Reform are hypocrites over women teaching

According to a leaflet The role of women in the local church published by the Anglican conservative evangelical pressure group Reform:

It is not appropriate for a woman to teach or have authority over men (1 Tim 2:11-13) although it is entirely appropriate for a woman to teach and train other women (Titus 2:3-5).

The author of this leaflet: Carrie SandomCarrie Sandom, a member of the Reform council, who when the leaflet was written was “the ‘student’s curate’ at St Andrew’s the Great, Cambridge”, but apparently currently

works at The Bible Talks in Mayfair where she coordinates the women’s ministry. She is also an occasional lecturer at the Cornhill Training course in London.

Yes, “she”, so not a baby-faced young man with a feminine sounding name.

So what is this woman doing writing teaching materials like this leaflet which are distributed to men as well as to women? Do the publishers, Reform, agree with what Carrie wrote, that women should not teach men? If so, why are they allowing Carrie to teach men? That looks very like hypocrisy.

I suppose they could argue that this leaflet was intended only for women to study. But there is nothing in it to indicate that. And this is apparently the leaflet which was reportedly “issued to parishoners”, presumably men as well as women, at the Reform church St Nicholas, Sevenoaks, as I mentioned in a previous post. But see also this comment which clarifies some matters in response to Peter Ould’s post on the same subject – I note that the words “issued to parishoners” (sic) were in the version of the Daily Mail article quoted by Peter Ould but are not in the quite considerably updated version now at the Mail website.

Reform leaders, you need to get your house in order by making sure that, unless it is explicitly addressed only to women, the teaching material you publish is written by men. Or else you need to change your position to the truly biblical one which Peter Ould outlines, and recognise that

There is … neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28 (TNIV)

29 thoughts on “Reform are hypocrites over women teaching

  1. Pingback: Danger – woman teaching? Hoist on her own petard.

  2. A correction: it turns out that the article which Peter Ould quoted in his post was not in fact from the Mail, but from the Telegraph. But it was so similar to the original version of the Mail article that I assumed it was the same thing. I can’t wondering which of David Wilkes and Nigel Bunyan was plagiarising the other. The Telegraph article still includes the part about “dozens of women parishioners to cancel their direct debit subscriptions to St Nicholas’s”.

  3. I have the utmost respect for Carrie Sandom and have had for 30 years and strongly object to the implication that she is hypocritical. What I think this leaflet shows is not the hypocrisy of either Carrie or Reform but the absolute impossibility of a rigid application of their rules. To take an extreme example, if a husband suffered a severe stroke, as my next door neighbour has, it is only reasonable if more of the responsibility of running the home fell upon his wife than was the case before. I do not think for a moment that Carrie or Reform would demur. The reason is that they rightly do not apply their rules rigidly. But this should not mean that they are accused of hypocrisy; just that their views are considerably more nuanced than they usually present them.
    Perhaps a question they should address is the flexibility of their rules; what are the principles that should inform the application of the rules. The outrage we feel at the Sevenoaks leaflet/sermon is the apparent complete absence of flexibility but this may be more a matter of rhetorical flourish than a fair reflection of St Nick’s Sevenoaks.
    One area where Reform minded people routinely apply their rules with extreme flexibility is when teaching is conveyed through printed word rather than spoken word and the Carrie leaflet is a good example of this. A few years ago I experienced (suffered) an example of this in a church. The homegroups received incredibly detailed bible study notes prepared by an extremely able girl. I had only just joined this church and by coincidence found myself as co-leader with this girl of one of the homegroups. Later another group lost its male leader and the decision was taken that I should be switched to this other group as it needed a new male leader. Another bloke was to be drafted in to replace me. It was only then that I discovered that I was not just co-leader but the head leader of the group. As it happens I refused the switch but I was baffled at the belief (I had never been told) that I was the head leader of the group when the notes had all been prepared by the other leader in the group, when in addition she knew the people when I did not. Whatever the official position of leadership was, it was palpably not true that I was the true head leader. And just as well as the girl was extremely able. The girl herself was and indeed is fully signed up to what I consider an absurd application of the Reform position.
    But to return to the stroke victim, what if the husband began to recover? Some authority could be handed back but perhaps not all. The reason is the capacity of husband and wife to shoulder responsibility vary with time and with sheer variety of person. And it seems only consistent to reflect that in the arrangements within the family.

  4. TC, if Carrie’s and Reform’s views are indeed “considerably more nuanced than they usually present them”, then why don’t they present them accurately? Why are the nuances not included in the leaflet? Why don’t they mention that they do not expect “a rigid application of their rules”? The truth is that they are preaching something which they do not practice, which is more or less the definition of hypocrisy. It makes no difference whether they preach something they don’t actually believe, or whether they practice something they don’t believe. The same is true of your co-leader girl who believed that she could not lead a group but in fact led it – but at least she didn’t preach it.

    As for your stroke victim analogy, it simply shows the absurdity of the whole Reform position.

  5. In case anyone reading this thinks that Carrie Sandom’s interpretation of 1 Tim 2:11-13 is the correct one, I suggest you read this review of Jon Zens’ forthcoming book What’s With Paul & Women? Unlocking the Cultural Background to 1 Timothy 2 – and then the book itself when it appears.

  6. I find myself in the peculiar position of defending those with whom I disagree.
    It is absolutely normal for people to express things in an unqualified way. Matt 21:21 is an example of Jesus uttering in an apparently unqualified way a promise that the rest of scripture shows needs qualification, or else we end up with the prosperity gospel. So for Reform to express themselves in an unqualified way is not a sin it itself. Where I would criticise them is that in their enthusiasm to appear bold and firm and to draw lines in the sand and so on they refuse to open up about the qualifications they in reality make. Although they do have qualifications they find it hard to admit that they do. It would make discussions with them far more productive if the sharp polemical edge could sometimes (and perhaps only sometimes for polemics has its place) be lost.
    I used to attend breakfast classes at a very Reform minded church where the very Reform minded rector commented dismissively on the practice of prophecy today, saying basically that it undermined the canon of scripture. Someone, one of his staff, picked him up on this so the following week he spoke on the subject of God speaking and the dismissive position turned out to be be a far more nuanced but also far more hesitantly expounded position than I would have ever expected from this preacher.
    To return to the main topic, one strange thing in the history of this debate on women in ministry is that I went to a Reform organised conference on Women in Ministry and the then principal of Oakhill College presented a biblical theology of women in ministry, a theology that you Peter would have felt entirely comfortable. I looked around the room to see if everyone was loading up with stones or rotten tomatoes, but no everyone was nodding appreciatively. People simply didn’t seem to notice that he was contradicting what many of them thought. They must have done but were too polite to say so.

  7. Well, TC, maybe it is not a sin to express oneself in an unqualified way. But surely it is a sin to act on qualifications while refusing to express and specify those qualifications. That comes across very much like “one law for us, another for you”, that they cross the lines in the sand which they have set for others. So what you criticise them for is precisely what I do. Our only real difference is that I used stronger language.

    I hoped that with this post I might sting Reform into admitting their unstated qualifications. But while 114 people have read this post already, as well as those who have read it on my front page and from RSS and Atom feeds, you, TC, are the only person to comment on it. Well, Doug Chaplin and Suzanne McCarthy have also mentioned it in posts, with rather little comment, but if anyone else has I have not yet seen reports of it.

  8. Reform supporters will be bemused but possibly contemptuous of the remarks concerning Carrie’s leaflet (I do wish the Church Mouse could spell her name correctly). For some reason that is opaque to me and is clearly equally opaque to others but seems completely natural to Reform supporters that they never question it, written teaching does not fall under the ban on women teaching men. It has never done and it probably has never occurred to most of them that it should. They are not the first to make a strong distinction between written and spoken teaching. In Ancient Greece real teaching was always spoken and not written. As a result we have no written works of Aristotle, only notes taken by his students. And since this prejudice against written teaching has such notable forbears, it probably behoves us to tread cautiously in our criticism of Reform at this point.
    There are Reform people who we should listen to attentively and those we should ignore. A good example of the former is John Richardson. I disagree with much of what he says but he is a good example of one of the good guys that we ought to listen to and I notice that Peter frequently dialogues with him. This is good. Carrie is another. Again we can disagree with her and personally I hope that we do but she is one of the good ones and worth listening to and dialoguing with if possible (I have lost touch with her and so do not do so now).
    On a lighter note, may I put in a good word for hypocrisy. One of my favourite books is Three Men in a Boat. A large part of the humour is the hypocrisy of the Three Men. GK Chesterton wrote a book called The Defendant in which he defends such things as rash vows and nonsense. I think he should have written a defence of hypocrisy. I think his defence would have run along the lines of “Insincere hypocrisy is not a sin at all – more a social accomplishment.”

  9. Thank you, TC. Yes, John Richardson is well worth listening to, even when we disagree which is most of the time. I should say, in the light of your comment, what he writes is well worth reading – although I have met him I have never had the pleasure of hearing him teach. I am sure the same is true of Carrie Sandom, who I have not met.

    But if Reform really does teach that “written teaching does not fall under the ban on women teaching men”, then why haven’t they included this point in any of their written teaching? Or perhaps they have – in that case, where is that written teaching? Even if this “seems completely natural to Reform supporters”, they know by now that it doesn’t to others. So where are the Reform people coming out and saying this?

  10. Pingback: Gentle Wisdom» Blog Archive » A question for Reform: what is “teaching”?

  11. Thanks for this!

    Reform and their ilk wind me up so much. I can’t see anything in their rationale that is really biblical or theological, it is just using the bible as an excuse to treat women as less than equal beings made in God’s image. I don’t understand how any woman can write materials for or belong to Reform.

  12. Hi Peter

    This is funny stuff – Women teaching men that men can’t be taught by women. 😉

    Maybe that’s why Jesus told “His Disciples” NOT to be called
    “Rabbi/Teacher” and “Master/Leader” in Mat 23:8-10.
    For you have ***ONE*** “Master/Teacher/Leader” The Christ. Thank you Jesus.

    Seems these ?Reform? folks are leading people astray. Yes?

    Isaiah 9:16
    For “the leaders” of this people cause thee to err;
    and they that are led of them are destroyed.

    Isaiah 3:12
    …O my people, “they which lead thee” cause thee to err,
    and destroy the way of thy paths.

    Jeremiah 50:6
    My people hath been lost sheep: “their shepherds”
    have caused them to go astray…

    Jeremiah 22:22
    The wind (ruwach, Spirit) shall “eat up all thy pastors,”
    and thy lovers shall go into captivity:

    Jeremiah 23:1
    Woe be unto “the pastors” that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!

    Isaiah 9:16
    For “the leaders” of this people cause thee to err;
    and they that are led of them are destroyed.

    Isaiah 3:12
    …O my people, “they which lead thee” cause thee to err,
    and destroy the way of thy paths.

    Micah 3:11
    The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof
    teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money …

    Matthew 15:14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind.
    And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.

    Jesus is the best “Teacher and Leader.”

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall “hear my voice;”
    and there shall be “one” fold, and “one” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice.
    If Not Now, When?

  13. Amos, that’s an interesting point. I would agree with you to some extent. Clearly in the New Testament teaching is a good and respected activity. But I am convinced that whatever women were told not to do in 1 Timothy 2:12, didaskein … oude authentein, was something which no one was supposed to do, something quite wrong – very likely set themselves up as independent teachers and as such assert authority over others.

  14. Peter

    Who taught the 11 disciples about Jesus being resurrected? 😉

    Paul seems adamant about “women” remaining silent.
    1 Timothy 2:11-14. 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.

    Yet, the most important message ever given to mankind;
    Is given and delivered by at least five women to His disciples.
    (The scriptures give three names and says, “other women.”)

    Hmmm? Women teaching men? My… My…. Were they out of order?

    Luke 24:2-10
    It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna,
    and Mary the mother of James, and other women.

    When the apostles refuse to believe the women, “HE IS RISEN.”
    Jesus upbraides the disciples for their unbelief. Ouch! 😉

    Mark 16:9-14
    Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat,
    and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart.

    Jesus doesn’t seem to have a problem with “Women”
    delivering an important message, “to men.” “HE IS RISEN.”

    Why does Paul? Hmmm? Why does “The Reform Council?”

    1 Timothy 2:11
    Let “the woman” learn in silence with all subjection.
    12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man,
    “but to be in silence.”
    13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
    14 And Adam was not deceived, ( ??? )
    but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

    Why does Paul teach “Women,” Eve, “being deceived” is a reason “to be in silence?”
    But, wasn’t “Man,” Adam, “being disobedient” when he ate from the tree?

    Gen 2:16-17
    And the LORD God commanded “the man,” saying,
    Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
    But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,
    thou shalt not eat of it…

    What would you say is the bigger transgression and iniquity?
    “Woman” being deceived by the serpent?
    Or “Man” being disobedient to God’s command?
    Seems they are both guilty of “missing the mark.” Yes?
    Know any men Pastors, in pulpits, preaching to people in pews,
    who are deceived and/or disobedient to God’s commands? 😉
    So, Why does Paul “only” chastise and limit “women?”

    1 Corinthians 14:34
    Let your “women keep silence” in the churches:
    for it is not permitted unto them to speak;
    but [they are commanded] to be under obedience,
    “as also saith the law.”

    Why does Paul say, “women keep silence”…
    “as also saith the law?”

    Why is Paul using “the Law?” Are we still under “The Law?”
    And, Why is Paul using “the Law?” to keep women silent?

    Is Paul confused? Or, does God have a reason for Paul writing the way he does?

    Ask different questions, get different answers.

    What is popular is not always “Truth.”
    What is “Truth”is not always popular

  15. Amos, I assume your repeated comment was accidental. As far as I am concerned you are preaching to the converted on this one. If your questions are not rhetorical, you can probably find my answers to them by searching my blog.

  16. I have been discussing this, the way material written by women, may be properly read by men, with some friends. Their suggestion is that written material does not imply any relationship and so does not suggest a power subordination of a man to a woman. All that is on offer is the disembodied thoughts and these Reform people are happy to take on the disembodied thoughts of women because they have been separated from the women and their quality can still be appreciated by true Reform people.

  17. TC, I understand the point, but I am waiting for someone, anyone, from Reform itself to make this point. I cannot evaluate this argument except to say that I consider totally unbiblical the concept of the “power subordination” of people being taught to their teacher.

  18. Peter

    I apologize for the double post. Can you delete one. I so hate looking foolish. 😉

    I’ve learned a lot from women over the years.
    Seems the same Spirit that raised Christ dwells in me and in women.

    For me the problem only exists in “The Abusive Religious System of man.”

    In “the Church of God” “The body of Christ” In Christ, we are “One.”

    Gal 3:28
    There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free,
    there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

    Does this verse say, male and female are equal?
    Or does this verse say, male and female “do not exist” in Christ? ONE?

    For me, in the body of Christ, “All” can, and are expected, to participate.

    The problem arises when people are looking for a “position” or a “Title.”
    Male or Female, seeking honor, glory, power, profit, prestige, is dangerous.
    Aren’t these those things which are highly essteemed among men? Oy Vey!

    Luke 16:15
    …God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men
    is abomination in the sight of God.

    Being a “Servant of Christ” is peaceful.
    Not many fight for this “Position” or “Title.”
    Most want recognition and a reputation.


  19. Amos, I deleted one of the duplicates. The system is not supposed to allow duplicates, but yours slipped through for some reason.

    It seems to me that Galatians 3:28 allows no room for sex, or race, discrimination in the church.

  20. Pingback: Gentle Wisdom» Blog Archive » Positive discussions among evangelicals about women leaders

  21. The heart of Paul’s message to Timothy is very clear. It is hard to misinterpret what he is intending to communicate. Fleshing that out into can women pray, lead worship, distribute materials on topics relating to women publically, have a blog where a man could read, teach boys, but to what age,etc… There are not minor details (no pun intended) but they are not an excuse to ignore the clear teaching of Paul to Timothy. You cannot throw out the doctrine because you have difficulty in its application.

  22. Todd, I don’t think anyone, at least any evangelical, is throwing out Paul’s teaching. But it is by no means easy to interpret this. What women is he talking about, and what men? What does he mean by “teach”, and how is that to be related to the word rendered in KJV “usurp authority”? See a lot of discussion on this blog.

    The issue here comes when a particular group like Reform decides on a specific interpretation, but then apparently fails to apply this interpretation consistently. If, as Reform seems to believe, the clear teaching of the passage is that no woman should teach any man, then it is hypocrisy for them to publish teaching material written by a woman intended for men to learn from.

  23. I think TC Keene’s comment of 23 Feb 2010 is disingenuous, to say the least. If someone publishes a pamphlet, it immediately becomes public domain material. They publish it because they intend this, and they know that they cannot restrict its circulation. Therefore either they are naive or they know that both men and women will read it. This applies to any and all literature.

    Neither are the thoughts “disembodied”. Men who know, or have known Carrie (as I did at StAG) will have enough of a connexion to know what she believes, and will read the material regardless. A conscious and deliberate relationship between author and reader has therefore been created by the publication of the pamphlet, and it must therefore be regarded as an attempt by a woman to teach men.

    The suggestion that written material does not imply a relationship is therefore weasel words, as the most rudimentary literary critic would be able to tell us.

  24. Thank you, Nick. Weasel words, I agree. But technically published material does not become “public domain” because the author or publisher retains copyright.

    Meanwhile today Reform can celebrate a Pyrrhic victory, a few more years without women bishops but then most likely a new proposal will go through with no safeguards at all for those who object.

  25. Hello, Peter, Nuances! I don’t mean that it becomes public property and hence not copyright, but that it is in the domain of the public, rather than the domain of the private, because it has been published without any constraint on who the reader might be. Sorry for not being quite as clear as I had intended!


  26. . . . And, yes, I agree about today’s result. It has caused considerable distress in our household, but we shall continue to pray that God’s kingdom will be built in the way that He intends, rather than the way any faction would hope to impose on it.

    When I was an atheist, I was absolutely certain that I knew what was right for everyone; when a conservative evangelical, the same. Now, I’m only occasionally sure that I might be near the mark sometimes.

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