WOMEN SERVING AS PASTORS
STEPPING OUT OF DIVINE ORDER
By: Victor T. Stephens
"People often claim to hunger for truth, but seldom like the taste when it's served up."
~ George R.R. Martin
In today's modern church age, more and more women are being ordained as preachers, pastors, ministers, and apostles. Some time ago I was engaged in dialogue with a fellow believer and co-worker regarding the ordination of women into authoritative leadership positions in the church. That conversation prompted me to write this article.
The goal of this article is to affirm the position that God exclusively ordained men to lead in the church assembly. Scripture is abundantly clear that God has established distinct roles for men and women in the home and the church. Unfortunately, the principle of leadership by men has been corrupted due to the infiltration of false church leaders, ignorance, and the secular feminist movement. On account that my retort may not be popular with many, some people may not take cordially to my perspective.
In Genesis 3:1, 5, Satan says to Eve, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'? For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Satan deceived Eve into believing that she would be like God. Employing the same methodology of deception, Satan is using his ministers and secular feminist to deceive women today saying "Did God really mean that women are not to teach or have authority over men?" Unfortunately, like Adam, some men are allowing women to deceive and seduce them into believing this lie. This account is similar to the account in Revelation 2:19-22 where the pastor of the Church in Thyatira allowed a woman to teach and to seduce the congregants into committing sexual immorality and idolatry. And this woman was referred to as "Jezebel".
Many of those who are bent on promoting women pastors have maliciously chosen arguments concerning superiority, inferiority, and ministerial deprivation as a basis to push back against those who refute the ordination of women in ministry. Therefore, I will state for the record that this matter should not be confused with an issue of male chauvinism, prejudice, or the suggestion that men are superior to women. By no means are women to be marginalized to any second class status. In Christ, women occupy the equivalent person-hood as men and bears God's image equally (Gen. 1:27). Men and women were created thoughtfully variant from and complementary to each another. Functional role distinctions have nothing to do with superiority or inferiority, but only with divine roles that God has appointed men and women to perform in the home and in the church.
Women have contributed greatly to the advancement of the gospel. It should come as no surprise that there are many key narratives in the Bible that plainly and effectively discloses the inherent gifts, value, and vital roles of women in the early church. To note a few examples: Older women are encouraged to teach younger women (Titus 2:4-5). Both Priscilla and Aquila spoke privately to Apollos (Acts 18:24-26) ... correcting the errors of his teachings. There were a number of women who played important roles in the ministry of the Apostle Paul (Romans 16:1-16; Phil. 4:2-3). Similarly, women played significant roles in the ministry of Jesus Christ (Luke 8:1-3). At the upper room prayer meeting, women were among the disciples in prayer and supplication (Acts 1:12-14). Although women were created equally with men, possess certain spiritual gifts, and held a place of prominence in the expansion of the gospel ... in the context of teaching and leading a church, the Bible is emphatic in upholding the male leadership principle. Women are never alluded to as pastors, preachers, and apostles in the Bible.
While many women may have the ability to teach, let's bear in mind that there is a distinction between ability and responsibility. "Ability" does not always mean "authorization". God has placed the sole responsibility of authoritative teaching upon male leadership. In today's modern church age, women who hold the pastoral position have entered a domain of activity for which the Lord has never devised for them; and thus, have sinned by stepping out of God's divine order.
After the Fall: The Beginning of the Battle of the Sexes
Over the course of history there have been power struggles going on between men and women. The failure of many marriages and the discontent of many others that are surviving can be attributed to what occurred after the fall into sin as stated in Genesis 3:16.
"To the woman He said, 'I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.'" (Gen. 3:16)
It is the interpretation of the latter half of this verse that is the main point of discussion in this section: "Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." The key word is "desire" translated from the Hebrew word "tesuqah" ... a rare word that is used only three times in the Old Testament: Here in this verse, Genesis 4:7 and Song of Songs 7:10. It can be rendered as a sexual desire between a wife and her husband as in Song 7:10. However, in this verse and in Genesis 4:7, the renditions are parallel. In this context, the word "tesuqah" appears to signify a desire that is corrupt in nature such as a thirst for power. The Brown, Driver and Briggs, a Hebrew lexicon, renders the word "tesuqah" as "unusual and striking."
Just as sin was seeking to control ("desire") Cain, God is announcing that a woman's desire will be to gain the upper hand and control her husband; but her husband will respond in like manner and dominate her by force. This is not the wife's nor the husband's proper management of a loving relationship; and as such, debased authority has tainted God's original plan. An excellent read on this issue is by Susan T. Foh, "What is the Woman's Desire?”, Westminster Theological Journal (1975): pages 376-383. In her commentary, she states:
"After the fall, the husband no longer rules easily; he must fight for his headship. The woman's desire is to control her husband (to usurp his divinely appointed headship), and he must master her, if he can. Sin has corrupted both the willing submission of the wife and the loving headship of the husband. And so, the rule of love founded in paradise is replaced by struggle, tyranny, domination, and manipulation."
The perfect relationship between Adam and Eve as well as all humankind was shattered by sin and supplanted by a relationship of conflict and subjugation. Needless to say, this was not God's ideal plan. Where leadership and submission are discussed in the Bible, guidelines are given for how relationships should be managed so that they function in godly love and peace and not with abusive treatment. God's word does not exclude man's leadership, but warns that authority should be applied in a manner that brings honor and glory to Christ. Moreover, those who are required to submit to authorities are directed by Scripture to submit in a godly manner and not with a rebellious demeanor.
The Devaluation of Women Throughout History
The collusion by men and women against God's divine order has produced cultural definitions and prejudices. During ancient times there was a much depreciated view of women; particularly in pagan societies. Male pagan gods were recklessly misogynistic. As a result, women in pagan cultures were defamed and frequently treated with slightly more decency than farm animals. Pagan societies considered women to be personal property of husbands or fathers.
During the old covenant, Jewish tradition degraded and debased women ... considering them inferior to that of men. During the time of Jesus, women were treated with little dignity. The main objective of many Jewish men was to keep women in a condition of ignorance and pregnancy. They believed that women were not qualified to be included in the process of learning, especially in spiritual matters.
In our western culture, there have been innumerable ways women have been derided and devalued. Underneath layers of anger and frustration, many women began to retaliate against the opprobrious manner in which men classified them. Determined to prove their "equality" with men, some women began overreacting to their suppression by distorting Scripture ... creating God in their own image or seemingly making it permissible to hold leadership positions within the church.
A Brief History of Women’s Ordination
The state of discord that was brought into effect after the fall of Adam and Eve has now infiltrated the church where women are now contending for positions of authority over men. Christian feminists ... contesting that women are equally capable of qualifying for the pastoral position in the church, is the major contributing factor to cultivate the idea that God permits women to teach in a position of having authority over men. Moreover, rather than being content with their God-given roles, some feminists have used manipulative power plays against unconcerned and nerveless men to successfully accomplish their desires in gaining pastoral positions.
Below is a list of some beginning dates for the ordination of women. On account that many women have been ordained since the seventeenth century, for the sake of brevity, this list is not all inclusive.
1. In 1647, George Fox, the founder of the Quakers, ordained Margaret Fell (1614 - April 23, 1702) to the pastoral office. The Quakers' subscribed to the egalitarianism perspective … that is --- all persons are acknowledged to have equal worth, autonomous of their gender or class. Using this reasoning, they found it acceptable to ordain women to leadership positions within the church.
2. In 1853, the Congregationalist Church in Butler, New York ordained Antoinette Brown (May 20, 1825 - November 5, 1921). She was a notable lecturer at many Women’s' Rights meetings. In 1920, at the age of 95, she was the sole participant of the Women's Rights Convention in Worcester, Massachusetts, to observe the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which gave women the right to vote.
3. In 1863, Olympia Brown (January 5, 1835 - October 23, 1926) was ordained by the Universalist Church. As a blossoming preacher, she devoted much time fighting for women's rights. She played an important and supporting role in the women's suffrage movement and was one of a small number of suffragists to vote in the 1920 presidential election.
4. In 1880, Anna Howard Shaw (February 14, 1847 - July 2, 1919) was ordained by the Methodist Protestant Church. Along with accepting the pastoral office, she was a leading civil rights leader and a physician. Moreover, she was engaged in the temperance movement; serving as national superintendent of franchise for the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. She was one of the chief leaders in the women's suffrage movement, heading the National American Woman Suffrage Association from 1904 to 1915. During World War I, she was the first woman awarded a Distinguished Service Medal for her work as chair of the Women’s Committee of the National Council of Defense. In the year 2000, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, NY, the birthplace of women's rights. Established in her honor, The Anna Howard Shaw Center at Boston University School of Theology was built to advance and cultivate the practices of women's empowerment.
5. In 1889, Louisa Woosley (March 24, 1862 - June 30, 1952) was ordained by the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Three years later, Woosley published her book "Shall Woman Preach" which explained and defended the ordination of women. Woosley, believing that "God is no respecter of persons," associated women's ordination with equality of men and women.
6. In 1965, Marjorie Matthews (July 11, 1916 - June 30, 1986) was ordained by the United Methodist Church. While serving the Wisconsin Episcopal Area, she attempted to "accustom people to the idea that either a man or a woman can be a bishop." Matthews was a strong advocate of women's empowerment ... accentuating to women in her workshop: "There’s nothing wrong with ambition. Where do you see yourself in the ministry ten years from now?" Determined to fulfill her passions, she was elected for the position of district superintendent; and in 1980 was elected to the office of bishop at the North Central Jurisdictional Conference.
Again, this list is a small example to illustrate the ordination of women into positions of leadership within the church. Today, there are thousands of women who occupy the pastoral position. Consider the following statistics:
1. The Assemblies of God has ordained approximately 4,000 women.
2. The Southern Baptist Church has ordained 1,225 women.
3. The United Methodist Church has ordained 4,743 women.
4. The Presbyterian Church has ordained 3,715 women.
5. The United Church of Christ has ordained 1,803 women.
6. The Evangelical Lutheran Church has ordained 2,358 women.
7. The Disciples of Christ Church has ordained 1,564 women.
8. As reported by a study by the National Council of Churches, women ordained to ministry in 1986 elevated from 10,470 in 1977 to 20,730 in 1986. The research indicated that 84 of 166 denominations ordain women to teach.
These facts give testimony of the apostasy that exists in our present time. A feminist ideology, which undermines and rejects scriptural compliance, is clearly gaining strength within the church. Using a method common to false teachers, many liberal and evangelical feminists have twisted and exaggerated their interpretation of Scripture while concurrently distributing anti-biblical maxims and secular truisms for the sake of self-fulfillment.
It is interesting that many professing Christian women say, "I want to serve God, I want to bring honor to God" on one hand, and then on another hand will deliberately violate God's command as it relates to divine authority in the home and the church. Ironically, in their efforts to gain positions of leadership, so called Christian feminist have actually defamed femininity by deprecating natural gender distinctions.
The dismissal and denial of the veracity of Scripture by representatives of the secular feminist movement have been unopposed by apprehensive, passive, and irresolute men in politically correct churches. Rather than possessing the spiritual and moral fortitude to exercise their role as leaders by confronting this issue, they have found it more convenient to conform to an infidelic and social agenda by adapting to a policy of theological liberalism. As a result, instead of being obedient to God's command, they have allowed many women to lead them into disobedience and sin.