The Role of Women in the Church

Women are – of course – essential and invaluable members of the Christian Church. So why do some faiths restrict what women can do?

No-one ever said that it is easy to be a Christian and to faithfully follow Christ’s teachings and God’s laws.  The continuing divergence between the “traditional” or “church” values that used to define and underpin our society, and the values, such as they are, of the modern world in which we must live makes it steadily harder to “go against the flow” and to lead a Christian way of life.  Indeed, this divergence seems to be a clear example of the devil at work, trying to sabotage the appeal and moral authority of the church by insidiously countering all the church’s traditional teachings under the guise of various deceptive notions; seeking to steal the moral high ground away from the church in the process.

One of the most difficult issues for many people is the role of women in the church.  Society these days demands we not only accept the equality of women but also the identicality of them.  It is no longer enough to say “women and men are equal, but different”.  Now we have to pretend that all women and all men are identical in all ways.

That claim is no more true than it is to suggest that all men are identical to each other, or that all women are identical to each other; but whereas we can (at least still for now) acknowledge differences between two men and between two women, social pressures try to stop us from acknowledging the difference between a man and a woman.

This has been taken as a “fact” that therefore “requires” churches to change their earlier prohibitions on women as priestesses.  There is no reason not to have women as priestesses, we are told, because women are identical to and equal to men in every way, and because to say otherwise would be shamefully sexist.

But churches should not answer to or bend to social whims.  If we do that, we change our source of authority from the unchanging and almighty God to that of fickle fashion and social values.  Our authority is God’s law and His instructions in the Bible.  Times change, but Biblical Truth does not.

That is not only an obvious and universal truth, but it serves to introduce an important point.  The role a woman should play in a church is not about “women’s rights” and neither is it about “male chauvinism”.  It is nothing more and nothing less than simply interpreting God’s Will as shown in God’s Word, the Bible.  As soon as people start reaching beyond the Bible to justify their opinion (on any matter) with other non-Biblical sources, they are going “off the reservation”.  Let’s not overlay this discussion with unhelpful emotion and unrelated issues.

I should add one more introductory comment.  We all know many devout and very holy women; many able and excellent women who add enormous value to the churches they belong to and the congregations they attend, support, and assist.  That’s a comment that bears repeating and restating – women and their efforts are an essential and key ingredient of the success and lifeblood of any Christian community.  Finding the best way to empower women to continue to add value and contribute to their congregations and churches is both common sense and good sense.

We also have to observe that you don’t have to research too far to find appalling examples of incompetence, venality, deception, and every other form of sin on the part of male priests.  Clearly some women have excellent qualities, and equally clearly, some women feel a strong calling to the priesthood; while on the other hand, the simple gender issue of someone being male in no way guarantees their appropriateness and success as a priest.

So what is the appropriate Christian view of this matter, and what does that mean for the role of women in the church?  Should churches treat men and women not just equally but identically when it comes to filling leadership and spiritual roles?  That is indeed a trend in some church groups.

Some people, in discussing this fraught issue, pick a few verses from the New Testament, and either cite them to support their view or explain why they don’t contradict their view, and then perhaps add some other non-Bible-based reasoning and reach a conclusion.  While we agree with the primacy of the New Testament as our source for all we do, and while we cringe when people then start reaching out and incorporating secular/social issues and views, in this case, we’d like to start at the very beginning to put everything into an overarching and consistent context.  And you surely can’t get much closer to the very beginning than chapters two and three of Genesis.

The Role of Man and Woman in Genesis

The Bible tells us, right from the very first pages of Genesis, that men and women are not identical.  In chapter two we are told (AMP)

7 then the Lord God formed [that is, created the body of] man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being [an individual complete in body and spirit].

followed by

18 Now the Lord God said, “It is not good (beneficial) for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper [one who balances him—a counterpart who is] suitable and complementary for him.” 19 So the Lord God formed out of the ground every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 And the man gave names to all the livestock, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for Adam there was not found a helper [that was] suitable (a companion) for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam; and while he slept, He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 And the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man He made (fashioned, formed) into a woman, and He brought her and presented her to the man. 23 Then Adam said,

“This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”

24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

Are men and women perfectly equal and identical at this point?  That is not immediately obvious.

The concept of a woman’s purpose being a helper does not seem to suggest complete equality, but does not necessarily imply subservience either.  Being fashioned from Adam’s rib has an unclear connotation; and being joined and becoming one flesh might seem to indicate that together they are superior to each individually and that the together form a more integrated whole, while not requiring that both parts of the joined entity be equal.

We note in the ESV Study Bible commentary it suggests that God’s commanding to Adam, prior to Eve’s creation, to work and keep the Garden of Eden gave Adam authority over everything in the Garden of Eden, including, once created, Eve.  Is this the first indication of the relative roles of man and woman?  Possibly, albeit via a weak line of reasoning.

The ESV commentary continues by observing, for verse 2:18, that a woman is not man’s clone, but man’s complement.  Equality is not a necessary part of being a complement, and neither does equality mean identicality.  John MacArthur’s commentary supports this when he says “The words of this verse emphasize man’s need for a companion, a helper, and an equal. … Woman was made by God to meet man’s deficiency.”

We come now to the serpent.  The ESV commentary for Gen 3:2-3 wryly notes “even at this stage, [that] the woman views God’s instructions as open to human modification”.  John MacArthur suggests the serpent approached the woman because she was weaker, needed the protection of her husband, temptable and seducible.  Both comments might be objectionable to some, and you’re welcome to decide for yourself why the serpent approached Eve rather than Adam.

In the aftermath God says to Eve (Gen 3:16) (AMP)

To the woman He said,
“I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth;
In pain you will give birth to children;
Yet your desire and longing will be for your husband,
And he will rule [with authority] over you and be responsible for you.”

The phrase “your desire and longing will be for your husband” is sometimes translated differently.  In some versions, for example, the ESV, the phrase is rendered “your desire shall be contrary to your husband” although it is footnoted as having both interpretations.

That this subjugation was intended as a consequence and punishment for the woman’s heeding the serpent is a humbling thought to us men – our authority over our wives is not necessarily meant to be a blessing and boon to them!  Some might say it is not a blessing or boon to men, either!  We’re actually going to be coming to that issue, not as a joke, but seriously, in just a few more sentences.

We’d also point out that being made responsible for our wives is a sacred duty and holy obligation (which we’ll see, later on in the article, when we look at Ephesians 5:25-33).

The ESV Study Guide commentary sees significance that when God returns after the fall from Grace, He first sought out Adam and addressed him, this being something they interpret as God viewing Adam as the leader and person in charge.  That’s another weak point but still a point of note.

The ESV then gloomily prognosticates, in commentary on 3:16, “there will be an ongoing struggle between the woman and the man for leadership in the marriage relationship.  The leadership role of the husband and the complementary relationship between husband and wife that were ordained by God before the fall have now been deeply damaged and distorted by sin.  This especially takes the form of conflicting desire (on the part of the wife) and domineering rule (on the part of the husband). …. Thus one of the most tragic results of Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God is an ongoing, damaging conflict between husband and wife in marriage, driven by the sinful behavior of both in rebellion against their respective God-given roles and responsibilities in marriage.

In verse 3:17 there is an interesting additional point (AMP)

17 Then to Adam the Lord God said, “Because you have listened [attentively] to the voice of your wife, and have eaten [fruit] from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’; ….

Adam’s sin was in part that he followed his wife, rather than God.  This perhaps forms a fundamental part of why women are not to be spiritual leaders.

John MacArthur says “The woman sinned because she acted independently of her husband, disdaining his leadership, counsel, and protection.  The man sinned because he abandoned his leadership and followed the wishes of his wife.  In both cases, God’s intended roles were reversed.”

The key takeaways we see from Genesis start from the obvious but very relevant point that God didn’t create a second man as a companion for Adam.  He could have done this, and made us hermaphrodites, or given us asexual reproduction, or in some other way avoided the need for two different sexes/genders.  He could have also, of course, made three or any other number of genders that were all needed in some complicated way for reproduction.  But he did none of these things.  God created a woman.  The two creations – man and woman – were designed to be complementary, and stronger together.  The concept of complementary always means “different” and never means “identical”.

God designated the leadership role in the relationship to the man.  At first, the relationship between man and woman was to be harmonious, but after The Fall, it was to be less harmonious and therefore less amenable to equal/joint decisionmaking, and would require a leader (and God’s help) to be positive and fulfilling.

It is hard to think of a way that a man would be the leader in a marriage but the woman would be a leader in spiritual worship.  After the Genesis coverage, the Old Testament is largely silent on the role of women as spiritual leaders (probably because there’s no need to say any more), although there are mention of a handful of women prophetesses.  Certainly there were some strong women cited in the Old Testament, such as Moses’ sister, Miriam.

Jewish law and lore has followed this prime point in Genesis and has been slow to acknowledge equality between men and women.  Much like in the Christian Church, it is only in the second part of the 20th century that the concept of women as rabbis or Talmudic Scholars started to be considered and in some cases allowed.  Traditional Torah law has a ban on women as judges.

We can distinguish between the role of a prophet/prophetess and the role of a spiritual leader or preacher.  A prophet/ess is a conduit for God to pass a message through.  That person doesn’t “add value” to the message, they merely relay it.  They are not necessarily any more an authority on the message as a news reader is an authority on the news item he or she is reading.  There is honor in being chosen as a prophet of course.  Spiritual leaders and preachers however need to be authorities on their topics, and to actively lead rather than passively inform.

Did the New Testament Change These Roles?

Did these roles survive into the New Testament, the freeing of Christ’s followers from the laws of the Old Testament and the formation of the new Church?  That is of course the ultimate question.

We answer that in two parts.  Firstly, are the respective roles of man and woman as shown in Genesis a law or a statement of nature?  If the latter – which we suggest to be the case, then they are more likely to survive into the New Testament.

Secondly, the roles of men and women appear to be clearly repeated/restated in Ephesians 5:22-33 (AMP)

22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as [a service] to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as Christ is head of the church, Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives should be subject to their husbands in everything [respecting both their position as protector and their responsibility to God as head of the house].

These first three verses are very clear, and while the next set of verses talks about men, they are also helpful to feature as well, so the totality of the obligations placed on both husbands and wives can be seen.

25 Husbands, love your wives [seek the highest good for her and surround her with a caring, unselfish love], just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify the church, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word [of God], 27 so that [in turn] He might present the church to Himself in glorious splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy [set apart for God] and blameless. 28 Even so husbands should and are morally obligated to love their own wives as [being in a sense] their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own body, but [instead] he nourishes and protects and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members (parts) of His body. 31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall be joined [and be faithfully devoted] to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery [of two becoming one] is great; but I am speaking with reference to [the relationship of] Christ and the church. 33 However, each man among you [without exception] is to love his wife as his very own self [with behavior worthy of respect and esteem, always seeking the best for her with an attitude of loving kindness], and the wife [must see to it] that she respects and delights in her husband [that she notices him and prefers him and treats him with loving concern, treasuring him, honoring him, and holding him dear].

This passage not only shows that women are not being relegated to a subservient and insignificant role, but almost exactly quotes from Genesis, and in doing so, clearly affirms the situation established back in Genesis still applies.

So the New Testament continues the gender-based roles in a marriage.  How does that then apply to the Church?

Before we even look for guidance on that question, we can guess.  It would be difficult for the roles in a marriage to be the reverse of the roles in the Church.  How can a man lead his wife and family if the wife leads her husband in spiritual matters?  There is no exception specified in terms of the husband’s leadership “except in the case of religious matters in which case they shall have equal say”.  Unless we say that spiritual matters are relatively unimportant and only a small part of the totality of a family, it seems reasonable that the man’s role as family leader extends to spiritual issues as well as other issues too.

Now we come to the main two texts that are viewed as supporting the notion that men are to lead the church.  Both were written by Paul, firstly in his first letter to the Corinthians, where he says quite emphatically (1 Cor 14:33-40) (AMP)

33 for God [who is the source of their prophesying] is not a God of confusion and disorder but of peace and order.

As [is the practice] in all the churches of the saints (God’s people),

34 the [e]women should be silent in the churches, for they are not authorized to speak, but are to take a subordinate place, as the Law says. 35 If there is anything they want to learn [that is, if they have questions about anything being said or taught], they are to ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a [f]woman to talk in church. 36 Did the word of the Lord originate from you [Corinthians], or has it come to you only [so that you know best what God requires]?

37 If anyone thinks and claims that he is a prophet [a true spokesman for God] or spiritually astute [filled with and energized by the Holy Spirit], let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment. 38 If anyone does not recognize this [that it is a command of the Lord], he is not recognized [by God].

39 Therefore, believers, desire earnestly to prophesy [to foretell the future, to speak a new message from God to the people], and do not forbid speaking in unknown tongues. 40 But all things must be done appropriately and in an orderly manner.

AMP Notes
(e) When used elsewhere in the New Testament, in specific reference to a woman (cf Eph 5:22; Col 3:18; Titus 2:4, 5; 1 Peter 3:1, 5), this word refers to a married woman, so these admonitions (vv 34, 35) may be directed primarily to the wives of believing husbands.
(f) Paul does not comment on unmarried women; they probably have to abide by the prohibition against speaking out in church as well, and ask questions outside the service.

We also note that Paul’s comments in this first letter to the Corinthians builds on those earlier in that letter when he said (1 Cor 11:3, 8-9) (AMP)

3 But I want you to understand that Christ is the head (authority over) of every man, and man is the head of woman, and God is the head of Christ.

8 For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; 9 for indeed man was not created for the sake of woman, but woman for the sake of man.

Paul’s comments in chapter 14 didn’t come out of nowhere, nor were they a specific narrow comment about a specific narrow thing.  Clearly they are part of a more general commentary about the overall roles of men and women.

Some years later, Paul writes to his student, Timothy, and says (1 Tim 2:9-15) (AMP)

9 Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves modestly and appropriately and discreetly in proper clothing, not with [elaborately] braided hair and gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but instead adorned by good deeds [helping others], as is proper for women who profess to worship God. 11 A woman must quietly receive instruction with all submissiveness. 12 I do not allow a woman to [c]teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet [in the congregation]. 13 For Adam was formed first [by God from the earth], then Eve; 14 and it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman who was led astray and [d]fell into sin. 15 But women will be [e]preserved (saved) through [the pain and dangers of] the bearing of children [f]if they continue in faith and love and holiness with self-control and discretion.

AMP Notes
(c) The early church evidently followed Jewish practices in religious education. In Israel, mothers taught their daughters, and it was the father’s responsibility to teach his sons in all areas, including religious education. So Paul’s prohibitions here are consistent with the practices of his day.
(d) Lit “has come to be in”.
(e) This is considered one of the more difficult verses in the NT to interpret. Part of the difficulty is that the Greek verb rendered “preserved” is literally “saved,” which could refer either to physical preservation or to salvation. Some expositors interpret the verb as referring to the blessings of a woman’s role as wife and mother, especially in regard to raising godly children. However, the wording of the verse seen here reflects the interpretation that Paul is speaking, in broad terms, of protection from the dangers of childbirth.
(f) The blessings on a woman are the result of her adherence to the virtues listed.

These are not complicated statements, are they.  They seem simple and straighforward, with no exceptions or qualifiers.  Here’s an article that looks at the specific words, their context, and their meanings, and ends up with the same interpretation as if you just simply read the verses and applied the plain obvious meanings to the words.

We also see that Paul distinguishes between women performing good deeds and helping others (which they are of course welcome to do), and women not to teach or exercise authority over men.  The former does not then empower or allow the latter.  They are two separate issues.

There’s also another important point to these verses.  Some people have tried to marginalize what Paul said in either or both these two passages, suggesting he was referring only to a very specific set of circumstances and not trying to make statements that apply to all women, everywhere, and forever into the future.  But Paul’s reasoning is tied not to a specific event/time/place.  It is linked directly to Genesis – women were created second and fell first.  That is a universal and unchanging truth.

People who believe women should be priests have struggled to redefine the words and to make them into the opposite of their plain meanings.  Here is one such example.  We immediately note that the article opens with two quotes – one from an ordinary person, not from the Bible, and we always feel that’s a very weak way to start off any lesson on the meaning of scripture.  The other quote is from Acts, and refers to the end times, at which point we are told that women too will then prophesy.  The quote (Acts 2:17-18) and the way it specifically then includes women seems to further reinforce that women currently (because these are not yet the last days) are not given the gift of prophesy.

Does Galatians 3:28 Empower Women to be Priests?

The article goes on to quote Paul’s letter to the Galatians (3:28), and we’ll quote a few more verses to put it in broader context (Gal 3:26-29) (AMP)

26 For you [who are born-again have been reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, sanctified and] are all children of God [set apart for His purpose with full rights and privileges] through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ [into a spiritual union with the Christ, the Anointed] have clothed yourselves with Christ [that is, you have taken on His characteristics and values]. 28 There is [now no distinction in regard to salvation] neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you [who believe] are all one in Christ Jesus [no one can claim a spiritual superiority]. 29 And if you belong to Christ [if you are in Him], then you are Abraham’s descendants, and [spiritual] heirs according to [God’s] promise.

This is usually interpreted to mean exactly as it says – we who have been reborn in Christ are all equally members of the Kingdom of God.  It does not say that we can all hold equal office in a church on Earth.

It might also be helpful to look at the timing of Paul’s letter to the Galatians.  It is believed to have been written in about 48 AD.  This was before he wrote both the first letter to the Corinthians (about 53 – 55 AD) and his first letter to Timothy (mid 60s AD).

So, whatever Paul said in Galatians would be clarified or superseded by his subsequent writings, rather than vice versa.

The ESV Study Bible commentary says “this does not imply that there are no distinctions in how these groups should act, for Paul elsewhere commands slaves and masters differently (Eph 6:5-9) and husbands and wives differently (Eph 5:22-33).”  John MacArthur puts it clearly when he says “This verse does not deny that God has designed racial, social, and sexual distinctions among Christians, but it affirms that those do not imply spiritual inequality before God.  Nor is this spiritual equality incompatible with the God-ordained roles of headship and submission in the church, society, and at home.  Jesus Christ, though fully equal with the Father, assumed a submissive role during His Incarnation.”

The fact that we remain different in our earthly lives is also strongly reinforced in Romans 12 (see below).

The rest of the article tends to revolve around the writer’s opinions and views of what is right and fair, not what the Bible simply says.

Was Phoebe a Priest?

Another argument sometimes offered in favor of allowing women to be priests is a phrase in Romans 16:1-2 (AMP)

1 Now I introduce and commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess (servant) of the church at Cenchrea, 2 that you may receive her in the Lord [with love and hospitality], as God’s people ought to receive one another. And that you may help her in whatever matter she may require assistance from you, for she has been a helper of many, including myself.

The word used to describe Phoebe is sometimes rendered as servant (eg KJV, ESV) or sometimes as deaconess, often with the word servant offered as an alternative (AMP as above, NIV).

If the meaning of the word is “servant”, then this does not support a claim that Phoebe is a priest.  The balance of verse 2 shows she is a “helper of many”, which could imply priest/priestess, or could imply many other roles.  The word “helper” has also been translated as “benefactor” (NIV) or “patron” (ESV) which tends to not imply priest/priestess, because surely there are better ways of describing a priest than as a benefactor/patron.

But what if she truly is a deacon/deaconess?  What does that mean?  What is a deacon?

A deacon seems not to be an overseer or priest, because in several places, deacons and overseers are separately referred to (see, for example, Philippians 1:1 and 1 Timothy 3:8).  Deacons are not priests, they are supporters of priests – the word “deacon” comes from a Greek word group “diakanos” meaning “servant”.  Originally, deacons carried out fairly menial tasks (Acts 6:2-3), and over time came to be trusted with additional duties, including the handling of money, but they were not priests.  Paul distinguishes between overseers, who must be able to teach (1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:9) and deacons, who have no teaching requirement mentioned.

So it doesn’t really matter what Phoebe’s formal job title was – deaconess or servant or benefactor.  All such titles do not imply she was a priest.

More Thoughts and Issues

We’ve several times seen the suggestion that because women had less education than men in Biblical times, this was a temporary restriction based on their lack of knowledge.

We’re always very uncomfortable when people add extra overlays of interpretation to clear Biblical statements.  God meant the Bible to be our handbook for the ages, and it seems reasonable to believe that in general, he meant it to be therefore applicable and relevant for all times.  Paul doesn’t say “for now, because women have less education…”.  He makes blanket statements with no qualification.

Even if it is fair to consider external issues, education is not one of the stated requirements of elders and overseers (see above citations in 1 Timothy and Titus).  They have to be able to teach, but don’t have any requirement for formal education – many of Jesus’ disciples probably had very little formal education.  God’s restriction imposed in Genesis was nothing to do with education.

We’re also not even sure about the accuracy of the claim that women were less educated than men.  It seems more likely that most men and most women all had a similar and very basic education.  If Paul’s ban on women was due to their lack of education, why is education not a requirement for anyone who wishes to teach/lead a congregation?  Why did he not also ban uneducated men?

Some people have pointed to the many good works done by women in service of the Church.  We acknowledge and appreciate all such good works, and will rush to be among the first to thank and celebrate the value women and their service bring to the Church.  But applying that sort of reasoning to try and go around God’s clear wish reminds us uncomfortably of the speciousness of Eve in her discussions with the serpent back in Genesis.  Nothing changes God’s clear requirement that women not be placed in positions of spiritual authority over men.

Clearly women have many and valuable roles they can fill, but that doesn’t mean they should fill all roles.

This article considers some of the other reasons advanced by people who believe women should be allowed to be priests, and comes up with rebuttals to those reasons and interpretations.  Here’s another good discussion on the topic.

So What Can Women Do?

We do not want any part of what we have said to be seen as denigrating women, neither in general, nor in the sense of the vital contributions they can make to our churches.

We agree there are many roles that women can fulfill in the church, other than spiritual leader or elder over men, and we further acknowledge that many women were active in their churches back in Biblical times.  It seems they can teach other women and children about “what is good” (Titus 2:3-5) but not men.

As discussed above, they can be deaconesses in the sense of supporting the work of the spiritual leaders and elders, but not having authority over them.

Can they do anything in the church or are they prohibited from all duties, tasks, activities, and assistance?  The answer seems to be clearly yes – there are many things they can do.  Women can be deaconesses, and deacons/deaconesses have many supportive roles to fill – their original purpose and still what should be their main purpose is to be productivity enhancers and “force multipliers” for the ordained priesthood.  In this context, a church could be compared to a school.  A school has teachers’ assistants, librarians, technical resource officers, caretakers, administrators, and many other people, as well as formally accredited teachers.  Only the formally accredited teachers can teach in a school, and while a church usually has a less clear and formal accrediting (ordaining) process than a school and its state accreditation requirements for its teachers, it seems the concept is similar.

And similar to how non-accredited teachers can sometimes teach “after-school clubs”, we acknowledge that women can provide spiritual guidance and leadership to other women and children, and possibly general commentary to men too.

Which leads to the prohibition on talking.  Can they “talk” in church at all?  We don’t want to now do what we’ve seen others do and argue against the plain words in the Bible, but we wonder if the concept of “talking” as expressed in Paul’s two letters isn’t more in the sense of “chattering” and questioning – possibly even arguing – rather than in the sense of formally sharing information (but not spiritual leadership).

Our sense, unsupported by anything other than a sincere belief, is there are ways that women can indeed present material in a church.  For example, a woman deaconess could report on the work of her group, and advise of future plans.  If a woman is the church treasurer, she could report on the state of the church finances and the ongoing fundraising plans.  And so on.  We know that Jesus had women convey news to the church – of his resurrection no less, and it seems that the woman Phoebe, mentioned above, was entrusted by Paul to carry his letter to the Romans.

There is one more role we have thought about at great length, and prayed for guidance over.  We can not speak authoritatively on this point, and so offer it to you for your own consideration.  Can women have missionary roles?

Our sense is the answer to this question is probably yes, although with some constraints and limitations.  Up to the point where a person chooses to accept Jesus, becomes saved, and joins a church, we see opportunity for women to contribute and participate in missionary roles, the same as men.  In terms of introducing the Word of God, explaining and advocating the concepts of Christianity, and modeling a good Christian life – we feel these are all roles a woman can fill as ably as a man.

Our Thoughts

Perhaps you shouldn’t even read this section, and we shouldn’t write it, because our thoughts don’t really matter or count for anything when aligned against the Word of God.  And neither do the thoughts of any other commentator, nor their opinions of what is best and fairest.

We see, and have documented above, a common thread running through the entirety of both the New and Old Testaments where, for reasons explained in Genesis, men and women have different roles in the family and in the church.  We see the very plain language in the New Testament that prohibits women from leading worship in the church, and we see it repeated twice, implied elsewhere, and nowhere contradicted.

More positively, Paul tells us in Romans 12 that God has given us all gifts, no matter if we are men or women.  But Paul also tells us we don’t all have identical sets of gifts.  Instead (Rom 12:4-8) he explains we all have differing gifts that complement and reinforce each other’s gifts. (AMP)

4 For just as in one [physical] body we have many parts, and these parts do not all have the same function or special use, 5 so we, who are many, are [nevertheless just] one body in Christ, and individually [we are] parts one of another [mutually dependent on each other]. 6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to use them accordingly: if [someone has the gift of] prophecy, [let him speak a new message from God to His people] in proportion to the faith possessed; 7 if service, in the act of serving; or he who teaches, in the act of teaching; 8 or he who encourages, in the act of encouragement; he who gives, with generosity; he who leads, [or “without ulterior motives”]with diligence; he who shows mercy [in caring for others], with cheerfulness.

This concept is echoed in 1 Cor 12.

It is not for us to judge one gift as better or inferior to another gift because God in his infinite wisdom has bestowed his selection of gifts on each of us.  It seems God has chosen to withhold the gift of spiritual leadership from women.  This does not make them inferior to men in any way, it just gives them different purposes and methods of serving in His Grand Plan.

We should all encourage and enable everyone to understand and best use the gift they have been blessed with.

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