A friend of my spouse has asked our advice concerning her taking a pastoral position in her church.
I’ve always been under the impression that scripturally this is not permitted. I believe women had roles in the early church but Paul seems to go back and forth on the issue. I mean how can it be sinful for a woman to speak in church and then be ok to prophecy? Isn’t the headship of a church supposed to be a male and the prime headship is Christ? I do not want to be sexist and I want to give clear scriptural advice. I feel many things on this issue and I appreciate a desire to preach and teach the gospel. But by my understanding leadership as defined by Christ and the early church was a male thing. I know this sounds terrible and could start a very sexist dialogue. That is not my intention. I really want to understand the Word of the Lord on this issue. If I can show scripturally its sound great, if I can’t fine. I just want my understanding to be true and alligned with the word. I am very interested in your thoughts on this.
A friend of my spouse has asked our advice concerning her taking a pastoral position in her church.
@scottbeau, you may want to check this link it has excellent material on this topic
@scottbeau Great question Personally, if I held your view, I would begin by deciding what level of doctrine Church leadership is for me and I would place it at a conviction or opinion. If I held that conviction, as you do, then I would attend a Church led by men and if asked by a sister for my view I would tell her my opinion, but also be clear I feel this is a secondary issue and that I believe she is free to obey her own conscience on this issue.
Now, that said, I do believe women can lead in Church (see resources below). However, I think cultural context is really important here… Paul said to be a Greek to the Greeks and a Jew to the Jews and in some cultures it would not be appropriate for a woman to lead because it could hinder the Church’s witness in that culture. However, in other cultures, it would be perfectly acceptable. So that is my own opinion.
Levels of Doctrine
The below article offers a fuller explanation of levels of doctrine and gives a helpful summary list of 4 levels of doctrine.
- absolutes define the core beliefs of the Christian faith;
- convictions , while not core beliefs, may have significant impact on the health and effectiveness of the church;
- opinions are less-clear issues that generally are not worth dividing over; and
- questions are currently unsettled issues.
Where an issue falls within these categories should be determined by weighing the cumulative force of at least seven considerations:
- biblical clarity;
- relevance to the character of God;
- relevance to the essence of the gospel;
- biblical frequency and significance (how often in Scripture it is taught, and what weight Scripture places upon it);
- effect on other doctrines;
- consensus among Christians (past and present); and
- effect on personal and church life.
Resources on Women in Ministry
I stand with @SeanO on this issue. As in I’m not for A or for B, but I’m ok with both stance, and respect their convictions.
I personally have swung from one side to the other.
To the proponents of NO, the Bible is clear and direct about it in 1 Tim 2:11-12. Women are at most allowed to be deacon, or deaconness (diakonos: servants, ministers), like the Phoebe in Romans 16:1-2. But not the overseeing leadership positions like Pastors, Bishops, or Elders (who are supposed to be husband to one wife according to 1 Tim 3:2, as opposed to a wife of one husband)
To the proponents of YES, they do have to explain more with the cultural context in those days in the Ephesians church, where the Artemisian culture is prevalent, and in relevance to current culture, where women are emancipated to serve like men does. Which really, in the 1960s I believe, is when this issue start popping up, and women start leading in churches. And the Greek word used in 1 Tim 2:12 “to exercise authority over men” is authentein, used only for this 1 instance, which is more like domineering, usurping authority type of authority.
I find that personally to make peace with this issue, even if women are NOT allowed to lead nor teach, we shouldn’t think of it as a negative. Because God does create men for authority and women to help/assist men’s mission in the order of creation.
There was a good comparative analogy used, I forgot by who, of a dishwashing machine and a laundry washing machine. They each serve different purposes, which wouldn’t be optimal to say, wash our laundry in a dishwashing machine. Though it may get the job done.
God created this command in the Bible for our sake, as a guideline in running a church organization well, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of or the dividing factor of the body of Christ. Let’s not be too quick to judge the other as false teachers or non-Christian.
At the end of the day, God is less concerned about whether we put a woman on the podium more than He is about our living out Christ’s 2 greatest commandments to love God and love others well.
If we start hating and unloving each other over this, I guess God will be more grieved and we missed the purpose He had for this guideline.
I hope that helps in wrestling with this sensitive issue.
Blessings in Christ
this question has been weighing heavily on my mind. It is baffling to me as a woman who found my voice in the church. With time and study, I went from the quiet person in the congregation to one who preaches occasionally. Finding Christ awakened a hunger for the word and a desire to teach and preach that wasn’t there before. It affected me in so many positive ways. If I had to stifle this passion based on Paul’s scripture about women remaining silent in church, it would be so incredibly painful.
What if a husband isn’t into scripture and can’t answer her questions at home?
What do we do with the Kathrin Khulman’s of this world?
Was Susana Wesley wrong for allowing about 200 others to join in her bible study (for her kids) on Sunday afternoons when the locum couldn’t adequately feed them spiritually?
It would be such a loss if Priscilla Schirer couldn’t preach.
There is so much work to do in God’s vineyard and somehow it looks like we need all sincere God loving and compassionate hands on deck.
I’m searching for the next steps to take as I would like to be involved in full time ministry at some point. But does preaching as a woman jeopardize my eternity with Christ? So you can tell I’m bothered by this question too. So glad you brought it up.
this is really helpful!!
@CathE Glad it helped
This is a great question, and a tricky subject, I know many people have discussed this for years. Based on some study I have done on the topic, I don’t think it is at all a problem for women to preach in church, I think the problem has more to do with navigating culture.
Paul’s words about not allowing women to speak are so often quoted to support women not taking leadership roles in church but he was talking to a church in a culture that had uneducated women, most probably couldn’t even read, and were speaking up during services asking questions that could easily be answered by their husbands later, and disrupting the learning of the men who had been educated, albeit to differing degrees. There was also a female cult at the time that encouraged certain vile behavior among women, and this may also have been a contributing factor.
Like @SeanO said, quoting Paul, “we need to be Greek to the Greeks,” I think this is very much a cultural issue. The Greek culture was very patriarchal, women had very few rights, so to allow a woman to preach would have been an extremely radical thing and who knows if anyone would have stayed to hear the Gospel. This is me inferring a little.
Not that people can’t or don’t need to change, but to be respectful. A church in my own town lost their pastor and then hired a woman as their pastor, after which half of the church promptly left. It was very sad, but in that case no I don’t think the woman was wrong for preaching, I think however that some of the leadership may have been wrong in hiring her without more thought or without more of a transition period to let members of the congregation work out their issues with it.
At the same time I have visited other churches (granted these are in more liberal areas such as LA) that have female senior pastors, it just depends on the individuals in your church. But as for it being contrary to the Bible, I do not believe it to be so.
I really like what @RoySujanto said, “at the end of the day, God is less concerned about whether we put a woman on the podium more than He is abut our living out [the] 2 greatest commandments…”
I think a decision like the one @scottbeau is talking about requires a lot of prayer and deliberation either way. As for @CathE I hope you get the opportunity to speak more and that you’re able to continue to glorify God with your passions.
Hello Erika, Thank you so much for this detailed and encouraging reply.
I’m sorry that I have not responded sooner.
Great question and obviously not an uncommon one. As you can see by all of the responses there are many opinions on what the Scripture “really means”. There is such a strong desire to find “fairness” in the Word of God but you know, He never really indicated He was “fair”, just righteous in His decisions and how He wants things done. And He never asks us how we feel about His directions. We need to remember what Samuel said to King Saul in 1 Sam 15:22 - “To obey is better than sacrifice…”.
My understanding is that God’s Word is not, nor ever will be based upon the culture of the time and place it was written, if so we would have no real reason to accept the teachings we really don’t like and just pick those we do. He, His Word, & His teachings are eternal, for all times.
The clear (to me) teaching in 1 Timothy 2:12 (and other verses) is basically the same. “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” It is a headship issue (1 Cor 11:13) Men are to be the “head” whether they want to be or not (which really IS an issue). Now, while we don’t like to see this, here it is. I know many godly women who could run rings around men in their knowledge and ability with the Word, YET, they are expected to be obedient to the position and role they see for themselves in the Scriptures.
In reading the Word, we can see how God works in our lives and natural inclinations. He doesn’t usually expect us to do the things and be the way that seems to come most naturally to us. He expects men to love their wives but he asks women to respect their husbands. Interesting. He wants men to step up to the role He has given them as the “head”, the leader. When men don’t, women will naturally fill the gap left by the unwilling-to-do-things, do-it-yourself men. As has been mentioned, it isn’t that women are less than men it is that we each have been given different roles to play in God’s economy.
Is it a matter of whether or not someone is gifted with abilities and that they must use them because they have them? Or does it really comes down whether or not we are going to obey God’s Word on the subject?
An excellent view on this, in my opinion, is an interview with John Piper entitled “Complementarianism Is Not about Competency”. LINK
Personally, when the teaching may not be 100% clear, I will defer to obeying the simple, apparent teaching of God rather than the what I or other men or women think or feel about the subject. By this I do not mean that I wouldn’t consider what godly teachers may have to say, but in all situations God’s Word must come first.
So Scott, in answer to your questions:
- I don’t think your position is sexist
- If I were asked by a female friend or her spouse about taking a pastoral position I would say that my reading and opinion leads me to say “no” and why I believe that.
Actually, I have first hand experience because both my wife and my daughter are very wise and gifted believers who have dealt with these same questions and opportunities.