Debate over Women Pastors
What does the Bible say about women pastors and elders? Though scores of women are gifted and used by God to teach in the Church, many interpret certain scriptures to mean the offices of pastor and elder are to be occupied only by men. However, not all agree as evidenced by the number of women holding positions of leadership in some Churches.
Opinions vary greatly when it comes to this sensitive topic. Today we live in a society striving to achieve equality for all and Biblical teachings allowing only men in leadership roles are not always popular. Many view this attitude as antiquated, chauvinistic and archaic. Others have donned the "politically correct" standard and don’t see anything wrong in having women pastors and elders in the Church. But the question remains, is it Biblical?
Certainly, many women can do a better job teaching in the pulpit than a man. However, is it a question of who is better physically or mentally qualified? Many view it as an issue about God's order and purpose for each sex and point to various scriptures to prove their convictions. But we shouldn’t try manipulating scriptures to fit individual agendas simply because they don’t meet with our approval, rather we must obey what they say. Obedience to God’s Word should be our main concern. So, let’s examine what the Bible says.
In the beginning God made Eve as a helper to Adam. No one questions that fact, but it illuminates an important concept. Paul refers to the order of creation in his epistle to Timothy when he discusses the relationship between men and women in the Church.
"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 NASB. Here we see an authority structure set up by God, or do we? There is an important point to notice in that Scripture. It’s Paul speaking his desires, not the Lord. Paul always differentiated between his will and the Lord's.
Having said this, note it also doesn’t say anything about women holding positions of authority in the political arena. In the Old Testament Deborah was an Israelite judge. In Romans 16, Phoebe was an important part of the Church at Cenchrea. “I commend unto you Phoebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many…” KJV
Many contend the words man, men or brethren in the Bible translated doesn’t pertain to only the male gender, but to all members of the Church. However, this view becomes difficult to substantiate in scriptures, such as Corinthians 14:34-35, that says "Let your women keep silent in the churches: For it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also says the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husband at home: For it is a shame for a woman to speak in the church.” Nevertheless, many attempt to.
One Scripture often used to support women in ministry leadership is Gal. 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."
The reasoning in this case is since the verse says there is neither male nor female in Christ then women should be able to hold a Church office of authority. Opponents argue the verse deals only with salvation, not church office qualifications.They contend the verse isn’t about women in ministry but those who are saved "in Christ," therefore it doesn’t support the concept of women elders or pastors.
In many instances the success of a local church depends on women. Women in the church are not restricted from public praying or prophesying, only from having spiritual teaching authority over men. “But every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven.” 1 Cor. 11:5
Some invariably believe those protesting women pastors and elders do so to maintain control and power in the Church.But, this has nothing to do with Biblical revelation. The issue is what God says on the matter and how one interprets it.