The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Should Women be Ministers

This is a touchy subject, and our forum is already dedicated to discussing another very touchy subject.

So let’s not get too vitriolic on this topic with each other, please. (I’m not going to opine either way.)

I believe that women should be more than “allowed” to be ministers; rather, they should be empowered and equipped to be ministers. In the 1st century church there are several examples of women who were ministers; Phillip’s daughters prophecied, Pricilla, and paul even commends people to respect Junias who was great amoung the apostles. And just practically speaking, to not allow women to be ministers would not allow over 60% of the adults in the church to be ministers, cutting off over half of the work-force of the kingdom, cutting off over half of what we can accomplish in building the kingdom of God. Shoot, if I was the devil, I’d rejoice if over half the army set against me was told by the other half that they couldn’t fight.

I agree with Sherman.
In Christ there is neither male nor female. From that it seems to me that gender is the least of our worries.

Now that’s an interesting statistic.
I have a theory that our church meetings are very feminine in their approach.

If by “ministers” you mean religious professionals (that is, in the body – not academia, traveling, etc.) then I would have to say I’m not sure anyone should be a religious professional. But if anyone should, certainly women qualify.

We should all be ministering…

Yeshua was ministered to by Mary when all cultural expectations demanded she remain in the kitchen. And evidently, Yeshua thought it was dandy.

But if you mean Ministers as in someone in an office-position, well I don’t think Yeshua wants anyone to be a Minister.

we should be past this in our society…of COURSE women should be able to minister in ordained roles!

When God calls a woman to the priesthood who are we in the world to prevent that from being accomplished!

Michael Witty

Yes. There is no command against it, and the only time it was instructed so, it was to a very chaotic and abhorrent church called the Corinthians.

All of God’s children are ministers (servers). They minister to one another’s needs, whether these needs be physical or spiritual. There were also female deacons (servers) in the early Church. One mentioned in the New Testament is Phoebe (Romans 16:1)

However, there is no record of female apostles or overseers (a word which became “bishops” in a later age). Some argue that a woman Junia was one of the apostles (Rom 16:7). But others say that she was only “of note” among the apostles, as the passage says in some translations.

It is not clear either whether this person was a man (Junias) or a woman (Junia). For the word appears as an accusative singular, which is identical either way. Whoever it was is said to have been marked or stamped “εν” the apostles. This could be “in the apostles”, “among the apostles” or “by the apostles.” So it is not clear whether this person was one of the apostles or not.

The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy:

I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. (1 Timothy 2:12)

Now if a woman is not to teach a man or exercise authority, how could she fulfill the office of overseer? Is she is to remain quiet, how could she be an apostle?

Paul also wrote:

*Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach.1 Timothy 3:2 *

Paul says that an overseer must be able to teach. But if a woman is not to teach a man, how can she be an overseer? And how can she be the husband of one wife?

Remember, Paul did not permit it. He made note that it was his command, no other.

If a woman is to remain quiet, then why does Paul permit women to teach children or other women (1 Timothy 1:5; Titus 2:3-5)? Elsewhere Paul also allows women to prophecy and speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 11:4-5). The Greek says “I do not permit a woman … to ***authentein***831 a man”. This word is used only once in the Bible, and in secular usage it designates sexual domination, not to simply exercise authority. So I agree with Paul, women (-- and men too) shouldn’t sexually dominate anyone. I think these incongruities demand we consider the potential cultural beliefs and practices that Paul was addressing in these particular churches. I mean, no-one actually believes that women are saved or their salvation preserved through childbirth (2:15). I think Paul was probably comforting the Christian women against a pagan belief or ritual.

How can Timothy (who was most probably) an unmarried, or Paul the widowed, or the eunuchs (that Yeshua advocated in Matthew 19:3-12), be the husband of one wife? – not to mention that Yeshua Himself never married. I think Paul is arguing that all overseers must have sexual and moral purity. Not that overseers must be both married and men.

This is a good and difficult topic though. Both egalitarian and complementarian answers are not always that evident with a simple reading.

Thanks, WAAB! I feel a little out of my league with all of you real scholars. I’m only a pretend one. :wink:

Jon Zens says in his book, “What’s With Paul and Women?” that women in Ephesus prayed to Diana (of the Ephesians) for safety in childbirth. They would dress up with elaborate hairstyles and expensive clothing and jewelry. Their beautiful appearance was their offering to the goddess. So he assures this woman that she will be saved in childbirth by continuing in faith and good works, etc. (I don’t have Timothy opened here). The sisters’ natural proclivity (those who weren’t already Jewish) was to dress elaborately as was the way they had been accustomed to worship. And there’s a lot more, but I want to talk about 1 Corinthians 14:34-38.

I set this one on the shelf for many years and hardly even read it, it made me so angry. I KNEW there was something there we weren’t getting. I did a study of 1 Corinthians several years ago. I wrote out the whole book and went through it a little bit at a time. If you want to see it, it’s still at my blog somewhere way back toward the beginning, though I’m not even sure if I’d still agree with myself now (and it’s long). ( Anyway, one of the things I had trouble with was that every once in a while there was something that I could only describe as a non-sequitor. Why did he put that in there? Like the thing about “All things are permissible to me.” Kind of a disturbing thing to say, and rather unlike Paul. “Food is for the stomach and the stomach for food.” What?

Then one of my commentaries (I believe the one that came with my HCSB) pointed out that Paul was answering a letter and that these were things said not by Paul, but by Paul QUOTING the letter he had received. This made so much sense to me. Yes, I’ve done that in responding to letters, but you would know it because I’d put it in a blockquote (and of course the Corinthians would have known it because it was they who had said it.) The food and the stomach thing is about sex, not food, and of course, though technically all things may be permissible, all things are certainly NOT profitable. But Paul quotes such things here and there all through his letter.

Now go to chapter 14.

What a perfectly HORRIBLE thing to say! And it doesn’t even make sense because not very many sentences before, Paul has been saying that EVERYONE may prophesy and share in turn. And earlier in the same letter, he has admonished the women to be sure and keep their heads covered when they prophecy in the assembly. So what could this mean? Apparently the “law” spoken of is not the law of Moses (have you ever seen that anywhere in the OT?), but Jewish oral law (similar things are known to have been a part of this tradition). This is followed by a disjunctive participle. Apparently it can be used to separate two statements. One translator (Dr A Nyland) translates it: “Utter rubbish!” It isn’t translated at all in most translations. It’s just left out. You can find rather extensive notes on this in “The Source NT” with references to works that I’ll probably never set eyes on – quite a few of them. Here is the passage in The Source:

If you read the whole passage together in this way, it makes a LOT more sense.

But I will stop now. If I’m going to write another book I promise to publish it as a PDF. :wink:

Blessings and love, Cindy

I’ve long tended to go the route of Cindy’s report, too, by the way.

To her analysis I can add that the textual transmission of that portion of 1 Cor is a little unstable, meaning that while it usually appears there, sometimes verses 34-35 in Western Greek texts (plus some Old Italian families of texts) are transposed to follow verse 40; and there is evidence in the 6th century Codex Fuldensis that the scribe intended liturgists to skip reading those verses and pick up again at verse 36 (even though he copied them otherwise in the main text).

That’s an indication that there was some relatively early and widespread problem felt with the text as it was otherwise received, although overall the evidence indicates that the text is certainly genuine there. Also, verse 33 is never tampered with.

The “disjunctive participle” Cindy’s report mentions, is a fancy grammarian way of saying “Or”. :wink: The usage is a little ambiguous, as Paul could be saying that they should not speak because the word of God did not come out from them and does not enter in to arrive at them only. Contextually, that would only make sense however as a reply to someone who was claiming sole and total authority.

So either the women were claiming sole and total authority to teach (for which there is no evidence otherwise in the text, explicitly or implicitly so far as I know) and Paul was rebuking them by making sure only men had the authority to teach, on the ground that women weren’t the only ones whom the word of God entered into or from whom the word came out–which would make no sense at all–or else Paul is replying, in the middle of his teaching on prophecy and other gifts, to a statement from someone else (my guess would be his perennial target in 1 Cor, the Stepmom-Sleeping-Guy! :smiley: ) whom he is first quoting and then sarcastically rebuking for restricting prophecy (and teaching) to men only. Seeing as this makes complete contextual sense of the statement, and gells with arguable examples of quotation earlier in the same text, I go with that option. :slight_smile:

The sarcasm extends through verses 37-38, too. In effect, “Whoever presumes to be spiritual or prophetic, let him recognize [as spiritual or prophetic] that what I am writing to you is a precept of the Lord! Now if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant!”

The interpretation reported by Cindy also fits a standard exegetical testing protocol I routinely use, where I check if any reference to “the Word of God” may be meant as a reference to Christ personally. Testing it here yields interesting results with the “sarcastic reply to only-men-as-prophets-or-teachers” theory. “Oh, so was it from you-men that Christ (literally) came out!? Or was it to you alone did Christ come in to arrive!?” That would be using Christ’s mother as a rebuking example: the leader of the Corinthian church is restricting women from teaching and prophesying, and yet the Incarnate Word of God Himself came into and out of a woman!! Well, if those men are presuming to be ‘spiritual’ or ‘prophetic’, let them recognize that what I (Paul) am writing is a command of the Lord!! (i.e. regarding his previous instructions about women prophesying in the church service.)

This is all, however, not quite the same question as whether a woman may hold authoritative ministry positions in church (as SotW also qualified earlier in the thread). Obviously if a woman cannot even speak in church that’s going to be impossible, but prophesying and speaking in tongues and other such things don’t necessarily amount to apostolic or episcopal or similar such authorities. But neither does 1 Cor 14 forbid such things if the sarcastic reply theory is true–the topic just isn’t on the table either way there, pro or con.

(Consequently, neither have I said anything yet pro or con on the topic, as I said I wouldn’t do in this thread. :wink: )

Fascinating posts from Cindy and Jason. Thank you.

One of our Sunday morning class teachers is a woman (husband/ wife team), and a very good one. Her teaching is way better than our pastor’s!


Yeh, I know. This thread is over 6 years old. But I came across a translation that expresses my own thoughts about Paul’s teaching:

Let women keep quiet in the churches: for it is not right for them to be talking; but let them be under control, as it says in the law. And if they have a desire for knowledge about anything, let them put questions to their husbands privately: for talking in the church puts shame on a woman.
(1 Cor 14:34,35 The Bible in Basic English)

Paul was simply saying that women should not be permitted to talk or chat during the meetings, distracting from what is being taught or discussed. And instead of saying aloud to her husband, “Hey Jim, what does the speaker mean by that?” she should rather ask him about it at home.

I have actually experienced a woman doing this kind of thing—not at church, but in a Hutterite community where I taught school for 3 years. In a home, several men and I were having a deep discussion of spiritual issues, during which the woman of the home shouted out to her husband, “Hey Joe! Where is that pants you wanted me to mend?”

1 Like

Wow, that could be construed as womanophobic! Be careful Don!

I confess to have argued strongly in the past that women should not be admitted to any of the offices - minister, elder or deacon.

My thinking on many of the Reformed doctrines and practices has gone through a complete U-turn, along with many of the teachings on other subjects, as I shared with you in my Introduction post.

I suppose one is never too old to change. Old dogs may well be able to learn new tricks despite what we are often told.


I’ve heard some people accuse the apostle Paul of being a woman hater, or at least prejudiced against women.