Women in Pastoral Ministry

“I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” – 1 Timothy 2:12 

Part of me would just like to stop writing right now, because what could I possibly say to clarify this verse?  This verse is always attacked and called into question, yet it clearly states “I DO NOT permit a woman to teach […] over a man”.  Yet somehow we have gotten to a point in our culture where we must dispute even the clearest of scripture.  So let’s examine some objections to this.

This teaching belittles women!
No, it doesn’t.  How does being under someone else authority belittle you?  Jesus was submissive to the Father, but was he less then the father?  Nope!  Not being permitted to lead does not make you any less.  The wife is to be submissive to her husband, but is she less then her husband?  Again, nope!  We are all equal in Christ, but Christ did set up a order in his church.

Yeah well, what about Phoebe?!
In Romans 16:1, Paul calls Phoebe a great servant of the church.  Unfortunately some bible translations have translated the world “servant” into the word “deaconess” which I believe is a poor translation.  The greek word for deacon is diakonos which is the ordinary word for “servant”.  In fact, the gospel authors use “diakonos” to describe Christ as a servant.  But regardless, deacons are different from elders (bishops) according to Philipians 1:1.  One of the requirements that Paul sets forth for deacon in 1 Timothy 3 is they be “the husband of one wife” (literally translated as “one woman man”.  Obviously Phoebe cannot be the husband of one wife based on the fact that she is a woman.  So I believe that servant is the accurate translation in Romans 16.  However, I believe it is significant that nowhere in scripture do deacons have ruling authority over the church like elders do, nor are they required to teach.

Through the entire scope of the bible, both new and old testament alike, the pattern is the same.  Women are to be submissive to Men.  This is seen in Genesis all the way to Revelation.  I’m sure some people (probably mostly women) will read this and object and tell me what they think and how they feel.  Well, it doesn’t matter what you think.  Whether anyone likes it or not is irrelevant to the fact that this is what the Bible teaches.  I’m sure someone will say something (or at least think!) to the effect that this teaching was for that cultural and not for ours.  But let me ask you, is our God a god that never changes or is he a god that changes depending on cultures?  If you do have any objections though, feel free to post them in the comments and I will reply do the best of my ability.  Or if you would rather talk to me in private about this (or anything else really) feel free to contact me and we can discuss it!


26 responses to “Women in Pastoral Ministry

  1. I disagree. Here’s why. (And you might want to know that I’m male. It’s not just women who think you’re misguided.)

    The first objection you address – this teaching belittling women – Your comment picture shows you to be a Caucasian male. I’m one, too. Those in majority cultures tend to be ignorant of what minority people find belittling, and we often (unintentionally) place our own values in an authoritative position. We don’t get to decide what belittles someone of another group. It’s arrogant to believe so (something 1 Timothy 6 cautions us against).

    Re: bible translating – Intelligent people with far more years of study than you or I combined have done major work on translating Greek texts, and they disagree with one another. Often. It’s one of the reasons we have multiple bible translations. Every translation interprets from one linguistic field to another. As you point out, the word “diakonos” can probably refer to an office (Deacon-not-elder) or to a social status (servant-not-butler) or to a statement of worth (slave-not-master). But because you’ve assumed, based on a reading of 1 Timothy, that no deacon could be female, you decide that the office (Deacon) cannot be the proper translation choice. Others would determine that, because Phoebe is listed first, that she is the most important and should be given an honored title. Others might say that because Junia (16:7) is called “prominent among the apostles” (NRSV) – a higher office than deacon, if we’re gonna play a hierarchy game – then by virtue of comparison it’s no big deal if women are also Deacons. NB: I’m not necessarily arguing for one of these alternative interpretations (I can do that later if you like), but I am suggesting that they are possible interpretations.

    Also, your literal translation of 1 Tim. 3:7 isn’t quite right. It’s more like “[D]eacons be of-one-woman men”; “one woman” is in the genitive case, so there’s some sort of implied preposition or relationship.

    I also disagree with your reading of “Genesis to Revelation.” Read the beginning of Moses’s story and see who delivers “the deliverer.” It sure ain’t the Pharaoh! Mom, sister, midwives, and Pharaoh’s own daughter all play significant roles in God’s plan to deliver the Israelites. Again, interpretation is debatable, generally based on our own presuppositions, but it seems that this story points to the key role of women’s inclusion in God’s plan.

    Or take the book of Judges. Deborah is a judge (certainly ruling over men), and it is Jael who performs “man’s work” by killing Sisera in her tent – another God-ordained win for the Israelites.

    None of this is to imply that God has changed (as you suggest). I do think our understanding of God has changed and continually changes (like the call of “Reformed and always being Reformed”), and that the bible is a source for documenting the multiple ways humankind understood God over 650-1200 years (using the widest range of generally-accepted spans for the writing – not necessarily the oral origins – of the biblical texts). But some of us do believe that cultural context plays a key role in both how scripture is written and how scripture is read.

    Two final thoughts:

    1) Taking texts literally (or leaving them to speak for themselves, as you hint at at the top of your post) is impossible if you hope to present the bible as an interlocking collection OR to claim your life is lived in accordance with its mandates (even giving allowances for the presence of sin in all of us and the entire world). Gen. 1 implies that humans were the last thing to be created; Gen. 2 implies that humans came before animals. Your “comment picture” shows that you don’t have crazy-looking sideburns; Lev. 19:27 reads, “Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head.” Again, I am not arguing that the two chapters of Genesis contradict, nor am I negating the oft-used interpretation that this passage in Leviticus refers to a “purity code” that we no longer keep as opposed to a “morality code” still required of us by God. What I am saying is that you have to make theological interpretations of these passages on every side (contradiction or not, shave or fuzz), and that these interpretations did not come handed down to us from the Almighty or dictated by Jesus himself. These are theological interpretations that make sense to you and many others; they also are ludicrous to a good many other people who are as Christian as you.

    2) I think you SHOULD care what other people think about your theology. I’ll agree that one’s feelings don’t dictate the truth of one’s convictions, but I do think that feelings are often the catalyst for one’s quest to find truth. To equate your beliefs with God’s ways and to insinuate that people who disagree with you don’t matter opposes the character of the One who calls us to be reconciled to one another and to our Creator and Redeemer.

    • Thanks for reading Allyn. I don’t agree with you on a lot or all of your points. I don’t see why my race and/or gender should play any role in biblical truths. But what I wanted to hit on is that quite frankly you didn’t say anything that promotes the idea that women should be pastors. I could be wrong but it would seem that your only real argument is “you don’t follow this law, so why should we follow any law?!” which I must say is a pretty poor argument. I think you should check out http://www.cbmw.org/

  2. You’ve completely missed my point. I didn’t directly offer up a counter-argument in favor of women in ministry because I assumed that your hermeneutical method wouldn’t accept my arguments for it. You have chosen (as I see it) to value the witness of 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 14 over the witness of Galatians 3, Joel 2 (quoted by Peter at Pentecost), Judges, possibly Exodus, etc. That’s an interpretive choice, and I have made a different one. I wish yours weren’t so, you probably wish mine weren’t so. Billions share in our stalemate, though not solely limited to this particular issue.

    Instead, I offered a different take on what you and others call “biblical truth.” Never once did I suggest that we should follow NO law. What I wrote was that we choose which laws we follow. Many of us ignore the law about shaving; even my current three-day stubble finds me guilty of that one. The point is not to give up following laws altogether, but that the particular laws we prioritize are based on our own methods (often borrowed from those we deem to have “correct,” or Godly, interpretations). When we equate our interpretations with God’s, we are guilty of pride of the greatest degree. It is a sin we must all commit because we can’t have arguments like these without taking a stand on our principles; the effects of the fall are ever-present in us. Let me say it again: I am claiming that both you and I are guilty of this here. But we also, I believe, have to acknowledge that we are committing this sin even in the midst of it. I claim that your heavy-handed discussion of “biblical truths” refuses to acknowledge this sin.

    God, to my knowledge, has never given us a biblical interpretation manual with steps for understanding clearly spelled out. Rather, men and women throughout history have read the bible, deemed it to be inspired (which is what the bible seems to claim for itself – not inerrancy or infallibility, which are human claims about it), and seen that inspiration in a multitude of ways. Loud voices with a message similar to yours have, over the last 30 years especially, convinced many that theirs is the only biblical (or Godly, or authoritative) message.

    To be frank, those voices scare me – mostly for the sake of other people. I hear more of the Grand Inquisitor in them than I hear God. I don’t think God is or was proud of the Inquisition, a time when loud voices forced coercion, limited REAL inquiry (ironic given the movement’s name), and required allegiance to the idol of conformity.

    But I am not trying to convert you to my opinion or belief system. I am not persuasive enough for that task. I am merely hoping that, by presenting an alternative way to interpret the scripture we share, I might get you to wonder about a different way of reading it yourself. Not to change your way of reading, but to suggest to you that other ways of reading deserve to be heard, considered, measured, and perhaps accepted by some.

    Ps – I’m well aware of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. They make their arguments (though more often they seem more like dogmatic statements than arguments), but I don’t find them persuasive or convincing.

      • I think the bible claims to be divinely inspired. I think many have tried to add on to that idea in an effort to narrow down that concept. Inspiration can lead to a wide range of thoughts, and that kind of flexibility makes some people squirm. So somewhere someone thought that using “infallibility” helped clarify things. But later that wasn’t good enough, so people started talking about “inerrancy.”

        I also think that “infallibility” and “inerrancy” are used in loosely-defined ways. Some use them interchangeably; some say they’re different. Honestly, I don’t have a great definition for infallibility and since the bible never claims that adjective for itself, I try to stick with talking about inspiration. And I tend to think inerrancy is hogwash.

        I think the bible says what God wanted/wants/will want it to say. Or, rather, I think the books of the bible say what God wanted/wants/will want them to say. I think they say things in the way God wanted// to say them. But I think that many read those things in ways that God doesn’t require (and sometimes may not even like).

      • So you want to argue with what the bible actually teaches, despite the fact that you don’t think it’s perfect? Why even bother arguing with you lol

  3. I wasn’t going to respond to this since my husband (Allyn Harris Dault) did, but I feel you (or your readers) should hear from a woman who is called to be a pastor.

    Hearing the idea that a woman is supposed to be “beneath” man as somehow on the level of Jesus and God strikes me as ridiculous. I don’t mean any disrespect by that, but Jesus had the ability to live the life he was called to live. If we are to believe that women are not able to serve in any roles of leadership, what happens to those whom God has gifted with leadership abilities?

    I also disagree when you say that women are submissive throughout Scripture. Allyn already mentioned some of the women leaders — Deborah, Esther, etc. It seems to me women who are willing to take risks for their faith are honored in Scripture.

    And while you mention one verse of Paul, you are ignoring the places where he talks about his esteemed colleagues in his mission efforts(women) and when he says that in Christ there is no male or female, for all are one.

    You might ask what we do with the verse you quoted, then. How about turn to the first century church and how they interpreted it? Women served as deacons, church hostesses and prophetesses. They were missionaries and served communion. It wasn’t until the 3rd or 4th centuries that women were taken OUT of church roles.

    Joel tells us that sons and daughters will prophesy. Both male and female are created in the image of God. When we silence one of those voices, we limit how God can work and speak.

    My experience of faith is different than yours — not because of denominational or theological issues, but because I’m a woman and you are not. I need to hear the faith experiences of men. I believe men and women also need to hear the faith experiences of women.

    I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church. I also knew from the time I was a child that I was called to ministry. Since I knew I wasn’t called to missions, I spent years conflicted over what God was calling me to do. It took years of prayer and a friendly tap on the shoulder from a seminary president to make me realize that the only thing that makes sense is for me to be a pastor — as soon as I said that out loud, I felt peace. Now, at 28, I’m a second-year MDiv student, trying to love people as God does.

    I’m not here to kick men out of church or throw women out of the kitchen, I just want to follow God to the best of my ability. I am a strong believer of the Bible and do what I can to read and comprehend it faithfully. I don’t have all the answers, but I trust that God has called me and that I must follow God’s call. I hope that if there are women reading your blog who are struggling with their own sense of calling, that they will recognize that there are those who have a VERY high view of the Bible who see things differently than you.

    And I wish you blessings as you study and learn and interpret. May God continue renewing and transforming you just as God continues renewing and transforming me.

    • God wouldn’t call you to be a pastor because God doesn’t call people to do things directly against his will. I’m totally not against women in church, and I believe they can help ministry. But the bible is clear that women should not be in leadership roles with authority over men.

      • I obviously interpret God’s will concerning women differently. I am curious, however, about what you mean by “authority.” I tend to view all as under God’s authority. I don’t believe a preacher should preach from his/her own authority, but rather he/she should share God’s message.

      • I believe a pastor is a leader, but each Christian has the responsibility to examine what a pastor says/does and evaluate it before God. I’m a Baptist, so priesthood of the believer is important to me. So it isn’t “whatever the pastor says must be right.”

      • I was not implying that you believed that. I wasn’t trying to make any statement about your beliefs, but about mine. I’m sorry if you read it that way. I was merely saying that isn’t what I believe. The quotes weren’t supposed to be related to you.

      • You’re still not understanding me. My problem is not with the bible; it’s with our interpretations of the bible. I think the bible is inspired by God, that it says what God wants it to say. The bible is just fine as it is. I don’t think it needs to be changed at all. (For instance, I don’t think we need to talk about inerrancy when the bible only talks in terms of inspiration. Why require more than the bible does? But that’s just one example, and I’d rather talk theory if it’s ok with you.) I’m not sure how that’s different from your notion of “a perfect bible”; can you explain that to me?

        Also, what do you mean by “scripture as the ultimate authority”?

        Related, how do you separate “what God says” from “what you/I read in the text”? Since you and I read the 1 Timothy passage differently, what makes yours right and mine wrong?

      • What makes mine right? Because I follow what it says lol. “I don’t allow women to teach” seems pretty clear to me. Now obviously you think I am just interpreting that wrong, but it’s hard to misinterpret such clear scripture (obviously you and your wife do however). I will be earnestly praying for both of you and the church that allows her to preach.

  4. Do you “cut the hair at the sides of your head”? Do you “wear clothing of two different kinds of materials”? (both from Leviticus 19)

    What was the last part of your body that “cause[d] you to stumble”? I hope you don’t have it anymore, since Matthew 5 says to cut it off. By your logic, the bible says it, so we should do it. Or, is there something else involved?

  5. The fact that you’re unwilling to address honest questions from a so-called brother is sad. I’m not trying to trap you; I’m trying to engage you where you are. This isn’t “scripture-toss,” it’s believing that you are genuine in what you say but that your method has severe limitations. If it didn’t, it could address my questions.

    I want to give you that chance. Several times I’ve wanted to write you off as a modern-day Pharisee. I could just as easily accuse you of playing “scripture-toss” based on your lack of respect for the verses I mentioned regarding God-approved women in leadership, legal requirements, or words from the mouth of Jesus. I’d rather give you a chance to prove me wrong.

    I ask again: engage me on the issues I raise. Offer me the same respect I’ve shown you. For instance, you thought I was saying, “Why follow any laws at all?,” and I tried to respond with what I intended to convey. I showed you the courtesy of listening and addressing your questions. In return, you have acted more like a bully than a brother. You have tried to pick on me, ignoring several opportunities to treat me like a human being created in God’s image.

    Is there any chance of an honest response of engagement between us?

    • You have made no arguments, you have only thrown out Leviticus law and called me a hypocrite for now keeping the law (obviously you don’t read many of Paul’s epistles). You call into question authority and perfection of scripture. You can call me a “pharisee” if it helps you cope with your own beliefs, I will still be praying that God opens your eyes and your heart to his word.

      • Well what about me? I turned to specific passages in Paul, particular women in the Scriptures and the interpretation of the church closest to Jesus’ time. Laughing me off as a woman doesn’t make Joel’s statement that “sons and DAUGHTERS will prophesy” any less valid, nor does it explain why that one verse of Paul’s holds more weight than the places where he esteems women (who are leaders and who have taught him) and suggests that there is no male or female in Christ. We both truly want to know why that one verse holds more weight to you. If our eyes need to be opened, help us! We are paying attention!

        But instead all you have done is insult our intelligence by saying “isn’t it obvious” and “obviously you don’t read…” Allyn and I both live our lives according to the Bible. We read it — we study it at both church and school. We study historical context, we read commentaries and Bible dictionaries to see what others have said, and we approach all of this prayerfully. You may not like where we are, but making assumptions on our familiarity with Scripture or assuming that because Allyn doesn’t like the term “inerrant” means that we don’t think Scripture is authoritative comes across as a handy way to dismiss us. You DO believe that Scripture is inerrant, so aren’t the other passages I have mentioned also such? Help me see Scripture the way you do, because I want to know where you are coming from. And if your system is better, I’ll drop out of seminary and repent — because I *do* want to follow God’s will.

      • Well now I’m just confused. How is prophesying different than preaching/teaching?

        I’m not trying to put any words in your mouth. I am honestly trying to figure out what you believe and why so that I can evaluate my own beliefs. I believe in learning from the gifts and experience of others — I believe God works through that. I am hoping to refine myself through your witness. Please help me do that.

  6. In 1 Corinthians, Paul seperates the spiritual gifts of teaching from the spiritual gift of prophesying. He seems to indicate that they are different.

    Additionally, in the Old Testament in over 700 mentions of priests, every single one was a male. There is not one instance of a female priest. This is significant because priests were ordained by God to hold a very important office of ministering the sacrifices. This was not the job of women. Therefore, from what I see in Genesis 1-2, 1 Timothy 2, and Titus 1, the normal and proper person to hold the office of elder/pastor is to be a man.

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