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Can Women Teach, Preach, Lead, and Pastor?
Following are a number of research resources on a controversial topic within the Christian church: women in Christian ministry.
Most Christian denominations agree that women are allowed to minister. However, there is confusion and disagreement between – and within – churches and denominations on
- whether women are allowed to teach (and if so, whether they are allowed to teach both men and women)
- whether women are allowed to be in positions of leadership,
- and if so, whether that includes the office of pastor, priest, bishop (or whichever terminology is used within a particular denomination to indicate the main person in charge of leading the congregation)
Robert Bowman, in the introduction to “A bibliography on Women in Christian Perspective,” provides the following definitions:
Traditional or Complementarian View: Men and women are equal in dignity and worth, though women are subordinate to their husbands and barred from holding offices in the church of leadership over men. The majority view of conservative evangelicals and Roman Catholics.
Egalitarian View: Men and women should be regarded as equals in authority in the home and given equal access to all positions of leadership in the church. Held by some evangelicals.
Developing Egalitarianism View: The Bible is heavily patriarchal in the Old Testament and contains traces of patriarchalism in the New Testament, but overall the Bible points to and moves toward an egalitarian view. Held by some neo-evangelical and neo-orthodox theologians.
His bibliography refers to resources from each of these viewpoints.
Our View Regarding Women in Christian Ministry
The publishers of Apologetics Index believe that the Bible nowhere forbids any woman from serving God in any capacity He calls and prepares for her to fulfill.
Whenever people come to us with questions regarding this issue, we suggest they read the book, “Who Said Women Can’t Teach?”
Written by Charles Trombley, this balanced treatment provides a thorough analysis of the Bible scriptures used by both sides of the controversy.
Among others things, Trombley delves into the history of the Christian church’s teachings regarding women:
The period between A.D. 100 and 1000 is known at the Patristic Period, for pater, Latin for “fathers.” It lasted until Anselm of Canterbury initiated the Scholastic Period. The Greek and Latin Fathers, along with the rulings of the first seven church councils, did for Christianity what rabbinicism did for Judaism. Many of them were outspokenly negative toward women and worked to exclude them from all church service. It’s unfortunate many current leaders quote these Fathers as their source and authority for silencing women in the church.
The historical evidence shows women exercised strong leadership roles through the third century. The following brief overview will point out the direction the church took, the developing attitudes, and the reasons why women were barred from public ministry. The following statements are from Fathers in both the Greek and Latin churches.
It is admitted then, that the rejection of women from the ministry doesn’t rest upon revealed Scripture, but upon the opinions of patristic church leaders with personal anti-women prejudices and hatreds. It rests upon faulty information and the ignorance of medieval scholars whose conclusions Pope Paul VI said can’t be accepted. He admitted “sacred tradition” is wrong. However, it will be continues since it has been practiced peacefully for so many years.
However, the Church of the risen Christ doesn’t operate on tradition, faulty exegesis or personal prejudices but upon truth! Jesus said that whatsoever was not of faith was sin! The practice of eliminating deacons and laymen’s ministries, and excluding women from all ministry, is admittedly wrong. It’s now time to repent!
N.T. Wright: Why women should be church leaders and preachers
Bible scholar N.T. Wright answers a listener question [See: Ask NT Wright Anything] on whether the Bible allows women to teach in churches, including the passage from 1 Timothy 2 v 11-12 “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.” Tom explains why he believes these verses have been taken out of context to forbid female church ministry.
Research Resources on Women in Christian Ministry
- Did Priscilla Teach Apollos? By Margaret Mowczko, who concludes, “As church leaders, there would have been many occasions for Priscilla and Aquila to teach, either informally or in slightly more formal house church meetings. Neither Luke nor Paul give any hint of censure or disapproval about Priscilla teaching Apollos, or her role as a house church leader. In light of the fact that Priscilla did explain Christian doctrine to a man, the blanket ban by some which prohibits women from teaching men, must be reassessed and redressed.”
- Ten Lies The Church Tells Women by J. Lee Grady, condensed from his book
- What’s Wrong With Gender-Neutral Bible Translations? by Wayne Grudem, President of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
- Women in Christian Perspective – A Bibliography Part of the CounterPoint discussion on Gender-Inclusive Bible versions. This bibliography, compiled by Robert Bowman, points readers to works reflecting differing perspectives.
- Why Arguments Against Women in Ministry Aren’t Biblical by Ben Witherington, Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, and an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church.
■ Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood [Contra] A Response to Evangelical Feminism, edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem. Note that this book was published for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW). CBMW is a Christian organization organization that promotes a complementarian view of gender issues.
■ Ten Lies the Church Tells Women [Pro] “How the Bible Has Been Misused to Keep Women in Spiritual Bondage”, by J. Lee Grady
■ Who Said Women Can’t Teach? [Pro] by Charles Trombley. Highly recommended!
This book gives the biblical answers to some of the most complex and controversial questions on women’s ministry! Does God choose only men to lead, teach, and preach? What is God’s vision for women in ministry? What do the Bible, the Jewish Talmud and early Christian writings really mean about women in ministry. Did the Apostle Paul and the early Christians dismiss the spiritual giftings of women? Are women today defying Scripture? Was Paul wrong when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:34, “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for it is not permitted unto them to speak?”
■ Women in the Church. [Contra] Subtitled, “A Fresh Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:9-15.” This series of essays addresses the issue regarding the ministry of women in the church. The essays deal with grammatical, linguistic, exegetical, hermeneutical, and theological points and constitute one of the most comprehensive treatments to date on the subject. By Andreas J. Kostenberger (Editor), Thomas R. Schreiner (Editor), H. Scott Baldwin. Promotes a complementarian point of view.
Books – Online
■ A Woman’s Place? Leadership in the Church [Pro] by C.S. Cowles.
■ Christians for Biblical Equality Equips “believers to serve as Christ’s agents of reconciliation by affirming the Biblical truth of equality and promoting communities of wholeness.”
■ Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood “Mission: The mission of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is to set forth the teachings of the Bible about the complementary differences between men and women, created equally in the image of God, because these teachings are essential for obedience to Scripture and for the health of the family and the church.” More clearly: the organization promotes a complementarian view of gender issues. At Apologetics Index we disagree with that view.
■ God’s Word to Women “God is calling women to assume the full scope of the role for which they were created. This site is designed to help women in their search to discover who God says they are.”
■ Women in the Heart of God A course examining women in the bible and in the early church — their achievements, their abuse, and common misconceptions about their ‘status.’ Part of the Christian Think-Tank site.
Women in Apologetics The website of the International Society of Women in Apologetics (ISWA) is “designed as a main resource, or a hub, of apologetic blogs and related material written by women in this area of ministry.” Links to a few male bloggers as well.
Also in Apologetics Index
- John de Ruiter – College of Integrated Philosophy
- The Church of Almighty God (Eastern Lightning)
- Twelve Tribes
- Conspiracy Theories
- Youth With A Mission (YWAM)
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First published (or major update) on Tuesday, June 2, 2015.
Last updated on February 22, 2023. Original content is © Copyright Apologetics Index. All Rights Reserved. For usage guidelines see link at the bottom.