Female Ministers-God's will and the role of women in church

How far are we from the truth?

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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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Comments 27 comments

Mnona 20 months ago

BION I'm imerpssed! Cool post!

Santi 20 months ago

機會係個天俾嘅 yes. BUT it is only those who are prepared that can see and cilptaaize the chance given. The people who always blames god/命/天 that there is no chance is absolutely wrong! If they haven't prepared, work hard or think hard, how can they see the chance themselves, even if they see the opportunity is right in front of them, they wont have the skills, connection, knowledge or experience to take advantage of it.How sad!!!Bomb

bayareagreatthing profile image

bayareagreatthing 4 years ago from Bay Area California Author

Thank you Sheryl for the encouragement. God bless you :)

Apostle Sheryl 4 years ago

When you preach the word preach it with boldness, you are not inadequate for anything, God has called you to do, then that would make him an inadequate God but he is not. You are perfect for the role, one thing about it God dont call no sissy female soldiers to the battle.

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bayareagreatthing 4 years ago from Bay Area California Author

Thanks Dubquedogtrainer. I hesitated writing it but felt I should. I appreciate your comment and vote up!

Dubuquedogtrainer profile image

Dubuquedogtrainer 4 years ago from Dubuque, Iowa

Excellent hub on a difficult topic. Well written and insightful. Well documented. Voted up!

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bayareagreatthing 6 years ago from Bay Area California Author

Thanks Rope for your insight and update on the denominations that are allowing women to preach. We are in amazing times indeed!

The Rope profile image

The Rope 6 years ago from SE US

Bay – as always, a very thoughtful and humbly questioning hub - THANKS! The latest stats I heard were that women make up about 69% of those in seminary. I know that some of the mainstream denominations such as the United Methodists, the United Church of Christ, the American Baptists as well some of the Pentecostals are permitting women in lead pastoral positions in droves - and finding it a unique but exciting experience. I think most of our children have come full circle and are no longer fostering such bigotry - a case of the "me" generation giving precedence to the "we" generation. We continue however to have to counterbalance "old timers disease" (those who chafe against change).

bayareagreatthing profile image

bayareagreatthing 6 years ago from Bay Area California Author

KB- that is why it is controversial. Each side of the issue can "prove" their case. It really isn't about being popular or not, nor is it about absolutes as it has more to do with a persons upbringing and culture...each side claiming the other side is "changing" scripture to suit their own beliefs.

Neither side has changed anything in scripture, only interpreted it based on what they believe it says. And often times unduly and unknowingly influenced by the denomination they belong to.

The danger comes in when either opinion holds a hostile and self righteous attitude toward the other brother or sister...after all we all are on the same team.

This is probably one of the issues where an attitude of grace is best. I remember one man I discussed this with told me that he would never go to a church where a woman was a pastor. I counseled him to go with his heart on the matter. After all, each of us must do as our conscience tells us. If a person can't have faith in what he believes-- for them it is sin

Romans 14:23

But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

And of course even our own conscience can fool us--

1 Corinthians 4:4

My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.

And so in it all each person does what they do for the glory of God--

Colossians 3:17

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

For you-- you believe very strongly in not attending a church with a female pastor, because to you it is wrong. It would be detrimental for you to do so. Not only would it be wrong, but it would damage others because your belief would hurt the unity in that local body.

Mainly I would just hope that anger, hostility, self righteousness, or any other ungodly attitude would never be our stand. Ironically, Jesus only condemned the "self religious spirit" of those who claimed to be the wisest in his time.

Let us do everything in a spirit of truth in love (and in this case neither can absolutely "prove" truth) with lots of grace and mercy towards each other...

James 2:13

because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!

Kebennett1 profile image

Kebennett1 6 years ago from San Bernardino County, California

I have always felt that women could be teachers within the Church and serve in ministries and as Missionary Teachers, but I have always believed that when you start changing God's Word to suit what you WANT it to say...adding to it or taking away from it, then that is where you get into trouble, so I have to still agree that women should not take a place as the head of a church such as a Pastor, Preacher, Minister, etc... This does not make me popular, but that is okay. I do feel that women have a very important place as teachers within the church family and in ministry within the church and as Missionary Teachers.

bayareagreatthing profile image

bayareagreatthing 6 years ago from Bay Area California Author

Sandi 3m -Thank you - I appreciate the comment!

Sandi 3m 6 years ago

Great hub. This is very informative and gets me to thinking.

bayareagreatthing profile image

bayareagreatthing 7 years ago from Bay Area California Author

Yes!! It isn't about men vs women. It is about all of us just doing the thing that God calls us to do with love our motive. Thank you PS Carlos for your encouragement!

P.s Carlos 7 years ago

Hey, you are doing a great job. God bless you. I always wanted to see women stand and preach the good news like you do. you arent against men but some wrong atitudes men could have...

bayareagreatthing profile image

bayareagreatthing 7 years ago from Bay Area California Author

Thanks eonsaway! It is meant to make us think :0) Because that is when we can make changes.

eonsaway profile image

eonsaway 7 years ago from New Mexico, USA

Very interesting thought provoking hub.

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bayareagreatthing 7 years ago from Bay Area California Author

I don't think that women were appointed due to any lack from men. I think that we are and always were co-laborers in Christ. We never want to approach this issue as a "war of the sexes". That is not the issue.

In the world that may be the issue, because human identity is the only identity people have. In the church- we should relate to one another in our spiritual identity (this is the ultimate equalizer). It is here that we will find the unity on this issue. We don't want to fight each other though. There are clear and obvious differences between men and women both physically and emotionally-- but not spiritually. Our views of each other can make a difference here.

Lady LaShonda profile image

Lady LaShonda 7 years ago from Atlantic City, New Jersey

This is another misconception concerning women.Larry MacTavish says:

2 days ago

The answer to your question

depends on your authority.

If you believe its okay thats

your view.

But if you believe the Bible

where it says "women not to have

authority over men "that's biblical

What the bible is saying is that we can never step into men territory such as doing things that men were created to do. Example-work, produce sperm, and all the things that only men can do. In marriage, the man is the head. The woman is the Co-head. A women shouldn't go against the man's authority in that case. I believe the issue should be discussed in detail. AND if the husband is in right standard with God, then the woman should be submissive.

NOW we have men that can not rule their own house let alone the Lord's. Therefore a woman has to do it.....

Larry MacTavish 7 years ago

The answer to your question

depends on your authority.

If you believe its okay that's

your view.

But if you believe the Bible

where it says "women not to have

authority over men "that's biblical.

bayareagreatthing profile image

bayareagreatthing 7 years ago from Bay Area California Author

Isn't that awesome? If God is for us who can be against us? Wow- that just takes my breath away- the God of the universe, maker and creator of all things- is FOR ME! He and I are on the same side. And so we all continue to "fight the good fight of faith".

Lady LaShonda profile image

Lady LaShonda 7 years ago from Atlantic City, New Jersey

Amen to that...I am constantly reminded of that as well. Not just against doctrine of man, but in my spiritual walk with GOd altoghether. The fun part about being in God is we all know that if God be for us, who or what can be against us. And when the enemy comes against us like a flood, God has already raised a standard against him. With this promise, I can safely fear not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. Thank you for bringing me back to the worrior side to God. The one and only true and living God.

bayareagreatthing profile image

bayareagreatthing 7 years ago from Bay Area California Author

Lady LaShonda- I am constantly reminded of the verse in Ephesians 6:12 that tells us

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms"

Therein lies our true fight!

Lady LaShonda profile image

Lady LaShonda 7 years ago from Atlantic City, New Jersey

This brother on my hub comments need to read your hub. I tell you, I am tired of men putting us down because they are not being the prophet, priest, and king of their own house. Your job is to tear down the doctrines of man and implement the perfect will of the Father. This is why the Jesus will come back sooner than any of us think. In order to establish his kingdom, the will of man has to be broken. The problem is, man is not willing to surrender to God's authority. If they would, women preachers wouldn't be a topic of their discussion....

Lady LaShonda profile image

Lady LaShonda 7 years ago from Atlantic City, New Jersey

This is a subject that I personally believe that men with big egos tend to use to keep us quiet. The fact that remains is God has no sexual preference when advancing his kingdom. I am called to the office of the Apostle. Was it what I asked for NO. Do I believe that I am equipped, YES. I'll tell you why? God doesn't make mistakes. There were women apostles in the Bible as mentioned in my hub Women Apostles the Undisputed Facts. Yes you can use any of the information to advance your learning and get the word of God into everyone's heart that you touch. If God called you, your obedience is better than any sacrifice. You will suffer persecution for this, but don't let that hinder your faith and ministry. When it is all said and done, we are the ones who has to asnwer to God for disobeying him by not going forth in our callings. NO ONE..and I repeat NO ONE can or will stand in judgement on your behalf. They all have their issues to account for. You just keep going on in God and don't let the enemy stop you in no way.

I leave you with this....

Submit yourself therefore unto GOD, resist the devil and he will flee from thee.....

bayareagreatthing profile image

bayareagreatthing 7 years ago from Bay Area California Author

Yes that does bring another angle of bigotry to the table doesn't it?

PamBG 7 years ago

I think that, at the root of the debate is really the question of "authority" and whether or not a certain kind of "authority" is a good thing.

Sciantel speaks the truth. However, I think she speaks the truth for both female and male preachers: all should preach in submission to God; all should know themselves inadequate for the task and all should believe themselves conduits for the Holy Spirit and nothing without God speaking through them.

My major objection to complementarianism and male headship is the functional insistence that men have some kind of inherent "authority" over women that is their own and which stems from their maleness. At the root, egalitarians and complementarians differ on our view of power.

By the way, there is a whole other screwed-up quality in the idea that "Women are good enough to preach to 'the natives' and to pastor 'the natives' but should be submissive to white Western men."

Sciantel 7 years ago

A woman can definitely be called to minister. God called me to preach but I had to give it all in submission and I still feel I am inadequate for the part.

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