/ Carl Trueman / Kyle Borg

Can Women Teach Sunday School--A Fruitless or Fruitful Question?

Occasionally I have a mild interest in the intramural disagreements floating around the blogosphere. Okay, let me be a little more accurate. I usually keep one eye on the latest cyber-wranglings but hesitate to say much publicly lest I add to the ridiculous amount of ignorance being promoted. Too often they produce more heat than light, and become an exercise in futility, wounded egos, and endless tit-for-tat counterpoints. Ah, the sweet taste of fruitlessness! But once in a great while I'm surprised!

My latest surprise has been watching the unfolding of an interesting and charitable back-and-forth that began as a discussion point on whether or not women can teach men in Sunday school--can, of course, being used here in the permissive sense. Before any eye rolling begins, the difference is among those who heartily affirm the Bible's restriction of the office of elder to men. Nevertheless, it doesn't appear there is a consensus on this point. Here's a quick roundup--:

  • On an episode of _Mortification of Spin _hosted by Carl Trueman, Aimee Byrd, and Todd Pruitt, the hosts were clarifying their complementarian views and a difference arose as to who may teach an adult Sunday school class. Todd strongly opposed women teaching while Aimee and Carl did not.
  • Aimee Byrd clarified her position in a blog post: “What is Sunday School? What Does it Appear to Be? And Who Can Teach It?” In it she carefully distinguishes between what happens in a Sunday school class and what happens in a worship service as God communicates his grace through the ordinary means.
  • Todd Pruitt responded with, “Sunday School, Teaching, and Church Authority.” In reflecting on the nature of Sunday school—and how it's often viewed in churches—he sees it as a part of the church's exercising of spiritual authority.
  • Mary Kassian over at Desiring God entered the fray with “Women Teaching Men—How Far is Too Far?” In a very long post she tried to redirect the question away from a rule-based approach to a matter of the heart and a woman's willingness to gracefully and joyfully delight in honoring headship.
  • R. Scott Clark has jumped in with "Sunday School, The Role of Women, Authority, and Culture." He seems to sympathize with Aimee in clearly distinguishing between private opinion and ecclesiastical authority, but goes a step beyond in assessing the modern phenomenon that is Sunday school.
    Again, generally speaking I try to stay out of the melee. I suspect we'd do much better in listening to Herman Witsius' advice: "Perhaps those men were the most happy, who knowing nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified, and living soberly, righteously, and godly, according to the prescription of the gospel, did not so much as hear by report concerning the contention of...[bloggers]." Nevertheless, I do think this ongoing discussion raises some good and necessary questions for reflection. I'll spare the commentary and let you decide for yourself!