Jessica at Friendly Atheist and the Mad Priest both react to a strange story from Bristol University in the UK, where the boys in charge of the school’s Christian Union have barred women from speaking at its events.
Bristol University Christian Union emailed members to say that women will not be asked to preach – unless, in the case of a handful of married students, they are accompanied by their husband.
The decision represents the latest sign of the growing influence of conservative evangelical teaching, particularly among younger Christians.
… In an email, which was obtained by the student newspaper, The Tab, the Christian Union president Matt Oliver, explained that the executive committee had decided in principle it was “OK” for women to be allowed to “teach” – meaning to preach from the Bible.But he added that he recognized it was a “difficult issue for some” and that therefore women would not be invited to do so at the group’s main weekly meeting known as “CU:Equip,” or on residential weekends or missions.
He added: “But a husband and wife can teach together in these.
“This means that women are able to teach (including on their own) in any other CU setting.”
The message adds that such was the strength of feeling that one member of the executive had resigned on theological grounds.
… The Rev Dr Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, an Anglican priest and former Durham University chaplain, wrote on Twitter: “Bristol CU’s idea of compromise is rather like the CofEs — ban women so as not to upset anyone who might object to them.”
I think the muddled strangeness of this rule about husband-and-wife duos is yet another attempt by patriarchal Christian boys to deal with the huge biblical problem they can never get around: They attribute rules to the Apostle Paul which the Apostle Paul flagrantly ignored.
For the boys in the patriarchy, The Most Important Passage in the Entire Bible — a passage that trumps the greatest commandment and the second which is like unto it, and which justifies excluding half of the church — is 1 Timothy 2:11-12:
This was almost certainly the very passage cited by those Bristol Christian Union boys resigning in a huff. This was Paul’s rule, the PCBs say, so therefore it must also be our rule.
Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent.
The problem is that if this was really Paul’s rule, then Paul must have been very upset with … Paul. Because he violated this supposed rule all the time. He acted, in fact, as though he was never aware that it was supposed to be a rule at all.
It’s a bit awkward that the same guy the PCBs insist did not “permit” women to teach was constantly going around commending women for their teaching.
Perhaps the most egregious case of this is Priscilla. Here she is teaching and having authority over a man in Acts 18:
Now there came to Ephesus a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria. He was an eloquent man, well-versed in the scriptures. He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord; and he spoke with burning enthusiasm and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately.
Paul must have been furious. Priscilla broke his rule requiring her to sit “in silence with full submission.” She violated his rule by teaching a man, wielding authority over and correcting a male preacher.
But if Paul found any of that upsetting, he never said a word about it. He lived at Priscilla’s house for quite a while in Corinth, then took her with him as a teaching comrade on his trip to Ephesus. He greets her in his epistle to the Romans as a “co-worker in Christ Jesus,” not as a submissive silent partner. And because she really was his co-worker, Paul passes along greetings from Priscilla at the end of 1 Corinthians, where we also learn there’s a church that meets in her house. Paul also cheerfully sends greetings to her again in … wait for it … 2 Timothy.
Priscilla was kind of a big deal. And her prominence in the New Testament shows that the PCBs’ insistence on making 1 Timothy 2:11-12 some kind of rule against women is utter σκύβαλα, as Paul would put it.
I think this Bristol group’s odd rule allowing only married women to preach and only with their husbands present is their desperate attempt to account for this Priscilla Problem.
That’s apparently easier than simply admitting that whatever one makes of that bit from 1 Timothy, it clearly cannot mean what the patriarchal Christian boys so vehemently want it to mean.