The original question was: Can women be pastors and preach in Christian churches, or preach in Sunday services, if they have the appropriate gifts, talents and skills? The New Testament says all people are to use their spiritual gifts. Wasn’t it just the culture of previous times that has kept women out of church leadership?
Answer by Diane Eager
Let us start with a biblical passage that is relevant where the Apostle Paul wrote; “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” I Timothy 2:12 In his instructions about spiritual gifts the Apostle Paul also tells us “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them:” (Romans 12:3-6). Note that neither this nor any other Biblical passages on spiritual gifts, reserve any gifts for men only, so what’s going on, and how do I as a female lecturer for Creation Research, or any woman for that matter, deal with this issue?
There is no doubt that being the pastor of a church involves having authority over a congregation of both men and women in matters of Christian doctrine and conduct. Preaching the Sunday public services (or any congregational service) is also a headship role, as this occurs when the both men and women and families are gathered, and is the main means of giving direction to the whole congregation on what they should believe and how they should behave. Such services are also the” public face” of the church where anyone can walk in off the street, and see who is in leadership straight away.
You will find it easier to deal with the headship role if you look at the reason given for male headship in the church. In the verse we quoted at the start, the Apostle Paul sums it up as follows: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. And then he gives as the reason: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” I Timothy 2:12-14
Some critics have claimed that because Paul begins his statement with the word “I,” he is only giving a personal opinion about how he does things, and therefore we can take or leave it according to our circumstances. However, Paul’s instructions were given to young Pastor Timothy, who was one of the next generation of church leaders, and the instructions were given with the authority of an Apostle of Christ. Furthermore, Paul did not refer to the culture of his time, nor his assessment of any gifts or talents of Christian women. He refers to Genesis, in particular to God’s created order, i.e. Adam first formed, then Eve, and to what happened in the Garden of Eden. What God said and did in Creation and Judgement, as described in the early chapters of Genesis, applies to the whole human race, not just to one ethnic group or culture. For that reason they should be heeded by all churches.
Ultimately, Paul is following the example of the Creator and Saviour, who appointed Paul to be an Apostle – the Lord Jesus Christ. When we look at the earthly life of Jesus we see that women were involved, especially as witnesses to his identity, works and purpose. When Jesus was presented at the Temple by His earthly parents He was recognised and proclaimed as the Messiah by a prophetess, Anna, as well as the prophet Simeon. (Luke 2:25-38) The Samaritan woman at the well was first person recorded in Scripture to whom Jesus announced he was the Messiah. (John 4:25-26) Jesus always treated women with dignity and respect, and taught them alongside men. For example, He commended Mary of Bethany for taking advantage of the opportunity to learn from him. (Luke 10:38-42) A number of women (at least seven) were witnesses of Jesus’ death and burial. Women were the first to arrive at the empty tomb, where the Angels and the risen Lord told them to go and tell the Apostles and other disciples that Jesus had risen. (Matthew 28:1-10)
However, whilst women were amongst the larger group of his disciples, Jesus did not appoint any women amongst the twelve Apostles, who were to be the first leaders of the Church after His return to Heaven. Why not?
Modern day feminists claim this is because He was constrained by the culture of the time, but the Gospels make it clear that the only thing that constrained Jesus was his Heavenly Father’s will. Jesus stood up to people in high places and low places, and He particularly stood up to the religious leaders of the day. For example, he firmly put the Pharisees in their place when they were seeking sanction for their practice of abusing women through easy divorce. Jesus reminded them that marriage was God’s creation, and had to be lived according to the Creator’s design. (Matthew 19:1-6) Christ had the authority to tell them how to treat their wives because He as a member of the Triune Godhead was the Creator. The same principle applies to the church, which is described by the Apostles Paul, Peter and John as the household of God and as the Bride of Christ. (I Timothy 3:15, I Peter 4:17, 2 Corinthians 11:2, Ephesians 5:25-27, Revelation 19:17-19) Christ the Saviour, the ultimate Head of the Church, is also Christ the Creator who created male and female, in that order, and who also appointed male Apostles to be the foundation of the Church, and be the pattern for successive generations of church leaders.
What about women using their gifts and talents?
The passages on spiritual gifts make it clear that all members of the church, not just those in charge, have gifts to contribute to the work of building up the body of Christ and reaching out with truth of the gospel to whatever community they live in. (Roman 12:3-8, I Corinthians 12, I Peter 4:10) A functioning Christian community is more than the pastor, and does more than conduct Sunday services. Jesus wants the church to make disciples, i.e. people who are growing in their knowledge and service of Christ, rather than mere believers who attend church on Sunday. Becoming a disciple involves learning from, and working alongside, mature Christians, often in small groups, one-to-one, and informal situations. Behind the “front face” of the church there should be Bible Studies, topical seminars, fellowship groups, community service, etc. along with informal mentoring, fellowship and service to one another. There is no reason why women who have gifts and skills in pastoral care, teaching, administration, counselling, practical service, etc. cannot be involved in these in order to serve the Christian community, particularly in ministry to women.
In some situations it is essential that women are involved. The Biblical model is that older women should teach younger women, and older men teach younger men. Mature Christian women need to be involved in teaching and mentoring women, and in teaching children. Those in charge of youth groups should remember this, and ensure that youth are not kept separate from the main congregation and only be involved in activities with other young people. Time spent in youth group is to train them to take their place as adults, and members of the body of Christ.
What about the male pastor who lets his wife preach to the whole congregation claiming they are under his authority so the Biblical order is being kept? Such a person fails to come to grips with one very serious issue: since all authority comes from God no male pastor has been authorised by God to allow any women, including his wife, to preach in authority over the men of the congregation so he is actually teaching women and children to rebel against all of God’s word, no matter how good a preacher the women actually is. The breaking down of God’s order in the church is contributing to broken marriages and the rise of homosexuality in the church. Any male pastor is authorised to allow only those person who qualify to be a preachers over men in God’s sight, i.e. be in a headship role, even if that person is not a formal pastor of a church.
For more on leadership and training within the church see I Timothy 3:1-13, Titus 1:5-9 and Titus 2:1-9.
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