“In the matter of religion, people eagerly fasten their eyes on the difference between their own creed and yours; whilst the charm of the study is in finding the agreements and identities in all the religions of humanity.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
What the Bible Says About Female Ministers
Religions that profess to follow the teachings of Jesus and his apostles as outlined in the “New Testament” find themselves on the horns of a dilemma when it comes to whether or not women should be pastors. So, what exactly does the Bible say about the matter? Political correctness of the 21st century aside, in his first pastoral letter to the young traveling overseer Timothy, the apostle Paul instructed: “Let a woman learn in silence with full submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach, or to exercise authority over a man, but to be in silence.” (1 Tim. 2:11, 12) Although Paul instructed Timothy to “command certain ones not to teach different doctrine” there in Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3), Timothy understood this specific prohibition on be applicable in all churches or congregations beyond the one in Ephesus.
Several years earlier, Paul wrote the following to Christians in Corinth: “As in all the congregations of the holy ones, let the women keep silent in the congregations, for it is not permitted for them to speak, but let them be in subjection, even as the Law says. If, then, they want to learn something, let them question their own husbands at home, for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak [in an instructional role] in a congregation.” (1 Cor. 14:33-35) So the ban on female pastors was put in effect in ‘all the churches of the saints.’ Timothy was aware of this instruction as is indicated in both of Paul’s canonical epistles to the church at Corinth. (1 Cor. 4:17; 16:10; 2 Cor. 1:1, 19) Does this mean that Christian women were not to talk in connection with worship?
No, for “the women telling the good news are a large army.” (Ps. 68:11) Testifying is part of worship. In both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Greek Scriptures women prophesied or heralded the good news of God’s kingdom. (Ex. 15:20; Judges 5:1; 11:34; 1 Sam. 18:6; Isa. 40:9; Joel 2:28; Ac 2:17; 8:12; 21:8, 9) So how is the woman being a “preacher” but not a “pastor” reconciled? Furthermore, wasn’t Phoebe who Paul himself praised at Romans 16:1 a minister?
Spreading or ‘preaching’ the kingdom gospel external to the congregation setting is not gender sensitive in Scripture. Anyone can do it, including children. (Ps. 8:2; Matt. 21:15, 16; 24:14) As far as “teaching” in the official church venue is concerned, Paul plainly states, “I do not permit a woman to teach, or to exercise authority over a man.” (1 Tim. 2:12) In other words, the Christian woman would never pastor a church.
Now, if “they want to learn something,” then take it outside the formal church service and “question their husbands at home.” Yes, let the learning process be a private rather than a public affair. Challenging questions were not to be entertained in church. Of course, this made it incumbent upon her husband to know Scripture. If a woman isn’t married, let her question older, more mature Christian women who were duly authorized to be “teachers” of younger women. (Tit. 2:1-5) The older women would eventually “call the older men of the congregation” (Jas. 5:14, 15) if any further assistance was needed.
Paul noted an outstanding Christian woman “minister” named Phoebe. (Rom. 16:1) However, the Greek word for “minister,” when translated into Hebrew, simply means “female attendant.” (Matt. 27:55; Lu 8:3; Ac 2:18) Phoebe had the wherewithal to assist the church in unusual ways. Even so, instead of instructing Roman Christians to give her a welcome worthy of “pastors,” he said to give her a welcome ‘worthy of the saints.’ (Rom. 16:2) Congregationally, she ranked as a saint, not a pastor. Finally, God appreciates and blesses women who know their role in the church.-1 Pet. 3:7.