"Laying Hands On Women"
The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States has met in recent weeks at Huntington, West Virginia. According to Christianity Today, a movement to amend the Book of Church Order so that "both men and women shall be eligible to hold church offices" generated spirited debate. Despite heated opposition, the motion to send the amendment down to the church's eighty presbyteries for "advice and consent" passed by a 249-173 vote. Forty-one of the eighty presbyteries must ratify the proposed amendment before it can become effective.
During the debate over this proposed amendment, Christianity Today reports that the house was brought down by a remark from a certain "Rev. Archie Davis of Miami" in a fervent speech against the proposal. Mr. Davis "solemnly admonished the assembly that there is 'a big distinction between the laying on of hands on a man and on a woman'."
The Laying On Of Hands
Among Presbyterians, Baptists, and some others the ordination of persons to church offices is done by the laying on of hands. Many of our own brethren have held through the years that such ought to characterize the appointment of men as elders, deacons, or to the ministry of the Word among churches of Christ. We do not propose to become involved in this controversy in our present article except to remark that, while we do not regard the formality as essential, we also do not regard it as being out of order or a violation of the teaching of the New Testament. We use the expression "laying on of hands" in the sense of ordination or appointment in this article.
Not A New Problem
The ordination of women to church offices among the denominations is not a new thing. Many Protestant denominations ordain women to their executive church offices and to the ministry of the Word. The Methodists made headlines a year or so ago over this very thing in a meeting held in Denver, Colorado. It is rather shocking, however, to have the staid, conservative presbyters of the Presbyterian denomination to vote favorably to amend their Book of Church Order so as to permit women in the presbytery. Christianity Today reports that McQueen Quattlebaum, elder commissioner from South Carolina, reminded the 456 commissioners of the biblical statement that an elder "must be the husband of one wife" and challenged them to show how women could meet this biblical requirement for office. The teaching of the Scriptures had no more effect on the Presbyterian dignitaries than it does on a host of members of churches of Christ who are determined to have innovations. They voted down the Scripture and approved the proposal to admit women to the presbytery. We do not intend to imply that the Scriptures know anything of the presbytery of the Presbyterian denomination. We simply refer to the matter from their point of view.
"A Big Distinction"
Apart from comic implications of the statement of Mr. Davis that there is "a big distinction between the laying on of hands on a man and on a woman," the statement is unquestionably sound with reference to the ordination of persons to the eldership. Until women can be "the husband of one wife," they are forever excluded from the presbytery of a New Testament congregation. It is quite evident that the Lord never intended for the hands of ordination to be laid on women. A presbyter must be "apt to teach" in his oversight of the congregation, and he must exercise oversight of the congregation which includes men. Women are expressly forbidden to "teach or to usurp authority over the man." (1 Tim. 2:12.)
Practical "Laying On Of Hands On Women"
It seems to us that there is agitation for the acceptance of a concept relative to the extent of the oversight of elders among conservative churches these days the logical consequence of which would be a "laying on of hands on women." The concept to which we have reference is the idea that elders have no right of oversight except in spiritual matters. It is suggested that all matters of judgment such as selecting, "hiring," and "firing" of preachers, selection of Bible school teachers, decisions relative to literature to be used, building and maintaining church buildings, work to be supported by the congregation, in fact, all control of the work and resources of the congregation should be in the hands of the congregation, If this concept is accepted and practiced, it is our firm conviction that the inevitable result will be to place the direction of practically every congregation in the country under the women of the church. None known to me among conservative churches would agree to a woman's being selected as an elder, an evangelist, or even on a committee to oversee (control and direct) the work and resources of a New Testament church. Yet, a number are now insisting that the work and resources of the congregation are to be under the congregation, not the elders.
Group activity is possible only when there is a directing agency to which all components of the group are amenable. There must be a head. This may be an Individual, a group of individuals, or an accepted formula for reaching decisions as to procedure. If the work and resources of a congregation (matters of judgment) are to be controlled by the congregation and no member of the church is to have any more "authority" than any other member, as is contended, then the only formula possible under such a concept is to decide all matters of congregational policy by a vote of the membership with the agreement that the will of the majority prevail. Each church must be a pure democracy. Any formula that would call for a delegation of "authority" to a small group of individuals would come under the same censure that is directed toward the oversight of such matters by the elders of the church. It would simply be the creation of an "eldership" under a different name sans [sic] the strict qualifications of Inspiration.
Before preparing this article, we checked our Church Directory here at 10th and Francis to determine just how it would work out for this congregation to be operated in its work, worship, and expenditure of resources by the congregation. We have two and one half times as many women here as we do men. On the basis of a popular vote, the women would defeat the men on every proposition. The congregation would therefore be directed by women. To accept the current concept that is being agitated with reference to the oversight of elders would be for us to "lay hands on women." We are not prepared to do this yet!
This by no means begins to exhaust our objections to the concept in question. The thoughts of our article were suggested by the problems in this regard of our Presbyterian friends. Is it not strange how that problems affecting New Testament churches are also found being agitated among the bodies of the religious world in general? Indeed, the reverberations of religious issues are universally experienced!
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