What is up with 1 Corinthians 14:35 and 1 Timothy 2:12, and Paul’s prohibition of women speakers in these specific churches? Before we go too deep, I want it known that I believe it is a mistake to develop core theology based on only a few Bible verses, especially when it is done at the expense of other passages. The fact remains that in some places the Bible clearly instructs that women should be silent in church, having neither instruction or authority over men, but in other places it features women leading and even appropriately prophesying in mixed-gender local church gatherings. This fact alone rules out a casual and universal interpretation of verses like 1 Tim 2:12. Something deeper must be moving to prompt Paul to speak in such extreme terms in these specific situations.
In the case of the Letter to Timothy, a reading of the entire letter will reveal that there was a battle in this church over distractions, control and who should be allowed to speak from a position of authority. As it turns out, unqualified and unauthorized people were trying to distract and usurp the leadership of the local pastor and negatively impacting the church’s reputation. These specific usurpers in this particular situation just happened to be women, and there is reason to believe that Paul spoke in extreme terms because of the immediacy and urgency of this situation and the sanctity of that church community. We should follow the same principle today: unqualified and unauthorized individuals should not be allowed to influence the church, but there is no reason to assume that gender alone is what makes a person qualified or not.
Paul’s prohibition against women leaders was not intended to be absolutized in all situations or at all times. As such, I find no valid reason to either prevent or promote a person to or from the role of pastor based on gender alone.
Readers interested in this topic will also find the blog entry and subsequent discussion on the TNIV to be helpful: The TNIV is a Great, but often Misunderstood & Unfairly Maligned Translation of the Bible