Bible Question:

What is the Biblical stand on a woman pastor and her submission to her husband?

We have a situation in our church. We have a lady pastor who is married. Scripture says she is to be in submission to her husband. She says that her submission to her husband comes before her role as pastor. She has to consult her husband before making decisions for the church. Her husband is not a co-pastor. What is the Biblical stand on this issue?

Bible Answer:

She is half correct. There are two topics we need to talk about: submission in marriage and women pastors in the church.

Submission In Marriage

Scripture makes it clear that a wife is to be in submission to her husband. In spite of some well known speakers on the subject, scripture does not teach the concept of mutual submission as it is being taught today. Ephesians 5:21-22 makes the point clear that wives are to be in submission to their husbands.

. . . and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. (NASB) Ephesians 5:21-22

The Greek word for “subject” is UPOTASSO and it means “to place under, to subordinate, to submit voluntarily.” In the ancient literature the word could also mean “to acknowledge as lord.” This gives us a flavor of the meaning here. This Greek word is used in such passages as Luke 10:17 and Romans 13:1.

And the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” (NASB) Luke 10:17

Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. (NASB) Rom. 13:1

The Greek word clearly means that she is to place herself under her husband, not as a second class citizen, but allowing him to take the lead. It implies voluntarily yielding to him at points of conflict. The word does not mean obey. It implies respect and voluntary yielding.

The flow of the Ephesians passage is that each person submits to someone else. Husbands submit to their wives by showing love (Eph. 5:25), wives to husbands (Eph. 5:22), children to parents (Eph. 6;1), and slaves to masters (Eph. 6:5). Yes, she is correct! She is to submit to her husband. Sarah, the wife of Abraham, is an example of this.

For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands. Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear. You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (NASB) 1 Peter 3:5-7

The piece that is so often missing is a gracious husband or a wife who is willing to submit, even when he makes “stupid” decisions. Sarah called him Lord. A husband often forgets that God wants him to “understand his wife” and care for her as he would a weak and fragile vessel. The message is care! If he does not, God warns that He will not hear his prayers. So our pastor is correct. She is to be in submission to her husband!

A Woman Pastor

Scripture is equally clear that women are not to be pastors in the church. This is the message of 1 Timothy 2:12 where they are prohibited from teaching a man. 1 Timothy 3:2 tells us that a church leader, including a pastor, must be a husband of one wife. That means they must be men. Woman are not husbands.

But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. (NASB) 1 Timothy 2:12

An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife . . . (NASB) 1 Tim. 3:2

There is more discussion about this point in a study on the Role of Women in the Church. The problem in your church would not exist if biblical principles were followed. The church has accommodated itself to the world view that assumes God has granted women the same leadership functions as men. The Word of God has been reinterpreted to satisfy today’s thinking and shifting moral values. God’s pattern for church leadership is a plurality of men, elders, who equally share the responsibilities of spiritual oversight. They are subject to one another. They do not need to go home and seek direction from their spouses.

Conclusion:

Since the woman in question is a pastor and since she is also married to a man to whom she must submit, there may be times when she cannot make a decision on her own. The current situation could lead to her husband’s making key decisions which impact the church. From what you have said, it appears that she is doing the best she can in an unbiblical situation. Her alternative would be to serve in ministry, not as a pastor, without final decision making authority. If the real situation is that her husband wants to govern her duties and her “work hours,” then I would suggest that she needs to find another ministry that impacts a very small number of people.