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Women Pastors, Elders, Preachers?

What do you do when an issue does not have clarity in scripture? Or better yet, what do you do when opposing views believe the issue is clear in scripture, but they still conflict? Sadly, the discussion often ends up lacking humility or a tone that embodies the words of Jesus when he says as Christians, we are to be known by our love for one another.

A topic that can bring out this kind of legalism today is often phrased in the form of a question, “Can women be pastors, elders, or preach in the pulpit?”

How would you answer? What scripture informs? How confident are you? How gracious are you with those who disagree? Many books have already been written on the topic and this post isn’t going to suddenly clear it all up.

In a conversation that often gets heated, I want to focus on what unites us more than position distinctives.

We actually have a lot in common when we eliminate the polar extremes of tradition-based misogynistic views or liberalism that denies any scriptural authority. When we read Genesis to Revelation as the story of God working through his people, men and women, we begin to see amazing connections, opportunities, and invitations from the first pages to the last. Gender matters. Men and women matter. Singleness is important, marriage is meaningful, and human flourishing is critical. The church needs men and women, spiritual fathers and spiritual mothers. This is our starting point.

I have put down a list of what we can absolutely affirm, amen! Any nuance beyond this must be done with humility, caution, and a willingness to change. If you find yourself hesitant to fully embrace any statement below, I would invite you to a robust study to understand why.

- Men and Women are equaling and independently image-bearers of God as taught in Genesis 1.

- Men and Women are equally in need of the gospel and invited to respond (John 3:16).

- Men and Women are both given spiritual gifts and encouraged to use their gifts to build up the body of Christ in the local church (1 Corinthians 11-14).

- All of scripture is given for men and women to learn, benefit and enjoy. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

- Women were entrusted with the news of the resurrection first. (Luke 24:1-10; John 20:11-18)

- Spiritual maturity for men and women is measured the same. (John 15, Galatians 5:13-26, Ephesians 6:10-23)

- Men and women are both told to teach, disciple, and evangelize. (Matthew 28:18-20)

- Women had significant roles of leadership, teaching, prophecy, hospitality, and financial responsibility in the early church as the norm (Romans 16, Acts 1).

- Women throughout church history have been ignored, abused, and taken advantage of by the church as the result of bad theology. (sample a brief google search of Tertullian, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther)

- There is no consensus in church history of a single form of church government prescribed in the bible that dictates gender roles in the local church. Every church makes decisions based on which biblical passages are seen as most relevant.

When we write, speak, and acknowledge how much unites us we model an attitude of unity and gospel partnership Jesus said would be the cornerstone of our witness to the world.

Q. How has your background, assumptions, church culture, school environment, or other social factors impacted you?

Q. What assumptions do you carry that the list above challenged? What would you add?

Q. Who do you know who views these things differently that you could talk with? Consider writing down a few questions for understanding and learning that you could ask, and then listen and be curious.


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