The twenty-second day of May 1968 marks an ill day for Scotland, a land where staunch Protestantism reigned for many years and Christ was Head of the Kirk. This land began its joyous communion with Christ in 1560 when men like George Wishart and John Knox began preaching and spreading the good news of the Gospel in their benighted land. John Knox, who is credited with leading the Scottish Reformation, wrote a famous treatise on the position of women in government called The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women. This essay has caused great debate and John Calvin himself tried to advise Knox from publishing it. The event that happened on 22 May 1968 has something to do with this.
On that fateful day, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland voted in favor of women ministers. No doubt, modernism had a great deal to do with this as it brought man to stand above the Scriptures, but I fear something greater and more heinous lies at the root of it. Many such errors in the church should be credited to an absence of the means of Grace, namely the preaching of the Word and the Sacraments, particularly the preaching of the Word. For the Word of God is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)”. As such, what do we do when we read passages like, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet (1 Timothy 2:12).” Paul gives an argument for this statement in the latter verses of that chapter. I don’t see why this could happen in the church unless the Word is not preached and held as breathed out by God. The action of the Church of Scotland, I believe, was unbiblical on the grounds of this verse. It so interesting and scary to see what happens when we abandon the Word of God for the wisdom of man. Paul speaks in that same letter to Timothy, “If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. (1 Timothy 6:3-4).” “ “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:1).
As much as the Bible speaks against women preaching, it does give women many ministry opportunities. We see in Luke 8 that many women followed Jesus and provided and ministered to the people around them. In Luke 10:39, Mary, the sister of Martha, is found sitting at Jesus’ feet just like men would do when they sat their teacher’s feet. When Jesus had resurrected and told all his disciples to go to Jerusalem to wait and pray, the women who followed Jesus also waited and prayed in the same room. In Philippians, we see that many women helped Paul in his ministry there. In Titus 2, Paul commands older women to teach what is good and instruct the younger women to honor and love their husbands. Therefore, we see that women are not exempt from ministering in the church through good works (1 Timothy 2:10), teaching young women, and prayer.
Later in the year of 1968, four women were accepted as candidates for church office in the Kirk. Why a whole church would dismiss the clear teaching in the Bible is beyond my comprehension, only to be explained by the absence of the means of Grace in the Church. I would charge my readers to be warned by this, that even the staunchest of Reformed Churches could blunder and fall. We must make ourselves captive to the Word of God and never depart from hearing (or preaching) the Scriptures and taking part in the Sacraments.