Women in Ministry, Part 2 of 3

Women in Ministry Part 2 of 3

To many outside of the Church, Christianity represents some kind of oppressive, anti-female, pro-male culture. I would have to say  that, if that were true, I would probably have walked away from Christianity a long time ago. My personal experience with Jesus has been something quite different from what feminists would have you believe. I believe the Apostle Paul when he wrote the Galatians:

“…for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Last Wednesday, I wrote a post on the topic of women in ministry, which was the first in a 3-part series. I presented the three (or so) different schools of thought on the subject. I was curious to see what opinion you all hold on the subject, as well. It was a mixed crowd, however most of you identified yourselves as moderates. Today’s post, Women in Ministry Part 2 answers the question:

Where do I fall on the subject of women in ministry?

Well, I am somewhere between a moderate and a hierarchical type. I know, I’m a little surprised, as well.

Here’s the thing. I am, for all intents and purposes, an independent woman (as much as you can call yourself that and still be taken seriously). I don’t want women shut up, locked away, or barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. But what I do want–what I crave–is for women to accept and love their God-given role as women. On the issue of women serving in ministry, well, I think I am still figuring much of it out, but here’s what I believe so far.

I believe women can be deacons. Phoebe, in scripture, is one such example.

I also happen to believe that the five “equipping gifts” mentioned in Ephesians 4:11 are not limited to men unlike the strictest of hierarchical types would believe. Debra was a prophet-judge. Anna was a prophetess. Phillip, the evangelist, had four daughters who were prophets. The apostle Paul referred to Junia as an apostle. The Bible is certainly rich with examples of women exercising those spiritual gifts.

What I have realized, though, as I have studied this topic, is that I do agree with God’s design in placing man in headship over women, at the very least, within marriage. I consider myself a modern, educated, and independent woman (sorry for sounding like a Destiny’s Child song), but at the same time I have no issue calling my husband the head of my home. None. It does not bother me in the least. I have watched women visibly squirm when they hear the word “submit.” ( Trust your God and choose a good man, and that will solve the squirming.) I find comfort and great wisdom in God’s design between men and women. I also think that scripture has laid it out pretty clearly.

The model given to us in scripture of the relationship between Christ and the Church is the model of marriage between a man and a woman. One is in headship. The other submits willingly out of love. One is in authority. The other yields that authority and trusts out of respect.

The feminists reading this might blow a fuse. Yes, I said “respect,” as in, “wives, respect your husbands.”

But want to know a real feminist? The feminist to end all feminists? His name is Jesus.

A long time ago, when women were belittled and valued not much more than cattle, Christ came and offered Himself as a sacrifice to all. Just as Paul wrote, “there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Jesus was a revolutionary in the way He treated women, and He still is to this day.

Christ says women are valuable and co-heirs (alongside men) of His Kingdom. Jesus says you are not restricted by your culture, education, or gender. You are a woman? “So what,” He says. I can use anyone. I will use anyone.

Here, however, are the questions people sometimes get hung up on when discussing women serving in ministry. Can women teach men? I say they can. However, let me make clear that I do not believe teaching is synonymous with exerting authority. Authority extends from your position and leadership. A woman in Christ has authority to teach because she has the Holy Spirit within her. That does not necessarily mean, though, that she has spiritual authority over a man. So, for clarity’s sake, I also believe that a women should not be placed in the role of a pastor that is over both men and women. A head pastor role, in my estimation, is a position of authority when over men and women both.

Exercising a teaching gift, in my opinion, is just that: exercising a gift. A man is not suddenly under the authority of a woman because she shared an anecdote, a passage of scripture with application, or an exhortation anymore than he would be if a friend shared the same thing. Teaching equips, according to Ephesians. It does not exert authority.

I understand, from a practical sense, why some churches choose to not have women teach men at all. I think it saves them the explanation and energy involved with supporting the opposing viewpoint. Culturally it is a difficult line for many churches to cross, as well. I fully understand and acknowledge this. I do not think one church is wrong for having a different opinion than I do. These are not the issues that I hope the church chooses to get hung up on.

I will always choose to keep the main thing the main thing–Jesus–over splitting hairs on women who teach, like Beth Moore (who I love and admire, by the way).

That’s not to say, however, that there aren’t specific points on the subject of women in ministry that I am still working out. I am continuing to seek God as I go forward and attempt to answer these questions. But, the questions could go on and on. I just love the discussion and hope you do, as well.

Do you agree or disagree with me? Where do you think women can or cannot serve? Should or should not serve in ministry?

Thursday will be the final post in the Women in Ministry series, which will be an interview and post with Bianca Juarez–writer, speaker, teacher, and powerful woman in ministry.

35 thoughts on “Women in Ministry, Part 2 of 3”

  1. You’re right… I was pretty surprised at your take ;)

    I think one of the most damning aspects of this debate (within the Church at large) is how thoroughly we’ve misinterpreted 1 Timothy 3 (especially) and all the other passages that talk about gender roles.

    Since this isn’t my blog, I won’t take up comment space with all that… I’ll just say this:

    1. IMO, we are all under Christ’s authority, and there’s nothing about what set of genitals we have that gives us ‘roles’. I don’t believe that male-headship is mandatory – certainly not within the Church.

    2. I am grateful for the women (and men!) in my life who have authority over me. And I am learning more and more how to submit to them willingly and joyfully.

    I have found as my sphere of leadership grows that I find more and more joy in giving my authority away to others. It’s beautiful to see how that transforms people.

    3. And it breaks my heart and enrages me that some churches don’t allow women to teach men. We (men) have a lot to learn from women. It takes male AND female to be the image of God.

    Anxious to see where this is going… and thanks for sharing your (female) voice on this tough and divisive issue!

    1. JR,
      thanks for the thoughtful comment. I would love to get into t he 1Tim 3 verses with you…maybe as an aside. I don’t think they are misinterpreted verses. I take them very literally. I’d love to know and hear your view on them. I am totally open for friendly discussion on that issue! Seriously, all in fun and for edification!

      on your point 1, I agree that men and women are both in authority under Christ but I can’t excuse verses like Ephesians 5:23. It seems pretty clear to me that men, do in fact, have an authoritative “role.” God doesn’t use the word “mandatory” but it is certainly a command.

      2.I so agree there. I have had men and women in authority over me in life and within the Church. I value both and believe God does too.

      3.I agree here also. I think the dichotomy of men and women really does help reflect God. We need both, in the Church and as representations of Christ.

  2. I love how you spoke of how revolutionary Jesus was. The people who find Christianity anti-women rarely take the time to understand that Jesus had female followers. They weren’t just there to serve the men. Mary sat at His feet. Martha had a cow…but Jesus didn’t. He wanted her there.

    It was revolutionary. Women were NEVER allowed to learn with the men…to sit at the feet of the rabbi. Jesus welcomed it, and even defended Mary’s choice to do it. The disciples must have accepted it, because unlike their annoyance at children being brought to Him, they weren’t the ones questioning Mary’s place at Christ’s feet It was her own sister, Martha, who expected her to help with the preparations.

    1. Dee Dee, I love your comment. As I was writing this post, I found all these historians who think that the scribes who copied the Bible, specifically the letters of Paul, must have been so confused by some of what he wrote regarding women.

      Jesus started the revolution and His disciples (even if it was social and culturally difficult for them) continued it.

  3. I love how you spoke of how revolutionary Jesus was. The people who find Christianity anti-women rarely take the time to understand that Jesus had female followers. They weren’t just there to serve the men. Mary sat at His feet. Martha had a cow…but Jesus didn’t. He wanted her there.

    It was revolutionary. Women were NEVER allowed to learn with the men…to sit at the feet of the rabbi. Jesus welcomed it, and even defended Mary’s choice to do it. The disciples must have accepted it, because unlike their annoyance at children being brought to Him, they weren’t the ones questioning Mary’s place at Christ’s feet. It was her own sister, Martha, who expected her to help with the preparations.

  4. This is good, really good. As women, it is so easy to get caught in the struggle with the word ‘submit’. It does not mean roll over and let your man control you. It means, respect him as the person who leads and guides you. And I love what you said about trusting God in this because he will give you a spouse who is right and does not make ‘submission’ challenging or painful in any un-Godly way.

    Side question, what is a deacon? Does that exist in modern non-denominational Christian churches.

    1. Thanks Heather. God’s design makes so much sense when we yield to it…

      About deacons, well the Bible does not give a super-specific list of responsibilities (check out Ephesians 5) but it say that they are to be servant-leaders essentially.

      My understanding of deacons, in today’s church, is that they provide support to the elders of the church. Deacons basically attend to all of the daily, administrative, and up-keep, type of jobs of a church leader. This frees elders so that they do not need to be tied down with all of those responsibilities as well. They can instead focus on being elders.

      Think of pastors or elders who have to do paperwork or sit on committees. Deacons help carry that burden and work load.

      Great question! Thanks for asking!

  5. This is an amazing post Nicole! I also love the point you took of Jesus being the revolutionary for Women. I also agree with your opinion of Women’s roles in the church. Awesome!

  6. I have to say I am total Egalitarian. I have come to understand that in 1 Tim 2:12 when Paul is speaking that “Woman should not be in authority over a man,” that was purely in context of the day. The women of that church were learning bad doctrine and spreading it through the church. Paul was telling them that they shouldn’t corrupt the men of THAT church.

    It is also understood now, that 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is an Interpolation. It should have never been included in the Bible in the first place. http://www.koinoniablog.net/2009/10/why-would-1-cor-143435-be-an-interpolation.html

    This is a touchy subject and needs to be studied out way farther than a few moments looking at some Scriptures in a KJV Bible. It has to be taken back to context and the original languages. It is probably something none of us has a perfect doctrine on. And it is an issue that doesn’t matter a whole lot in the context and mission of Loving God and Loving People! :)

    Oh, and Junia was an “Apostle” (which means she was over churches in her region and over the men who were elders there). The elders in her churches submitted to her leadership as their Apostle.

    1. Hi Kat,
      Thanks for adding such great talking points and context to this discussion.

      I absolutely agree with you, in that certain scriptures, if not all scripture needs to be examined through the cultural context of the day. (I address that point in part 1 of the women in ministry series.

      As far as referring to 1Corinthians 14 as an interpolation, well, I can’t say I know enough so I will not comment there until I do.

      In regards to Junia as an apostle–scripture does not place an elder or an apostle over one another. Apostles are in “charge” so to speak until chosen elders have been established. Peter and Paul both wrote to churches and address the elders as equals, neither under or over their authority. Paul often times implores elders to heed his words, never exerting his authority over them. Ephesians 4:11 lists the equipping gifts together and does not specify, in my estimation, that one has authority over another. Apostles are gifted in establishing churches and I believe that is what Junia did.

      Women in ministry is an issue that believers can get hung up on. It causes distraction and disunity. I love what you said though: “And it is an issue that doesn’t matter a whole lot in the context and mission of Loving God and Loving People! :)”

      I love the discussion. I love hearing people’s personal interpretation and seeing where God has led them individually. Thanks so much for adding your viewpoint to the conversation as well!

    2. Hi Kat, I appreciate the “link” for the examination of Interpolation and will myself examine this topic more thoroughly.
      However, I believe making the statement “It is also understood now,” is not an accurate conclusion. The investigation of 1 Cor 14:34-35 is still in that process of investigation. It is not something “widely” accepted by Bible Scholars and Theologians, even though there appears to be a significant discussion by several others. But I am excited to discuss this with Professors such as Wayne Grudem and the like! This will be fun!

      I would also love to see the reference you used in saying that the context of 1 Tim 2:12 was in regard to “women” teaching bad doctrine. I have difficulty in finding solid commentaries, and in this belief because if we use the same interpretation within this context, then it’s saying nothing in regards to prohibiting them teaching heresy to women. I am under the impression that if heresy was the issue being spoken of here in this text, then it wouldn’t have been specific as to them teaching men. It would have been inclusive to all teaching.

      I share this not in an effort to argue or refute, or for that matter to even state my conviction in regards to this topic. But more for the effort in us being careful in how we use references or commentaries, when aligned with our belief or conviction, to make an absolute statement of truth.

      As I said though in the beginning, I will dive deeper into the evidence for this Interpolation case. So thank you for bringing that to our attention!

  7. Nicole,
    I think I pretty much agree with you on everything there. Except one thing, which is hard to explain. I think women can be pastors/priests.

    You see, my ex-wife and I were married for 10 years, and she taught me a lot of things about feminism, etc. I went from believing that the Bible had nothing to say about politics or gender roles to seeing Jesus as the revolutionary you do. It was a big shift. I still hold those views to this day–what the Christian church has done for women has been remarkable, I think. Especially given the culture it came from. So, to this day, I have a hard time saying women shouldn’t be a pastor or priest(ess).

    However, at the same time, I’ve been going more and more towards the Orthodox Church. When I get to a place I can, I will convert. The OC is similar in some ways to the Catholic Church, in that you cannot be a woman priest. So, I don’t agree with this.

    But now I find myself fitting into God’s commandment, learning to submit to the headship of the Church. I am learning that I certainly don’t have the brainpower and knowledge to make my decisions always right, and I need to trust God in the way He has set things up.

    I still struggle as to whether this structure in the Church is a God- or man-made rule, but if I’m to practice what I preach, then I need to learn to submit better to the Church’s teaching.

    Thanks for a great post!

    1. Josh, I value your unique perspective. Your comment was so heartfelt and genuine. It seems to that you are learning, just as I am, to find contentment between the things we feel in regards to the Word and the things we know to be true of God.

      I don’t like saying a woman shouldn’t be a head or lead pastor. The words feel wrong to me, yet, I respect the Lord’s design and purpose in it.

      You said it perfectly: “I need to trust God in the way He has set things up.” Learning as we go…trusting Him in the process.

      Thanks for adding your thoughts on this subject. I enjoy your viewpoint.

  8. Hi Nicole! For you other readers out there who do not know me, several years ago God called me into full time youth ministry. I am a woman and was blessed enough to work alongside a wonderful team of Godly male pastors at a local church. Very quickly I realized that I had to come to my “stance” on this topic quickly. I admit I am not perfect, and do not present the following opinions as IT!!!! But I love God’s word and all those who seek to know Him and glorify Him in their lives. Like Nicole has said–in the end, the main thing is Jesus and the Gospel message–not the specifics of this issue, or how the end times will play out, or what kind of worship service is the best etc. etc. Thanks to all who have previously posted, I have enjoyed reading your thoughts. Blessings.

    1)REALLY EXERTING AUTHORITY IN MIXED GENDER GROUPS?: Nicole: I loved how you talked about “authority” and your take on it. I agree, every time I open my mouth in mixed gender bible study groups or in my seminary classes to share a scripture, or answer a question asked of me or the group(typically by a male leader/teacher etc.) am I am not trying to exert authority over a man! In fact, the very fact they actually call on me and expect an answer also assumes that they know I am not exerting authority over them or the other males present, but simpley explaining/teaching what God has spoken to me in hopes of clarifying or encouraging others.

    2)REALLY EXERTING AUTHORITY IN MARRIAGE?: What about the role God has given me to be a helper to my husband Chad? Some of my best moments (IN CHAD’S OPINION) in supporting him as his wife have been when I have shared from God’s word in order to encourage him or help him with a major decision for our family. Did I assume ultimate authority over our house for those 10 minutes, and then Chad “got it back” once my mouth closed–no that it is silly! Furthermore, I am passionate about young wives and moms participating in Bible study. Not only to benefit their own walk with Jesus–but so that they can better support their husbands when trials come and teach their children the TRUTH about Jesus.

    3) REALLY EXERTING AUTHORITY IN THE CORPORATE CHURCH?: I think that (as you state in your blog) women should be allowed to serve in the area they are gifted and in some of the ways you mentioned. However, there are a few ministry roles that are “corporately accepted as authoritative” and in my opinion outlined in many of Paul’s letters that should be left to men: that of Elder and the role of a Sr. or lead Pastor. Those who hold Elder positions and whoever takes the place of God’s mouthpeice behind the pulpit are CLEARLY in a position of authority. In 1 Tim. 2:13-14, Paul gives his pro-male reason for this: not because women were teaching false doctrine in Ephesus, but because of the creation order. If you accept the creation account to be true and that Adam is head over Eve, you cannot discount it in 1 Tim. 2–it is a timeless truth–not a cultural one meant for that time.

    Lastly, others have noted upon further study that the only false teachers named in Scripture at Ephesus were men and not women…1 Tim. 1:19-20, 2 Tim. 2:17-18, and Acts 20:30. Interesting…why did Paul not mention specific women guilty of false teaching-sure there could have been some, but why leave them out on purpose if he was to make such a bold statement about women being silent?

    Let us not forget James 3:1 teaches that those who teach will be held accountable/judged to higher standards. Ok so maybe letting the men have the final say isn’t always that bad? :)

    1. Tracy, thank you so much for adding to the conversation here. i love your point 2 about your husband not losing his authority for 10 min while your mouth is open.

      Also point 3, it is so wise to acknowledge that there are roles “corporately accepted as authoritative.” The church needs to acknowledge this more I think.

      Finally your point about Paul not mentioning women is so good. Jon and I read that together and we were like “ooh that’s good.”

  9. Nicole – I came across this passage yesterday and couldn’t help but think of adding it to this discussion/learning topic: Titus 2:3-5 (ESV) says:

    “3Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”

    I don’t think Paul could have put together a better outline for the role of a woman. Yes, women are called to teach. We are also called to many other things but ultimately to represent the word of God and what Christ sacrificed for us. Talk about a challenge!

    It’s very easy to take a single scripture and make it fit your view point or support your personal beliefs. You could use the verses I just quoted to justify why women should only teach other women. However, I don’t believe that it’s the correct way to interpret scripture. God gave us a whole bible with many authors. I believe we’re called to do exactly as you’re doing – find as much scripture that applies to the topic and interpret it as a group, a whole. That includes Old and New Testaments. What Proverbs says, as well as what Ephesians says. I think it can be dangerous to single out a specific verse and try to debate what it is saying without the context of all scripture, as we can be prone to do.

    Thank you for pulling so much scripture on this topic and really examining what scripture says as a whole, for being open to all points of view, and really trying to understand God’s design in this.

    1. Abbi, that is SUCH a great verse to add to the discussion. I wish I had thought of it!

      Again, you are right, in that we need to use and view scripture collectively, not verse by verse or line by line. We also need to consider cultural implications of the time and pray for God’s specific direction today.

      Great comment! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Excellent post! I’ve struggled to put into words how I feel about this (as evident in my comment on part 1), and you communicated it beautifully (you are awesome at that).

    I love the comments and discussion as well!

    1. Jr, I read that post. Sorry it took me a while to respond.

      I love what Witherington wrote and I fully agree. I don’t think women have to stay home according to scripture. I do think that it is preferable though, only in that women are more inclined to want to. Versus men who are more inclined to want to work outside of the home. I think personally that having a parent at home, either is crucial.

      I will admit though that i do have a little bit of stigma attached to stay home dads. It seems weird to me. I have a family member who is a stay home dad though and that has really challenged me in my thinking.

      So all in all, I disagree with Driscoll’s interpretation of Titus in regards to women being home as some kind of command but am still learning to also accept the flip side: stay home dads.

      What are your thoughts on the post and video?

  11. Weeellll… I think Driscoll is pretty much insane, so the video wasn’t a surprise to me. I did appreciate the multiple excellent (and grace-full) responses I heard.

    I agree with Witherington… and this is my big beef with all the patriarchal and complementarian camps – they read 1950s, post-industrial revolution gender roles back onto the ancient world. As W. aptly demonstrates, the categories we use to separate men and women today wouldn’t have made any sense to an ancient person (let alone have been practical).

    Given the whole testimony of Scripture, I can’t be anything other than an egalitarian…

    Also, Nicole, did you get my email of my take on 1 Tim 2? I’d love to hear your (and Jonathan’s) thoughts on it. :)

    1. Hi jr. forasteros.
      I haven’t watched the Driscoll video, so no comment by me. :)
      I am curious though on how you understand the “complementarian” view. Because I understand it to suggest both equality and recognizing the differences, beneficial for sure, between man and woman.

      Also, could you give me some references as to who’s in this “camp” and the books they read. More specifically the complementarian camp. I would love to see how this lines up with what I believe some of the Theologians and Pastors I know, who choose the term complementarian for most closely representing their view of roles between man and woman.

      I’m also unfamiliar with the term Partriarchal for this topic, unless you are associating this with Hierarchicalist or even Traditionalist. But please explain.

      Thanks for helping me understand more of your process in becoming an egalitarian.


      1. Hey GB!

        Sorry for the tardy response; I was traveling and didn’t have great web access. In regards to your questions:

        1. My biggest problem with the complementarian view is that it assumes that SEX and GENDER are always the same. SEX is biological – it has to do with what parts you have. GENDER is always socially constructed, and therefore always contingent. Nearly every complementarian ‘scholar’ I’ve read equates ‘Biblical’ with Traditional (read: 1950s post-Industrial Revolution) Gender Roles. As Witherington aptly demonstrated in his post, complementarians take the 1950s and read it back onto ancient cultures.

        Furthermore, anytime people talk about men and women being ‘equal but different’, the divisions always place men in positions of leadership and power and women in subservient positions (e.g., head pastor vs. nursery worker). This simply is not biblically defensible unless you strip verses out of their contexts and slap them onto a pre-existing argument. It certainly goes entirely against the character of Jesus’ ministry, as Nicole pointed out in her post.

        2. You are right that I am using Patriarchy in place of Hierarchy. Let’s call a spade a spade.

        3. As to who’s in this camp – Driscoll of course (even his book ‘Doctrine’ addresses Patriarchal gender roles in its chapter on Church). Also James Dobson and John Eldrich are two guys I’ve read who share this view. John MacArthur (though in my limited exposure to his preaching, this doesn’t occupy much of his time). Beth Moore also holds to this position. Albert Mohler and every professor at Southern Seminary.

        I hope that’s helpful. Please feel free to email me if you would like to continue the conversation in more depth – I don’t want to clutter up Nicole’s blog without her permission :D

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