Monday, July 9, 2012

Women in Church Leadership

The role of women in the Church is crucial for its health and growth. Just as women were active during Jesus’ ministry and in the early church, so women are actively ministering in the church today. Without their efforts the work of the church would be severely hampered. That being said, when we address the role of women in the church we need to remember that Scripture is our sole and sufficient guide in this matter, as in all others. The creation account in Genesis 1 and 2 shows that the Lord determined that man should be head of the woman, who was made from man in order to be his glory and helper. Basing his teachings on the order of creation and the example set by the Son in freely submitting to the Father’s headship, Paul requires a woman to submit voluntarily to her husband’s leadership and to the leadership established by Christ for the church which is limited to men (1 Tim. 2:11-13). Women can serve in any capacity in the church along side men, except in the role as officers (1 Tim. 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6).

The following is taken from Introduction to Redlands Community Church, the course people at our church go though when they are interested in membership. I post it here because several people have asked about my (our) position on the issue of women in church leadership.

A. The question of having women serve in various leadership positions in the church is a controversial, but important issue that needs to be addressed in each church congregation.

1. We recognize that it is possible for Christians equally committed to the authority of Scripture to disagree on this issue (as is the case on election, the sacraments, etc.). We are committed to working together with all those who believe and proclaim the gospel, even when we disagree.

2. The issue is complicated by the fact that, in many churches that do not ordain women to the pastoral office, there are often limited opportunities for women to exercise gifts in the areas of public teaching, theology, etc.

B. Scripture strongly affirm the fundamental equality of men and women—both men and women are (and this was an astounding proclamation in the Ancient Near East) fully the very image and likeness of God. While strongly affirming this personal equality, the Scriptures, however, do not teach that men and women are simply interchangeable. Men and women, the Scriptures teach, while clearly equal, are also different in many ways. (See Genesis 1:27; Galatians 3:26-29.)

1. Traditionally the church has seen a difference in the role of men and women. The Bible teaches that, in the family, the husband/father has the role as the spiritual leader of the household (Ephesians 5:22ff). It is important to remember, of course, that the Bible teaches a unique, gospel-centered view of leadership—leaders are, first of all, servants.

2. Scripture often draw a parallel between the family and the church. This is why those who lead the church—as the “fathers” of God’s household—are to be men. (Key text: 1 Timothy 2:12.)
In the context of Paul’s apostolic instructions to the church for the ordering of church practice when the church is assembled together, two things are prohibited: 1) women are not permitted to publicly “teach” Scripture and/or Christian doctrine to men in church (the context implies these topics), and 2) women are not permitted to “exercise authority” over men in the church. Women teaching other women, and women teaching children, are not in view here, and both are encouraged elsewhere (Titus 2:4; 2 Tim. 1:5). Nor does this passage have in view the role of women in leadership situations outside the church (e.g., business or government)… Since the role of pastor/elder/overseer is rooted in the task of teaching and exercising authority over the church, this verse would also exclude women from serving in this office (cf. 1 Tim. 3:2). Thus when Paul calls for the women to be “quiet,” he means with respect to the teaching responsibility that is limited in the assembled church. Paul elsewhere indicates that women do speak in other ways in the church assembly (1 Cor. 11:5, 13; Acts 2:17; 21:8-9).
(ESV Study Bible notes)
C. What about deacons?

1. Redlands Community Church (and the PCA) believe that deacons are to be ordained and are only to be men. There are those in our denomination, however, who believe there is strong evidence in the Bible for women serving as deacons (or deaconesses).

a. In Romans 16:1, Phoebe is referred to as a “servant” (NIV and ESV), or in Greek, a diakonos. Since the Greek term can mean either “servant” (13:4; 15:8; 1 Cor. 3:5; 1 Tim. 4:6) or “deacon” (referring to the church office; Philemon 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:8, 12), scholars debate whether Phoebe was a servant in the general sense, or whether she served as a deacon.

b. In 1 Timothy 3:11, in the middle of describing the qualifications for deacons, the apostle Paul gives qualifications for “their wives.” Who were these women? The Greek word gyne can mean either “women” or “wives.” The ambiguity results in at least three interpretations: 1) the wives of deacons, 2) women deacons, or 3) women who assist the deacons but who are distinct from the deacons.

c. Evidence for women deacons (sometimes called deaconesses) can also be found in the history of the early church.

2. Again, Redlands Community Church (and the PCA) do not allow women to be “ordained” as deacons. However, the PCA’s Book of Church Order (BCO) allows Sessions to appoint women for non-ordained diaconal ministry. Consequently, our practice at Redlands is to have men and women serve together in diaconal ministry without ordination.

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