Discrimination against women
Discrimination against women at
Christian educational institutions
Theological justification for discrimination on the basis of gender in seminary:
Much of the conservative Christian
justification for sexual discrimination against women is derived from passages
books in the Christian Scriptures (a.k.a. New Testament) that describe Paul as
their author. Some people see a conflict between:
||Paul's actions, which often
appear to accept women in teaching roles, and positions of authority, and
||His apparent writings -- which
sometimes appear to require that Christians discriminate against women in these same
One example of a lack of sexual discrimination by Paul is his reference in Romans 16:7 to a female apostle,
Lunia, as "outstanding among the apostles" (NIV) . It is difficult to
visualize an apostle who was not also a teacher.
The passage most often used to exclude women from positions of teaching and
authority in conservative Christian denominations, churches, and academic posts
is 1 Timothy 2:11-15. The King James
Version translates these verses as:
"Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a
woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the
woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be
saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness
Christians typically resolve the
conflict between Paul's actions and words in the following ways:
||Conservative theologians date this pastoral epistle as having being written prior to 65
CE the approximate date of Paul's execution by the
Romans. On the basis of the first two verses in 1 Timothy:
"Paul, an apostle of Jesus
Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ,
which is our hope; Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy,
and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord."
they assign its authorship to
Paul. When considering the allowable roles for women in churches and church
institutions, they give great weight to the passage at 1 Timothy 2:11-15, because it
deals very precisely with the topic by forbidding women to teach men or be in a position
of authority over men. Conservative Protestants generally consider the Bible
to be inerrant, and believe that
God inspired its authors to record the "Word of
God" accurately. Thus, this very specific passage rules in cases of women
teaching and exercising authority in church.
The "Junia" passage
is generally regarded as a typo in the original Greek. After the 13th
century, the reference to Junia was often changed Junias, a non-existent
man's name, to make her appear to be male.
Christian conservatives interpret this passage in different ways.
generally believe that 1 Timothy was written by an unknown author during the
first half of the second century -- about 35 to 85 years after St. Paul's
execution. They reach this conclusion partly on the basis of the topics
covered in the book. They often deal with concerns of the developing church in the early
second century. If this dating is accurate, the epistle's passages reflecting
female discrimination can reflect a gradual reinstatement of
patriarchal authority by the early Church, and the denigration of the
contribution of women to the Christian movement.
The book is thus an indication of historical developments in
the early Christian movement as they departed from the teachings of Jesus and
Paul. Thus, its contents should not be interpreted as
valid moral and ethical teaching. |
Liberals generally regard discrimination
based on race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc. to be contrary
to the will of God. They thus ignore biblical passages that specify
discrimination and oppression on these bases. The passages are rejected on
the basis that they reflect the culture at the time that the books were written
and do not apply to the present era.
Authors personal note:
Regardless of who the author of 1 Timothy is, he or she wrote "But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp
authority over the man, but to be in silence."
Perhaps he/she is merely indicating his own personal prefernce, and
then justifying it by a reference to Adam and Eve. One might ask whether the
author considered his writing to be binding on others. One might further ask whether it
reflects God's will. It might only be the belief and sexist behavior of a
misogynist who was deviating from the teachings of Yeshua of Nazareth, Paul
and others of the first century CE.
Secular standard on employment:
U.S. federal law, at SEC. 2000e-2. [Section 703] discusses unlawful
(a) It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer:
to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or
otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his
compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of
such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;
to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for
employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any
individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his
status as an employee, because of such individual's race, color,
religion, sex, or national origin. 1
Barring women from employment on the basis of their gender is unacceptable to
the vast majority of American adults. Yet fundamentalist Christian
denominations, like the Southern Baptist Convention, feel that they are commanded to
discriminate because of 1 Timothy. Fortunately for the latter, and unfortunately
for women, various federal and state laws that outlaw discrimination in
employment do not apply to religious institutions. Forbidding religious groups
from sexual discrimination in hiring would constitute "excessive entanglement"
between religion and government. That is forbidden by the
First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
It seems obvious that a policy of
sexual discrimination will impede the Southern Baptist in their responsibility to
follow the great commission: to go into all the world and save the lost. It will
prove to be increasingly difficult to persuade non-Christians and liberal to
to become associated with a denomination
that discriminates against persons on the basis of their gender.
"2000e2. Unlawful employment practices," U.S. Code collection, Cornell
Law School, at:
Copyright © 2000 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-MAR-8
Latest update: 2007-FEB-14
Author: B.A. Robinson