|Not the choir director, not the General Assembly, but a very lazy attempt to add a visual to a blog post indeed.|
In an uncomfortable move that surprised no one, a Teaching Elder lodged a protest against the host committee having a woman “lead the Assembly in worship.” Five or six other TEs (out of 1300+) signed onto the protest, which requires no action and mostly functions as an exercise in conscience. Personally, I am deeply grieved at how hurtful such a public statement is, knowing the choir director (probably more properly “conductor”) and her deep love for Jesus. The TE, I’m sure, had no desire to attack the woman personally, but saw the issue as a matter of doctrinal fidelity.
I think the protest is misguided for several reasons. First, his objection was that a woman was “leading worship.” It is common for church members to collapse “worship” down to singing, but a minister should know better. The entire service is formal worship. She didn’t “lead worship,” the worship was led by the moderator, The Rev. Dr. Bryan Chapell, who opened the service, preached and closed with a benediction. The woman (whom I’m avoiding naming) directed the choir and the congregational singing.
Second, I can’t image any reading of Scripture which would forbid a woman being a choir director. 1 Timothy 2:12 forbids a woman teaching or “exercising authority over a man.” Surely a woman waving her arms to help the congregation stay on beat is not what Paul was talking about. If so, then we’d have to say that any function of a woman in church where she directs in any way (say in the parking lot), would be forbidden. Surely this is an admonition against a woman exercising spiritual authority, which is found in establishing doctrine (normally by preaching) or church discipline.
Third, the argument that it is inappropriate for a woman to lead a choir would seem to cover all female involvement in music in a worship service. All of the musicians lead the congregation in singing – that is the function of their service. Is this the biblical admonition?
Fourth, and most importantly in some ways, this kind of public statement has the effect of chilling godly women’s service in the Church. It gives the unspoken message that they are viewed with suspicion and fear. They feel that they don’t have a place in the work and life of the church. They feel that they are called to be witnesses to work and worship and not full participants. The church ends up looking far different from the New Testament, where women were “fellow workers” (Romans 16:3) and were publicly commended for their service (Romans 16:1).
By creating an unbiblical environment, the credibility of men, who are claiming to teach what the Bible says, is diminished. In that credibility and relational vacuum, other, less biblical, voices begin to influence the conversation. Ironically, the extreme forms of biblical patriarchialism end up promoting what they condemn. God deliver us from our own fear.