Before I dive in, I want to say that I serve a great church that loves me and constantly encourages me. These thoughts in no way express frustrations I have with fellow staff and the church but in how women in ministry are viewed, how Scripture is used to limit women in the church, and how I am limited in the ways I can serve the church.
As a woman in ministry, I am occasionally asked about my views concerning the role of women in the church and talked at by men (not directly) who tell women like me what they can and cannot do. My thoughts on this are summed up well by Jan Owen who said, “Men, just a reminder, no one debates ‘what role you can serve’ in church – or at least not based simply on you being a man. You have no idea how demeaning it is to have your life, options, and worth debated by others. So dehumanizing.”
After much research and prayer, I’ve come to the conclusion that the prevailing teaching on the limitations of women in the church is not biblical. There is overwhelming evidence that suggests the verses commonly used to limit the ways in which women may serve the church are taken out of context (resources below). Why did I research this? Because I believe God has given me a passion to serve the local church in ways that I am not currently allowed. And also because I love truth and wanted to know all I could about this topic in order to form an educated stance rather than simply believing what I’ve always been taught.
It makes no logical sense that a woman cannot preach and teach simply because of her anatomy. I find it incredibly odd. Thinking about my own life, I have a Master of Divinity from a well-known Southern Baptist seminary and am halfway through a Doctor of Ministry degree, yet I cannot serve in the same capacities in the local church as male leadership simply because I am a woman. As I said earlier, looking at the context of the Scripture that is commonly used to limit women it is clear to me that there is nothing unbiblical about women preaching and teaching, and the “biblical womanhood” that has been pushed for only three decades in the Church is actually unbiblical.
What do I want you to take away from this short blog about women in ministry? That complementarianism is not the only option for those who believe that the Bible is God’s authoritative Word. Complementarianism is a term that was coined by a small group of people only 30 years ago and is the idea that only men can serve in headship roles in the church and women can only serve in support roles because “the Bible says so.” There are credible Bible scholars who claim this isn’t true. More than one solid view on this topic exists yet most churches teach only one.
Michelle Suarez, a KidMin friend, recently said:
“As a teenager, I was told that a woman’s highest calling was to marry a pastor, or at the very least, a deacon. I knew that Jesus elevated women to a status that was completely countercultural and nearly unheard of in His time, but my church said women were too delicate and emotional to be used by God. Unless the men refused to lead. Then God would use His second best to stand in the gap until the men woke up. It didn’t make sense to me and, quite frankly, didn’t add up to what I read in the Bible. But when I asked questions, I was told that I was living in sin and rebellion. For years I struggled to come to terms with the teachings of “Biblical womanhood” and the woman that God had created me to be. They were absolutely not one and the same – so someone had to be wrong. I begged God to take away my rebellion and teach me to be the woman my church wanted me to be. Then my own daughter asked how God and the church could be okay with me doing all the work of a pastor, but refusing to allow me the title of pastor, simply because I’m a woman. I think that’s when I realized that maybe I hadn’t been wrong all those years. Maybe the church was wrong.”
Dr. N. T. Wright’s article Women’s Service in the Church: The Biblical Basis (About a quarter of the way down, Wright begins his explanation of his stance on women in ministry. This is a great read.)
Beth Allison Barr, PhD – Author of The Making of Biblical Womanhood
Aimee Byrd – Author of Recovering From Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Sheila Gregoire – Author of The Great Sex Rescue