Early Church Women Leaders:
Stories from Acts, Romans, Philippians

This version of the article appears in Decades of Feminist Writing, self-published 2020, 117-29.

To engage with early church beginnings, we start with a litany of texts for two readers reading alternately. (identify texts)

Mark 6:7-11
Then he summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs giving them authority over the unclean spirits. And he instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no backpack, no coppers for their purses . . . And he said to them, “If you enter a house anywhere, stay there until you leave the district. . .”

Luke 10:1-16
After this Jesus appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places that he himself would then visit. . . . Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!” . . . Stay in the same house taking what food and drink that they offer, for the laborer deserves wages; . . .

I Corinthians 16:19
All the churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila (Ak’wila) and Prisca, with the church that meets at their house, send you their warmest wishes. . .

Romans 16: (scattered)
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a minister of the church at Cenchrea. . . .Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked death to save my life . . . My greetings also to the church that meets at their house. . . Greet Mary who has worked very hard among you . . . Greet others personally named.

Philippians 4:2-3
I appeal to Euodia (Uo’dia) and I appeal to Syntyche (Sin’tika) to come to agreement with each other, in Jesus the Christ; . . . These women were a help to me when I was fighting to defend the Good News . . .

Acts 16:11ff.
Sailing from Troas . . . we went from there for Philippi, a Roman colony and the principal city of that particular district of Macedonia. After a few days in this city, we went along the river outside the gates as it was the sabbath and this was a customary place for prayer. We sat down and preached to the women gathered. One of them was named Lydia, a devout woman. She listened to us, and opened her heart to accept what Paul said. After she and her household had been baptized, she sent us an invitation: If you really think that I am a true believer in Jesus the Christ, come and stay with us.” And she would take no refusal.

Colossians 4:15
Please give my greetings to the believers at Laodicea and to Nympha and the church which meets in her house.

Core content here was earlier prepared for different occasions. First presented as a Bible study at the Overseas Ministries Study Center, Ventnor, New Jersey April 1985 where it was titled “Partnership in the Work of the Gospel—A Composite.” Next a version appeared in Mission Focus 14/2, June 1986 titled “Partnership: Focus of Early Church Mission,” 17-20. A shortened format titled “House Church: A Place to Gather” was presented for Sunday vespers at Goshen College, September 16, 1990. The paper now includes material from later writers on themes of Early Church Women Leaders in addition to Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza’s extensive writing and editing.1

The house church phenomenon is central to understanding both the spread of the Gospel and the significant partnership of women with men. Early Hebrew Christians first turned to the synagogue as the place to worship, but restrictions for them became obvious. For religious reasons, proselytes moved to Jerusalem. Attracted to Hellenist preaching about one God calling all to counter barriers, seekers truly wished to be members of emerging communities. Readers might notice that Luke, the writer of the Book of Acts, includes only a few accounts about specific women as prophets or Apostles. That fact contrasts with his Gospel where, in depicting Jesus, he included parallel accounts and parables of women and men. That fact poses the question: What might have caused such a shift for Luke in contrast to Paul who definitely valued women as church leaders?

Jesus’ inclusive pattern toward women and other marginalized folk had attracted followers. With synagogues often closed to women, and with more women than men turning toward the Jesus’ movement, an alternative meeting place became necessary. Former structures, like old wineskins for new wine, failed to meet the need. Instead, house churches offered a place to gather, space in which to include, with opportunity to proclaim or share the story. House groups ministered to the saints which means believers. (I Cor. 16:15) Mutual care shaped high moral standards. Some people gathered daily to worship, to teach and be taught, to encircle the eucharistic meal. With average homes not large enough, more well-to-do folk hosted gatherings. Often known as patrons, many became significant leaders.

Just one of the believers named Mary, the mother of John Mark and cousin of Barnabas became a noted leader at Antioch. She is mentioned only incidentally by Luke. She had offered her home for Hellenists who gathered at Jerusalem. An independent person, Mary willingly risked her property for a group considered fringe. When a knock at the gate interrupted community people gathered at her house to pray for Peter’s release from prison, Mary’s maid Rhoda responded. On seeing Peter there, she ran, too excited to open the gate, to tell those praying. Rather than believe her, they faulted her with mental instability. Tradition suggests that Mary’s house was later the scene of the Last Supper. Her space speaks to her gift of hospitality, reflecting her response to having heard and seen Jesus.

But not all proved calm between new converts “come to town” and the Hebrew Christian contingent, gathered around apostles like James. Differences and conflicts could both hinder or benefit the Gospel’s cause. Many expelled Hellenists became powerful missionaries who reached out to and received Gentiles. The more that varied results could be valued then, the more diverse missioning efforts today feel welcomed. The more that only a partial feature of early church biblical accounts is admitted—based on some of Paul’s endeavors—the more might the phrase from an old hymn be claimed: “the half has never yet been told.”

New Testament scholar Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza reminds readers that whenever involvement of a few women leaders is disclosed, those few only typify a larger total partnership. Rich traditions were lost or, due to patriarchal decisions, important material never entered the Acts of the Apostles. Further, part of what became printed has been misinterpreted or overlooked. Part of Paul’s greatness stems from his naming and validating thirty-six partners in the work of telling about Jesus or the “reign-of-God” movement. A weakness of Christian history has been to ignore them while near-idolizing him.

Here the focus highlights that “greater cloud of witnesses”—other true apostles who consciously accepted and endured the work and suffering linked with missioning. (I Cor. 4:8-13; II Cor. 11-12). For example, consider the Acts 6 account of conflict that lead Hellenists to murmur against the Hebrews. More than one explanation exists about widows being neglected in the daily distribution or table (communion) serving. Whereas some might not have received the elements, in part because of a biased hierarchal order of ‘worthiness,’ might women have been overlooked in the task of serving? “Serving at tables” refers to the eucharistic ministry (recall also Martha’s serving in Luke 10:38-42) Perhaps conflict centered in whether women, authentic partners, were passed by as leaders in dispensing the daily eucharist.

Hellenist, Greco-Roman women were accustomed to serving festive dinner occasions, not so among Hebrews. As exclusive Hebrew patterns overlooked Hellenist women, the latter might say: “What about Jesus’ radical, new scheme for including those left marginalized in Jewish ways?” He had urged true partnership. To radically follow him proved the need to counter assumptions and structures that invited believers but then made those who were lame, or women, or poor feel unwelcome. They were restricted from serving the eucharist or proclaiming to others the risen Christ. Elisabeth M. Tetlow’s lengthy chapter2 notes further that the apostolic function of presiding at the eucharist had, by the turn of the second century, passed into a hierarchy of leaders, to bishops and designated deacons.

First century house churches, however, became settings for poor relief, for nudging women and men together to practice church authority, for telling stories like those in which Jesus valued women’s experience. Traveling or wandering preachers shaped first century life. As early Christians joined those on the move, they were encouraged to go baggage free; they expected hospitality from believers along the way. Jesus—in sending out the Twelve or seventy in two’s as partners—had established precedent. House church patrons or owners received travelers in Jesus the Christ’s stead. Hospitality—part of the cause for church growth—offered settings for worship and teaching, for common meals, for reading encouraging letters from apostles.

Whether in Rome, Corinth, or Ephesus, Prisca and Aquila’s house became a church center. A married couple whose mutual trade was tentmaking, they did not depend financially on others. Due to people’s mobility and the extensive trade routes in regions where they lived, tents were in demand, if not for new ones, then for repairs. Work with leather was difficult: using knives, needles or waxed threads to sew strips of different weights of canvas. Prisca and Aquila likely initially maintained ties with synagogues along with their house church community. For the Cause they suffered; Claudius expelled agitators like them from Rome.

While co-workers with Paul—living together for a year and a half at Corinth and for three years at Ephesus—Prisca and Aquila remained independent of him. That fact credits all three. Whereas Paul’s focus centered in ministry of the Word, theirs’ worked at both table and Word tasks, conversion and community. Prisca likely emerged as the woman closest to Paul, his most stimulating colleague. She likely edited (revising as appropriate) all of his written letters to churches, assisting their distribution. Some researchers identify her as possible writer of the book of Hebrews.

Without doubt, people highly respected Prisca’s abilities. Her courageous leadership and remarkable gifts enabled ministry within the growing Jesus’ movement. Acts 18:24-26 tells of Prisca and Aquila’s theological instruction of the famous preacher Apollos. From the large Jewish population in Alexandria, the intelligent, cultured Apollos taught and spoke accurately of what he knew about Jesus. But when he boldly addressed the Ephesus synagogue, Prisca and Aquila noted his major flaw—he knew only the baptism of John. No doubt many followers of John never became disciples of Jesus. Uninformed of the sacraments, the coming of the Holy Spirit, or salvation through grace, they may not have known about Jesus as the Messiah. While anticipating prophetic fulfillment, they might not have known that, on Pentecost, prophet Joel’s word about God’s Spirit being poured out on sons and daughters had been accomplished. So, Prisca and Aquila corrected the learned Apollos. Not content to let partial knowledge be spread, they determined that hearers receive the full gospel.

Women survived the canon’s androcentric redaction. Apphia—sister and co-worker in whose home Christians gathered in Colossae—entered with other leaders into discussion about receiving back the runaway slave Onesimus (Philemon, verse 2). Paul sent greetings to Nympha (Col. 4:15), another house church owner in Laodicea. Not exceptions, these examples represent the early missionary movement that expected both women and men to participate and lead. They kept the diakonia of Word and table, preaching and supper, together.

House churches expected women’s involvement. Less welcome in the public, Jewish sphere, the more private, home setting welcomed engagement. Also, not patterning patriarchal divisions, house churches fostered partnership. Some onlookers questioned if the believers’ egalitarian movement, like social clubs with influential patrons, wished to counter state religious authorities. House church hosts often became influential. In many locations their efforts already functioned before Paul arrived. While his visits offered support and counsel, centers did not depend on him. Letters reflect his being a consultant in situations of conflict.

The report from the Roman city Philippi (Philippians 4:2-3) conveys his counsel to two strong women leaders, Euodia and Syntyche, known for their difference of opinion. From early-on, these two had been Paul’s loyal, earnest helpers. As people’s perceptions varied, self-esteem issues could surface. Precisely due to this pair’s prominence and influence, they are nudged to creatively re-examine what hindered their partnership in leading. Not that doctrine differed or that either needed to relinquish work with the gospel or house church, Paul commends their authority and zeal for God’s cause. He celebrates genuine joy because of their church, in part due to their financial support. Valerie Abrahamsen suggests that those who fail to credit women as leaders speak more of the strife between Euodia and Syntyche than of “their prominence, leadership roles, or closeness to Paul.”3

A woman perhaps named Lydia and likely the first European convert adds to positive views about Philippi. (Acts 16:11) Paul joined the God-fearing (Gentiles half-converted to Judaism) women who gathered there for worship along the river, a short distance outside the city. To learn about the predominance of goddess cults with women priests and leaders in Philippi matters. Abrahamsen observes that Christianity failed to directly negate pagan rivals; the idea of a male God with androcentric Christianity took time to gain support.4 In addition to an acropolis hill at Philippi, “Carved into the rocky south side of the 750-foot-high hill overlooking the city and stretching for a mile are nearly 200 reliefs depicting gods, goddesses, human beings, symbols, niches and inscriptions.”5 Perhaps women worshippers performed ceremonial washings in the river along with their newer, less-traditional religious events. Fewer than a quorum (ten men, enough for a synagogue) met with the early group. That detail prompted the Interpreter’s Bible Commentary to state: “It was Paul’s first congregation in Philippi. Not a very promising one! All women and no men.”

From Thyatira, a Macedonian colony known for its excellent dye industry, business woman Lydia, highlighted in the prior paragraph, traveled around Lydda to sell the precious, royal-colored cloth to rich people. Perhaps a widowed homeowner, perhaps wealthy herself, or perhaps an independent but not wealthy freedwoman, she and her household of family plus slave and freed women, became convinced of Jesus’ truth. After all were baptized, her home and hospitality enabled her nearness to and exchange with believers from within and beyond the city. Lydia entertained people rather than fear. She invited and persuaded a Jewish rabbi and worshippers into her home. Interpreter Scott Spencer observes:

Lydia leads her household –and others who gather in her house—to spiritual renewal. . . . Paul himself might well have regarded Lydia’s home as an inclusive center for ‘Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female.’ (Gal. 3:27-28) If Christian women ever are to fit ‘the cloth’ of ministry as easily as men, they must be given a great deal more authoritative voice than Luke allows.6 (in Acts)

Other scholars note Luke’s hesitance to credit the leadership ministry of women like Lydia.

Before recalling several other early church women leaders, we might ponder several questions. What might be learned from an intentional group of primarily women worshippers? Are you reminded of Israelite women who yearned for centuries to link with Asherah worship or twentieth-century Christian women drawn to gather for Woman Church? Why might early church women have been known for money gifts to Paul, gifts that he especially valued? Do we appreciate Euodia and Syntyche’s difference because it leads us to more fully credit their strong influence as leaders? Do we comprehend the loss from early church women’s active leadership into hierarchical male-dominated control? Do we care when we fail to be radical like Jesus? How we interpret or translate scripture reveals attitudes—depth of dis-ease or comfort. Do we believe that Paul’s recurring welcome to Philippi stemmed from the nature of his preaching: an impartial approach for women alongside men within the reign-of-God? Can we credit Jesus’ genuine human partnership without negating Israel’s (Jewish) pattern of patriarchy that radically countered the original view about humanity being created with equity in God the Creator’s image?

The Acts of the Apostles refers briefly to several representative women. Consider Tabitha. (Acts 9:36-42) A disciple well-known in Joppa (Jaffa), Tabitha (Dorcas) died. People had extended authority to her. Due to donations and acts of mercy that she had offered to others, notably widows, plus her devotion as a disciple, people genuinely mourned. They called Peter, nine miles or three hours away, to come. Impressed with accounts about Tabitha, Peter was moved to the miraculous. Left alone with her, he prayed. Following his command to “Stand up,” she opened her eyes. Helping her rise, he called those gathered to again enter, to see that she was alive. The whole coastal town heard of the miracle, the first person to be raised from the dead by an apostle. And many Jews believed or came to fuller faith in Jesus the Christ. Not to be denied is supposed writer of the Acts, Luke’s, greater focus on Peter’s power to resuscitate than on Tabitha’s power as a minister.

Recall Phoebe who surely represents others. Romans 16 was perhaps Paul’s separate letter to recommend her. In it eleven women and eighteen men are named; he hopes that they will warmly welcome, duly respect, and quickly assist Phoebe his friend. From Cenchreae (seng’kra’e), port city of Corinth, Phoebe goes to Ephesus for the first time, where Paul had recently spent three years. Paul identifies three substantive titles for Phoebe: sister, minister and leading officer. As he identified Timothy a missionary brother, so Phoebe is claimed as Paul’s sister. Known as a traveling companion, or fellow-believer, the brother-sister terms reflect co-worker. (I Cor. 16:19; Eph. 6:23; Phil. 4:21; Col. 4:15) With reference to task, they co-work; with reference to one another they relate as brother-sister.

Phoebe has been a leader of many, including Paul. Hoping that the community will respect her influence and needs while she ministers among them, he does not merely call her a servant. Of the twenty-one occurrences of deacon in the epistles, the Authorized Version translates seventeen with the word minister, three with deacon, and one—this one—with servant. Because translators cannot credit a woman as a fully-fledged minister, readers are led to minimize them within the early church. The term deacon as used during the second century church—when categories, strata of leadership, or hierarchy were instituted—does not equate with first century deacon that refers to either woman or man. In addition to sister and minister, Paul refers to Phoebe’s experience as lead officer, president, or overseer of her congregation. Within the community’s leadership and care, she functioned as person of authority, guardian, and manager of finances.

Regarding those named as missionary, Paul identifies their vigor and commitment: Mary “worked hard among them”; Tryphaena and Tryphosa labored hard on behalf of Christ, as had Persis. Toward the unnamed mother of Rufus, Paul felt like a son. While Junia labored with Andronicus, all commentators prior to the thirteenth century identified Junia as female, the pair as distinguished apostles. Those resistant to validating women as “sent ones” in the task of founding churches have called her Junias, a male name. Those free to expect both women and men to be apostles—to be sent, to suffer, to preside at the eucharist (Acts 13:1-2)—welcome Junia as representative of commissioned, early church women. Missioners go in pairs, as partners but not limited to male/female, wife/husband pairs. Each carries significant roles in defined communities; each tells the Good News undistracted by worldly affairs, even of marriage.

Another category of women’s ministry during early church decades focused on widows. Virginia Ramey Mollenkott briefly reviewed a book by Bonnie Boman Thurston on that category.7 The reviewer suggests that when churches shifted from a more private setting of house churches to cities with more public worship places, women’s leadership ever-decreased. However, a society or ecclesiastical Order of Widows filled a distinct need for decades. Requirement for the Order included: women over sixty who had been married only once, who had no other support, who lived as contemplatives, offering intercessory prayer for Christian communities.

This book length study of this Widows Order evaluates several biblical texts—I Timothy 5:3-16, Acts 9:36, James 1:27, and, figuratively, Rev. 18:7. The Acts account (noted above) tells of Tabitha’s work as a disciple, her close relationship with Jesus. Perhaps a widow, she assisted others in the same plight; financially independent, she, for example, made clothes for them. Widows of the Order were known as nurses and public mourners. Having fewer legal rights than married women and at the bottom of the social scale, Hebrew widows depended on charity. Three groups of widows existed: “real widows” (dependent and enrolled in the Order where life—service—was strictly regulated), those with a means of support, and young widows who might be encouraged to remarry.8

Changes occurred by the third century among ministry roles in the growing church. Hierarchal efforts like deaconesses, close associates of the bishop, evolved to “stamp out a charismatic spirit of ministry that had survived among widows.” They took over duties of “visiting the poor, instructing women and assisting at their baptisms.” While the Order of Widows remains the forerunner of monastic orders for women, women decreased in apostolic ministry with the shift “from charism to office.”9

Before noting discussion of two New Testament texts that command women to be silent in contexts of worship, brief attention to Apocryphal writing from early centuries appears. Apocryphal writing, some written by women and all rejected by men who made canon decisions, includes Acts of Paul and Thecla. Contained within the larger Acts of Paul, it conveys legendary insight into a woman’s life often hidden from history. Sheila McGinn reminds readers that “all surviving texts of early Christianity are filtered through an androcentric and patriarchal perspective and, therefore, suppress (and often devalue) the activities and experiences of women while highlighting and extolling the experiences and activities of men.”10

The story includes details of Paul’s arrival into Iconium with two traveling companions who resist his account of Jesus the Christ. Those two later interact seriously with Thamyris, the fiancé of Thecla’s. After Thecla is convinced of Paul’s teaching about abstinence (“blessed are the bodies of the virgins”) and resurrection, she chooses to follow Jesus and refuses to proceed with marriage. She vows to renounce sexual relations and to embrace a traveling, public ministry of the Word. Thecla’s mother disapproves of her being “taken captive” by Paul’s message of “exclusive monotheism and chastity” which led to her countercultural decision to denounce expectations for “wife, daughter, and household mistress” (marriage). Such choices—a sign of insanity or demon possession—prompt action. Before long, Paul is arrested and put into prison and Thecla is to be publicly burned. On that occasion, she stretches out her arms to form a cross as she mounts the pyre. Although the fire starts, it fails to touch her. “God’s mercy to Thecla is manifested in a sudden hailstorm which quenches the fire and kills some of the audience as well.”11

Paul had been freed and driven out of the city; Thecla finds him and they leave for Antioch where a man tries to seduce her. Not tempted, she remains intent to minister for God. A rich woman chooses to protect her. When men in a crowd call for judgment of her, women support her. But taken from their hold, Thecla is cast into an arena with wild beasts. Again, while Thecla prays, God protects. Women overpower the beasts sent by men with flowers and perfumes. When the governor stops the action and asks Thecla who she is, not having been harmed by beasts, she “gives a brief summary of the Christian faith.” He frees her and “all the women praise the one true God.” Before long, Paul invites her to preach and commissions her as an apostle: “Go and teach the word of God!” The final message of Acts of Thecla, suggests McGinn, is: “Female converts threaten to upset the social order—a threat that should be controlled by sending the women back to their husbands.” (I Cor. 14:33b-36; I Tim. 2:9-15)12

The move toward hierarchal, institutional offices directly curtailed women’s charismatic ministry and church leadership. Texts from Paul’s writing to Corinth and a pseudonymous writer of I Timothy who calls for women’s silence during worship, have more recently been studied by informed feminist scholars. Biased male interpreters will fault those feminists for bias! Professor Elsa Tamez from Costa Rica writes about I Timothy.13 This text from near the end of the first century commands women to “listen to instruction in silence, with full submission not to teach or have authority over men, to remain silent.” As with the ancient custom of patronage, wealthy women who supported Christian effort or provided a place for worship had been leaders. Tamez suggests that the author confronts the fact that wealth allowed women to influence the community. To control their activity, the writer conveyed his anti-woman and patriarchal household views through theological ideas. Due to their sinful nature, they had to merit salvation through bearing children. Further, God’s household (the church context) needed to absorb society’s patriarchal pattern. Jesus’ community of equals would shift to elite, male leadership. Human prejudice against women could replace Divine desire for women’s inclusion.14

Restrictions for women/wives to keep silent in church attested in I Cor. 14:33-36 raise issues. They counter Paul’s consistent practice of naming and crediting women as preachers and leaders elsewhere in texts plus his teaching in chapter 11:2-16. Other nearby related content notes issues addressed to “brethren” which always means “brothers/sisters.” They are to: be informed about spiritual gifts, service and work; focus on faith, hope, and love; and practice tongues in ways that enable outsiders or unbelievers to be edified, having such speech duly explained. In other words, “all things should be done decently and in order.” Aware that scripture spoke to particular settings, meanings change through time.

General suggestions for reading and interpreting ever-appear. For example, Virginia Mollenkott suggests paying attention to point of view, literary form, context, secondary (symbolic or figurative) meanings.15 Joanna Dewey writes: avoid preconceptions; read or tell accounts about women from their point of view; look for what is omitted as well as included; compare commentaries. Ask: What history do you bring to this text? Are you a literalist or do you value ambiguity? Note significant words. What cultural factors are involved? What mental picture of the early Corinthian church do you gain? What is your personal interest in this text?16

What matters to you a reader from insight like the following regarding this I Corinthian 14 text? Paul Scroggs: This is a post-Pauline gloss (reader-added marginal comment). Josephine Ford: Paul expected women to lead, to maintain order and avoid intrusive chatter, to know Jewish marriage etiquette. Schwartz and Guenther: This text reflects then-current education practice; those not versed in truth were to avoid interrupting. Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza: Whereas Corinthians valued speaking in tongues, Paul valued prophesy more highly. Decent behavior of spirit-filled women and men during worship avoided outsiders from faulting their religious honesty. Robert Campbell: Paul’s concern for order implied that women/wives failed to understand, were confused so might ask unhelpful questions that might better have been answered at home. William Klassen: Not doubting that women/wives pray or prophesy, Paul values order, like only one person speaking at a time. Lee Anna Star (1925): Let tongue speakers without an interpreter be silent; let prophets be sure that another worshipper received their revelation; let women who interrupt keep silent. Kathrine Bushnell (1935): Paul quotes and protests against Judaizers who imposed laws calling women to be silent. Constance Parvey (1974): Paul deals with a Jewish Talmud argument: “A woman’s voice is a sexual excitement that distracts men from their prayers.” Flanagan and Snyder (1980): Might verses 34-35 be a quote from a letter sent to Paul to which he then here responds, including by chiding a common male opinion in verse 36? This is one of nine examples of quoted material that appear to be discussed by Paul within the Corinthian letter.

I wish in conclusion to thank the many women actively involved in early church efforts. Truly, they are on-going mentors. I wish also to credit Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza for her vital, early writing titled In Memory of Her.17 Within Part II titled “Women’s History as the History of the Discipleship of Equals” she addresses inclusive wholeness, women’s true discipleship, liberation from patriarchal structures, self-understanding among missionaries, house churches, the ‘neither male nor female” segment of Gal. 3:28, and the Household Code in Colossians, I Peter, and Ephesians.18 My disappointment and bias holds: that women have struggled for centuries to regain “permission” to lead worship reflects the damage done for centuries from scriptures translated by biased deciders. Questions linger: What psychological dimensions continue to shape results? What impact of creation accounts of humanity wrongly interpreted persist? As more women now practice church leadership, do they look to Lydia, Prisca, Phoebe, Euodia, Syntyche, Tabitha and more to confront patriarchy in its current expressions?


Readers might examine resources identified throughout this paper. During earlier decades my folders bulged with articles being published about I Corinthian texts—chapters 7, 11, and 14. For a window into diverse early church materials available years ago, aware that much more has followed, I note these four.

Fiorenza, Elisabeth Schussler and Mary Collins, eds. Women Invisible in Church and Theology. Concilium, Edinburgh: T & T. Clark Ltd., 1985.

Gryson, Roger. The Ministry of Women in the Early Church. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Pr., 1976/

MacDonald, Dennis Ronald. The Legend and the Apostle The Battle for Paul in Story and Canon. Phila: The Westminster Pr., 1983.

Russell, Letty M. Church in the Round Feminist Interpretation of the Church. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Know Pr., 1993.