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why we allow women to speak at the Lord's Supper

Recently we had someone challenge us on the propriety of allowing women to share and pray aloud during the Lord's Supper remembrance.  (He was from the Plymouth Brethren background.) This is what I wrote for him...


Why we allow women to share and pray during the Lord’s Supper...

During our Lord’s Supper service we enjoy a special time of open sharing and prayer.  We invite all believers gathered with us, whether young or old, male or female, to share Scripture or pray or suggest a hymn to sing.  It is our desire that our worship at this time be informal, open, and led by the Spirit.  (See Joel 2:28f.)

Some assemblies do not allow women to speak during this service, citing the following passage:

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.  (1 Corinthians 14:33-35 ESV)

If this were an absolute prohibition of speech, it would be surprising in light of the earlier passage, 11:2-16, where the Apostle Paul assumes that women are permitted to pray and prophesy during church meetings.

Careful attention to the context is important.  Verse 29 introduces the necessity of judging the validity and meaning of prophecies given in the assembly: “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent.”  (14:29-30)  The issue is avoiding disorderliness (v. 33) and to maintain a proper sense of authority (“submission”, v. 34).  This is borne out by the statement that the kind of speaking not allowed by the women at this time is inquiry: “…if they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home”, that is, verbalizing questions which examine the meaning and authenticity of these prophecies.  The Apostle Paul would see that such inquiry is part of church authority and teaching, which is a role retained for the male leadership (1 Timothy 2:11).

In conclusion, when it comes to prayer, praise, singing and the sharing of Scripture during worship we believe that all may participate – “on… your sons and your daughters… your old men and your young men… the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.”  (Joel 2:28-29 ESV) 

A better and more full treatment of this can be found in D A Carson's excellent article at bible.org here.  

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