I understand that this can be a sensitive topic for many. For that reason, it is not normally discussed. I fully believe that Christians become mature in their faith by study of doctrines. I think it’s best for an individual to look at both sides of an argument, be given the verses, reasons and counter-arguments for each and be given the opportunity to decide what he/she believes. Most churches do not provide this opportunity. They simply teach what they believe without ever mentioning that there is a differing view even within Christianity. Without knowing that differing beliefs are okay, young people often blindly follow their parents’ faith. Their faith never becomes their own because they have never been exposed to anything different.
The doctrine that many denominations profess is that females should not be in ministry; or rather, they should not be pastors. This belief comes from one verse in 1 Timothy.
1 Timothy 2:11-12
“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man”
From that verse alone, it is easy to see how that conclusion can be made. However, it is best to not take one verse and create a ban. Context is EVERYTHING!! If God wanted a ban on female ministers, I would hope it would be more obvious than just one verse. God is always consistent, He never changes.
At this point, I’d like to point out that nobody I know actually follows this verse the way it’s written. If it was followed the way it was written, woman would NEVER speak in the church. How many woman teach Sunday school or have said their testimony in church? A lot! If we were taking the first part of this verse literally as it was written, this would never happen. Another thing is that this would go beyond the church building. I do not know many Christians who would get upset if they got hired somewhere and found out that the boss was a woman, but according to this verse, a woman should not have authority over a man..
Let’s look into the context of that verse… The congregation that is being written to in 1 Timothy is the church in Ephesus. The church in Ephesus has specific issues, they had a cult nearby which had an all female leadership team. Those people were coming in and preaching non-sound doctrine. Woman were not educated in those days, so a woman would sound stupid if she were to get up and preach. They would not know what was actually in the bible or be able to discern sound and unsound doctrine. Since Paul was committed to keeping sound doctrine, it was better to tell the woman in this situation not to preach since they could not study God’s word for themselves. The times also had a part in this, in those days, men ruled everything, so it would be seen as inappropriate for a woman to have any authority over a man.
When a woman is compelled to preach, that is: called by God to proclaim the gospel and properly equipped with spiritual gifts to fulfill that calling, she is not using her own authority to do that, she is doing so under God’s authority. She is not putting her own authority above men, but is placing God where he needs to be: in charge.
At this point, I would like to mention that there a few other verses (especially in 1 Cor.) that talk about woman being quiet in church or covering their heads. Woman covering their heads in those days was modesty. The only people who didn’t cover their heads and who let their hair down were prostitutes. Today, we do not think “oh that woman is a prostitute because she isn’t covering her hair.” The context is different and therefore doesn’t mean the same as it did in the first century. As for the part about being silent, this refers to learning, not preaching or teaching. It was more appropriate for a woman to ask questions to her husband since he would be more educated than her.
The real issue I see with not allowing a woman to preach is the idea of spiritual gifts. If God equips a woman to preach, is it wrong for her to use the gifts God has given her? Of course not! Think to yourself for a moment, would it be a sin for a man who is called and equipped for ministry to go his own way rather than becoming a minister? Yes, it would. I think that is clear in James 4:17. So, if a woman is properly called and equipped, it is not a sin for her, of course it is. Phil. 1:21 says “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” If God tells someone to do something, but they decide not to for whatever reason, they are putting their own will above God’s. If a person does that, they make them self a god over their own life and cannot call themself a follower of Christ.
Yes, by the way, woman are given the gifts of preaching. In bible times, the gift of prophecy was what preaching was known as. In Joel 2:28 it says that sons AND DAUGHTERS will prophesy. In Acts 21:9, it mentions a man whose daughters had the gift of prophesy.
I don’t think it is right for anyone to say who God can use. I do not think it is right for woman who are called and equipped BY GOD for ministry should be silenced. Next time a woman is prohibited from publicly preaching or teaching, ask yourself why. Is it about a contextual issue? It it consistent throughout the church? Is a woman allowed to be a guest preacher in youth group with boys over 13 present? (Males 13+ are considered adults in Jewish culture.)
I’m not trying to start an argument here, only provide my thoughts and studies on this issue.