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Ordination Of Women Pastors How Do We Respond?
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Could a woman be ordained as a [senior] pastor of a church? Is it biblically right or wrong?
The Christian community is divided over this sensitive matter. Some say yes, others say no.
“Dr. Amy Orr-Ewing is a senior vice president with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and Joint Director of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics.”
She also pastors in a church
, “Based in Oxford, England, where she pastors at Latimer Minster with her husband Francis…”
Regarding the view that there are ‘silence passages’ in the Bible wherein women are instructed to not be authoritative over men, Amy, while speaking with
Even Paul, who is often seen as a key obstacle to women’s progress in the church, accepted that women could teach and prophesy, she points out.
“What’s interesting in 1 Corinthians where Paul mentions about women being silent in the church, two chapters earlier he’s talked about how women should behave when they prophesy, which means get up and speak in front of everyone.
“So obviously, when he says be silent, he doesn’t mean all women for all time should never say anything. He turns to a specific group of women who are disrupting services and he’s asking them to be silent, but in general he’s saying when women do teach or prophesy in the church they should cover their hair. And the reason he says that is your hair was incredibly seductive; it would be like saying don’t wear an incredibly short skirt when you get up in front of people in church today. He’s not saying ‘don’t get up in front and prophesy.’”
She said this is a classic example of people taking a verse out of context and applying it to everyone for all time.
“It’s absolutely clear if you read the letter in its entirety that it doesn’t mean that,” she says.
Norman Geisler advocates for male church leadership (Emphasis Mine):
…when understood in context, the “silence” passages are not negating the ministry of women, but are limiting the authority of women. Paul asserts that women were not permitted “to have authority over a man” (1 Tim. 2:12). Likewise, he follows his exhortation to “keep silent” by reminding them to be “submissive” (1 Cor. 14:34). Of course, men too were under authority and needed to submit to the headship of Christ over them (1 Cor. 11:3). Indeed, the ultimate proof that there is nothing degrading about being submissive is that Christ, who was God in human flesh, is always submissive to the Father, both on earth (Phil. 2:5–8) and even in heaven (1 Cor. 15:28). That male headship and leadership is not simply a cultural matter is evident by the fact that it is based on the very order of creation (1 Cor. 11:9; 1 Tim. 2:13).
Thus, elders are to be men
, “the husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3:2). This, however, in no way demeans or diminishes the role of women, either in the family or in the church. The fact that men cannot have babies is not demeaning to their humanity or their role in the family. It is simply that God has not granted them this function, but a different one.
Wayne Grudem is also of the opinion that women should not be pastors, “My own conclusion on this issue is that the Bible does not permit women to function in the role of pastor or elder within the church.”
However, Wayne Grudem endorses the role of women in the various ministries of the church as long as that role precludes ruling and teaching functions. A woman can be a deacon (provided there is a pastor in that church), a treasurer, a counselor etc.
There should be no doubt whatsoever that
Jesus Christ elevated the status of women
in the society:
1. Although Jews would have no dealings with the Samaritans, particularly the blatant sinners among them, Jesus engaged the Samaritan woman in conversation because HE cared about her spiritual condition (John 4).
2. Jesus commended the woman with hemorrhage who touched the edge of HIS cloak for her faith (Matthew 9: 20-22).
3. Mary and Martha were among Jesus’ closest friends.
4. A woman anointed Jesus at Bethany (Matthew 26:6-13) would be remembered for her act of devotion whenever and wherever the gospel was preached (vv. 10-13).
5. Mary Magdalene was the first person to whom Jesus appeared following HIS resurrection, and HE instructed her to tell HIS disciples that HE has risen (John 20: 14-18).
This list is partial.
Women stand on the same footing as men in the sight of God
, as far as salvation is concerned (Galatians 3:28). The context of this verse is the issue of justification by faith, the individual’s status before God in terms of personal righteousness (v. 27).
Women have played a significant role in the kingdom of God
1. Miriam assisted Moses and led the Israelite women in singing and dancing after their escape from Egypt (Exodus 15: 20-21).
2. Deborah was the judge of Israel. Esther saved the Jewish people from destruction.
3. Women were seen at the cross (Luke 23: 49), they sought to anoint Jesus’ body (Luke 23: 55-56), they discovered the empty tomb, heard the message of the two angels, and conveyed the news to the apostles (Luke 24: 1-11).
4. Women were given the gift of prophecy (Isaiah 8:3; Acts 21:9; Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17; 1 Corinthians 11:5).
5. Paul commends Phoebe’s leadership (Romans 16:2). He speaks of Priscilla and Aquila as his ‘fellow workers’ in Christ Jesus (Romans 16:3-4). He speaks of Mary, Persis, Tryphena and Tryphosa as having worked very hard in the Lord (Romans 16: 6, 12).
The fact that both
men and women are created in the image of God
should not be forgotten (Genesis 1: 26-27, 5: 1-2).
virtuous woman in Proverbs 31
is adorned because she promotes the welfare of her family, does not constantly remain within the confines of her home, and she is engaged in trading and business affairs (vv. 18, 24).
The Bible says that the woman was created to be a ‘helper’ to man. This does not relegate the woman to a position of insignificance or subservience. Rather the
helper is thought to be as a co-worker or enabler
Having said this, let’s contemplate this matter from another angle.
Would God be unhappy or angry if the church ordains women pastors?
Would God not bless the church that has a woman as a senior pastor (cf. Psalm 145: 9; Nahum 1: 3; Matthew 5: 45; Luke 6: 35)?
It is God who
a person to be a pastor (Ephesians 4:11). So if a person, even if it is a
woman, has that
, who are we to say no
When we argue that a woman cannot be ordained as a pastor,
are we claiming that God will not give that gift to women?
Can we second-guess the sovereign God?
Are we going to claim that since God’s word explicitly mentions that the overseer/pastor/elder ought to be a man, God will not contradict HIS words and hence not offer the spiritual gift of the pastoral office to a woman?
The description of an overseer/elder/pastor is not a command from God
; rather it is a guideline/teaching for the church governance.
So to contest God’s sovereignty even in light of HIS written word may not be a good choice (cf. Romans 9: 15-26 & ‘Cessationism’). (Contesting the ordination of women pastors and thereby peacefully agreeing to disagree is one thing. But to contest the ordination of women pastors and dividing the church of Jesus Christ is entirely another thing altogether.)
When a church ordains women pastors, it is not sinning against God. A woman who pastors in a church will not lose her salvation.
If the woman in contention is a sincere disciple of the Lord, Spirit-filled and has the
into the pastoral office, why should she not be ordained?
Significantly, the doctrine of a woman pastoring a church is not an essential doctrine of Historic Christianity. If some churches ordain women as pastors, and if these women live up to their
, then so be it.
Why quarrel and divide the church over a theme that is non-essential? We have much bigger matters to be concerned about e.g. Science vs. Religion, Effects of Postmodernism and New Atheism, etc.
So then, should I be a legalist and not espouse the ordination of women into the pastoral office?
I would rather err on the side of grace than on the side of the law.
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine), p. 937.
Ibid, p. 945.
Millard J. Erickson, “Christian Theology,” Second Edition, p. 564-565.
Ibid, p. 565.
Ibid, p. 565-566.
Ibid, p. 564.
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02 Nov 2019
This is a fair and equitable evaluation of the controversial subject. Well written.
I am amused that those, who although with all honesty, believe that Women are not to be in authority over men fail to understand Paul's statements that "in the Church, in the Spirit/spirit," there is neither male or female. Secondly, they fail to realize that the preacher/teacher is a SERVANT first and foremost.
I am amused because it seems they believe the power, or lack thereof, is in the genitals.
No, the POWER for preaching, or any ministry is in the Holy Spirit. Women are not excluded from gifts of the Holy Spirit nor the command to use them.
20 Oct 2019
Good article and thought-provoking. In my own personal opinion tho, as a woman, I would not be comfortable with a female pastor. I just wouldn't. I like the peaceful "agree to disagree" option mentioned.
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