he inclusion of women as spiritual elders, pastors, priests, and bishops
in churches and denominations that claim to follow Jesus Christ continues
to increase. The Washington Post reported June 19, 2006 that, “The
Episcopal Church chose Nevada Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as its
leader yesterday, making her the first woman to head any denomination
in the Anglican Communion worldwide.” The BBC reported that “The
bishops voted 95-93 to back Bishop Jefferts Schori after a number of
ballots, AP news agency reported.” In short, the Episcopal Church
USA elected its first woman leader at the national level. She is reported
to be a supporter of gay bishops and gay unions, as well as a supporter
of women as elders, priests, and bishops.
The seed of this decision started thirty years ago when
eleven women were ordained in an USA Episcopal Church in Philadelphia
before the church laws were changed. Since then the seed has sprouted,
the trunk has formed, and the tree continues to grow. Other denominations
have joined the movement. In 1989 there was a small forest of seedlings
across the United States and around the world. In 1989, one could count
eighty-four out of one hundred-sixty worldwide denominations that ordained
women to full time ministry (National & International Religion Report,
March 13, 1989). This suggests that the “forest” has continued
to grow and is still growing thicker and more dense. On January 14, 2004
the Barna Group reported that “Overall, just 6% of all [USA] Protestant
Senior Pastors are women” (www.barna.org). The numbers are only
increasing as female enrollment in seminaries grows.
The Conflict. Currently, the Episcopal Church
USA, Presbyterian Church USA, United Methodist, Assemblies of God, and
the Lutheran Church of America among others all allow women to serve
as elders, pastors, priests, and/or bishops. Their numbers for women
clergy vary from 16% to 27%. Yet, there is not universal agreement within
these denominations about this movement. For example, in reaction to
the decision regarding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Pittsburgh
Bishop Robert Duncan said, “the church’s leaders are leading
people astray.” He cautioned people not to forsake the Bible .
. .” (USA Today, 19 June 2006). At the Southern Baptist Conference
in 2003, Carolyn Hale Cubbedge stated, “No human authority or creed
can remove women in ministry from their God-ordained roles as senior
pastors.” Cubbedge was a senior pastor at Memorial Baptist Church
in Savannah, Georgia. (www.bpnews.net).
The “forest” is growing and expanding centimeter-by-centimeter,
meter-by-meter, and kilometer-by-kilometer. But why is it growing? The
push for women to be spiritual elders, pastors, priests, and bishops
is not supported by serious exposition of scripture. Yet, this change
is occurring in churches which even recently rejected this trend.
It is interesting to note that according to a poll taken
by the Barna Group, 53% of male pastors across the United States of America
hold to a biblical worldview in contrast to only 15% of female pastors.
Barna defines a biblical worldview as holding to the following six convictions:
1) the total accuracy of the Bible, 2) the sinless nature of Jesus, 3)
the literal existence of Satan, 4) the omnipotence and omniscience of
God, 5) salvation by grace alone, and 6) the personal responsibility
to evangelize (www.barna.org). This implies that most women pastors reject
the foundational teaching of the early apostles. Robert Duncan’s
words are accurate. The accuracy and authority of God’s Word is
being ignored and minimized in order to grow the forest, that is, to
justify the ordination of women.
Word of Truth.But what does God say about
women pastors? The answer is found in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 which teaches
that a woman is not to have authority over or to teach men.
A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire
submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority
over a man, but to remain quiet. (NASB) 1 Tim. 2:11-12
1 Timothy 3:1-2 teaches that only men may be elders or pastors when
it says that an elder must be the husband of one wife.
An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband
of one wife . . . (NASB) ! Tim. 3:2
From the time of Christ, the church has consistently affirmed
the role of women to include a broad variety of ministries, with the
exception of pastor, elder and the public teacher of adult men. This
position was held by the following notable theologians: Origen, Jerome,
Chrysostom, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Wesley, Jonathan
Edwards, Charles Hodge, to name but a few. There are also many well-known
modern pastors who hold to the same position.
The historic position of the apostles, the early church
fathers, and the biblical expositors who have followed over the last
2,000 years regarding the meaning of these passages, relative to the
role of women, has been strongly challenged by the modern women’s
liberation movement. This is not surprising.
The Reason. The “forest” has
been growing because the teaching of the Word of God is being ignored.
In some cases the Bible is being reinterpreted so that it accommodates
our cultural perspective. The Apostle Paul predicted that the future
church would stray from biblical teaching.
. . . they will accumulate for themselves teachers in
accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the
truth and will turn aside to myths. (NASB) 2 Tim. 4:3-4
Paul’s expectation has been fulfilled many different times over
the years since he wrote those words. The root issue is our “own
desires” and the result is what we are observing.
Consequently, the change has been motivated by some women
who are offended that they cannot be pastors. Some regard the issue as
one of equality and others as bias. To submit is considered to be an
acceptance of an inferior position. If submission is an act of inferiority,
then Jesus was inferior since He submitted to the Father. It is not uncommon
for a gifted woman to want a greater audience. To be denied the audience
is offensive to some.
It is important to realize that God has established role
differences among equals (men and women) both in the home and at church.
Scripture is clear that women and men are both equal before God in salvation
and in the gifts of ministry within the church. But there are God ordained
role differences in the church, both in leadership and in the office
of teaching and preaching. The very well known author Elisabeth Elliot
summarizes it well with,
The modern cult of personality makes submission a degrading
thing. We are told we cannot be “whole persons” if we submit.
Obedience is thought of as restrictive and therefore bad. “Freedom” is
defined as the absence of restraint, quite the opposite from the scriptural
principle embodied in Jesus’ words, “If you continue in my
words, then are ye my disciples, and ye shall know the truth, and the
truth shall make you free.” Freedom in God’s view always
lies on the far side of discipline, which means obedience . . . To attempt
to apply democratic ideals to the kingdom of God, which is clearly hierarchical,
can result only in a loss of power and ultimately in destruction. Christ
Himself, the Servant and Son, accepted limitation and restriction. He
subjected Himself. He learned obedience (Elliot, Elisabeth, “Why
I Oppose the Ordination of Women,” Christianity Today 880 :
Conclusion. When scripture has been consistently
interpreted across 2,000 years of history, across many changes in culture,
in various geographical areas, and by different races and denominations,
its meaning is clear. So why do some want to change its meaning now?
Could it be the influence of our modern day culture?
Some Christians are seeking modern day relevance by ignoring
the teaching of scripture. The weight of our cultural perspective or
bias has clouded our spiritual vision and our will to know what God has
honestly said. Our interpretations can be limited by our own time, place,
circumstances, and cultural perspective; but the historic interpretations
give us the wisdom of centuries of biblical interpretation. To submit
to scripture is to submit to God! Are we serious about submitting to
God has ordained different functions for men and women.
When we “operate” according to His plan, we are most at peace
in our interpersonal relationships here on earth. We are also at peace
Women are free to serve God in any capacity except as a
teacher over men, and as an elder, pastor, priest, or bishop. The Holy
Spirit tells us that males, as the elders of the church, are the ones
who are to have the oversight (1 Tim. 3:2; 5:17) and the ones who should
function as pastors, priests, and bishops.
May the Lord bless you,
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