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  • Gary T. Burke

The way we’ve always done it

When our congregation was preparing to change our practice by more actively involving our women in the Sunday assemblies, the elders met in pairs with every member of the church. We had studied the matter in the Bible extensively for several years and had developed deep convictions on the matter.

Not every member of the congregation had been personally involved in our studies, so we needed to explain the conclusions our congregational study had reached and their biblical basis, giving each member a chance to ask questions or offer objections. We also needed to know how the change would affect them personally.

I remember one of those exchanges vividly. Two of us met with a 95-year-old African American sister, our oldest member. We’ll call her Maggie. No one in the congregation was more loved or treasured than she. Often members would sit with Maggie to take advantage of her wisdom and bask in her deep faith in our Savior. As elders we were particularly interested in her thoughts, because we had so much respect for her and in all of our studies, none of us had ever heard her express an opinion on the matter.

We explained to Maggie that we planned to change our practice and asked for her questions. She said that she had been a Christian all her life and being at the end of her years she didn’t want to do anything that would jeopardize her relationship with her Lord.

Then she asked her only question: “What about the verse that says, ‘Women should keep silence in the churches’”? We explained to her our conclusion that the passage did not have universal application but was referring to a specific situation that was present in the church in Corinth but was not in ours. To our astonishment she immediately accepted our explanation and added that just recently she had determined to talk to one of us about what that passage really means. What she had always been taught about it had never made sense to her, and she thanked us for finally clarifying it. (May 21, 2019)

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