Can Women Be Pastors? What the Bible Says About Female Church Leaders

Can Women Be Pastors? What the Bible Says About Female Church Leaders

Can women be pastors? This has long been a hotly contested issue in the church ever since. For centuries, theologians have been studying this controversial and hugely debated issue. The majority have always concluded that pastoral duties are exclusively for men.

In an article by Got Question, it was stated that this issue should not be seen as men versus women. The issue is not about chauvinism, discrimination, or equality but of biblical interpretation, because there have been a lot - of verses being taken too literally or misused. This inlcude comments about the difference between culture 2000 years ago when the Bible was written and of the present culture, and identification and comparison of female leaders in the Bible.

Most churches that have women serving the church as pastors are being questioned about their disobedience and rebellion to the Word of God.

Saddleback Church, one of the megachurches in America, takes this as a minor issue, with their retiring pastor Rick Warren was quoted by Christianity Today asking, "Are we going to keep bickering over secondary issues, or are we going to keep the main thing the main thing?

But is it really just a secondary issue when this largest megachurch of the Southern Baptist Convention is facing a possible disfellowship on the ground that it has defied the Baptist Faith and Message on gender roles in church leadership, which states, "While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture."

What Does Scripture Say About Women Pastors?

According to Crosswalk, there are two verses in the New Testament that are the most used references when addressing the topic of female church leaders. These verses are said to be regularly highlighted in the case against, and it makes sense at first glance, yet when one digs deeper into the context, they can say otherwise.

The first verse would be 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, which in the New International Version says, "Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church."

Taken literally, this is a big no to women pastors because it tells that women should be silent in churches, women are not allowed to speak, and that it is a disgrace for women to speak in church. Taken into context, however, the author Paul wasn't calling out women speaking in church but the lack of order in the church. It was said that Paul, in chapter 14, is dealing with a chaotic Corinth church service, where most likely, there were women disrupting orderly worship and service by asking questions to their husbands, pushing Paul to instruct them to stop talking, keep silent and ask questions later.

Moreover, Grace Communion International pointed out that in chapter 11 of the same book, Paul allowed women to pray and prophesy just like men presumably in church services. Thus, Paul will be contradicting himself if the above verse is taken literally.

In chapter 12 as well, Paul has established the gifts or manifestation of the Holy Spirit in ministry, and he did not say that these gifts are received by only one gender. In fact, Paul addressed both "brothers and sisters" in 1 Corinthians 12:1. When Paul listed various gifts of the Spirit, he did not designate any as restricted to men (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). The gifts of teaching, administration, and leadership are given to both genders. In Acts 2:17, both men and women received the gift of prophecy, or "inspired speaking" when the Holy Spirit filled the disciples.

The second verse is 1 Timothy 2:11-14, which states, "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner."

Some would say that Paul is most likely talking more about the character of a woman and the circumstances for which she is speaking provided that in other parts of his letter to Timothy, he warns of women that are immodest, slandering, and weak-willed, according to Crosswalk.

Got Question, on the other hand, said that women are not allowed to teach men or have spiritual authority over men because Eve, the woman, was the one deceived, resulting in men being chosen by God to have the primary teaching authority in the church.

Grace Communion International, however, posed this question, "Paul's policy is clear: he did not allow women to teach in the first-century church in Ephesus. However, it is not clear that we should have the same policy today. We make allowances for changes in culture when it comes to prayer posture and women's clothing. Should we also make allowances for changes in culture when it comes to women teaching and having authority in the church?"

Also Read: What Does The Bible Say About Women Leading In The Church? Pastor Explains

Deborah And Other Women God Chose To Lead

Taking in the full work of God, reading through from Genesis to Revelation, it is evident that God has chosen and used His daughters ever since to help in building His kingdom, and it is also evident that He did not require these women to keep silent to do the missions appointed to them.

Take for example Deborah, from Judges 4-5 of the Old Testament, who is both a prophet and a judge with political authority and people who come to her for decisions. She also had religious authority as she gave an authoritative message from God to an Israelite general. She even led men into battle. More so, her victory song in chapter 5 has and still is providing a lot of learnings for both men and women reading the Bible.

Huldah from 2 Kings 22:8-20 still from the Old Testament is another example of a woman God chose to lead. A prophetess, people come to her for a word from God, including the king. God used a woman to bring His words to Israelite men.

In the New Testament, there were Junia from Romans 16:7 who was part of the circle of the apostles, Chloe from 1 Corinthians 1:11, Nympha from Colossians 4:15, and Apphia from Philemon 1:2 who were all leaders of their house churches, and there was also Priscilla from Romans 16:5  who was a church planter and a woman who was highly regarded by Paul.

If God thinks that it was improper for a woman to teach men or lead, He could have just raised up a man to do all of the things above that He made these women do. This was the conclusion of Grace Communion International.

Further, Crosswalk declared, "Why not be a celebrator of women? Now is not the time to limit the workers, but rather encourage them to step into their giftings and callings to share the Gospel. We are all part of the Body and when one hurts-or is marginalized-the whole Body suffers."

Related Article: Rick Warren's Saddleback Church Ordains Its First Female Pastors, Gets Mixed Reactions