Women in Ministry

This is a subject that seems to be in many places on the blogosphere at the moment. I wrote on that subject about a year ago on a previous blog. I still think the same now, so I have copied it below:


Friday, 13 November 2009

Women in Ministry

This is a subject that has come up in more than one of our classes in college. It provokes very strong responses from many people, one way or the other.

There are two (or maybe three) views which people may hold. The third view states that women should literally be completely silent in church, and only men speak. Women are forbidden from praying publically in a prayer meeting. That view, whilst sincerely held is a minority view in the 21st century church.

The two main views are Complementarian and the Egalitarian.

Complimentarians believe that there is a structure whereby men should take the lead, but that women have a very real part to play in church ministry. This is expressed in different ways in different churches, but often in practice it means that a woman is able to do anything in church life EXCEPT pulpit ministry and eldership.

On the other hand, Egalitarians believe that women should do exactly the same as men, in other words there are no roles that are exclusively for men. This view says that that they SHOULD preach and take on eldership responsibilities.

I believe that the complimentatian view is correct. Looking at the whole sweep of Scripture, we see from creation that men and women were created equal but different in roles. Men were always given the role of ultimate responsibility, throughout the Old and New Testaments.

Jesus himself had the opportunity, if he so wished, to appoint women as Apostles, but did not do so. It was NOT because he did not want to go against the cultural norm of the day. He WAS counter – cultural in so many ways, not least in the respect that he showed to women. But he still chose 12 men. In the writings of Paul we see the principle of male leadership. It is claimed that is only cultural, or only applying to specific situations. However, the Apostle uses foundational principles from the Old Testament, so it cannot be purely cultural.

I am aware that I have only scratched the surface here, I am sure that this is another of those subjects to which I will return. Suffice is to say that taking the Scripture as a whole, and applying it to the present situation, in any expression of church, we need to maintain both the equality AND the distinctive functions of men and women. I believe the complimentarian view works best.



4 thoughts on “Women in Ministry

  1. Hi Richard,I would also come down on the complementary rile of women in the Church/- but how do you address the charge of rank sexism with regard to Women are good enough to teach Sunday School eh?.
    I have relunctantly listened to Women take public part in a ministry /Teaching Role and the quality and depth of their insite and teaching leaves a sad reflection on some of the Mens public involvement and lack of insite and ability in deliverence as they take the Pulpit as we say.What say you?


  2. Hi there, John. I think that you are right – what you have described as women in public ministry says more about the men’s lack of ability than the women’s ability. Men need to step up to the mark! I do think that there is a public role for women, though; reading Scripture, praying publically, giving testimony and other such sharing. I know that there can be a fine line between sharing testimony and authoritative preaching, but I think that if we are aware of the principle, then God won’t mind if we are not always 100% consistent.

    As regards teaching Sunday School; I would see the purpose of that as nurturing and training children in the ways of the Lord. Biblically, that is to be done in families e.g. Deuteronomy 6 v 7. That would no doubt include the mother as well as the father. If the church is seen as an extension of the family, then it is right and proper that women should teach children.


  3. hi Richard ,
    As regards the Sunday School issue, I never had a problem but I had never argues it quite the way that you present it .It is indeed a nice and as far as I can tell a sound reasoning.
    Howver coming from a Brethern Bible teacking background the is the thorny issue of if the woman prays let her head be covered etc. Even if the Church is split on this issue it is there in Black and White and anything we dont like we trat the Bible sometime like a menu card- I have some of that- we can skip that etc some call it aLa Carte acceptance of what saeth the Scriptures-John


  4. The whole issue of head covering is a controversial one, and is one of those areas over which genuine Christians disagree. I think that it is the principle that is the important thing, and different churches will come to different conclusions about how the complimentarianism works out in practice. I also think, though, that those who don’t advocate the covering of women’s head can do so through a credible exegesis of the Scripture in question (1 Cor 11). It is not necessarily that they have ignored that passage.


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