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 .