This is the third essay I had to write for my Theology 202 class.
Short Essay on Women’s Role in the Church
In American Christian culture today there are many issues, which have caused tremendous amounts of controversy. One of these is the role women play in the church body’s leadership structure. As I attempt to tackle this subject, I will seek to answer the question of whether women can hold leadership positions in the church, along with several other related questions.
Before we begin this journey to find a biblical solution to this issue, lets start with some definitions. Dr. Elmer L. Towns listed seven titles used for “the man of God who leads the New Testament church: elder, bishop, pastor, preacher, teacher, servant, and messenger” (Towns 2002). Another title used for this office, depending on which version of the Bible a person would use, is overseer. Paul defines elders as one “able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it (Titus 1:9b ESV). Christ is the head of the church, however, we cannot see him and thus need a visible person, a pastor, to lead the local church body. “The word ‘deacon’ is from the root of diakonia which means ‘servant’” (Towns 2002). We see evidence of this in the book of Acts when the disciples appointed seven men to “serve tables” (Acts 6:2).
Paul gives a list of requirements for both elders and deacons in his first letter to Timothy. For the elder, he must be free from any sinful allegations, married to one wife, able to control his actions, emotions, and desires, thought well of by God and man, welcoming to all, able to explain God’s Word, not addicted to alcohol, calm spirited, not looking for a fight, not obsessed with money, able to lead and control his own family, not a new believer, and “he must be well thought of by outsiders” (1 Timothy 3:1-7). Deacons must be worthy of respect, honest, not a drunk, not cheating others out of their money, must know what he believes without doubting or wavering, having no sin which hasn’t been confessed, and ruling their household well. Also, “their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things” (1 Timothy 3:11). Based on the qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3, I don’t believe that is biblical for women to serve as elders or deacons. With Paul forbidding women to speak during church in 1 Corinthians 14, not permitting women to be over men in 1 Timothy 2, and his gender exclusive qualifications in 1 Timothy 3, it is clear that women aren’t allowed to serve as elders or deacons. However, with his reference to Pheobe as a servant, in Romans 16, we can infer that an office of service existed where both men and women could serve, but it was not an office of eldership or deaconship.
Given the limitations mentioned in 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2 are directly referring to the cooperate gathering of believers (i.e. the church), we can’t apply these same limitations to the workplace. Thus, if a woman is in a position of leadership in the workplace since it is not condemned by Scripture, it is within her right to hold said position. We can also see in Proverbs 31 that being in the workplace is commendable of women.
Even though women are not, biblically, allowed to serve as elders or deacons, they can still play an important role in the church by supporting their spouse who is in such a position, leading small groups, and teaching other women how to better serve their husband. They can also teach and lead children, and help their husband with counseling others. While they should not be directly involved in the church, there is a lot that goes on in the home based on the influence they have with their husband.
Word Count: 630
Towns, Elmer L. “Ecclesiology.” In Theology For Today. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thompson, 2002.