A subscriber in the Southwest U.S. asks whether biblically a church should ordain women as pastors (or elders).
Reverent scholarship is not all of one mind on this topic. Some scholars conclude that Paul denies women leadership position in the church, a decision which they believe to be binding in all times and places (1 Tim. 2:8-15). The Apostles were all men, they note, and every mention of elders, bishops or pastors in the New Testament is masculine. These scholars acknowledge that men and women are equal before God, that males and females are joint-heirs together of salvation, that they are respectively gifted for service — but conclude that God has ordained male leadership in the church.
Other scholars agree that Paul prohibited female leadership in one or two specific situations, but they conclude that he did so for reasons peculiar to those situations (1 Cor. 9:19-23). These scholars see that limitation as prompted by an evangelistic motivation, an attempt to avoid scandalizing his own society, a temporary measure to avoid persecution by a Roman government which historically stamped out religions led by women. When those particular situations and circumstances do not exist (whether in the first century or the twenty-first), neither do Paul’s limitations on women’s roles.
A third category of scholars denies that Paul prohibits women from leading at all. They acknowledge that Paul forbids women from “domineering” in First Timothy 2:12 — a matter of attitude, not of service — but insist that he does not prohibit women from exercising any spiritual gifts God might bestow. Although Paul says that women are to remain “quiet” (1 Tim. 2:11-12), he earlier used the same word when he said that all believers should live a “quiet” life (1 Tim. 2:2). Paul clearly allowed women to pray and prophesy (1 Cor. 11:5), to serve as deacons (Rom. 16:1-2), and to work beside him in the gospel (Rom. 16:3, 6, 7, 12). The rule, these scholars say, is that in Christ there is no distinction between male and female (Gal. 3:28).