6 reasons why I support women in Church leadership

A few weeks ago my wife led the service at our church. I sat back in the pews and enjoyed as Amanda did the announcements, offering, a number of prayers and other aspects of the service. I have seen Amanda in action doing pastoral care as well. She is extremely gifted in these areas.

For some people, women in ministry is a real issue. I don’t think they really mean women in ministry, because no interpretation of the Bible could lead to a conclusion that women should not be involved in ministry. What they really mean is that women should not be involved in the leadership of the church. Sometimes that means women shouldn’t be involved on the level of deacons/elders/board and sometimes as pastors and sometimes as lead pastors.

I will say that I have a pet peeve about churches who hire women to do the work of pastors but then give them the title “director” so they won’t be considered pastors. If you don’t believe women should be pastors, then don’t give them pastoral duties. Be consistent.

I happen to believe that women can be pastors and should be in leadership. In our church, we have female deacons. Our deacons are very much like the elder model. I have also worked with female pastors.

While I think that the passages that are used to argue against women in leadership need to be addressed, I would like to start by sharing why I believe the positive case for women in leadership is strong.

Here are six reasons:

1. There were female prophets in the Old Testament. Miriam, Deborah and Huldah all preform the role of a prophet. There are two others who could also be included.

2. There was a female judge. It is clear that the role of the judge was an important leadership position within ancient Israel. Deborah, along with being a prophet, also was a judge. She has one of the most positive accounts of all the judges.

3. There were female disciples. While it could be argues that there were many female disciples, it is very clear that Mary was a disciple of Jesus, a role that most rabbis would not allow for women. See Luke 10:38-42.

4. There were female prophets in the New Testament. There were the daughters of Philip who prophesied (Acts 21:9), Paul also gives guidelines for women involved in prophecy (1 Corinthians 11:5). I find it strange that some people find prophecy as a less authoritative activity than teaching or preaching.

5. There were female deacons (Romans 16:1). There is no reason to believe that Phoebe’s role was any less than that of male deacons.

6. There was at least one female apostle (Romans 16:8). The natural translation of this verse is that Junia was an apostle. A number of translations come at the verse with the assumption that a woman could not be a deacon.

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About the author


ChristianWeek Columnist

Stephen J. Bedard is an author, blogger and speaker. He is interested in discipleship, apologetics and disability advocacy. He co-wrote the award-winning book, Unmasking the Pagan Christ, which was also made into a documentary. He is the director of Hope’s Reason Ministry and editor of Hope’s Reason: A Journal of Apologetics. Additional writing can be found on his website stephenjbedard.com

  • J_CAS

    Judges, deacons, prophets, etc. – not teachers usurping the responsibility given to *men* by God. You may “happen to believe” that women can be pastors, but it’s not Biblically-sound reasoning.
    gotquestions.org/women-pastors

    • Carolyn Smithy

      I was brought up with what you are stating as well and now starting to study it for myself. I am seeing that others have studied just as carefully as you (and even with Biblically-sound reasoning) but have come to a different conclusion. Here’s what I struggle with. Under your conclusion, is the ‘woman pastor or elder’ sinning? Is the Lord looking down at them and ‘wagging his finger’? Is the Lord displeased? I know this would never affect a genuine salvation decision or my status as a Child of God. Can you comment on that?

    • Carolyn Smithy

      I agree with what C.S.
      Lewis called mere Christianity. “In essentials unity, non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity.” I believe this issue would be considered a secondary issue.

      • J_CAS

        It is a secondary issue to *salvation*, sure. But it is a command from God, just as not being “unequally yoked” is a command from God. God wants us to follow his commands. lay down our lives, and be obedient.

        • Carolyn Smithy

          “not being unequally yoked” has never been a controversial issue the same as “the women in ministry” issue. Can you agree that the ‘other side’ has also studied scripture carefully and has come to a different conclusion.

          • J_CAS

            Whether or not it’s controversial has no bearing on the fact that it is a command. I can agree that the other side has studied the issue, but not that their conclusion is correct. I’m not going to judge in condemnation for that, though.

          • Carolyn Smithy

            oh yes….agree with that……just meant that your conclusion is most likely the same as ‘their’ conclusion so no debate is necessary. And they would say the same thing about your conclusion I believe. But can you agree that they have studied it CAREFULLY.

          • J_CAS

            Well, define “carefully”. I can agree they’ve spent time on it, but I can’t agree that they’ve been loyal to context.

          • Carolyn Smithy

            ….this is what I wanted to know….thank you. I don’t know if I will EVER know what to believe regarding ‘Women in Ministry’. I think (or I hope) that you know they believe they are being loyal to context……and by “they” I mean evangelicals with whom you would agree on every other issue after y’all studied carefully keeping loyal to the context. WHAT DO I DO??? It makes me want to pull my hair out! (the hair I had to have covered while in church until they studied scripture more carefully–that was a joke by the way–although it’s true)

          • J_CAS

            😀 I don’t know if it will help to tell you that I am a woman who initially struggled with this issue a long time ago. But I simply have not encountered a sound argument against 1 Timothy 2:11–14. Verse 13 begins with “for”, which gives the reasoning; “For God made Adam first, and afterward he made Eve”. It is simply the structure of God’s design…which we see in marriage as well.

          • Carolyn Smithy

            ……yes, helpful for sure! Love the conversation. But I always go back to my point that it is apparent to me that others truly believe they have a sound argument for it–that’s what is confusing for a lay person such as myself. Thanks for all your answers….will we find out in heaven who was right?

          • J_CAS

            Well I guess you would have to decide which conclusion leads you to obeying God fully. And yes, I would suppose in heaven we’ll have answers to our questions….if we even care then 🙂

          • Carolyn Smithy

            ……..much to think about J_CAS………thank you for the conversation. Pretty sure we won’t hear “told ya’ so” in heaven……

          • J_CAS

            Carolyn, I just encountered this free download at desiringgod (be careful – I had to write the “dot” in the URL so that Disqus would post this:
            http://www.desiringgod(dot)org/books/50-crucial-questions-about-manhood-and-womanhood

    • Steve Bedard

      Priscilla was involved in teaching Apollos in Acts 18. Priscilla’s name coming before her husband’s suggests she was the primary teacher. Also, if a woman prophesied in church, should the men learn from the prophecy? Or did they plug their ears while only the women listened?

      • J_CAS

        It’s a pretty weak suggestion and a *huge* maybe. Priscilla did not pastor a church, teach publicly, and was not the spiritual leader of a congregation. Men are to set the example in spiritual leadership because it is the way God designed the church to work – prophesying, though a spiritual gift, is not any more an example of spiritual leadership as hospitality is.

        • ksed11

          Priscilla and Aquila headed a house church. This covers the objection that Priscilla could not be a spiritual leader. If she were not a leader in the church, why mention in conjunction with Aquila, or for that matter, why mention her at all? In fact, the majority of house churches listed in the NT were owned by women. The owner of the house was the leader.

          • J_CAS

            Priscilla did not operate independently of Aquila, she was a “fellow worker”. Due to descriptions in the Bible of marital spiritual headship/submission – and reading the entire bible as one story and in context – we can assume that Priscilla submitted to Aquila’s leadership in spiritual matters, or this couple wouldn’t have been so highly lauded. Jesus was equal with God, but also submitted to Him – He sets the precedent there (Philippians 2:5-8).

          • ksed11

            Those are assumptions that need be held only if one is already a complementarian. Isn’t it curious that in the exact context of teaching Apollos, Priscilla is mentioned first when the traditional and common practice would be to list the husband first. A fellow worker is one who works alongside, not behind.
            Jesus is co-equal with the Father. His submission is in the economy of salvation and is thus due to his continuing incarnation. Notice that Jesus gave up certain prerogatives He had prior to the incarnation. This does not apply to the case of women since complementarians don’t think that women ever had the right to teach at all. Additionally, in the context of marriage, whatever submission that exists is mutual, not one-sided.

          • J_CAS

            It is a guess to say that the order of their names signifies Priscilla’s leadership. Maybe Luke wanted to honor and respect Priscilla by putting her name first, or he may have had another reason that we couldn’t know. We can only infer the balance of roles between Priscilla and Aquila but a feminist viewpoint holds no more license than that of a complementarian view in this situation.
            As for the Trinity – I was pointing out that the idea of being equal, yet having different roles, is not a foreign idea in Christianity.
            In the context of marriage and mutual submission, this does not mean that husbands and wives submit to each other *in the same way* – their relationhip follows the pattern of the relationship between Christ and the church

          • Carolyn Smithy

            Here’s “two-cents” worth from somebody who still doesn’t know which camp she belongs to (and frankly, I don’t think I will ever know for sure)–the only thing I know FOR ABSOLUTE SURE is that I am in God’s camp. It’s almost comical to me to hear 2 people argue their point and claim that they are the ones that have the absolute truth regarding this non-essential matter. There are good and Godly Christians and churches who hold opposite views after studying scripture carefully. Unfortunately, I only hear people say that the other side hasn’t studied it carefully enough. We need to honour and respect both and lovingly disagree without arrogance . Find a church where all the essentials of Christianity are in place where you can use your giftedness fully. They do exist for both the egalitarian and the complimentarian (and there is no significance to the order I stated those in!!). We will all meet in heaven eventually. You can ask the Lord himself at that time and then say “na, na, n-na-na”……and apparently as suggested, be rewarded more fully for practicing the correct interpretation? I’ll research that suggestion more later. Sincerely, from “still studying carefully”.

          • J_CAS

            Carolyn, please point out where you have seen arrogance in the discussion. It’s simply been a discussion, no one has been saying “na na, n-na-na”. I am going to quote John Piper and Wayne Grudem here, as I believe he puts it very well: “….we need to realize first that significant disagreement in the church does not mean that the issue at stake is unimportant. The history of doctrinal controversy teaches us that very important matters (as well as less important ones) have been the subject of serious controversy. In fact, the length and intensity of a controversy may be evidence of the issue’s importance, not of its unimportance……..Moreover, not to take a stand on this issue in our culture is to take a very decisive stand because of the relentless pressure for change that feminists are applying on many sides. Public advocacy on this issue results in so much criticism that many Christian leaders strive to avoid it. But there is no avoiding it. It is a massive issue that goes to the depths of who we are as persons and therefore touches all of life. Our counsel here is not to set out a specific strategy to preserve God’s gift of sexual complementarity. Rather, we simply plead for Christian leaders to awaken to the importance of what is at stake and seek wisdom from above for how to act for the good of the church and the glory of God.”

          • Carolyn Smithy

            ……by ‘people’, I’m referring to all the research I have been doing for myself in various other places–not you specifically……and the ‘na na……’ was my stupid humour……..trying to figure out what the Lord is going to do with the 2 different camps………you see J_CAS, I’m not a scholar in any way shape or form–so sometimes I have to rely on humour–which apparently isn’t working so well. lol. I always come back to BOTH SIDES HAVE STUDIED CAREFULLY AND DON’T AGREE……I think you have already said that you don’t agree that ‘they’ have studied ‘carefully’…….and I know for sure they believe they have studied just as carefully–even using sound Biblical whatever (….lol – can’t even come up with the right word)…….you send me to a website….they send me to a different website……sigh…….so for me–it’s confusing. Yes…..I’m blonde.

  • Carolyn Smithy

    Here’s my scenerio. Two genuine believers. Both Women. Both study scripture carefully using Biblically-sound reasoning. They come to different conclusions. They go to different churches. They both use their gifts differently based on their conclusions. They both are blessed beyond measure in their different ministries. They both die and go to heaven…….what is the ramification of their different conclusions?

    • J_CAS

      No one can answer that but God. But there is biblical evidence that some will be rewarded more generously in heaven based on our obedience on earth: Matthew 16:27, and Romans 2:5-6

  • ksed11

    Good points. Richard Bauckham (I believe) pointed out that the entire point of teaching disciples was so that they in turn would teach the rabbi’s lessons to others. If He taught Mary, it would have been for precisely that purpose.