The title in this "You Decide" column is the same as in our previous column, but this one is an entirely different subject. Here we raise the question of a woman counseling a man. As more and more women are becoming biblical counselors, the practice of a woman counseling a man or a married couple is becoming more prevalent.
In The Journal of Biblical Counseling, which is published by the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF), Leslie Vernick (a woman) talks about counseling a couple with marital problems. In the process, Vernick works theologically and authoritatively with both the husband and wife. During one session it appears that Vernick is working exclusively with the husband.
In this situation Vernick is a counselor for CCEF, which is a community counseling center that charges a fee for services. According to one source, "CCEFs general policy is that women counsel with other women or children. But, we do not prohibit women counseling with men in certain cases."
We know from our own contacts over the years that a woman counseling a man is currently not the least bit unusual. It often occurs in churches, but more often in community counseling centerssometimes with a fee charged, sometimes without.
Should she or shouldnt she? Should a woman be counseling a man or a couple? What do you think?
Readers' Responses to "You Decide" (from PAL V4N2)
The following are excerpts from some of the answers we received:
"As a direct answer to your question . . . Deborah counseled Barak and rebuked him. God sometimes uses women thus. But I fear that most of us men and women run without being sent." Oregon
"I believe, without reserve, that a woman should never counsel a man, nor should a woman counsel a couple (I Timothy 2:12). This practice usurps the mans authority over his home and wife, something a woman is not to do, nor is a man to allow it. A woman counseling a couple is still counseling a man and taking spiritual authority over him. A woman is to counsel other women and teach children (Titus 2:3-5), if her husband allows her to do this. He may feel she has enough to do in keeping her own home and children. Of course, she could pray and counsel with women over the phone as long as her house is not compromised and her husband is agreeable." New York
"Certainly all knowledgeable Christians are aware that the Holy Spirit operates through women as well as through men. Certainly no member of the Body of Christ would desire to hinder the work of the Holy Spirit! Therefore, if to counsel means to encourage, well then the answer is obvious.
"However, if to counsel, means to lay down certain infallible guidelines or to authoritatively lay down rote instructions, then the matter takes on a different aspect. Yet, even in this area, I feel it is then the authority quoted, not the womans, but the words of our Lord God Almighty!Arkansas
"They travel to Bangladesh and Zaire to Cairo and the far reaches of Katmandu. The years are not kind to them as they forge creeks swollen with murky effluent and subsist on food we Americans consign to back alley dumpsters. Their youth and stamina slowly are eroded to premature old age in the crucible of hardship and deprivation. These are our women missionaries who for centuries have been deemed "fit" to serve the Lord in the far flung outposts of the Christian Church. They have no time nor do they have the temperament for the machinations of the exegesis that might suggest a "woman" should not counsel a man. No, theirs is the better portion as they seek to serve the Lord in a religion which professes to have "no east or west, male or female, no slave nor free."
"This letter is written to suggest that in asking: Should a woman counsel a man? you are asking the wrong question. If we as a Church had a proper Biblical preaching and a committed congregation, counseling should not be necessary. Since that is far from the norm since we exist in a fallen world, neither should a woman counsel a man nor should a man counsel a woman. In this fallen world, if counseling becomes necessary, a team of elders, both male and female, should be available. Women should speak and encourage women on sensitive issues and men counsel men on sensitive topics. At other times a husband and wife team might be appropriate." Massachusetts
"This is clearly against Gods word. Beginning already in Genesis 3:16, we see that the woman was to have the man rule over her. The word here translated rule has to do with exercising authority. The man is to have the authority over the woman, not the other way around, as happens in any directive counseling session involving a woman counseling a man. Interesting, too, is the fact that the verb here in the Hebrew is in the imperfect tense, expressing action which is incomplete. As one commentator puts it, it suggests the "process" preliminary to its completion. I submit that process of the man having authority over the woman is not complete even today.
"Scripture is replete with the idea that when it comes to man-woman authority, the man has the authority, not the woman. Ephesians 5:22; Colossians 3:18; I Peter 3:1 all tell us that women should be in subjection to their husbands, as the church is subject to Christ. It would be ludicrous to argue that these only have to do with a husband-wife relationship and do not apply to men and women who arent married. If a woman is not to have authority over her husband, she certainly is not to have authority over other men. (Im not talking about employer-employee relationships, which is a whole other area to explore). Im speaking mainly in the context of spiritual relationships in the home and in the body of Christ. And a counseling situation should certainly be addressing spiritual issues." Pennsylvania
"In this day and age, with the feminist movement well planted in our churches, it is no surprise when I read an article like yours concerning Leslie Vernick. Scripture is so very plain on this. I become astonished at the pace questions like this arise. I appreciate your method of bringing the issue to our focus, as I find in my own church body, this falling away from the first love, and going into the secular world for our answers.
"God gave us simple to understand principles, which give us the ability to work within His design for the Church. When we go outside of His design, we will not be in His will. Gods design for women was not in the position of teaching or authority over a man (I Timothy 2:12), but to show submission, just as a man is not to counsel Christ, neither should a woman place herself as counselor over men or couples." Washington
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