When I was little, my favorite church services were when women took charge. This happened only a few times a year, on the fifth Sunday of a month. But it always meant that the spirit was high and the music was good.
On one of those special Sundays, when I was 9, I first noticed something odd: The guest minister sat in regular pew seats, not in the seats at the front of the church reserved for the clergy. And she delivered the sermon from the lectern, a little wooden stand set apart from the congregation, not at the pastor’s sacred pulpit — the place whence God spoke.
As I sat in the pews next to my mother, I looked at this minister with suspicion. Was she really delivering the word of God?
I had some concerns so I took them to my pastor. I was a budding philosopher, given to inquiries about lots of random things, and he was usually patient with me. His curt response to my wondering why the guest minister was treated differently caught me off guard.
“She is a woman,” he said with a shrug.
Baffled, I asked another minister why women were not allowed to preach from the pulpit or sit in the seats for the clergy. He directed me to 1 Timothy 3:2. This verse says that a bishop, a pastor in charge of a congregation, needed to be “the husband of one wife.”