When it comes to hierarchalists urging that women do not have teaching authority in the church, the go-to passage tends to be 1 Tim 2:11-15. In fact, when I contacted a pastor once to see what their church thought about women in ministry, he simply told me to read 1 Tim 2 to understand his position.
Now I believe 1 Tim 2 is less “straightforward” than it can appear in English, but that is not the approach I take in this article. Instead, I consider the fact that voices of women are encoded within Scripture and, by virtue of this “inscripturation” their voices become the living voice of God. This is a canonical approach to re-considering the authority of female teaching. The case study I use is the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55). This is one of the most important texts in the whole of the Bible and is perhaps one of the most lucid and powerful articulations of the gospel. What are the implications of the fact that Mary speaks these words? Here is how I conclude the article:
In a hierarchical church where no women preachers are allowed, what happens on [the Sunday when the male pastor preaches from Luke 1:46b-55]? How is it possible that the male pastor who says, God has simply not seen it fit to allow women to exercise teaching authority over men in the church, must sit down in his pastoral study on this particular week and spend hours upon hours poring over the words of young Mary that also happen to be the life-changing, world-shattering, church-guiding Word of God? What happens when, at that same church, the people of God stand to hear the reading of Scripture, to hear the Spirit of God move among the people as Mary’s soul, once again, magnifies the Lord with an echo that rings though millions of chapels and sanctuaries each year? How could the supposed non-authoritative female-genderization of this text not be deconstructed as the Word of Christ dwells richly among the people of God? One wonders if anyone has ever walked out on the reading of scripture on the Fourth Sunday of Advent [where the lectionary reading is Luke 1:46b-55]! (p. 13)
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Another note: I dedicated this article to Catherine Kroeger, Christians for Biblical Equality founder who passed away in 2011. I had the privilege of serving as her research assistant for a couple of years at Gordon-Conwell. She was a wonderful teacher, scholar, and advocate for the marginalized. I hope this article pays a small tribute to her important legacy.