Original Research

The Christian woman as a weaker, but honoured vessel (1 Pt 3:7): Forbidden to act in persona Christi

Jennifer Slater
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 54, No 1 | a2519 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v54i1.2519 | © 2020 Jennifer Slater | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 08 July 2019 | Published: 25 May 2020

About the author(s)

Jennifer Slater, Department of Philosophy, Practical and Systematic Theology, School of Humanities, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


This article presents a Christian liturgical leader as an empty, but useful vessel whose strength is made perfect by the reliance on God’s grace. The word vessel is often used in the Bible, and in English terms it translates to be either a container such as a bowl or a jug, or either a ship or a boat. The biblical meaning denotes a person whom God calls and uses as a vessel. The metaphor of a leader as a useful vessel, refers to a person that is receptive. Paul in 2 Timothy 2: 20–21 clearly proclaims that vessels come as useful ones and not so useful ones; some bring honour and others dishonour – the choice belongs to each individual and is illustrated in 2 Corinthians 4:7: ‘… but we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us’. While the task of Christian liturgical leadership is ambiguous and complex, this article refers to someone called to exercise authority and leadership in the way as Jesus called Paul, namely as ‘a chosen vessel of Mine to bear my name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel’ (Ac 9:15). On the flip side, this brings in a challenging equation of 1 Peter 3:7 where the woman is termed ‘the weaker vessel’ that ‘should be honoured …’. From this perspective, this article explores what impact this problematic passage has on women’s liturgical leadership and practice, especially in the Roman Catholic ecclesiastical culture. It presents a functional biblical vision derived from an understanding that leaders are the vessels that God calls and uses, and that they are guided by a biblical spirituality of leadership. This leadership is consistent with the democratic tradition within Christianity that emphasises dialogue with the Holy Spirit.


biblical leadership; liturgical leadership; chosen vessel; empty vessel; persona Christi; Magisterium; Sacrament of Holy Orders.


Total abstract views: 2060
Total article views: 2913

Crossref Citations

No related citations found.