The battle over women ministers continues to be waged in Christendom. I don’t doubt the sincerity of both sides (in most cases) but I do question their use of scripture. It’s human nature to “fit” scripture into the mold that will be used to support a particular position. I think both sides do that.
I have no strong feeling about it one way or the other. I believe that neither side should make it a matter of division. I think that if a group of Christians desire a female minister then they should have one. If a group doesn’t then they mustn’t be forced. The claim that it dilutes the Church with false teachings is unsubstantiated. There are hoards of apostate male ministers who don’t preach the true gospel. Female ministers aren’t going to make it worse.
The main passages I find that directly relate to female ministers are…
1 Timothy 2: I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent
I Corinthians 14: As in all the congregations of the saints, 34women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. 35If 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.
I notice several things from those passages.
First, Paul was not infallible. Although everything in the Bible is true, not everything in the Bible is right. For instance, it’s true that David committed adultery and then murder but that doesn’t mean it was right. I’m not saying Paul was wrong in this point in question but neither am I saying he was right for all people in all eras.
Notice that Paul says to Timothy, “I” don’t permit a woman to teach…. In several other instances in his letters Paul makes it clear that a command is from God or is his, Paul, own personal conviction. The Timothy passage doesn’t make the distinction. Taken on face value, “I” we’d be safe to conclude its Paul’s conviction and his prerogative at that time in the life of the Church.
Second, Paul was a first century Christian, a former religious Jew but never did he cease to be an ethnic Jew. If we know anything from history it’s that no one fully sheds cultural traditions and patterns. In Jewish tradition women weren’t allowed to speak in synagogue much less to teach over men. We don’t know if Paul received direct instruction from the Lord on the matter or whether he was carrying the tradition over to the Christian church.
He said in his Corinthian letter that in all the churches of that time women remained silent. He told the Corinthians directly that “it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.” Are we 100% certain that that was something meant for all churches for all time? I don’t believe so.
Third, Paul was building up the infant church. He wasn’t fearful of telling it like it was but he was also mindful of keeping Christians focused on the main things; Christ and him crucified.
There’s a secular parallel, albeit in reverse, in American history.
The founders had debated the issue of slavery but chose to no abolish it in the Constitution. Why? Well, deals were made yes but they didn’t want to tear the country apart when it had barely begun. Right or wrong, that was their thinking in addition to the fact that many of the founder themselves couldn’t let go of slavery, it was too deeply entrenched.
Two passages that I find that are sometimes used in support of women ministers are…
Joel 2: 28 I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.
Supporters of women ministers point out that it’s unlikely that prophesying “daughters” would doing it only in the presence of women. I personally don’t think it matters whether a woman truly filled by the Holy Spirit prophesizes to men and women as long as it’s not done in chaos.
Prophesy is often an isolated instance with a specific purpose not ongoing preaching such as performed by ministers.
Another supporting passage is…
Romans 16 in which Paul wrote “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me.
Some people point at the passage and say “see there, Paul instructed the Roman church to allow Phoebe authority over men.” I don’t see it. Paul asks the Romans to welcome her and to help her but nowhere does he instruct them to allow her to preach. She was in fact a deaconess in the church but I don’t think we know if deaconesses preached to men. It seems unlikely.
Thankfully a war of arms hasn’t been fought over the issue of women ministers. In all the denominations I know, women are “ministers” in every way. In some women aren’t allowed a “pastoral” role.
A pastoral role is much like the role of a general. A general is responsible for the overall strategy or vision for an entire army. It’s a fact that men are better suited for that type of role while while women are better suited for managerial type roles.
I think that any woman who raises “hell” over not being allowed to be a preacher has proved that she’s not pastor material. Any man who automatically rejects women as ministers shows that he hasn’t fully grasped the concept of the priesthood of all believers; male and female.
Ladies, do you feel called to be a pastor? Then continue praying-allow God to open the door.
Men, don’t make a fuss over women who want to be pastors- pray and ask for wisdom without bias
Both, remember the words of Gamaliel, “if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men you will only find yourselves fighting against God”