The question regarding women in pastoral ministry is an important, emotional, and controversial issue for today’s church. In early 2007, the President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Paige Patterson, sought to remove Dr. Sheri Klouda from her position as Professor of Hebrew in their School of Theology. Patterson’s reasoning was that she did not qualify to teach future pastors about pastoral ministry in the seminary because she did not qualify as a pastor herself since she is a woman. This action raised much debate around Southern Baptist life and beyond about the role of women in ministry and the qualifications for seminary professors. In order to get a proper understanding to even engage in this debate, one must have foundational convictions about what the bible says about the woman’s role in the church.
It must be stated at the outset that men and women are of equal worth in the sight of God, but they have different roles as taught in Scripture. Genesis 1-3 gives the foundational teachings for Biblical manhood and womanhood and no discussion of the topic of “women in ministry” can be disconnected from the original creation account.
When coming to the topic of “women in ministry” it must also be understood that both complementarians and egalitarians agree in some areas. We all think that women are given gifts from the Lord to use and that one of those gifts might be the gift of teaching. There are many women who are incredible communicators and they should use their gifts for God’s glory in God’s timing. The big difference in the complementarian and egalitarian positions is who the ladies can teach. Egalitarians say that women should be allowed to teach both men and women in the same way that a man does. They also feel that it is okay for a woman to exercise authority over a man and be a pastor at a church. The complementarians feel that the role of pastor is only for a man as scripturally defined and that women should enjoy the ministry of teaching other women and even children, but they are not to teach men the Holy Scriptures or have authority over a man in the church. This kind of teaching is not meant to suppress women who are gifted communicators, but to help them be free to teach and effect those that God has called them too. Elisabeth Elliot, Carolyn Mahaney, and Dorothy Patterson are examples of godly women who would refuse to teach men, but would be happy to teach the bible to other women.
The main passages that are used to defend the complementarian position on “women in ministry” are 1 Timothy 2:11-15, 1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:6. The latter two passages speak of the qualifications of an elder/pastor and they each say that he should be a “husband of one wife.” This is a teaching against polygamy by Paul, but it also shows the leadership structure of the churches that he was establishing. The bible never speaks of women elders or pastors and if this was a desire that Paul wanted to communicate, it would really need to be addressed since they were living in a patriarchal society. Paul did not address the female leadership of the church because there was none. The ladies were seen as sisters in Christ who were to be positioned toward their husbands and their home, but not toward leading the church. They were encouraged to use their gifts within the context of God’s revealed will for the church. This is why Paul speaks to the men when writing his qualification saying, “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires the office of overseer, he desires a noble task” (1 Timothy 3:1, italics and bold added). This noble task being designated to a man is clear in this passage. The only egalitarian response to this is usually just insisting that it is culturally binding and not for today, but this argument is easily refuted when understanding that it undermines all of Scripture and anything in the bible can be dismissed by saying that it was only bound to that culture. When using the argument of the culture, there must be more evidence to that argument than simply an internal struggle with reconciling the passage of Scripture with today’s norms. This wayward hermeneutic can then sweep away anything and everything that may appear unconvincing to the reader. Regardless of the biblical hermeneutic, the qualification for the elder to be a “husband of one wife” is still binding because there is not evidence to ignore or reinterpret it.
In 1 Timothy 2, Paul starts his teaching of how the church members should live out their lives to be “godly and dignified in every way.” In verses 8, Paul speaks of how men should be praying. Then in verses 9-10, Paul explains the way women should present themselves both outwardly and inwardly. In verses 11-15, Paul gives further instruction of how females should live out godly womanhood in the church when he says,
Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing- if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.
This is a very controversial passage and there are a plethora of egalitarian arguments as to why it has nothing to do with today’s debate about “women in ministry.” Wayne Grudem explains the differing views by saying,
They [egalitarians] suggest that perhaps there was a unique situation in Ephesus in which women were teaching false doctrine, and Paul’s command was relevant for that particular situation only. Others suggest that women were not well educated in the ancient world, and that is why Paul does not let them teach. Still others suggest that this command was restricted only to husbands and wives, or that it was a temporary command Paul gave only until women could be trained more fully.
All of these arguments can be refuted by looking behind what is being assumed to be true. The idea that women were told not to exercise authority over men because there were some women in Ephesus who were teaching false doctrine may seem legitimate. However, when one looks at the facts, they see that the only false teachers named in Ephesus were men and the whole male gender was not disqualified from teaching because of these men who were named. Paul’s stated reason for writing this instruction for women was based on the creation order: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” “We should be reluctant to accept a position based on a reason Paul does not give, especially when it minimizes, ignores, or presents an eccentric interpretation of the reason Paul actually does give (as several egalitarian positions do).” The argument that the first century women were restricted to teach because of a lack of education is absurd considering that many men who taught were uneducated in a formal education system and that ladies like Priscilla probably had more theological education than many of the men since she was around Paul for four and a half years in Ephesus. This passage teaches exactly what it says. Women are to learn in submission and are not to teach or exercise authority over men in the context of the church. The reasoning for this is based on the created order of Adam and Eve and not just the current culture that Paul was writing to. “The activities involved in 1 Timothy 2:12 are, by definition, transcultural in the sense that they are permanent ministries of the Christian church, and the prohibitions of 1 Timothy 2:12 are grounded in theology.” These Scriptural evidences give much weight to the complimentarian argument in the “women in ministry” debate.
Another reason against women being in ministry may be more of a pragmatic one. If a woman trains to be a pastor by going through college and then seminary and then she marries and has children, what is her main calling? Is she called to be a pastor, which she trained for or is she called to be a mom? The biblical criteria show that young women are to “love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:4-5). This passage shows that a woman should be positioned to care for her husband and her children and that shepherding the flock of God is not the priority for her time or energy. Though in some circumstance a mom will have to work outside the home (single-parent moms or wives whose husbands are ill) it seems that she should not see the home as somewhere to escape from, but somewhere to take joy in. It is a lie to believe that it is more fulfilling to be in the workforce or be earning an outside income as opposed to caring for the lives of children. The worth of a person is not defined by their income or their occupation, but their fulfillment of obedience to God’s will for their life. Women who desire to go into ministry should consider their biblical calling as women as well as the biblical qualifications for the elder. These both speak regarding God’s desired plan for females and God’s criterion for pastoral ministry.
Another practical concern for women in pastoral ministry is their example to the congregation that they serve. If a woman is the teaching pastor at the church how does she handle passages about the husbands leading their wives? What kind of model is she giving for the other wives in the congregation as well as the little girls and teenagers who are looking to her leadership? How does marriage look like a picture of Christ and the church when a female is preaching Ephesians 5? These questions may seem pejorative, but they are serious issues. When a significant issue such as the qualifications for leadership is twisted, there will be more compromises to come and it is questionable where they will stop.
Once someone has a biblical conviction about women in ministry, they will then be able to start working through issues such as “seminary professor qualifications,” “who should be able to teach teenage boys/men,” and “can women teach the bible to men at a conference as opposed to in the local church.” The Scriptures must be examined and the cultural influences must be minimized. The grid is the bible and the stakes are high as biblical manhood and womanhood demands more than a casual affirmation. It is a “hill on which to die.”
 For further study on Genesis 1-3 and its claims on the Gender Role Debate, see my paper, “The Good Beginning of Genders Distinctions.”
 Grudem, Wayne. Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth. Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah, 2004, p.279.
 Ibid 287.
 Ibid, 287.
 Ibid, 292.
 Moo, Douglas. “What Does It Mean Not to Teach or Have Authority Over Men?” from Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, ed. John Piper and Wayne Grudem. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 1991, p. 193.