Women As Leaders Of The Church?

When I originally posted this article three years ago, it wasn’t one of the more popular blogs I’d written. I don’t suppose that will have changed, though I do think this is an important topic and this content is well worth bringing to the forefront again.

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It seems obvious to me that the culture and not Scripture has influenced many people to believe that women too can be pastors and elders (would they be call eldresses? 😉 ) For over 1900 years, it seems, the Church understood the role of pastor to be reserved for men, but now in these last few decades we have scholars who say that actually all those earlier students of God’s Word, for all those centuries, had it wrong.

Why would we think that God would not correct this error long ago, if in fact it was error? Why, in the first place, did the Holy Spirit lead Paul to write something that for centuries the Church would misunderstand?

In reality, I think the Church for all those centuries understood exactly what God intended—that the role of pastor was reserved for men. Here is Paul’s clear instruction to Timothy:

A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to 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 deceived, fell into transgression. (1 Tim 2:11-14)

Paul not only gives the principles the Church is to follow, he gives reasons for it. A woman’s role, in part, is established because of the order of creation. It is also set because Eve was deceived, not Adam.

There are several other issues involved too.

First, Scripture gives clear instructions about the relationship a wife is to have with her husband. He is the head who is to love her sacrificially. She is to give him her respect and submission.

That’s not subservience. Her submission is the same as my putting myself under the authority of a principal when I was a teacher. I may have disagreed with how a certain principal wanted to do things, but in the end, the teacher needs to give way to the principal, though in the best working situations, the two strive to reach a place that satisfies the concerns of both.

That’s the way any organization must work. Somebody has to be in the hot seat where the buck stops. In a family, that “somebody” is the husband—the one tasked to love and selflessly serve his wife.

Each local church also has a leadership structure, with a pastor and elders taking the responsibility.

So what would happen if a woman was pastor—the head or leader of … her husband, a member of her church, who was to be her head? At one point or the other, the leadership structure God designed for the family or for the church would break down.

There’s another issue. The pastor or episkopē and the elders were given the role of “shepherding the flock.” Luke mentioned this in Acts when he recorded Paul’s farewell admonition to the elders in Miletus:

Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. (Acts 20:28 – emphasis mine)

Peter goes into more depth in his first letter:

Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5:1-4 – emphases mine)

Is it coincidental that Peter refers to the pastor and elders as shepherds and Christ as the Chief Shepherd? Clearly not. He is likening their role, in miniature, to Christ’s role—just as Paul did when he addressed husbands and said they were to love their wives like Christ loved the Church. In other words, as the husband is to serve as a type of Christ by his sacrificial love, so the pastor is to serve as a type of Christ in his shepherding role.

We should not minimize this function of the pastor—as one who gives us a glimpse of the head/body relationship we enjoy with Christ.

Apart from specialty cases in which God may indeed call and equip a woman for a time, even as He allowed David to eat the sanctified bread reserved for priests, the teaching of Scripture gives the offices of pastor and elders to men. They are to be humble servants and caretakers of their flock, and women, as fellow servants and fellow heirs, are to join in ministry, just not in the lead role.

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Published in: on September 19, 2014 at 6:09 pm  Comments (8)  
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8 Comments

  1. Some great insight Rebecca. Our generation is arrogant indeed, to stand in defiance of what Peter Kreeft calls “The Democracy of the Dead”.

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  2. I agree completely. Our society sets men/fathers up as idiots in popular culture (tv mostly). As the family unit breaks down, so does the church. 😦

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  3. What a great post. I agree completely. My husband is a bishop and we do not ordain women and I prefer that. Yet women have very important roles in the church–teaching, accountant, secretary or “spiritual mother” but not ordained as pastors and not the head of the church. This order makes sense.

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  4. A while back in our church we had a month of women taking the pulpit for Sunday morning service. (yes Rebeca you read that right) Starting off we had one of our ladies preach biblical submission. From the pulpit, in the main service. Did a fine job too 🙂

    She is under the headship of both her husband and the senior exclusively male clergy who do not find a violation of biblical principle in what I have just reported.

    This is a great piece. As is THIS one. In the comments there you made feel privileged to be your friend. 😉 VERY good indeed.

    Male headship is NOT a privilege for men. It is the very protection for women that Adam failed to provide. If somebody’s fangs and claws come out hearing that, then you prove the point in living color. God has kicked my teeth in the last several years curing me of my inadvertently low view of His women, though I had the doctrine right for 3 decades.

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  5. Took a editing break and read this one. Another Amen! Just discussing this with a friend recently. I did a big study on the leadership titles in the NT and the qualifications alone would nullify women. But we will be even more of a minority in the days to come.

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  6. Hi Rebecca… In II Timothy 2:11-14
    Just a bit of clarification. The following was explained by my Greek professor at Bible College. He showed that the Greek actually states in our English grammar that Paul does not permit a woman to teach “authentein” nor to practice “authentein.”

    The Greek does not say that women should not teach at all… The word authentein was only used once in the bible and had in its meaning the practice of priestesses in Goddess worship with occult practices and false teaching of the origins of Adam, Eve, plus another fictional woman, a false teaching that salvation came through sexual relations…

    I agree with what Lisa Godfrey wrote: “Our society sets men/fathers up as idiots in popular culture (tv mostly). As the family unit breaks down, so does the church. 😦 ”

    I believe that pastoring should be like raising a family… and that takes both the father and the mother… single parenting happens, but that is not the ideal.

    Purrz and Prayerz,
    Katie Kat.

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  7. oh left something out… wish these comment thingies had an edit button! Authentein is what the KJV bible translates as “usurp authority,” which is part of the meaning of the word, but authentein is more insidious than KJV reads in English… That’s why my Greek professor parsed out the sentence for us as “I permit not women to teach authentein to men nor to practice it.” (Greek doesn’t have an it.)

    And then he went into detail about what that word meant. Really made a lot more sense then why Paul was so emphatic in this passage.

    Purrs and Prayers
    -Katie Kat.

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  8. I have been wanting to get back to this for awhile but busy, busy.
    The original Greek has two different words: teach and exercise authority over. Strongs 1321 (teach) Strongs 831 (exercise authority over or of)
    Eve was deceived. Stated clearly. Adam was not deceived. Right there.
    He was talking about in the group meetings, not in the home. We teach the younger women things of the home and we teach our children about Godly things and we share with one another as we are now.

    I have seen nothing but abuse in women running things. It reminds me of a paper I wrote in college about women in the workplace. I said, “I wonder how many less cases of adultery there would be if there were all men in the workplace.”

    All this is against the culture. And I was pushed into it by others when I became a single mom with four kids and no income. Before I was pushed into the workplace, God provided all my needs. That is until I went into the workplace and everything fell apart. I believe in woman working from the home. I see it all as God’s plan and culture will never dictate over the Word. And as always we take the whole council of the Word.

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