What Is the Bible’s View?
Women in the Pulpit?
“‘Women Preachers’—The Fight Rages On”
‘Ordination of Women Authorized by Episcopal Church’
“VATICAN: PRIESTHOOD FOR MEN ONLY”
“WOMEN CROWDING SEMINARIES”
SUCH newspaper headlines tell of a growing controversy. Recently several Protestant religions have changed their ‘church policy’ to permit women “ministers” or “priests.” Among these are Lutherans, Episcopalians and Anglicans.
To the contrary, the Vatican, on January 27 of this year, restated its position that only men could be Roman Catholic priests. However, many ‘Catholic activists’ immediately said that they would continue to argue for the ordaining of women.
In view of all of this, one naturally wonders: ‘After hundreds of years of only males in the pulpit, why the current debate?’ It is generally agreed that the women’s liberation movement has been the main force. Feminist writers contend that women are equally qualified and “a change in the tradition seems imperative.”
Actually, whether to “abolish tradition” seems to be a large issue in the controversy. But, instead, should not the first concern be: To whom does God give the responsibility of teaching the congregation? Yes, rather than exploring man-made traditions, let’s consider the Bible’s view.
Jesus loved people, including women. In contrast with the Pharisees and others, he treated females with respect and readily taught them. Women loyally attended him and were the first to see him after his resurrection.—John 4:27; Luke 10:39; Matt. 27:55, 56; 28:1, 9.
There is nothing in the Gospels to indicate that Jesus discouraged women from telling others about the “good news” of salvation. In fact, after the outpouring of God’s spirit upon about 120 men and women assembled at Pentecost, Peter quotes Joel’s prophecy: “I [God] shall pour out some of my spirit upon every sort of flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy.” (Acts 1:14; 2:1-18; Joel 2:28, 29) Thus, in the early congregation, men and women joyously shared their new hope with any who would listen.
On the other hand, we must carefully consider the Bible’s use of the Greek word di·aʹko·nos. At times it is used in a general sense of one of either sex “serving” or “ministering to” others. It is apparently in this manner that Paul speaks of “Phoebe our sister, who is a minister [servant, AV].” (Rom. 16:1; Luke 8:1-3) In many passages, however, the word obviously refers to an appointed office in the congregation—a ministerial assistant.
The list of qualifications for this official position includes: “Let ministerial servants be husbands of one wife.” The same is said of those having spiritual oversight, called “elders” or “overseers.” A congregational elder must be “a man presiding over his own household in a fine manner.” (1 Tim. 3:2-4, 8, 12) So baptized males are to take both positions of leadership (elder and ministerial servant) in the congregation.
The Christian Greek Scriptures are very clear on this matter. Paul writes: “I do not permit a woman to teach [the congregation], or to exercise authority over a man.” (1 Tim. 2:11, 12) Yet he also speaks of women as having teaching ability, for he exhorts mature women to be “teachers of what is good” to the “young women.” (Titus 2:3-5) Why is it that women can teach those outside the congregation but are not allowed to take the lead inside it? Was the apostle Paul “antiwoman,” as some claim?
Such reasoning ignores a fundamental Bible teaching: headship. Paul was in harmony with Peter and other Bible writers when he wrote: “But I want you to know that the head of every man is the Christ; in turn the head of a woman is the man; in turn the head of the Christ is God.”—1 Cor. 11:3; 1 Pet. 3:1.
God alone has no head over him; all others do. Of course, in view of the way many men have abused their headship, it is little wonder that some women bitterly cry for equality. Yet, in truth, God provided this headship arrangement for the good of all. How so?
Jehovah designed the family arrangement for life’s most intimate relationships. To assure the happiness and security of all, stability and unity would be essential. Obviously, one member would need to give direction. Jehovah gave this responsibility to the man. He also commanded the husband to “love his wife as he does himself”—cherishing and honoring her.—Eph. 5:28-33.
Therefore, if the woman is to seek her husband’s direction in the home, how could she take headship over men and women in the congregation? What would happen if an elder and “eldress” were married to each other?
Those who argue for women “in the pulpit” would have us believe that only because of prevailing social custom did Jesus not have female apostles among the twelve. But Jesus acted in accord with God’s original purpose. In Eden, Adam was Eve’s head, even before their fall into sin.—Gen. 2:18, 22, 24; 1 Cor. 11:7-9.
Now, is this divine pattern “stunting” to women, making them “second-class Christians,” as some claim? Today the word “submission” is often linked to “inferiority.” But the Bible and Christian living teach us that only by submitting to Jehovah’s will—seeking our place in his arrangement—can we find happiness.
Further, the apostle Paul is often misrepresented concerning women. Besides writing at length as to how women should be loved and respected, he repeatedly greeted and commended by name individual sisters. (Rom. 16:3, 4, 6, 12) And it was this same apostle who wrote the verse most quoted by advocates of women “priests.” It states: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one person in union with Christ Jesus.”—Gal. 3:28.
This scripture, studied in context, reveals a profound truth. The heavenly class is not restricted to men but includes women. Surely, above all else, this proclaims God’s favorable view of women—a view faithfully reflected by Christ and Paul.
So, while the churches go in many directions on this issue, Christian women do well to hold to the Biblical teaching. In doing this they are not being “repressed.” They find true happiness in offering up “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God.” And, most important, they gain God’s blessing.—1 Pet. 2:5.