you choose Q: is it permissable for women to be pastors?
Q: Is it correct to have women as pastors? I thought the Bible says no—correct? —Karl
A: The main Scriptural evidence referred to by people who don’t believe that women should be pastors is 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:12. First Timothy 2:12 seems to place an especially strong limitation on the service of women in the church, “I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men.”
These two passages are rather puzzling when seen in the context of the entire New Testament. It’s interesting—for example—that it was in Ephesus, the church to which 1 Timothy was addressed, that Priscilla gave instructions to the famous preacher Apollos. In 1 Corinthians 11:5—within the same epistle in which Paul states that it is shameful for a woman to speak in church—Paul seems to assume that women will be speaking openly in mixed church gatherings.
Women did have the authority to preach in the apostolic church (Acts 21:8-9). It is possible that Paul in 1 Corinthians 14 was addressing a particular issue relating to the Corinthian women that would have been clear to the Corinthians but is not to us.
Many passages in Scripture describe the important role played by women in the apostolic church, a role they played in spite of many severe, culturally imposed limitations. D. L. Moody, A. J. Gordon, C. G. Finney, and J. Blanchard considered women to be virtually equal to men in terms of their ministry in the church. One of Dwight L. Moody’s associate evangelists, Phoebe Palmer, was credited with the salvation of 25,000 souls. She declared that the church is often like a “potter’s field,” in which the talents of women are buried. A great deal of biblical study was devoted to this issue during the period of the great American evangelists in the past century.
I believe that Paul’s strong wording in 1 Timothy 2:12 calls for discretion in respect to women’s leadership in the church. At the same time, however, the puzzling and seemingly contradictory nature of Paul’s statements on this issue, combined with the clear teaching of Scripture in respect to the equality of the sexes before God (Genesis 1:27; 1 Corinthians 11:11-12; Galatians 3:28; Acts 10:34), make me skeptical of the view that women are to be denied the opportunity to use their God-given gifts in the church for the glory of God.
At present, I believe that the most biblical position is be to allow women to possess authority in the church with the supervision of the pastor and elders. The standards for elders given in 1 Timothy 3 are very strict and exacting, and if these standards are upheld by the church, women will not labor under arbitrary and authoritarian male leadership. —Dan VanderLugt
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