Readers Question / Comment - Should women be head Pastor of a church?

What does scripture really teach about women being head Pastor of a church? There are arguments that seem scripturally correct for both sides of the argument. I know we can twist scripture to support almost anything we want it to say if we grab the "right" passages and leave out those that do not support our view especially when taken out of context. I want the truth because when the day is done that's all that really matters. Right now I'm standing in a position of their teaching can be God ordained but a position of authority cannot (because it causes us to lose sight of Gods divine hierarchy and order of submission; Christ over man, man over woman. Please use the scriptures found in 1 Tim 2:11-12, 1 Cor 14:34-36, roles of Deborah, Phoebe, and Priscilla. I believe there is also one in Titus some use against it and one I think in Galatians that is used for it (Paul's claims that there is no male or female, etc although I believe this one in context is speaking only of salvation). Thank you for any truth you can shed on this.

JPN Reply:

Hi,
thanks for the email and the question and apologies for the slooow response. A good old curly question in the church it is too! And one that is all too easy, as you say, to grab one scripture and abandon others, and move into extremes (on both sides of the argument!)

As a little bit of background, I go to a small fellowship and we are a bit different in that we don't have a single "Pastor" as such. We have a group of leaders (comprising both men and women) who oversee the church. We don't have anyone that is paid - but being small we can get away with not having anyone "fulltime" as such so I understand that we will be different in that regard. It is men who teach on a regular basis within the church (I am one of them) although women can and do speak/preach from time to time. We also have a time of 'open church' normally following the sermon where anyone can share.

Your central question is should women be the head Pastor of a church? I don't see how you could answer yes from a Biblical point of view. That is not to belittle the roles that women have within the church or women in general. But I believe that role has been given from God to men to perform. Let's look at some of the scriptures you mentioned:

1Co 14:34-35 women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. (35) If 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 have commentaries in the Bible software that I use (and generally like) that take this hard and fast (without exceptions it seems) and just say that women shouldn't speak in church! I don't believe that. To me, this is one of the scriptures that should be read in context. For example, if this is a hard and fast rule that women shouldn't speak in church then it contradicts what Paul has previously said in the same letter to the Corinthians in chapter 11 where Paul said that women did exercise spiritual gifts including praying and prophesying within the church. Also he encourages 'ALL' to have something to share in terms of a teaching, a psalm, a revelation, a tongue in 1 Cor 14:26. So I think the context and background events are important here.

David Guzik's commentary says the following about 1 Cor 14:34-35 and gives some of this context:
'In the Jewish synagogues, men and women would sit apart. But if a woman chattered or called out to her husband sitting far off, she would be dealt with severely. The Corinthian church may have adopted the same kind of seating arrangement, but with many women from Gentile backgrounds, they did not know how to conduct themselves at a church meeting. Paul is teaching them how.'

Alan Redpath points out that Paul uses the Greek verb laleo, which means, "to talk, question, argue, profess, or chatter." Redpath says, "It has nothing to do with prophecy or prayer; it is not public speaking as such."

1Ti 2:11-14 A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. (12) But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. (13) For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. (14) And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.

I believe that God has laid down different roles for men and women within the church just as He has within the marriage relationship. It certainly doesn't mean one is any greater or more important than the other. It is simply different roles. It is the same with the Trinity. They have different roles but it doesn't mean any are greater than the other. For example, the Holy Spirit comes not to draw attention to Himself but to Jesus. Jesus is willing to become a man and rely totally upon the Father. There is a willing submission within the Trinity that exalts others and yet it doesn't at any time mean any is lesser or greater.

Within the Church I believe that God has said that the overall leadership is to be male. That is a role he has given them. Gal 3:28 which speaks of all being one in Christ is a wonderful truth speaking of salvation, our position and blessings 'in Christ Jesus'. It has nothing to do with the God given roles within the Church however. One reason for these roles may be because of the different ways men and women are 'wired'. Jacob Prasch speaks about men, post fall, being insensitive (in general) and women as 'hypersensitive'. Thus it is easier for women to hear from God but it is also easier for them to be misled or deceived. It may be because of this that God has given the role of Church leadership to males (who in general are less emotional than women). Prasch writes:

Men are reliant on female sensitivity because of the Fall. On the other hand, while it is usually easier for women to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, it is also easier for women to hear the voice of a counterfeit spirit and thus fall into deception, to be taken in by spiritual seduction. Women are much more vulnerable to spiritual seduction than are men. Therefore, just as men are reliant on female sensitivity, so women are reliant on male protection.

Have a read here if interested (though it is only a little part of the overall sermon):

http://www.moriel.org/Sermons/Online/Midrash_in_Garden/midrash_jesus_in_garden.pdf

So should a women be a head pastor in a Church? No I don't believe so. It seems from scripture that that is a role God has given to men. Certainly there are times within the Bible, such as what you mentioned about Deborah in the Old Testament, where females did take the lead. But this is the exception, not the rule, and seems to have arisen where men wouldn't do what was given them to do. Also you mentioned valid examples from the New Testament where women were prominent such as Priscilla and Phoebe. They served wonderfully in their roles within the church. Great. The word used to describe Phoebe in Rom 16:1 is 'diakonon' which in other places (but not all) is translated as "deacon". So she was serving the Church (maybe as a deaconess) and Paul wanted to commend her in this work. Again, fantastic.

I've written enough although I know it is a subject that probably requires a lot more. It isn't an easy topic. 1 Tim 2:11-14 especially requires more explanation so I have added David Guzik's commentary notes on that below which are helpful. He especially has some good points on 'being silent' and the breakdown in general of 'authority' in our society.

Anyway, all the best and I hope some clarity has been added to this difficult topic,

Iain Gordon.

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David Guzik's commentary on 1 Tim 2:11-12

Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.

a. Let a woman learn in silence: This unfortunate translation has led some to believe that it is forbidden for women to even speak in church meetings. Paul uses the same word translated silence in 1Ti_2:2, and it is translated peaceable there. The idea is without contention instead of total silence.

i. In other places in the New Testament, even in the writings of Paul, women are specifically mentioned as praying and speaking in the church (1Co_11:5). To learn in silence has the idea of women receiving the teaching of the men God has chosen to lead in the church, with submission instead of contention.

ii. Submission is the principle; to learn in silence describes the application of the principle.

iii. Some have said the reason for this is because in these ancient cultures (as well as some present-day cultures), men and women sat in separate sections. The thought is that women interrupted the church service by shouting questions and comments to their husbands during the service. Clarke expresses this idea: "It was lawful for men in public assemblies to ask questions, or even interrupt the speaker when there was any matter in his speech which they did not understand; but this liberty was not granted to women."

b. With all submission: The word for submission here literally means, "To be under in rank." It has to do with respecting an acknowledged order of authority. It certainly does not mean that men are more spiritual than women or that women are inferior to men.

i. "Anyone who has served in the armed forces knows that 'rank' has to do with order and authority, not with value or ability. . . . Just as an army would be in confusion if there were no levels of authority, so society would be in chaos without submission." (Wiersbe)

c. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man: Paul's meaning seems clear. Women are not to have the role of teaching authority in the church. To be under authority is the principle; not teaching is the application.

i. Paul is saying that the church should not recognize women as those having authority in the church regarding matters of doctrine and Scriptural interpretation.

ii. Not all speaking or teaching by a woman is necessarily a violation of God's order of authority in the church. Whatever speaking or teaching is done by a woman must be done in submission to the men God has appointed to lead the church.

iii. 1Co_11:1-12 emphasizes the same principle. Women are to always act under authority in the congregation, demonstrated in Corinthian culture by the wearing of a head covering. Therefore a woman in the Corinthian church could only pray or prophesy if she demonstrated that she was under the leadership of the church, and she demonstrated this by wearing a head covering and by acting consistently with that principle.

d. I do not permit: The strength of Paul's wording here makes it challenging to obey this command in today's society. Since the 1970's, our culture has rejected the idea that there may be different roles for men and women in the home, in the professional world, or in the church. In this text (among others), the Holy Spirit clearly says there is a difference in roles.

i. But the cultural challenge must be seen in its true context - not just a struggle between men and women, but as a struggle with the issue of authority in general. Since the 1960's, there has been a massive change in the way we see and accept authority.

Citizens do not have the same respect for government's authority.
Students do not have the same respect for teacher's authority.
Women do not have the same respect for men's authority.
Children do not have the same respect for parental authority.
Employees do not have the same respect for their employer's authority.
People do not have the same respect for the police's authority.
Christians no longer have the same respect for church authority.

ii. There are not many who would say that these changes have been good. Generally, people do not feel safer and there is less confidence in the culture. Television and other entertainment get worse and worse. In fact, our society is presently in, and rushing towards, complete anarchy - the state where no authority is accepted, and the only thing that matters is what one wants to do.

iii. It is fair to describe our present moral state as one of anarchy. There is no moral authority in our culture. When it comes to morality, the only thing that matters is what one wants to do. And in a civil sense, many neighborhoods in our nation are given over to anarchy. The government's authority is not accepted in gang-infested portions of our cities. The only thing that matters is what one wants to do.

iv. We must see the broader attack on authority as a direct Satanic strategy to destroy our society and millions of individual lives. He is accomplishing this with two main attacks. First, the corruption of authority; second, the rejection of authority.

v. This idea of authority and submission to authority are so important to God that they are part of His very being. The First Person of the Holy Trinity is called the Father; the Second Person of the Holy Trinity is called the Son. Inherent in those titles is a relationship of authority and submission to authority. The Father exercises authority over the Son, and the Son submits to the Father's authority - and this is in the very nature and being of God. Our failure to exercise Biblical authority, and our failure to submit to Biblical authority, isn't just wrong and sad - it sins against the very nature of God. 1Sa_15:23 speaks to this same principle: For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.

e. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man: Paul's focus here is the public worship of the church. God has established a clear chain of authority in both the home and in the church, and in those spheres, God has ordained that men are the "head" - that is, that they have the place of authority and responsibility.

i. Our culture, having rejected the idea in a difference in role between men and women, now rejects the idea of any difference between men and women. The driving trends in our culture point towards men who are more like women, and women who are more like men. Styles, clothes, perfumes, and all the rest promote this thought.

ii. The Bible is just as specific that there is no general submission of women unto men commanded in society; only in the spheres of the home and in the church. God has not commanded in His word that men have exclusive authority in the areas of politics, business, education, and so on.

iii. It also does not mean that every woman in the church is under the authority of every man in the church. Instead it means that those who lead the church - pastors and ruling elders - must be men, and the women (and others) must respect their authority.

iv. The failure of men to lead in the home and in the church, and to lead in the way Jesus would lead, has been a chief cause of the rejection of male authority - and is inexcusable.

v. Some feel this recognition and submission to authority is an unbearable burden. They feel that it means, "I have to say that I am inferior, that I am nothing, and I have to recognize this other person as being superior." Yet inferiority or superiority has nothing to do with this. We remember the relationship between God the Father and God the Son - they are completely equal in their being, but have different roles when it comes to authority.

vi. Some may say that the church cannot work (or cannot work well) unless we go along with the times and put women into positions of spiritual and doctrinal authority in the church. From the standpoint of what works in our culture, they may be right. Yet from the standpoint of pleasing God by doing what He says in His word, they are wrong.