Women in Minstry, Part 1 of 3

Women in Ministry Part 1 of 3

The role of women in ministry within the church can be a touchy subject. People start asking questions like, “Can women teach men?” or “Can women be head pastors?” To be honest , I never spent too much time thinking abut it. I knew what I felt about the subject, but had never gone beyond that. I hadn’t  examined the scriptures, for example, or prayed to see where perhaps God was leading me on the subject. Until recently…

I am currently enrolled in a Women in Leadership Development course (that’s right, it’s W.I.L.D.). It is 2 year program designed to encourage, train, and raise up female Christian leaders. A few weeks ago we  heard a lecture on “women in ministry”. I realized then, how much of a divisive issue this truly is.  Today’s post is part one of a three part series, discussing women and their role in ministry. Since today is Wednesday–and that means it is He Said/She Said day, where I write about all things related to men, women, or both–I thought I’d talk about this somewhat controversial issue… cause that’s how I roll…

I had the opportunity to hear author, Dr. Kristen Beasley, speak on the subject of women in ministry. She raised two important questions:

1. What is the effect of sin on male/female relationships?

2. Are there certain passages within scripture that are ageless or culturally focused?

Basically, she asked: Did Eve mess it up for all women? And can the church really apply all scripture related to  women, today?

With those two questions in mind, here are the brief overviews of the different schools of thought on women serving in ministry:

Egalitarian. All’s equal, they say. Those in the Egalitarian camp believe this:

In regards to the hierarchy between men and women formed at the moment of creation, they would say that none exists. Men and women are fully equal.

Egalitarians believe that all Biblical offices are open to all qualified women. Likewise, all specific ministries are open to all qualified women. Spiritual gifts are also available to all with no gender distinction.

Moderate. The middle ground folks, so to speak. They believe:

In regards to the hierarchy between men and women, moderates believe men and women are, in essence, equal, but operate in distinct roles. Furthermore, men do hold headship within marriage.

Moderates would also say that certain Biblical offices, such as those of a deacon are open to women, but not, say, an elder office. They agree with Egalitarians that spiritual gifts make no gender distinction. Finally, they would say that all ministries, except that of an elder, is open to qualified women.

Hierarchical. The more stringent bunch. They believe:

As far as the hierarchy in creation, men and women are equal, in essence, with distinct roles (like moderates). They also believe, however, that men maintain headship not just inside of marriage, but as a pattern in life, as well.

As for Biblical offices, they would say both the elder and deacon positions are closed to women. In terms of spiritual gifts, those in this camp usually reference Ephesians 4:11 and state that, as far as the “equipping gifts” are concerned, those gifts are only available to men.

Finally, in ministry as a whole, they would say that any ministry that requires authority over or the the teaching of men is restricted for women.

And there you have it, a condensed (very condensed) overview of the different positions on women in ministry.

Now, do you want to know where I fall on the subject? Well, you will just have to wait for part 2 of the conversation (sneaky, sneaky, I know), which I will be posting on Monday. In the meantime, please consider the following questions and verses. I would love to know how you think about women in ministry. Then we can discuss it together, which is really the best part, I think.

Which school of thought do you fall into? What, if any, are some specific areas of women in ministry that you are still grappling with?

For further study here are some verses discussing women in ministry: Genesis 1-3, 1Corinthians 11:3-10, 12, and 14:34-35, Galatians 3:28, Ephesians 5:22-23, 1Timothy 2:9-15 and 3:1-7

12 thoughts on “Women in Minstry, Part 1 of 3”

  1. Great topic! I was raised to believe in the hierarchical way. Then in college I went to a large church in Pasadena, CA called Lake Avenue Bible Church (right next to Fuller), and the college group had a female assistant pastor that often gave the sermon. They often TALKED about women in leadership as well and changed my view.

    If I’m being honest I still struggle with trying to figure out how exactly I feel, but I would say that I most identify with the moderate stance.

    Thank you for the resources and scripture!

    Can’t wait to hear more of your thoughts!

    1. Isn’t it interesting how God can move us or shift us over the course of our walk with Him in a particular area of thinking?

      I love that He doesn’t just pound us over the head but allows us to discover, investigate, and prayerfully seek Him and His wisdom on issues.

      I still struggle with areas of this topic too. We’ll see how my Monday post plays out…

  2. Given the verses you listed, I think it’s easy to see why, I will call them conservative churches, choose the hierarchical interpretation of scriptures. While raised at SBC, a church I would say leans towards the hierarchical, I actually am more Moderate. The only point where I differ in view is that I also would say that women should not be head pastors. I would interpret scripture to be pretty clear about that. Just as God designed a structure for the family, he too designed a structure for the church.

    It is very easy for me to lead our family. I am a natural leader and it goes against everything in my sinful nature to submit and let Jeff lead. It think this is a common struggle for most women. But it’s not Gods design. I think you can apply the same logic to the church. Are women capable of pastoring a church? Yes. Can they be good at pastoring/teaching? Yes. Is it God’s design for the church? I would say No, as it is also not their responsibility to lead the family.

    When women lead the family, it ultimately doesn’t function correctly and will break down. It’s an inevitable, as with everything when it goes against Gods design. Could you not say the same about the church?

    Don’t get me wrong, I said I am a moderate. Women, as in the family, have very important roles in the church. I love Beth Moore. I love her studies and God has obviously gifted her with teaching. The hierarchical view would say that her gift shouldn’t be used in the church. I disagree. I think it’s very important to have women leaders in the church – to lead and teach other WOMEN biblical truths. Would Beth Moore ever start her own church? I guess no, simply because she hasn’t. But she definitely possesses the gifting to do so.

    I’m looking forward to reading your next post. I’ve an open mind on this and I want to see with what more you come up with to challenge my thinking :)

    1. Abbi, I love your thoughtful and Spirit-led answer. I also love the comparisons you draw between the Church and marriage. I’ll be using some illustrations between marriage and the Church in my next post as well.

      You raise some great questions, which I hope other commentors read as well to help encourage their thinking on the subject. Thanks!

  3. I think it ultimately comes down to how you interpret different aspects of the Bible, which would be a much bigger topic. Bible aside, I’d say it’s clear today that women (well, individuals within the larger gender group) are capable of most, if not all, of the things that men are capable of. I’ve had men and women leaders in different types of organizations and some good ones and some bad ones of both genders. I’ve been both a bad and a good leader in different contexts. I don’t think it was obvious to the new testament writers that women were as capable as men in a variety of tasks and roles. They had fewer opportunities to see women in action. I tend to keep that thought in the back of my mind as I read my Bible.

    1. Erin, you touch on a great point, which was question #2 I posed in the beginning of my post:
      “Are there certain passages within scripture that are ageless or culturally focused?”

      What did Christ’s disciples and the authors of the New Testament think of women serving in ministry? Did they believe women could be included or were they abiding by their cultural norms?

      All these questions and more, I’ll be addressing in Monday’s post. Hope you check back to read it. Thanks for adding the great comment.

  4. Great can of worms to open ;)

    I was raised in a moderate group that leaned pretty far towards hierarchy (can we say patriarchy?). Through my own study, prayer and journey with my community, I became convinced of Egalitarianism. I probably struggle MOST with people who try to use the Scriptures to beat women clearly gifted and called back down into their ‘place’. It burns me up bad.

    Looking forward to this series!

    1. JR, I agree that scripture used to reprimand women or remind them of “their place” is maddening.

      I’d love to hear more on Monday about your stance as an Egalitarian man. I think you may be a rare breed, which is cool.

      Thanks for commenting and I’m looking forward to hearing your insight as the series continues.

  5. I think I fall more in the moderate perspective, but it’s an issue that I struggle with and wrestle with God on pretty frequently. I would also agree with Abbi though, that it seems that scripture is pretty clear about women not taking the role of pastoring a whole church. We do see Paul acknowledge the great value of women in the early church though (i.e. Priscilla, Timothy’s mom and grandmother, etc.).

    I think it’s pretty clear that women play a key role in the body of Christ. For some women though, I think it’s a struggle (in marriage, in the workplace, and in the church) not to want the roles that men have. Maybe as women we need to remember the value we have in our unique roles in order to not grasp at those of men. (Not saying that I totally understand what those roles are…)

    Needless to say, there is a lot to wrestle with on this topic. I’m excited for your next few posts on it!

    1. Asleigh, you are right in bringing up Priscilla for instance as a woman in ministry. I’m going to talk more about her and quite a few other women on Monday.

      I love what you said too though about women needing to understand their “unique roles in order to not grasp at those of men.” Well said. The post I wrote called What Makes a Woman Worthy of Marriage, addressed many of those issues…women needing to be women and not strive to be men. Great point in tying it into this topic!

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