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Women in Church Leadership .3

Part One (Introduction, other sources)

Part Two (overview of various views)

A couple things to begin with:

  • In coming to a conclusion I try to take a view of the Scriptures as a whole and not think about where our culture stands on this issue.
  • It is important to note that Jesus transcended the culture by greatly honoring and respecting women within his ministry.
  • None of my conclusion is meant to be exhaustive on this subject. There is simply too much that can be said. I tried to cover the main issues.
  • I welcome your comments. Just as I say in my conclusion, this issue should not be a hill to die on either way. I am not going to mad at you if you disagree with me.
  • If you want to know what sources I used on this paper email me using the contact page.

As I begin this section it is important to note that I do not see this issue as vital within the church body. I work at a church that does not completely support my view, yet it does not affect my ability to attend and work there under clear conscience. I simply cannot understand how an issue like this can divide the body, yet I totally understand how differing views can come about. I wonder, along with Wayne Grudem, if this issue isn’t a test for our hearts of whether we will be faithful to God’s Word despite large changes within our culture. In regards to my position, it would be fair to say I would put myself in the complementarian camp despite having a few, small issues with some of the supporters of this view.

The egalitarian view uses Galatians 3:28 as a core verse to its support. Here, Paul mostly stating that all are equals under Christ, but I want to delve into this deeper. I see egalitarians trying to read into the text something that Paul was simply not trying to make a point of. S. Lewis Johnson sees this as egalitarians forgetting sound hermeneutics in order to support their stance. This verse is simply not one that refutes that men and women play different roles in church life. I find it even more troubling that egalitarians use this as a crux to their argument when it is completely evident that the verse is not even speaking about gender issues at its core.

Beyond this verse, we must also wrestle with the two different views of how the Trinity is an example for women in leadership. Egalitarians see the Trinity as providing an example of equal leadership between the Father, Son and Spirit. Complementarians see the Trinity as showing the Father having a role of authority while also having a co-equal relationship with Son and Spirit. We see the word authority as being above, but I think we need to see it as a different role. Grudem sees a strong parallel between the Trinity and gender distinctions: “The equality, differences, and unity between men and women reflect the quality, differences, and unity in the Trinity.” These statements have immense support from 1st Corinthians 11:3 which states that, “the head of Christ is God.” Jon Courson states that Jesus chose to submit himself to the Father out of humility and in the same way, “the woman who chooses to submit to the authority of her husband does so not out of inferiority, but of humility.” If we understand that Jesus can be a co-equal with the Father even with the Father having authority, then we see that women can be co-equals with men even though men are given authority.

The biggest question left to answer is where I differ from the complementarian position. John Piper and Wayne Grudem do a fantastic job of presenting a strong case that I almost completely support, but they are quite legalistic about their position. There are many who believe that women should not be pastors or lay leaders within a congregation, and this is where I defect from their view. I think this stance does a poor job of seeing the whole Scriptures because he provides no leeway for any of the verses or arguments that seem to give some support to egalitarians. A legalistic view of women in leadership leads to division that is unnecessary.

As I see the Scriptures, women are meant to serve as equals with men in church outside of the offices of senior pastor and elder. Those positions are typically ones that provide authority over and teaching for the whole church and the Bible makes a strong case for women not being in those positions. Differing from the complementarian position, I see the Bible stating that women play equal roles in church functionality outside of authority. Susan Hunt says, “God made Adam incomplete because he intended to create a ‘completer’…the supportive ministry of women is as crucial to give completeness to the local church as was Eve’s presence in the Garden.” I think we need to move beyond seeing women as lesser beings than men and view their role as vital. Just as Deborah can be a Judge in the Old Testament, I see that the Biblical mandate being that women can provide leadership over ministries not churches in the form of being a pastor or lay leadership instead of lead pastors or elders.

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  • jimkastkeat

    great series of posts.

    but how do you balance the need to “move beyond seeing women as lesser beings than men” with “women are meant to serve as equals with men in church outside of the offices of senior pastor and elder”.

    Women are equal to men, except that they can’t be completely in charge?

    Is this equality? Can you clarify this for me?

  • Tyler

    Hey Jim-

    Totally get your question. I think for me it all flows out of a view of the Trinity. “The head of Christ is God.” Few people question equality within the Trinity but it seems that the Bible has given the Father some time of governing authority within it while equality still seems to remain intact. Does that make sense to our human minds…probably not, but I think that it is Biblical.

    I certainly don’t like this conclusion. I don’t totally understand why God would have desired it to be this way, but rather than doing what makes sense to my head I want to do what is right according the Scripture. The hard part is that you can justify either opinion through Scripture…which is why so many people think one way or the other on this.

  • eugenecho

    tyler, good posts.

    but i think you’re being a little naive when you say you’re not quite sure why the body of christ can be divided on this issue?

    the unity of the body of Christ is much bigger and broader than we can imagine. god’s grace will cover us all but when women feel convicted – through Scriptures, prayer, community, gifts – to obey God’s calling on their lives, what do you expect them to do? Submit?

    Just for a sec, if we were to reverse the roles and say that men were not able to lead or be pastors for whatever crazy reason, what would you do? i assume you would do what women are doing: OBEY God.

  • Tyler

    eugene- totally fair point. i can’t put myself in a woman’s shoes but obviously it would not be an easy thing to deal with. i think some men and many many churches take advantage of complementary thinking to mistreat women and make them subordinate and I think that is absolutely sinful and completely unbiblical.

    my thinking on why I don’t understand the division on this issue is that because both sides can back themselves with Scripture and with theology, that we should be more lenient with one another on this issue. my concern is that when neither side is willing to listen to or understand the thoughts of the other that division happens. this needs to change. i think many postmodern thinkers within the christian faith are doing a great job of having discussion rooted in love when dealing with issues like this. i am greatly encouraged by that.

    thanks for your thoughts.

  • Evan Rummel

    This is where I always have a problem with things. I had a lengthy conversation with a girl last summer about how I thought it would be weird to have a girlfriend/wife submit to me, even if it was out of humility. That just wouldn’t work for me.
    I don’t really care if the Bible says that or not, the fact of the matter is that I could not last in a relationship like that. The relationships I have been a part of have always been in equal views of each other with different talents and balances brought to the relationship by each other.
    In terms of church leadership, I absolutely believe that women can be called to church leadership, especially pastoral roles. Obviously it would have to be outside the catholic church since they aren’t changing rules anytime soon but I would like to think that God would call a woman to lead a congregation.
    If no women step up, that’s fine but I couldn’t see myself denying someone that right. I dunno…that’s my two sense. Excellent post series T.B.

  • inWorship

    I think you’ve done a great job of teaching us each of the positions and explaining yours. I think you’ve also proven that even in your stance on this, there are compliments from each of the views.

    My stance on this would be very similar to yours. I work with a group of guys that has differing views, but a similar stand , that this will not divide. This is really important to me as it is to you. the dividing over things like this is horrid in the church. The division of churches over non essential doctrines is worse than having a women serve or not be allowed to serve. It saddens me.

    A man’s leadership to me is not one of privilege, it is one of obedience. Men have done a crappy job of being bosses, husbands and church leaders. They need to get on it. But we all need to understand the blessing and benefit to people, but more importantly God’s kingdom, when it comes to humbly submitting.

    My stance on this is that women should teach, lead, Pastor even in title, but they are not the Elder/Leader of the church. As I would submit to my Senior Pastor, so a woman would as well.

    Well written Tyler.

  • Tyler

    thanks for the kind words evan and brent.

    i’m glad that this was a series that made you think and also helped you see reasons for both sides.

  • Ric Wild

    Tyler, thanks for your thoughts and I’ll make sure this comment is shorter and less feisty…

    One thing that I have always found interesting is that married Christians, (regardless of whether they would think of their relationship as being egalitarian or complementarian) on their wedding day exchanged the same wedding vows. There is not a “man vow” and a “woman vow” articulating “husband roles” and “wife roles.” Rather, the groom promises to love, cherish, protect, etc., and then the bride promises to love, cherish, protect, etc. Now, I don’t know how seriously people takes these vows anymore today, but if I had to guess (and assuming I could ever reach a neutral, objective point of view—yeah right…) I would have to say traditional wedding vows establish the framework for an egalitarian relationship.

  • Jan

    Ric actually made one of my points for me – I think mutual submission for ALL believers is modeled by Christ and should be a goal for us. I am a female in a pastoral role – not senior pastor, but senior pastoral staff – and so you might guess I disagree with your conclusion. However, I appreciate the sensitivity you have shown to us ladies. Thank you for respecting my calling even if I end up in a role you may not totally agree with.

    A big thing to me is to be able to disagree on this and do it lovingly. There are many issues we may or may not agree on – total sanctification, alcohol, tattoos, eternal security, long hair on men, etc. Can we disagree and still not be judgmental and disrespectful? That is the heart test on this guys. THAT is the point where we all pass or fail. If I hold the position that we learn in heaven is God’s position as well and yet I have been bitter or full of anger or judgmental and unloving, then I am in the wrong. period. So what if I defended the right “side” in a doctrinal debate?

    I have a hard time thinking God is ever pleased with us if we are demeaning and abusive in any way to those around us, regardless of whether or not our “theology” is sound. IF our theology is sound and our lives are not, we are in trouble.

  • Tyler


    Thanks for the comment. I totally agree with you. Glad another woman got in on the discussion.

  • praying for unity

    Hi Tyler,

    As a woman, with the gift of leadership, this is such a touchy issue for me. I am allowed to lead the women and the men support me, but they do not let me be part of their discussions about vision, any part of the planning for the church, the staff meetings, prayer with them, nothing. Because they say I am not allowed to have authority over the men. I am leading the women, who make up more than half the church and get no say in anything the church does as a whole. I love my pastors and I love my church. But this hurts me and I believe it hurts the church. If the men do not have the women’s input, they are missing out. I don’t want to be the senior pastor, I want to be part of the leadership of my church, because I already am. Without the support, companionship and team. God is bigger than all this though and He will have His way.

  • Dania

    This is a topic that for the last few years I have been on the fence about. I see the support for women to be left out of senior pastor/elder rolls. However, It seems like a stange place to draw the line (@ senior pastor but not before that). I struggle because there is a twinge in my heart when I see a line I cannot cross because I’m not allowed.

    There was a time when I thought I might become a pastor, now, i don’t feel that way any more, but i came to that decision outside of the argument of if i am supposed to be or not.

    I do belive that I should submit to my husband’s leadership. But I used to strongly struggle with that. What changed it for me was when I discovered that I could trust him with that leadership. He respected me and my knowledge/insight, he was going to make decisions for ‘us’ not for ‘him’. After that it became less, scary. Before that feared that I could not trust a man to lead me and that I could do better. I feared being taken advantage of and being walked on if I allowed another person to lead me. But Tyler’s example showed me that I could trust him with that. Which brings me to the comment by inWorship:

    “A man’s leadership to me is not one of privilege, it is one of obedience. Men have done a crappy job of being bosses, husbands and church leaders. They need to get on it.”

    In the past women have felt as thought they ‘had’ to take matters into their own hands, because of the issue above. BUT when men provide good leadership, I/we don’t have to. I can focus on things that are closer to my heart. I know that I am capable of doing alot of things if i ‘have’ to, but I would rather do whatever it is I am called to do.

    I also have trouble putting God’s calling in a box. Telling God what he cannot call me to do.

    Like I said I’m still on the fence. It’s easier for me to buy compementarianism in my marriage than in just the higher forms of leadership in the church.

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