Female Ministers-God's will and the role of women in church
How far are we from the truth?
What the Bible says about authority
- All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus (Matt 28:18).
- Jesus alone is the Head of the church (John 5:26-27, Eph 1:22-23, Col 1:18).
- God does not permit Christians to have controlling authority over other Christians in the church (see Matt 20:25-28, Mark 10:42-45, Luke 22:24-27, 1Pet 5:3, Matt 23:8-12, etc.).
- We do not have multiple special high priests over us. There is only One High Priest, Jesus Christ (see Hebrews 3:1, 4:14).
- We have One Master Christ and we are all brothers (see Matt 23: 8-12).
- You cannot obey two masters; you will love the one and hate the other (Matt 6:24, Luke 6:13). You simply cannot obey Jesus as master and a pastor as master at the same time.
pastors women| priest women |minister woman
What does the Bible say about women in ministry? Can women serve in church leadership?"
Pastor, Priest, Elder, Minister
What do each of these titles have in common? They all indicate some role of leadership in the Christian church. The concept of women in church leadership is a hotly debated topic- one that I am reluctant to address for fear that I may miss what God's desire is. However, I think we (Christians) tend to avoid difficult topics because we desire peace among people (and rightly so).
After much research, I discovered this to be a subject that seemed to lean more towards paid vocational choices in formal ministry, than ministry opportunities from a volunteer standpoint. From the vantage point of women taking on a vocational role in the church, this is what I have to offer on the subject. Please keep in mind that it is not my intent to stir up controversy, but to ask that we consider what God may truly desire in the matter. After all, the will of God is our highest goal.
One influential female minister who impacted Bill Bright and Billy Graham
Henrietta Mears, born in North Dakota in 1890 (Henrietta Mears) “accepted Christ at the age of seven; five years later, she taught her first Sunday school class and never looked back. During her freshman year at the University of Minnesota, Mears became superintendent of her church's junior high Sunday school department.Teaching was her gift” (Marlene Baer).
Later she became the Director of Sunday School at a Presbyterian church in Hollywood, California. She wrote her own Sunday school material and subsequently founded Gospel Light Publications Gospel Light International, along with establishing Forest Home Conference Center in the San Bernardino Mountains in California (Marlene Baer).
Her primary focus was on high school and college age youth. “On any given Sunday, 500 college students would cram into the church” (LaGue). and Among the many young lives she influenced, one notable person was Bill Bright, an attendee at the Presbyterian Church where she taught (Marlene Baer).
Bright, born in Oklahoma in 1921, moved to Los Angeles to start a business and while living there, attended the First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood (Bill Bright Wikepedia) where Henrietta Mears taught. In 1945 at the age of twenty four, he gave his heart to Christ, which led to “five years of graduate work at Princeton and Fuller theological seminaries” (Bill Bright).
It was during this time, according to billbright.com, that he and his wife Vonette birthed Campus Crusade for Christ. He also commissioned The Jesus Film in 1979, viewed by more than five billion people worldwide, as reported at billbright.cci.org.
Both Bright and Mears heard the call of God on their lives to minister to youth and college students. Each was given opportunities yielding amazing fruits for God’s glory. Both spent their lives teaching, mentoring, evangelizing, and ministering and were highly respected for their work.
This respect was evident in the words of Billy Graham when he said of Mears, “I doubt if any other woman outside my wife and mother has had such a marked influence on my life. She is certainly one of the greatest Christians I have ever known” (qtd. in Moore).
Female Ministers and God's will- why not?
There could be any number of reasons that someone wouldn’t be able to fulfill their desire to pursue a ministerial vocation: illness, finances, family, or any other life circumstances.
But there is one cause that seems prevalent among women that constitutes a simple denial of opportunity, regardless of desire or gifting. This problem appears to stem from two reasons: Belief in scriptural interpretation, and customary practices in the church.
The custom of women holding ministerial positions in the early church seem to vary based on different scripture and interpretations of those scriptures. Some take the view that the Bible is explicit regarding women speaking or having authority over men in the church.
Gotquestions.org, a web source that is endorsed by many well known men and women including: Dr. Woodrow Kroll, President - Back to the Bible International, Dr. Norman Geisler, CEO - Southern Evangelical Seminary, Dr. Les Lofquist, IFCA International Executive Director, Dr. Elwood Chipchase, President, Calvary Bible College and Theological Seminary, and Joyce Courtney, Former Chief Executive Officer - Stonecroft Ministries appear to hold this belief based on their endorsement of the site that contains the following statement:
"Apparently, certain women in the Corinthian church were out of order in disruptively asking questions publicly in the chaotic services. It is not coincidental that many modern churches that have tongues-speaking and claim gifts of healings and miracles also permit women to lead worship, preach, and teach. Women may be gifted teachers, but they are not permitted by God ‘to speak’ in such a manner in His churches. In fact, for them to do so is ‘shameful,’ meaning ‘disgraceful’ (v. 35) (Questions).
And another well known authoritative source’s author, Matthew J. Slick, of Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry Online (CARM), has this to say:
"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” …and in another place “the normal and proper person to hold the office of elder pastor is to be a man".
In June of 2000, the Southern Baptist Convention was reported by author Jody Veenker in Christianity Today as publicly declaring their stand in her article when she reported the following:
The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has sparked another national controversy by adopting strict interpretations of Scripture—including barring women from pastorates—in a move to counter liberal culture… the majority of Southern Baptists affirm that biblical passages such as 1 Timothy 2:12 ("I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent" NRSV) clearly limit the pastoral office to men alone."God has built an order of authority into every institution on earth," James Merritt, the newly elected president of the SBC, tells CT. "We follow his order of authority and submit to his structure ..."
All three authorities listed hold the view that women are limited in vocational pursuits in the church. For the sake of understanding then, let us look at the definition of the word “church” as it is defined in Easton’s Bible Dictionary:
Derived probably from the Greek word "kuriakon" (i.e., "the Lord's house"), which was used by ancient authors for the place of worship. In the New Testament it is the translation of the Greek word ecclesia, which is synonymous with the Hebrew “kahal” of the Old Testament, both words meaning simply an assembly (emphasis mine), the character of which can only be known from the connection in which the word is found.
There is no clear instance of its being used for a particular place of meeting or of worship, although in post-apostolic times it early received this meaning. Nor is this word ever used to denote the inhabitants of a country united in the same profession, as when we say the "Church of England," the "Church of Scotland," etc.
Should Women Be Pastors and Elders? Or any other church leader?
Based on Eaton’s definition of “church”, it is my observation that Mears should not have held her position in light of the beliefs and statements of the authorities cited. Mears taught men who were assembled together somewhere.
Mears, while apparently limiting her teaching to young people and college students, taught males over the age of eighteen (legal adult age, therefore making them men- again prohibited).
Even though the listed restrictions from the three sources cited are limited to those who teach or pastor in a church building, this seems to be applicable to any assembly where a man may be in attendance or who may hear the word of God as spoken by a woman due to the literal interpretation of the quoted scripture and using the literal definition of “church”.
This brings me to wonder what we are losing in our spread of God’s message and spiritual growth of his people by limiting women seeking vocational ministry positions.
I can’t imagine how many people over the years have been positively affected by Mears alone. Can you imagine if Bill Bright had never been taught by Mears? Not to mention the impact she had on Billy Graham’s life.
The issue of women in ministry seems to be controversial and complex, but does it have to be?
We should have a closer look at the verses, and context that is held to be the model for teaching and preaching by men only, putting aside all preconceived ideas, pride, cultural bias, fears, peer influence, or any other issues, as this subject is too important to be examined without objectivity. The vocational opportunities for women in ministry need to be thoughtfully re-examined. The gifts that are given based on Ephesians 4:11-13 in the Bible do not seem to indicate a reservation for men only:
"It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (New International Version).
If the subject of women in ministry is left static, who knows what other Graham, Bright, or Mears, would be denied the word of God; possibly an eternity apart from Christ; and hiding their “talent in the ground” (Passage results Matthew 25:24-26) thus burying their ministry- all due to potential misinterpretation and application of scripture?
What woman today feels the call of God on her life, only to ignore it based on denial of opportunity…cultural beliefs....scriptural teachings from authorities who have chosen a narrow focus…or worse…of an indictment by well known ministers of women being considered “disgraceful” or “shameful” (qtd. in Questions) in the eyes of God because she wants to be a pastor?
This is not about woman's rights or liberating women as a social, political agenda. This is not about usurping a man's role in his family. This is not about demanding equality.
This is about humbly asking for the subject to be reconsidered for the sake of the gospel. Is it possible that popular opinion is wrong? Is it possible that our good intentions have caused an unnecessary division?
Let's set aside our agendas (both pro and con) and take a fresh look at our real motives and beliefs on this controversial subject. It is God we serve...both men and women...and we are all commanded to go into all the world to preach the gospel to every creature.
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