July 15, 2007 Q & A

Christian Schools


Does the Bible teach that it is wrong for women to sit on Christian school boards? Also, under whose sphere of sovereignty does education fall, the church, the state, or the home? Thanks for your help with these questions.


Thorny question, as I guess you know; and I'm guessing there's a real issue lurking behind it.

The question, "under whose sphere of sovereignty does education fall, the church, the state, or the home?" can translate into this: "according to the Bible, under whose sphere should education fall?" or into this: "in the case of the actual school I'm dealing with, under whose authority does it fall? "

For example, I may believe that education is not the proper task of the state, but while teaching in a public school, my work de facto is under state authority. I can't do anything about that, except quit.

Of the biblically revealed spheres of authority (family, church, state), it seems to me that the education of minor children should be under the authority of the home. This does not mean that parents are required by God to become experts at all the academic disciplines and practical skills that must be imparted to growing youths for competence in today's world. Home schooling is a valid option, but not necessarily best for all and not commanded.

Parents may band together to organize a school governed by a board of their choosing according to a charter they adopt. In this case, which seems to me to be theoretically correct, the educational institution is subject to the home, mediated through the agency acting for the home. Many Christians have organized such schools, and my observation has been that this is the preferred approach of most OPCers in Christian school education.

Some churches (I don't know of any OPCs of which this is true, although there may be some) have taken on the task of operating schools directly under their governance. In this case, parents may be allowed some say, but the actual authority lies with the government (elders, if presbyterian) of the church. That may not be correct, but if it's the set-up you're dealing with, that's the way it is.

I am supposing that your question probably arises with regard to a parent-owned school, or possibly a church-owned school. In either case, again, you have to distinguish between what should be and what is.

The school may have a charter or constitution that defines who its Board may be in such a way that certain people are excluded. The parent-owned Christian school to which our children went had clauses, for example, that prevented ministers from sitting on their boards.

Should there be a gender exclusion? Clearly headship in the home falls upon the husband/father, as in the church upon male elders. This is explicitly stated in Scripture. Are we required to extend this principle to all other human institutions, say, government, business, etc.? I know there are some who believe no woman should hold any position in government or business that would put her in authority over men. I think this is an area of adiophora, about which Christians may disagree, and ought to do so (if they do) with charity and mutual respect. For myself I believe that in these areas, the rule should be: who is most competent for the task? I would have voted for Jean Kirkpatrick over a Walter Mondale for president in a heartbeat. And I can't imagine that Paul required Lydia to divest herself of her business so as not to boss male employees (or maybe she had to fire them or sell her male slaves). But that is speculative.

The question with regard to the school board could be seen this way: as an extension of the home, it ought to reflect the authority structure of the home, i.e., male headship, period. However, in the home, the husband does not actually do everything but shares the tasks with his helper-partner, and with regard to their children he clearly shares authority with his wife ("Honor your father and your mother," "Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and do not forsake your mother's teaching," etc.). Ultimate human authority (and the responsibility which goes with it) lies with the father (Eph.6:4), but not total authority.

I could see it as a problem if all the members of a school's board were women. But, if the charter were written to provide for a majority of males on the board, I (speaking here personally, not pontificating) would not have a problem with women serving on the board.

If the school in question is a church-owned and church-governed school, then it would seem to me that women clearly could sit on a board which has to answer to and is overseen by a session (just as women can serve on all kinds of committees within a congregation, under its session).

I suppose someone might take the position that a school board exercises authority over its faculty (no doubt including men), and therefore women should not be in such a position. This seems to me to go beyond the concern of the Apostle in 1 Timothy 2:12, which has to do with teaching and authority in the church and with regard to the distinct ministries of the church. God has not seen fit to call women to preach and teach and exercise rule in the church (and with regard to the church's own distinctive calling). But to enact that as "law" outside the church seems to me to go beyond what Scripture warrants (and to lead to absurd and harmful conclusions, such as England would have been better off if Margaret Thatcher had not been its Prime Minister).

This reply is an effort to reason from clear biblical principles to a situation not explicitly dealt with by Scripture. So I think caution and humility are required, rather than dogmatic declamation. While I think what I have said above is sound, I would not assert it as the biblical position with which no one may righteously disagree. Adiophora again.

You haven't tipped your own hand, so I do not know if you are troubled by a woman's sitting on a school board or if you are troubled that otherwise qualified women are barred from sitting on a board. I don't know that my remarks have been of help to you, but I hope they have.

It occurs to me that one more thing should be said. If a particular woman, otherwise qualified, desires to serve on a school board (and may do so as far as the school is concerned), she should nevertheless respect the structure of authority in her own home. This is not her decision alone, if she is a wife and mother. Her husband should be very much involved in the discussion (and prayer), and—in the end—if he considers that it would be unwise (maybe taking his wife away from the home more than he believes is good for the family), Ephesians 5:23ff ought to rule. But if they both agree that this would be a good use of her gifts and a benefit to their family, I see no problem.

Since you are writing to the OPC web site about a situation that I am guessing is of interest to more than one member of your congregation, let me point out that my answer here is my answer. I am not aware that the OPC has, as a denomination, ever taken a position on this question.



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