is a
terrible waste of our resources of skill and time and energy.”
Comment: We agree. However, keeping the bigger picture in mind, the overall
aim is to lead a Christian life and to build up one’s brothers and sisters. If
one avenue of service is forbidden, it is a Christian response to seek other
ways in which we can serve our Lord. But everyone who has any power to bring
about a change for the better should seek to do so. We bring disgrace to the
name of Jesus if we hide behind tradition instead of re-examining Bible
teaching and taking responsible action to improve the situation of sisters.
Everyone should be saddened that sisters are not accorded the respect and
encouragement that their talents and abilities Biblically deserve.
“As Christadelphians we
consider ourselves to be ‘big picture’ people, so that we interpret the few
difficult passages (i.e. ‘for’ the devil or trinity) in the light of the
overall Bible teaching, harmonizing them to agree with the majority of texts.
But strangely when it comes to sisters, we construct a whole position on just 2
‘minority’ texts, 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2, even when it is clear that
sisters in the 1st Century were active in all aspects of preaching, praying and
Comment: We couldn’t agree more.