Singles are Marginalized in the Church Because Single Men Have no Wife to Qualify Them for Church Leadership

Part 8 of a series. Part I Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7

Church can be a difficult place for single men.  Among other things, single men are often denied leadership and other crucial roles in the church because of one thing: their singleness.

Why?

Because of I Tim 3:2, 12 and Titus 1:6, where church leaders are required to be the husbands of one wife. Many churches interpret these verses to mean that church leaders must be married men. In doing so, they ignore the context and the man who wrote those verses in addition to a large chunk of other scripture.

The man who wrote those verses was Paul, a single man who was a church leader. At the time he wrote those verses, polygamy was rampant. When he specified that church leaders must be the husband of one wife, he was not excluding women or single men from church leadership. He was just specifying that if a male church leader was married, he had to have only one wife.

Paul was not the only single man who wrote scripture and was a church leader. Daniel and Jeremiah were also single. The marital statuses of many of the other male authors of scripture is unknown. Then there’s Jesus. He is the leader of the church…and single.

Oh, and then there’s Ezekiel. He was widowed. Did his wife’s death disqualify him for church leadership?

No.

How many churches who refuse to let single men be church leaders would remove their pastor and other church leaders from their positions of leadership if their wives died? If such churches exist, they are very rare.

Looking at the whole of scripture, it is one’s relationship with Christ and age, not marital status and gender that are requirements for church leadership.

By marginalizing singleness, churches are free restrict to leadership roles to married men and pressure men into marriage.

The Church Marginalizes Singles Because Single Women Make a Literal Application of I Cor 14: 34, 35 Impossible

Part 6 of a series. Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five

I Corinthians 14:34, 35 is one of the passages many churches quote to say that women should keep silent in the church and not be church leaders.

 

The existence of single women creates a problem with translating those verses literally.

 

Verse 35 says that “if a woman wants to learn anything, she must ask her husband at home”.  If a woman must ask her husband if she has any questions regarding church teaching, how is a single woman supposed to grow in Christ from the teaching in church? The verse clearly says husband, not father, brother, son, other male relative, or pastor. For that matter, how can she have a voice in the body as a whole?

 

The answer is found in verses 26, 31, and 36.

Verse 26: How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done decently and in order.

Verse 31: For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged.

Verse 36: Or did the word come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached?

In verses 26 and 31, Paul makes it clear that each person in the church is to have a chance to share when the church meets. Given that Miriam, Huldah, Anna, and Phillip’s daughters were prophetesses, it is clear that women can prophesy.

Verse 36 comes after verses 34 and 35, where women are told to keep silent. The Greek language has no quotation marks. I Corinthians is a letter to the Corinthian church. Obviously, the leaders had written to Paul about whether or not women could speak in the church. Paul quoted them in verses 34 and 35, then responded in verse 36: “No way! The word of God did not come from you [men] originally. Nor did it come to you [men] only.”

 

When churches use I Cor 14:34, 35 to silence women in the church and prevent them from being church leaders, they are not only denying the existence of single women, but making it clear that only married women are allowed to learn about God in the church.

 

Marginalizing singleness enables churches to use I Cor 14: 34, 35 to keep women out of teaching and leadership positions in the church and under the authority of men.

The Church Marginalizes Singles Because Singles are Forced to Develop Skills and Traits Traditionally Associated With the Opposite Gender and Become Independent

In many churches, girls are taught that godly women are quiet, submissive, gentle, and encouraged to develop “feminine” skills such as sewing and cooking. Boys are taught to be assertive and athletic and to develop skills such as carpentry and mechanics. Woe to the girl with the gift of leadership who would rather get greasy working on a car than spending time in the kitchen, or the quiet, gentle boy who prefers books to athletics, for they are often made to feel like something is wrong with them and that they are living in sin for having skills and interests considered inappropriate for their gender.

Single women often have no choice but develop traits and skills not considered “feminine”. Many careers require that a woman be in a leadership role at some point. Assertiveness is crucial to not only get, but be promoted and keep a job. Assertiveness is also crucial for a single woman in her daily life as she manages her transportation, her home, and other affairs.

Without a husband to take care of her car and the home, many single women will learn basic vehicle maintenance and home repair skills. In their careers, single women may develop strong management, leadership, and sales skills, as well a multitude of other skills not seen as “feminine.”

As for the guys, singleness often requires them to cook if they want a homemade meal. With no wife to clean their house and do their laundry, they must hire a house cleaner or learn to clean if they want a clean house and to do laundry if they want clean clothes. If they have children, they may find themselves developing nurturing skills traditionally associated with women.

When scripture talks about secular skills and spiritual gifts, it does not specify that some are given to men and others to women. Yes, some skills and gifts are more dominant in men than women, and vice versa, but just because something does not fit the “norm” does not mean it is wrong. Romans 11:29 says “For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.” God would never give a person a skill or gift he did not expect them to use, nor put them into a situation where they need to develop a skill or gift that is wrong.

Besides developing and using gifts and traits traditionally associated with the opposite gender, many single people develop a trait many churches consider to be a sin:

Independence.

Without a spouse to submit to or suffer the consequences of the other spouses’ behavior, singles are free to question church leadership and are freer to leave the church if they no longer happy with it. Out of necessity, singles often develop independent behaviors because they have no spouse to rely on for things. In their greater freedom to serve Christ, they can take greater risks in serving him and do things that other people think are crazy.

This independence is a threat in churches where submission to church leaders is king, submission to the church as a whole is queen, and women are expected to submit to men.

Nowhere in scripture is independence considered a sin. Rebellion against God is. Failure to listen to wise wisdom is considered foolish. But choosing to follow God and not man is considered obedience to God. In I Cor 7, singleness is seen as a higher calling than marriage because the single person can focus on God alone and not the needs of their spouse. Unfortunately, much of the commands and advice church leaders give people comes not from God but from the sinful desire for control.

By marginalizing singleness, churches are free to restrict women to the home and to oppress, marginalize, and ostracize men and women who do not fit traditional gender roles and become independent.

Why Singles are Marginalized in the Church: Introduction

Church and its leaders did not prepare me for singleness. During the years I spent in traditional church (my family home churched for several years) I never heard singleness preached about, taught in Sunday School or saw singles valued for who they were as singles. The message was clear: marriage was the ultimate calling for a person, necessary to fit in, to be considered an adult, and to be valued. There were single people in those churches, and I am related to several singles, several of which lived/have lived long enough for me to know them. But to my eyes they were misfits, and I wanted to fit in, to serve God to the fullest.

It was my family and its issues that set me on the path to contentment as a single. From my parent’s marriage, I learned that even when a woman is married, submission is not always possible, for there are men like my father who do not demand it. My mother struggled with the burden that she must submit, and as part of that struggle, I was exposed to the doctrine that it was wrong for a woman to work outside the home.

Even when I did learn that it was not wrong for a woman to work outside the home and saw the futility of total submission, the damage had been done. Deep in my heart I still believed that marriage and motherhood were the ultimate calling for women, and that women should not be assertive leaders. Besides, I loved domestic duties and was an unassertive introvert who hated pushing herself in the world.

Years passed. My plans for a career kept falling through, and a husband never materialized. Despite attending several churches, no one in the churches made an effort to give me the singles specific guidance and support I craved. I became angry and bitter, which made things worse. God in his mercy sent me a Godly single woman who helped me overcome it. And then one day I started to pray that God would bring me a husband soon or make me content to be a single woman.

God answered my prayer in ways I never dreamed. Not only did he give me contentment to be single, but he revealed the egalitarian truth to me and showed me that I as a single, childless woman I was equal in value to a married man and just as much a voice in the church as he does. In the process, I learned why I had never heard anything about singleness from the church.

During the next two months, I will discuss the reasons why singleness is marginalized in the church.

Welcome to Christian Egalitarian Singles

Aha, it is here! A place where men and women who believe that men and women are equal in Christ and called to mutual love, submission and service in all relationships, share and encourage each other to be like Christ to each other in our relationships.

We will share stories of experiences (good and bad), as well as what and how we’re learning about living and relating as equals in Christ in our relationships.

 

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