Women in the Ministry?
In the past ten years within NAPARC, there has been much talk about the prospect of women serving in ministerial capacities. Before last year’s General Assembly, a presbytery within the PCA sent an overture asking the assembly to allow for the ordination of women to the diaconate. During the same time, there has been debit and speculation within the SBC as to whether or not a female may serve as the denominations president, or if women are permitted to preach on the Lord’s Day. Some may ask, why is it such a big deal? Do we not want to encourage and empower women to fulfill their God-given gifts, as image-bearers, totally equal to men in value and worth? Why would we not allow latitude on these issues for our sisters in Christ?
This is the first post in a series of articles dealing with the question of women serving in ministerial roles. I will state my position before proceeding: First, I do not support the ordination of women to the office of deacon. While there may be some room for discussion and debate, I maintain that position because it makes the most sense of the available data, and the PCA has already ruled on it in the past. I see no reason to keep the discussion going as far as the PCA is concerned.
Second, I do not support women preaching on the Lord’s Day. I believe and maintain that the Lord’s Day service is strictly reserved for the worship of God, through singing and preaching the Word, facilitated by ordained pastors and elders. Those called to be pastors and elders just so happen to be restricted to qualified men. This is not to say I believe a woman can never under any circumstances speak on theology or some scriptural proposition, or else I would not support the work of Rosaria Butterfield. It is to say, however, that Lord’s Day worship is to be done in the Lord’s House by those set apart to minister the Word and Sacrament, which are qualified men.
Rooted in Genesis
There are some within our culture who would view my position as “restrictive,” “sexist,” or “misogynistic”. I want to express why the Bible teaches what it does on the role of women in the Church. In Genesis 2:18, God said that it was “not good that man should be alone” and that God’s desire was to make Adam a “helper comparable to him.” In other words, God created woman for man, as the glory of man, to help man, because it is from man that God created the woman. From the beginning, God created men and women differently. Thus, they have different capacities and capabilities, not least of which reflects their God-ordained natures.
Though equal to one another in essence, as Eve was “bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh” in her relation to Adam, there were clear differences in their design. Eve was designed to be Adam’s helper. She was not intended to assume his responsibilities with him, nor was she intended to assume them in his absence. The perfect order of creation is that Eve was intended to help facilitate Adam’s duties, both in family and in life. Strictly speaking, men and women complement and help one another in ways that men or women could not do on their own. As far as the family goes, it is not good that man should raise children alone, nor is it good for women to raise them alone. Paul commends women to love their husbands and their children, to be homemakers, not slanderous, etc (Titus 2:3-5). In this way, he sets the stage for women’s primary responsibility, which is to her home and family, and not as head of the home. On the other hand, men are called to be head of their wife and children. In regard to children, men are called not to provoke their children to wrath, but “bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). In regards to their wives, men are called to love their wives as they love themselves, while they are called to lead them at the same time (Eph. 5:22-27). They are not to lord their headship (i.e. abuse their responsibility) over women and children, even though they would as a consequence of the Fall (Gen. 3:15). Still, men and women have different, but equally important roles in family, life, and the Church. All of this is God’s intended purposes for men and for women since the beginning.
These views may seem antiquated, but the Bible’s teachings do not always make sense to a lost and dying world. My duty is to share with gentleness and love the Bible’s witness when it comes to men and women. After all, God designed us and since we are His creation, He knows what is best for us. As I hope to make clear, the Bible has clearly taught from the beginning that men are to be leaders and women their helpers. Though equal, they are yet different, by nature and in their responsibilities; men are to be the head of their own households (Eph. 5:22-24; 1 Corinth. 11:3; 1 Peter 3:7). Just as men lead their families they are to lead the Church as, the Church is the family of God (Rom. 9:8; Gal. 4:4-7; 1 Tim. 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-16). In the verses cited, women are commanded to submit to their husbands headship, or give up their own autonomy to their husbands. As far as the Church is concerned, women are simply not commanded to assume leadership roles. Biblically, a woman’s honorable service is to her own character, her love for her husband, her children, and her trade, all that “the Word of God may not be blasphemed” (Prov. 31; Titus 2:1-5).
Though not exhaustive of what can be said, I hope to have established the natural order of things from Scripture. From this understanding, it is my hope that there can be a better appreciation for gender roles in the Church, but also in the culture. My hope is to have this series of roles in the Church bring some bit of clarity and forthrightness on an issue in which it seems some are wavering.