Jan 09 2007
Women in Church Leadership
(Scripture References are taken from the NIV)
Sometimes I have to wonder how many “educated” people it takes to confuse the word of God. Even in very reputable organizations it is easy to see how various groups can draw conclusions that are based far more on personal experience than upon the scriptures. And of course, if you don’t like what the bible clearly teaches as a whole you can appoint a committee to pour over the scriptures and play with terminology until you get what you want, which goes to prove the point that if you think about it long enough you can justify anything. Such is the case, I believe, with the concept of women pastors. Nowhere in the word of God does the Bible explicitly declare that God’s plan for His church involves women holding positions of church leadership over men. It does, however, speak out explicitly against it. But many of us don’t like that answer so we play with God’s Word and make it say what we want to hear. With regards to this issue I feel it necessary to make the following observations.
First of all, we can effectively eliminate a good portion of the verses that are usually thrown in to give support to women pastors, because most of these have to do with different areas of ministry. And I don’t think anyone will get an argument from me concerning the principle of God using different people in various ways. But when the bible goes out of its way, on multiple occasions, to prohibit certain things we shouldn’t try to circumvent it because of personal bias or past experience. The following is a list of various passages. Let’s look at these one at a time and try to see what God’s word states “explicitly.”
20 Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing.
(Miriam was the sister of Aaron. She was a prophetess, not a priest.)
4 Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time.
(The picture that is portrayed time and again in the book of Judges is one where the people of Israel continued to sin and do evil before the Lord. The Lord would judge them, they would repent, God would deliver them and they would sin again. It was during this time that Deborah the “prophetess” led, or judged, Israel.)
2nd Kings 22:13-16
13 “Go and inquire of the LORD for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the LORD’s anger that burns against us because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.”
14 Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Acbor, Shaphan and Asaiah went to speak to the prophetess Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem, in the Second District.
15 She said to them, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Tell the man who sent you to me,
16 `This is what the LORD says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people, according to everything written in the book the king of Judah has read.
(Huldah was a prophetess.)
36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor.
8 Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven.
9 He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.
1 Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!
2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.
3 Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
(Note: Paul does not say what these women’s ministry was. He does appear to be concerned over a disagreement they were having.)
1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea.
2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me.
3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus.
4 They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.
5 Greet also the church that meets at their house. Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.
6 Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you.
7 Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.
12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.
(Note: Herein lies the main thrust for those that try to validate the position of women pastors. The primary topic of debate is in verse 1 where the word “servant” can be translated as “deacon.” However, the fact remains that Paul did not elaborate at all on what Phoebe’s position actually was, only that she had been a great help. Since the Bible cannot contradict itself we cannot take the vagueness of this passage and use it to overrule clearly stated mandates. A second point of contention can be found in verse 7 where “Junias” has also been translated as “Junia”, which is female in gender.)
23 Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed.
24 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.
25 Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.
26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,
27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
(During this part of Paul’s letter to the Galatians he is explaining our eternal position in Christ. He is not trying to suggest that God no longer has a set order to the way He does things.) Now that we have examined some of the verses that are used in support of women pastors I would like to take some time to view, what I believe to be, a scriptural mandate regarding church leadership.
1st Corinthians 11:1-16
1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
2 I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you.
3 Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head.
5 And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head–it is just as though her head were shaved.
6 If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head.
7 A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.
8 For man did not come from woman, but woman from man;
9 neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.
10 For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.
11 In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.
12 For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.
13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?
14 Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him,
15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering.
16 If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice–nor do the churches of God.
(Note: The picture that Paul is drawing here, as well as in other passages, is pretty simple. Even though we are all one in Christ Jesus, the Lord has set a specific order to things. Just because God has a set hierarchy doesn’t mean that we are “independent” from one another. Nor, is one more important than the other.)
1st Corinthians 14:34-35
34 women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.
35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
(Note: As we will and have covered, the scriptures do provide for women to operate in various positions of ministry. The gift of prophecy is a common one. However, the Word of God continues to speak against women who do not retain their proper position in the church. This is not simply a “problem area” or “troubled church” as certain groups would like to believe. The apostle Paul will continue to address this issue in several of his letters.)
1st Timothy 2:11-15
11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.
12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.
13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve.
14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.
15 But women will be saved through childbearing–if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
(Note: Here we have another example of what some would like to call an “isolated incident.” Isn’t it amazing how we like to rationalize when the scriptures say something we don’t like? First of all, if Paul didn’t stand by this position categorically I am fairly certain that it would have raised some serious issues in his ministry. Secondly, and more importantly, Paul appeals to the order of creation and the fact that it was woman who was deceived. Considering this appeal, it is not possible to categorize Paul’s statement as a one-time directive for a specific situation.)
1st Timothy 3:1-13
1 Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.
2 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,
3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.
5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)
6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.
7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
8 Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain.
9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.
10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.
11 In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.
12 A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well.
13 Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.
6 An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.
7 Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless–not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.
8 Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.
9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.
(Note: Given the nature of the text, in 1st Timothy 3:1-13 & Titus 1:6-9, it is not possible to conclude that Paul is leaving room for women to hold pastoral positions.)
18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.
23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.
24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,
27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church–
30 for we are members of his body.
31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”
32 This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church.
33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
In closing: I believe that Paul’s letter to the Ephesians gives some of the best instructions, and explanations, regarding the Lord’s position on church leadership. We can see here that a husband and wife’s relationship is an example of Christ’s relationship with His church. For a woman to assume a pastoral role would be a distortion of God’s intended purpose, and position, for men and women.