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A Debate on the Use of Women Translators in the Assembly of the Church
A Review by Nathan Battey
The debate is between two Church of Christ preachers: Bob Berard takes the position that women can translate both orally and through signs in an assembly of the church, while Robin Haley contends that women may not. Each brother took both the affirmative and the negative position in the debate for three sessions each combining for a total of 12 articles.
Assessment of the Debate:
There is not a clear cut winner in the debate, though there is much to be learned from a study of it. It is the view of this writer that neither man was able to affirm his position strongly enough to be considered the victor. Brother Berard failed in affirming/proving that women are allowed to translate in an assembly. Brother Haley took him to task on this issue and presented material we would do well to consider. However, when it came time for Brother Haley to take the affirmative, he was not consistent in his application of his position and Brother Berard bore this out. Brother Haley believed a woman could not teach through translation in an assembly (which he proved), but that she could answer questions in a Bible class (which he conceded was also a public assembly). Basically, Brother Haley lost his affirmative because he was not willing to apply the rules of an assembly to a Bible class though he recognized that Bible classes were/are public assemblies.
In the end, you have two issues that come into play: Women’s roles in the assembly and issues introduced through Bible classes. If Brother Haley had been willing to give up his Bible class, he would have been the clear victor; instead he lost half of the debate by compromising his position.
There is one other point I would encourage readers to keep in mind as they go through this debate: Both men agreed that women can speak in the assembly in two instances: through song and when making a confession. This position muddies the water and should be avoided. When a woman makes a confession she should have someone take her confession since she is to remain silent in the assemblies (1 Corinthians 14:34). There is also a difference between speaking and singing: though all are required to sing (Ephesians 5:19 / Colossians 3:16), not all are allowed to speak (1 Corinthians 14:34). Vines is correct when in stating the following in reference to Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16: “In each of which the punctuation should probably be changed; in the former “speaking to one another” goes with the end of verse 18, and should be followed by a semicolon; similarly in Col. 3:16, the first part of the verse should end with the words “admonishing one another,” where a semicolon should be placed.” (p.316) The point is that a woman is not speaking nor becoming a teacher when she sings – singing and teaching are two separate actions in both Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16. Thus a woman is not allowed to speak or participate in the teaching though she is commanded to sing. Food for thought.
All in all this is a great debate that offers helpful insights into several different subjects. We have reprinted this work and are making it available once again in paperback form. Our site is the only place you will find this work available, so get your copy today.