“likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.” (1 Timothy 2:9–10, ESV)
I’m always fascinated by those who claim a “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” approach to scripture. While I appreciate the heart behind this, which often seems a genuine reverence for God’s authority in and through scripture, it isn’t too difficult to find places where “God said it and we’re ignoring it entirely.” In the area of women, authority, and church such inconsistencies are fairly easy to find. Those who most adamantly perpetuate a structure that would exclude women from preaching or teaching if men are present, or from serving in positions of organizational leadership, often preach these sermons while their wife is sitting on the front row with uncovered head, braided hair, jewelry and designer clothing.
If challenged, they will set these inspired and authoritative verses aside because they aren’t applicable in our culture. I suspect one very real reason is that the logistics of what would be required to check the hair styles and price tags of every woman’s clothing upon entrance to worship would just be pragmatically difficult. But once we set aside prohibitions regarding hair styles and attire on the basis of cultural relevance, the prohibition regarding women teaching and having authority over men must be subject to the same interpretive approach. Unless we just aren’t as concerned about attire as we are about making sure women “stay in their place.” But then that’s not really about the Bible at all, is it? It’s about preference. And power.