This is my second rant this month. A few weeks ago I blogged about ordination and education. Today, I’d like to talk about women in ministry. Currently, our Denomination ordains only men as elders. We tend to use the term elder and pastor interchangeably. We also “commission” men and women into specific areas of leadership within the church. These commissioned leaders have many of the same rights and privileges as an “elder” including marrying people. As of this writing, our church body does not believe women should be ordained as an elder/pastor. So, where am I going with this?
There is discussion in our churches about the possibility of ordaining women as elders/pastors. I personally do not support this. Let me be quick to say that I fully support women in ministry. I believe they have the same gifts and abilities as men. We are equals and it is only as we minister side by side that we can be effective and fruitful in the kingdom of God. However, in regards to certain position of authority such as being a Senior Pastor and primary “overseer” within the church, I believe Scriptures teaches that this “position” of responsibility is for a man, not a woman. What do you believe?
This discussion falls under two theological positions: One is called “Egalitarian” which argues that women should have same the authority and all the same positions that a man has within the church; the second is “Complementarian” (which is very kind and flattery – just kidding) – really, this holds to the conviction, that while women have the same gifts and abilities, they should not have all the same authority and positions in the church that a man has.
So here are two the arguments from two of our pastors in the Pacific Conference.
THE EGALITARIAN POSITION by Pastor Ryan Thorson
“I believe that God’s desire for His Church is that men and women equally co-labor for the Kingdom and the Gospel. In my opinion, there is evidence in Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience that compels us to change our thinking on this issue.
Throughout Scripture, while uncommon, women are given roles of leadership in the nation of Israel (Miriam, Deborah, Esther) and the early church (Mary, Phoebe, Junia, Priscilla). Jesus valued, taught and discipled women, as well as appeared to women as the first witnesses of His bodily resurrection. The apostle Paul worked alongside women, commended them for their faith, knowledge and leadership. He reminded the church in his letter to the Galatians that, in Christ, any hierarchies or power conflicts in race, economics and gender are now erased in Christ and we are all “one”. This isn’t to say we lose our individual identities, but Paul is referring back to God’s original design and intention in Genesis 2 that men and women together would co-labor as stewards of God’s creation. Paul’s specific admonitions in the church in Ephesus for women to remain silent and not “have authority” over men are instructions for within the cultural context of that church and time (as were men lifting hands to pray). He was giving certain instructions to certain churches in their local context, not being prescriptive for all churches at all times.
There are some church traditions that do not allow for women to exercise leadership gifts within the church. As members of the holiness movement, we come from a long history that says women may preach, lead and administer the sacraments. John Wesley himself licensed women to preach and our own Evangelical denomination ordained women as elders until a change to the Discipline in the early 1980s.
In reason, it seems logical that the church would more fully reflect the kingdom of God and God’s hope for humanity when women and men lead together in the local church. Local churches, along with superintendents and boards of ministry, can use reason and discernment in the proper assignment of individuals into pastoral roles in our local churches.
Finally, in experience, God does not seem to discriminate the giving of the gifts of the Spirit based on gender. If women are clearly given gifts by God to preach, teach, lead and evangelize for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, it seems like a mistake to disallow the administration of those gifts that God has given based on someone’s gender. My hope and prayer is that The Evangelical Church might see the biblical imperative and incredible opportunity to embrace and allow full participation of women in all phases of leadership in our churches and conferences. Our churches, and God’s Kingdom, will be better for it.”
THE COMPLEMENTARIAN POSITION by Pastor Adam Dolhanyk
Complementarian Theology believes that Women & Men are created equal in the plans and purposes of God (Galatians 3:28). But we also believe that God has made us with different roles that complement each other (Gen 5:2, Mark 10:6, Ephesians 5:21-33).
In regard to ministry and leadership in the Church, complementarians (myself included) have often been guilty of not holding true to that belief. We have often limited the role of women in leadership & ministry in the church beyond these complementarian Biblical realities and replaced them with cultural constructs and humans made gender roles.
In the end, the place I’ve come to is that the concept of male headship of the family and church is both modeled and taught by Christ and the apostles. But at the same time, female leadership, ministry, and influence is also taught and modeled.
So I’ve asked myself this question: if I believed that the only office in the church that is restricted to specifically called Christian men is the office & ministry of an Elder (1 Timothy 2:12-14, 3:1-7), then what would I let a non-Elder man do in the church? In practical terms, if I would let a non-Elder man do it, why would I restrict a woman from that ministry or position?
We would let a non-elder man lead a ministry, so I want women to lead ministries. We desire for non-elder men to be a part of our trustees, pastor/parish, and leadership council and so we desire that the women of our church who are called by God would bless us with the same leadership.
The final issue then is that of ordination. If we view the Pastor as synonymous with an Elder then we cannot ordain women and be Biblically faithful. But if we recognize that Elder & Pastor can be synonymous but are not always the same thing, then we can joyfully ordain our sisters who have been called by God to help pastor the flock in our churches while being faithful to the Biblical teaching and principles of Complementarian gender roles.
BEFORE YOU GO…
So what do you think? Do you think the Bible teaches that women should be an overseer in the church? Or is this a position set apart for men? Should women be Senior Pastors? How much of this discussion is driven by our culture?
You can also join us in conversation at our next Supt. Zoom Meeting on September 13th at 9:00. To get in on the “Rant” discussion, just log in here .
5 Comments Add yours
Trust Scotland time is going well for you
I appreciate you rising the topic about women in ministry but must protest the use of rant
. It doesnât befit your office. I think you are asking/seeking a biblical approach, logical, rational to your concerns. I feel like part of the divisiveness in the church and the view society has of evangelicals is because we are often seen as ranting. I know that is not your desire.
1. a spell of ranting; a tirade.
“his rants against organized religion”
synonyms: tirade Â· harangue Â· diatribe Â· broadside Â· verbal onslaught Â· philippic
1. speak or shout at length in a wild, impassioned way.
“she was still ranting on about the unfairness of it all”
synonyms: hold forth Â· go on and on Â· deliver a tirade Â· rant and rave Â· fulminate Â·
âIsnât everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So whatâs the point of all this comparing and competing? You already have all you needâ (1 Corinthians 4:7-8 The Message).
Higher Theological Education Coordinator, Theological Leadership Education and Development (TLEAD),
Empowering Leaders for Ministry through Theological Education
Home Phone 503-266-9337 Cell Phone: 503-453-7146
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Yes, I know I’m misusing the word “rant.” I’m using it to get a reaction. : -)
Let me begin by saying that I believe that men and women are created equal in the eyes of God – they are equal in value, dignity, and worth – a man is not “greater” than a woman, neither is a woman “greater” than a man. We are both created in His image and therefore, have been created equal in essence (Gen. 1:26-27).
However, even though I believe that we have been created equal in essence, I do not believe that we have been created equal in function; our functions differ as much as our biology differs. I do not believe that we have been created with equal roles, or that our roles have been distorted through the Fall, and then restored through Christ (the egalitarian view). The Scripture simply doesn’t afford us that privilege. I will argue for the Complementarian position from four passages.
1. Genesis 2:18: Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’
An important thing to consider here is that God created Eve to be the “helper” for Adam. This does not mean that she is less than, but simply that she has been created with a different role. Adam was given the mandate/role to care for the garden, Eve was given the mandate/role to help him. This shows that there were differentiating roles prior to the Fall.
2. Matthew 10:1-2: And he called to him twelve disciples…
Although common knowledge, the significance that Jesus chose twelve men rather than a mix of both men and women must not be overlooked. This is in-line with the Old Testament’s ordering of the priesthood, which was reserved to men. The egalitarian position states that Jesus was just acquiescing to the culture at hand – that He didn’t want to “rock the boat” – yet this is a poor argument, given the fact that He “rocked the boat” whenever He chose (Matt. 5:21-48; Mk. 3:1-6). Jesus was radical and counter-cultural, yet He chose twelve men.
3. 1Timothy 3:1-7: The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife…
The terms “overseer” and “elder” are interchangeable in the New Testament, and both reserve their office to that of men. An example of this is seen in Titus 1:5-7 where Paul uses both terms and then qualifies them as offices reserved only to men, “This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained in order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you – if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife… For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach” (Tit. 1:5-7). Both of these terms highlight spiritual leadership in the church, and both are reserved to men.
4. 1Corinthians 11:3-10: But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays of prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven… For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head.
We would probably all agree that the issue of covering one’s head is cultural. An uncovered head is no longer a sign of headship for men, nor is a covered head a sign of submission for women. But the teaching that men are to be spiritual leaders and that women are to submit to their leadership is not cultural in this passage, for Paul grounds it in how God originally created men and women. So we can conclude that how female submission is expressed is cultural. That it needs to be expressed, is not.
There are other passages that can be explored, but perhaps these four can serve as a starting place. I believe that when both men and women function as intended by God, they truly “complement” one another. Instead of one taking from the other, and incurring loss on each, they give to the whole, and thus, make it a beautiful thing.
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The deep misogyny within the Church must end. Jesus fully embraced women and was the first Feminist. Remove the veils from your eyes and see (or ask Jesus for a little spittle). Join a congregation that does not bar women from ministry…it’s just plain wrong and twisting Scripture to justify your chauvinism makes you all a big part of the problem.
Alex’s comment is a much better argument than the one you highlight in your blog. He articulated 4 actual biblical examples very well. I also appreciated the explanation of head coverings in the cultural context of the time. I have always wondered about that.
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