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Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome (Part 5): Romans 15–16

The debate about what women can and can’t do in church has been passionate at times, but for me, it boils down to whether women should teach in a Sunday church service, something far removed from the home-based setting of the early church meetings (well, once they had to leave the synagogues).

There have also been claims that women can’t be involved in church governance because of this instruction to Timothy:

1 Timothy 3:12-13 A deacon must be faithful to his wife, and he must manage his children and household well. Those who do well as deacons will be rewarded with respect from others and will have increased confidence in their faith in Christ Jesus.

How can anyone but a man be a deacon since only men had wives?

This literal, and dare I say it, legalistic and narrow view of one verse makes Paul’s

But this ignores Paul’s extended greeting to Phoebe at the end of his letter to the Romans both contradictory and nonsensical:

Romans 16:1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea. Welcome her in the Lord as one who is worthy of honor among God’s people. Help her in whatever she needs, for she has been helpful to many, and especially to me.

And it wasn’t a passing mention. Paul praised her as being worthy of honour; we can therefore assume she wasn’t just being tolerated until some one better (a man, any man) came along.