Women in Church Leadership

A little over a week ago I had the privilege to be a guest blogger at WithoutWax and I raised the discussion about women serving in the church and whether our roles of service should be determined on gender or on giftedness. This has been a “hot button” in the church and for good reason – the scriptures can seem contradictory on the issue. In 1Timothy and Titus women are extremely restricted in their participation in the church but then in many other places throughout the New Testament you see female prophets, teachers and church leaders. I’ve got to be honest… I’m having trouble reconciling this.

I just finished the book Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible Says about a Woman’s Place in Church and Family by Gilbert Bilezikian. Bilezikian goes all the way back to creation and dissects the scripture in relation to women’s roles. I thought I would share with you a few quotes from the book that I’ve been pondering:

  • The greater vulnerability of Eve does not suggest that God had made her stupid, wicked, or inferior to Adam. It resulted from the fact that she did not have access to the revelational opportunities that had enriched Adam’s life prior to her existence.
  • Although statistically the majority of the old covenant prophets were male, The Bible mentions several female prophets and describes them as exercising the same kind of authority in the religious spheres as their male counterparts (Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, etc).
  • In Judges Deborah played several critical roles: as prophet, she assumed spiritual leadership; as judge, she exercised judicial and political power; and eventually, she became involved in directing on the battlefield the strategy for a decisive military victory.
  • Jesus called both men and women to follow him in discipleship and that he expended himself to teach them and involve them in his service without regard for gender difference. (My question to this is how come the original 12 disciples were all men?)
  • Any pagan wife can submit to the authority of a husband. Only a Christian woman can submit to her husband in servanthood “as to the Lord.”
  • From the moment of our birth, a fallen society presses us into niches that become our private prisons for life.
  • Prior to the fall, the man and the woman had been entrusted together with the dual responsibility of populating the earth and ruling over it. The fall destroyed the partnership. The man and the woman become functionally dissociated.
  • Not only are distinctions of ethnicity and social status condemned to irrelevance in the body of Christ but also the gender distinction. Because identity with Christ has primacy over all other characterizations, “there is neither male nor female.” This means that the gender difference holds no more significance than racial or class identifications in defining the workings of the new community.
  • The attribute of “oneness” is consistently associated in the New Testament with each believer’s participation in ministry on the basis of each one’s spiritual gifts.
  • Whenever Christ is described as “head” to the church, his ministry is that of servant-provider. Similarly, as head to his wife, a husband is a servant-provider of life, of opportunity and growth, not one who exercises authority over her.

What do you think? Which one of these statements would you challenge and why?

Anyone have some other good resources on this topic?

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  • Judi Free.com April 22, 2008  

    I currently serve at Orchard Road Christian Center / Marylin Hickey Minsitries.

    Marylin & Wally Hickey founded their church as an Assemblies of God church – which also has some conflicting views on women in church leadership. Marylin is an amazing bible teacher and her husband Wally has always been the head pastor of the church…even if he doesn’t preach much. I think this is a great set up for a church.

    Marylin travels by herself to over 120 countries preaching the gospel and leads huge crusades. I’m still trying to figure this out myself, but you can’t deny there are some amazing women in leadership doing the will of God.

  • Texas in Africa April 22, 2008  

    I think it’s dangerous for anyone – male or female – to ignore God’s call in his or her life. If a woman feels called by God to preach, and if that call is confirmed by her gifts, interests, and church community, then what else can she do?

    A couple of years ago I read a sermon entitled “We Ordain Women Because We Baptize Girls” that was very helpful in thinking about these issues. It’s here: http://www.centerforbaptiststudies.org/sermons/poole01.htm

  • Julie P April 22, 2008  

    I really wish I knew the answer to these questions, but like you said, it can be very difficult to reconcile what the Bible actually says. Are we equal…but not? Why is it ok for women like Beth Moore and Joyce Meyer to teach thousands of women at a time, but not for them to be “pastors?” (meaning senior pastor/teaching pastor/the one in the pulpit each week) I know there are plenty of churches that are fine with women pastors, but overall it is not the Christian societal norm. I know what the Bible says, but again, if we are all equal and, as Bilezikian said, “the gender difference holds no more significance than racial or class identifications in defining the workings of the new community,” why is it such a hot button for us?

    I just don’t know.

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