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Should women be Pastors? What is their role in the church?

Below are two opposing opinions which may help you decide the answers to the above questions.

Personally, I believe that women can do anything a man can do in a church environment, EXCEPT, have the ultimate authority over men. I base this simply on the fact that I believe God has an "order" for all things, which is evidenced in His guidelines for marriage and the family, NOT because God regards one sex more highly than the other.

What do you think?

Women leaders

By Dr. Rick McClatchy

The proposed revision to the Baptist Faith and Message states, “the office of pastor is limited to men." Current SBC president Paige Patterson said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, “This is a statement from Southern Baptists that our positions and our perspectives are not going to be dictated by the culture. They're going to be dictated by Scripture. If we stand alone, we'll stand alone."

There you have it. Those who believe the Bible reject women pastors, and those who give in to culture accept women pastors. Such thinking is pompous poppycock. Patterson should have said, “I believe the Bible teaches that a women should not serve as a pastor.” That would have been an accurate statement, and I would have defended his right to say such. However, when he asserts that those who support women pastors do so not on scriptural grounds but rather because they follow the dictates of culture, he goes too far. There are people who adamantly support women pastors on biblical grounds. I am one of them and will make what I understand to be the biblical case for women pastors.

Jesus and Women

Jesus was very radical in the way he treated women and involved women in his ministry. In order to appreciate what Jesus did, one must understand the culture in which Jesus lived.

The Jewish Culture-- In Jewish law a woman was considered property rather than a person. She either belonged to her father or husband. She was not allowed to study the Law. In the synagogue women were shut apart from the men so they could not be seen. Nor could a woman actively participate in the synagogue services; she had to passively sit and listen. Nor could she teach the children in any formal manner. A woman was not required to attend the sacred feasts and festivals.

One Jewish morning prayer said by free Jewish men was to thank God that they had not been born a Gentile, a slave, or a woman. One Rabbi is quoted as saying not to talk much with women because, “Everyone that talks much with a woman causes evil to himself, and desists from the works of the Law, and his end is that he inherits Gehenna.” A strict Jewish Rabbi would not greet a woman on the street, not even his wife, daughter, mother, or sister. The duty of a good Jewish woman was to send her sons to the synagogue, to attend domestic concerns, to leave her husband free to study the scriptures, and to keep house until he returned (William Barclay, The Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, rev. ed. pp. 66-67).

The Greek Culture-- The Greeks as a whole held a low view of women. There were women priestesses in the Greek religions, but these women were most often sacred prostitutes. Proper Greek women were confined to their quarters; they never went in public alone and never attended public assemblies. Women’s purpose was essentially to serve their husbands (Ibid. pp. 67-68).

Jesus’ Response-- When we turn to Jesus, it is clear that he disregarded the common practice of the Jews and Greeks and extended his ministry and message to women.

Jesus, contrary to custom, talked with and taught women. He taught the Samaritan woman at the well (Jn. 4:27). Jesus talked publicly with the unclean woman who touched his cloak (Mt. 9:20-22). When he taught and fed the multitudes, women were in the crowd (Matt. 14:13-21 & Mk 6:30-44). When he healed a Canaanite woman’s daughter, he talked to her in public (Matt. 15:22). He commended Mary for listening to his teaching when Martha complained that she wasn’t helping with the housework (Lk. 10:38-42).

Contrary to custom, Jesus allowed women to be deeply involved in his ministry. The gospels record that there were women who traveled with him to assist in his work. The gospels do not tell us all of their names, but included in this group of women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph (Lk. 8:1-3 & Matt. 27:55-56).

Jesus broke with the common treatment of women.

(1) He talked in public to women.

(2) He taught women about religion in public forums and private forums.

(3) He gave women an active role in his ministry.

The Early Church and Women

The early church, following the lead of Jesus, had women actively involved in all aspects of church life. In the book of Acts one sees a church open to women. Women were praying with the apostles prior to Pentecost (Acts 1:12-14). On the day of Pentecost Peter proclaimed the dawning of a new day in which God’s spirit would empower men and women to speak and teach God’s message (Acts 2:17-18). Paul taught a group of women in Philippi (Acts 16:13). In Berea, Paul taught women (Acts 17: 12). Priscilla was one of Apollos’ teachers (Acts 18:26). Philip had four daughters who were prophets (Acts 21:9).

Paul’s letters indicate women were deeply involved in his ministry. Perhaps the best example of women’s involvement is in his letter to the church at Rome. In the sixteenth chapter of Romans, Paul mentions numerous women in active and prominent roles in the church. The first is Phoebe who served as a deacon in Cenchreae (vs. 1-2). Priscilla is called his fellow worker (vs. 3-4). Mary is mentioned as diligent worker in the church at Rome (v. 6). Junia, a woman, is a called an apostle (v.7 see NRSV, KJV, NKJV). Three women—Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis—are mentioned as hard workers for the Lord (v. 12).

In other letters of Paul, one finds references to women praying and prophesizing in public worship (1 Cor. 11:5) and contending at his side in the cause of the gospel (Philip. 4:23). Also, in his letter to Timothy, Paul gives instructions about women deacons (1 Tim. 3:11).

Coupled with these examples of women in ministry are three basic theological truths, which seem to indicate women should be involved in all aspects of the church’s life. First, There is no indication that any spiritual gift was limited to men (1 Cor. 12:7-11, 14:31, 1 Peter 4:10). Second, all God’s people were called his priests without any hierarchy of males (1 Peter 2:9, Rev. 1:6, Rev. 5:10). Third, all human distinctions were removed in Christ who united them (Gal. 3:28). Paul believed that through faith in Jesus Christ all become God’s children--one family in which those things that separated them were broken down. Now Jews and Gentiles were of the same family, the Christian master now saw the slave as an equal brother (Philemon 16), and the man now saw the woman as an equal human being and as a sister in Christ.

In summary, what does one see happening in the early church in regard to women?

(1) Women were actively involved in many areas–-teachers, prophets, deacons, apostles.

(2) Women were included in worship and religious instruction as active participants.

(3) The basic theology of spiritual gifts, priesthood of all believers, and oneness in Christ all moved toward the idea of women serving in an unlimited capacity in the church.

Answering the Critics

In light of all this one may begin to wonder upon what basis do some people want to stop or restrict a woman from serving as a pastor? There are two major texts that are used, and those two we must seriously examine.

1 Corth. 14:34-35--Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. 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” (NIV).

This passage is hard to harmonize with the rest of the New Testament where we see women taking an active role in the church. However, this passage is even harder to harmonize with what Paul said earlier in 1 Corinthians 11:15. There Paul said, “every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head” (NIV). Here Paul was talking about appropriate dress by Christian women so the outside world would not judge them wrongly. But the key point one needs to notice is that Paul here speaks of women praying and prophesizing in worship. I do not believe that Paul is so inconsistent that within the same letter he tells women how to dress when they speak in worship and then tells women to be silent. So how should one understand what Paul says in chapter 14?

There are several explanations. The first one is that verses 34-35 were not originally a part of the text. The reason some people think this is because some of our ancient manuscripts (chiefly Western manuscripts) place verses 34-35 after verse 40. Now whenever you find verses floating around in different places you automatically wonder if someone added this section to the letter later. Now if these two verses were added by someone else, then there is no contradiction here. The problem is solved. However, as of the present that these verses were added isn’t a certainty, and also none of the early manuscripts omit them. For this reason I think this explanation should be rejected.

The best explanation is that Paul’s advice here is only temporary in nature. The thinking of this view goes along this line. Verses 34-35 are part of a larger section (vs. 26-40) dealing with order in church worship. Paul was trying to bring some order back into church worship.

Apparently, the women at Corinth were the main ones who were causing disorder in the church worship service. So Paul made a temporary rule for this bad situation--until the church got back on its feet functioning correctly, the women were to keep silent in worship. It is much like the governor ordering martial law on a city that has been struck by disaster. The martial law is temporary until things are restored to normal. Paul’s command here is a temporary rule. The ultimate goal is to be like the rest of the churches where there were no restrictions placed upon women.

Now some may disagree with that interpretation based on the last part of verse 33. If one reads the RSV, NIV or TEV translations, these versions put the last part of verse 33 into the same sentence with verse 34. Consequently, the verses read something like this, “As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches.” Clearly, women’s keeping silent in the churches was a practice of every church if we accept this translation. However, the KJV, NAS, and Living Bible separate the last part of verse 33 from 34. Instead, they make verse 33 one whole sentence. The KJV reads, “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace as in all the churches of the saints.” The teaching being all the churches have orderly worship, not all the churches keep women silent.

One may wonder why the translators can’t decide whether to put that phrase, “as in all the churches of the saints,” with the sentence in verse 33 or with the sentence in verse 34. The reason is that the original Greek texts did not have punctuation. Translators had to guess where the sentences started and stopped.

The problem with placing the phrase with verse 34 is that the verse contradicts what Paul said in 11:5. Thus, it is best to see verse 33 as one sentence as the KJV and NAS Bible does. Also, the fact that verse 34-35 float around in the text suggests the early readers did not understand verse 33 to be tied with verse 34.

1 Timothy 2:11-12— The second passage requiring attention is found in Paul’s letter to Timothy. Paul says, “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent” (NIV).

The question must be asked why did Paul make such a command? The rationale for this command is found in a church crisis caused by false teaching. Where Timothy was working was an area plagued by false teaching (see 1 Timothy 1:3-7). Paul wanted Timothy to combat these false teachers (see 1 Timothy 4). Now I believe these false teachers had made inroads into the churches through the women, especially the younger women (see 5:11-15). So Paul tells these women in this church where Timothy is working to keep silent and not to teach in order to stop the spreading of the false doctrine. Paul says in the verses immediately following, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner” (vs. 13-14, NIV). Paul, evidently, wanted the women of the church where Timothy was working to keep silent because he was afraid they would deceive someone else as Eve did. Again Paul is giving special orders to meet a bad situation. These orders were not for all churches of all times.

The Bible teaches that women do have an active role in every aspect of the church’s life under the leadership of God’s Spirit. The two times when Paul restricts women were under special circumstances – to establish order and to check the spread of heresy. Paul was trying to get sick churches back into order.

Paul and the early church did not ever establish rules to limit the freedom of the Spirit’s work in the lives of women. The Spirit can work in the life of any woman and lead her into an role in the church. The church must recognize the Spirit’s leadership and not develop rules which restrict the Spirit.

I may have misinterpreted the Bible. I am not an infallible interpreter. But, Paige, do not tell me that I advocate my position because I don’t believe the Bible. Paige, you could tell me that I misinterpreted the Bible because my culture influenced me to interpret it that way. However, that sword cuts two ways. Could it be, Paige, that your culture, which has always tried to restrict women’s role, causes you to interpret the Bible the way you do? Is it fair, Paige, to brand everyone who doesn’t interpret the Bible the way you do as someone who no longer believes the Bible? Are you always perfect in your understanding of Scripture?




Women leaders

...(take 2)


By Matt Slick


In a social climate of complete equality in all things, the biblical teaching of only allowing men to be pastors and elders is not popular. Many feminist organizations denounce this position as antiquated and chauvinistic. In addition, many Christian churches have adopted the "politically correct" social standard and have allowed women pastors and elders in the church. But the question remains, is this biblical?

My answer to this question is, "No, women are not to be pastors and elders." Many may not like that answer, but it is, I believe, an accurate representation of the biblical standard. You make the decision after reading this paper.

First of all, women are under-appreciated and under-utilized in the church. There are many gifted women who might very well do a better job at preaching and teaching than many men. However, it isn't gifting that is the issue, but God's order and calling. What does the Bible say? We cannot come to God's word with a social agenda and make it fit our wants. Instead, we must change and adapt to what it says.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, the garden of Eden, and Adam and Eve. He put Adam in the garden and gave him the authority to name all the animals. Afterwards, God made Eve as a helper to Adam.1 This is an important concept because Paul refers to the order of creation in his epistle to Timothy when he discusses the relationship between men and women in the church context. Let's take a look.

"But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression," (1 Tim. 2:12-14 -- all quotes from the Bible are from the NASB). This passage has several interesting areas of discussion, but for our purpose we will focus on authority. At the very least, there is an authority structure set up by God. The woman is not to have authority over the man in the church context. But this does not extend to the political/economic world. In the Old Testament Deborah was a judge in Israel over men. Also, in the New Testament, Phoebe played an important role in the church at Cenchrea (Romans 16). There is no doubt that women supported Paul in many areas and were great helpers in the church (Acts 2:17; 18:24; 21:8). But what Paul is speaking of in 1 Tim. 2 is the relationship between men and women in the church structure, not in a social or political context.

When we look further at Paul's teachings we see that the bishop/overseer is to be the husband of one wife (1 Tim. 3:2) who manages his household well and has a good reputation (1 Tim. 3:4-5, 7). Deacons must be "men of dignity" (1 Tim. 3:8). Paul then speaks of women in verse 11 and their obligation to receive instruction. Then in verse 12, Paul says "Let deacons be husbands of one wife..." Again, in Titus 1:5-7, Paul says, "For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, namely, if any man be above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. For the overseer must be above reproach as God's steward..." Notice that Paul interchanges the word 'elder' and 'overseer'.

In each case, the one who is an elder, deacon, bishop, or overseer is instructed to be male. He is the husband of one wife, responsible, able to "exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict" (Titus 1:9). We see no command for the overseers to be women. On the contrary, women are told to be "dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things" (1 Tim. 3:11). Why is it that it is the men who are singled out as the overseers? It is because of the created order of God that Paul references (Gen. 1-2; 1 Tim. 2:12-14). This is not merely a social custom that fell away with ancient Israel.

Additionally, in the Old Testament in over 700 mentions of priests, every single one was a male. There is not one instance of a female priest. This is significant because priests were ordained by God to hold a very important office of ministering the sacrifices. This was not the job of women. Therefore, from what I see in Genesis 1-2, 1 Timothy 2, and Titus 1, the normal and proper person to hold the office of elder/pastor is to be a man.

What About Galatians 3:28?

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus," (Gal. 3:28).

This verse is often used to support the idea that women can hold the offices of elder and pastor because there is neither male nor female in Christ. The argument states that if we are all equal, then women can be pastors.

Unfortunately, those who use this verse this way have failed to read the context. Verse 23 talks about being under the Law "before faith came" and how we are brought closer to Jesus and have become sons of God by faith. We are no longer under law, but grace and we are "Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise," (v. 29).2 The point of this passage is that we are all saved by God's grace according to the promise of God and that it doesn't matter who you are, Jew, Greek, slave, free, male, or female. All are saved the same way, by grace. In that, there is neither male nor female.

This verse is not talking about church structure. It is talking about salvation "in Christ." It cannot be used to support women as pastors because that isn't what it is talking about. Instead, to find out about church structure and leadership, you need to go to those passages that talk about it: 1 Timothy 2 and Titus 1.

Being a Pastor or Elder is to be in Authority

God is a God of order and balance. He has established order within the family (Gen. 3:16; 1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:22-33; Col. 3:18-21 ) and the church (1 Tim. 2:11-14; 1 Cor. 11:8-9). Even within the Trinity there is an order, a hierarchy. The Father sent the Son (John 6:38) and both the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26). Jesus said, "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me," (John 6:38). It is clear that God is a God of order and structure.

In creation, God made Adam first and then Eve to be his helper. This is the order of creation. It is this order that Paul mentions in 1 Tim. 2:11-14 when speaking of authority. Being a pastor or an elder is to be in the place of authority. Therefore, within the church, for a woman to be a pastor or elder, she would be in authority of men in the church which contradicts what Paul says in 1 Tim. 2:11-14.

But Doesn't This Teaching Belittle Women?

No, male leadership does not belittle women. Jesus was given his authority by God the Father (Matt. 28:18). He was sent by God (John 6:38). He said the Father was greater than He (John 14:28). Did this belittle Jesus? Of course not. Women are of great value in the church and need to be used more and more according to the gifts given them.

Does the wife's submission to the husband mean that she is less than the husband, less important, or belittled? Again, not at all. Not having a place of leadership in the church does not mean a woman is less of a person, less important to God, or inferior. All are equal before God whether it be Jew, Gentile, free, slave, male, or female. But in the church, God has set up an order the same way he set one up in the family. The chain of command is Jesus, the man, the wife, and the children.

What About Women Who Say They are Called By God to Be Pastors?

There are women pastors in the world who love their congregations and have stated that they are called by God to be pastors. Of course, I cannot agree with this considering the previous analysis of the biblical position. Instead, I believe they have usurped the position of men and gone against the norm of scriptural revelation. Additionally, those who state that they are called by God because of the great job they are doing and the gifting they have received are basing their theology upon experience and not scripture.

The issue is simple: are they submitting to the word of God or are they making the word of God submit to their desires?

What About a Missionary Woman Who Establishes a Church?

Scripture establishes the norm. As Christians we apply what we learn from the word, to the situations at hand. So, what about the situation where a woman missionary has converted a group of people, say in the jungle somewhere, and she has established a church? In that church, she is then functioning as a pastor and teacher having authority over men in the church. Should she not do this?

First of all, she should not be out there alone. She should be with her husband or, at the very least, under the oversight of a church body in the presence of other women and men. Missionary work is not a lone endeavor to be handled by single women.

Second, if in some highly unusual set of circumstances there is a woman in a lone situation, it is far more important that the word of God be preached and the gospel of salvation go forth to the lost than not. Whether it be male or female, let the gospel be spoken. However, I would say that as soon as there is/are males mature enough to handle eldership, that she should then establish the proper order of the church as revealed in scripture and thereby, show her submission to it.

Does this also mean that women shouldn't wear jewelry?

"Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments; 10 but rather by means of good works, as befits women making a claim to godliness. 11 Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve," (1 Tim. 2:9-13).

Some argue that if we are to forbid women to be elders then the context of 1 Tim. 2:9-13 demands that we require women to no have braided hair, wear gold, or have costly garments. Since no one wants to put that sort of a demand on a woman (since it is cultural), then why should we also demand that they not be elders since it would logically follow that it was also a culturally based admonition?

The problem here is multifaceted. First, the objection ignore what the scriptures plainly teach about the elder being the husband of one wife. Second, it fails to address the real issue of biblical headship residing in the male. Third, it fails to properly exegete the scripture in question.

In 1 Tim. 2:9-13 Paul tells us that women should be modestly dressed. He uses the example of then present day adornment as an example of what not to do, definitely culturally based assessment by Paul. Notice that Paul emphasizes good works and godliness as a qualifier (as does Peter, see 1 Pet. 3:2). This is not a doctrinal statement tied to anything other than being a godly woman in appearance as well as attitude.

In verse 11, Paul says that a woman should quietly receive instruction. Please note that "The word, heµsychia, translated “quietness” in 1 Timothy 2:11 and silent in verse 12, does not mean complete silence or no talking. It is clearly used elsewhere (Acts 22:2; 2 Thes. 3:12) to mean “settled down, undisturbed, not unruly. A different word (sigaoµ) means “to be silent, to say nothing” (cf. Luke 18:39; 1 Cor. 14:34).”3 Paul is advocating orderliness in this verse.

Then in verse 12-13, Paul says, "But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve." Notice that Paul directly relates the authority issue with the created order. He does not do this with the woman's dress code. Therefore, the dress code can be seen as cultural and the authority issue as doctrinal since the later is tied to the creation order and the dress code and authority issue are not, especially since they are separated by the conjunction "but" which is showing contrast, i.e., here we have one thing, but over here we have another.


God's word clearly tells us that the elder is to be the husband of one wife. A woman cannot qualify for this position by virtue of her being female. Whether anyone likes it or not is irrelevant to the fact that this is what the Bible teaches. 


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