This is not a popular topic in the day and age that we live in, but it is a very important one. The issue of Women’s Ordination has torn many denominations and synods apart. In this post I am going to present the Biblical argument, as I understand it, from both sides. I am also going to indicate early on which one I believe is correct and why it matters. If you perceive that I missed an important text or argument let me know and I will address it in the comments or add it to the blog.
Pro Women’s Ordination
The argument for women’s ordination has both Biblical and extra Biblical support. I will present and address both.
“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Gal 3:27-28 KJV
Above we see that all are considered equal in Christ. This is important to understand and surprising to find in scripture. Considering the times it was written in we wouldn’t expect to see such a bold statement regarding equality of persons in the eyes of God. I would however argue that equal doesn’t necessarily mean the same. For example, though a child is equal to an adult that doesn’t mean a child can vote. Though a boy is equal to a girl it doesn’t mean he can be a sister. Though a man is equal to a woman it doesn’t mean he can be a mother.
Another oft quoted passage to support women’s ordination is found in the book of Romans.
“Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.” Rom 16:7 KJV
It is argued regarding the above text that “Junia” was a female. I am no Greek expert but I have read those who are, from what I have found the understanding of the sex comes down to the placement of an accent. And that accent is placed differently in various sources. Nobody really knows if the name is masculine or feminine. Click HERE for more information along those lines.
As for myself, I don’t think it’s relevant to the office of pastor. Based on the ambiguity with regards to the accent I would disregard the text in this matter due to lack of clarity. That said, the passage says Junia was among the apostles. That means Junia was either one of the second class of apostles in the new testament or was working with them in some capacity. Even if Junia was a female apostle that would only mean that a woman can be an apostle. Either way I just don’t see how it matters. This is because nobody alive is a witness to the Resurrection, thus neither males nor females qualify for this office today.
The other Biblical argument for women’s ordination is the example of Deborah. You can find her story in Judges 4. She was not only a Judge of ancient Israel but a Prophet to boot. It’s a good story and I recommend reading it. As above though, this would prove that a woman can be a Judge in ancient Israel, and even an old testament prophet. But it is irrelevant with regards to the Biblical office of Pastor.
Other arguments supporting women’s ordination stray from the scripture entirely. They will vary from rejecting the canonicity of the epistles to a full blown ad hominem attack on anyone who disagrees. I don’t consider these arguments relevant enough to even address. If there were no clear scripture defining the office to be held by a man then I don’t think this would be an issue at all.
Against Women’s Ordination
1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.; 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;; 4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?); 6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.; 7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” 1 Tim 3:1-7 KJV
There are a number of qualifications listed above:
That is just a few of the qualifications drawn from the text. If I pull them all out it would double the length of my blog. None is more important than another.
For those unaware or asking what a Bishop is, the term in modern translations is overseer. Essentially the word “Episcopos” is used consistently in the New Testament to refer to Elders, Bishops, and Deacons. Today we use the word Pastor but the meaning is the same, essentially what you have is the office of Holy Ministry charged with preaching the Word. We know that Timothy held this office in Ephesus because we see him referred to as such in Church history, and we can see this inferred in the directions given to him by Paul.
“Timothy, so it is recorded, was the first to receive the episcopate of the parish in Ephesus, Titus of the churches in Crete.” Eusebius Ecclesiastical History 3.4.6
“1 I charge thee [Timothy] therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.; 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.; 5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” 2 Tim 4:1-5 KJV
Bottom line, Timothy was filling an office then which we now call Pastor. And this office is defined by the Apostle Paul as, among other things, being filled by a man. There is no text saying this is because men are better or smarter. It is simply part of the definition of the office. Anyone who doesn’t meet that definition isn’t a pastor.
Am I saying that a woman cannot perform the basic functions of the job? Of course not. Chromosomes don’t prevent or enable someone from carrying out the Sacrament of Holy Baptism or Communion. They don’t prevent someone from standing at a pulpit and speaking. They have nothing to do with any of the tasks that one would expect a Pastor to fulfill. Physical or mental capability is not the issue. The issue is that the text on this is just too clear to disregard. And this is ultimately why I believe it is important. Timothy is charged by Paul to preach the Word.
“1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.” 2 Tim 4:1-2 KJV
A pastrix simply cannot fulfill that command. Not because their chromosomes render them incapable of speaking at a pulpit. But rather because they have to disregard very clear scriptures to accept ordination in the first place. At the very least a pastrix cannot exegete 1 Timothy 3 with any credibility. And if one holds a confession that disregards clear scripture to that degree what else will they be unable to preach?
This isn’t just for women, if a man fails to preach the word then he isn’t a pastor either. There are many examples of men who have failed their calling in this case. I believe this is a Biblical teaching that we need to kindly and carefully confess for the right reasons. Too many will twist the epistle of Timothy into an excuse for sexism, and in doing so make the same error with the same pitfalls as those they accuse.
If you want to argue that the Bible is archaic and misogynistic and should be rejected, then please let that be your argument. But don’t twist the word while you’re at it. I would instead urge that one should accept the Bible or reject it on the merits of what the clearest passages are teaching. If in doing this denominations and synods are going to part ways from each other then so be it.
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Matt 10:34-37 KJV
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Heb 4:12 KJV