This is a paper that Rick Booye and I co-wrote regarding the issue of gender in church leadership. Enjoy! If you have comments, please let me know.
Gender Issues in Church Leadership
Biblical Guidance/Our Position
At Trail Christian Fellowship we have been blessed because gender has never been a divisive issue among us. We want to preserve that peace and unity. Yet, all around us the gender wars are raging. Even within the evangelical community people disagree, sometimes heatedly.
The reason for the disagreement (aside from the perennial angst in our culture over these topics) is that in one place Paul says that women should not teach or exercise authority over men in the church (1 Tim. 2:12), yet in other places it seems obvious that women prophesied, prayed and were taken very seriously in Christian body life (Acts 21:9; 1 Cor. 11:5; Rom. 16:3-16 where women are included with the men as heroes of the faith). The fact that Paul had to correct some abuses with regard to the sisters’ freedom to join in ministry indicates that Christian women had more clout in the church than the surrounding culture generally condoned. They were considered equals with the men in service to Christ. So, how should we understand these seemingly divergent perspectives?
Three main views regarding gender and leadership within the Church have emerged: Egalitarians believe that men and women are equal before God and therefore women should be admitted to and represented in all ministries within a church, particularly senior pastoral and eldership positions. They believe a person’s gender is not at all a relevant issue for positioning people in ministry. Hierarchialists believe Scripture teaches that men and women are equal before God, but that women should strictly avoid ministry to adult men under all conditions. Complementarians believe that men and women are equal before God, but that he has created some church ministry specifications based not on superiority or inferiority, but on his designed spirit distinctions between male and female souls. These specifications position men as ultimately responsible for the life and health of the church (elders) in this age. The complementarian view opens all other venues for women to teach, pray and prophesy within the ministry except elder-board membership and primary pulpit responsibility. This is the view we hold at Trail Christian Fellowship.
Love and respect are more important to the Lord than titles and power. As a church we believe that how men and women treat each other is more important than what roles and titles we have (John 13:34-35; Mtt 20:25-28). When anger and divisiveness predominate and ministry degenerates into arguments about authority, prestige, and position something very important has already been lost—Christlikeness (see Phil. 2:1-11; Jas. 3:13-18). We also believe that this issue, while important and worthy of a position paper like this, is not the basis of unity in the body of Christ and therefore ought not to be a dividing factor between brothers and sisters. We ask that all those who fellowship among us accept the functional position we as elders believe is most biblical and strive to love and respect one another within that parameter. We do not insist that everybody outside the elder board and teaching faculty “sign off’ personally on our view. We do ask that for the purposes of fellowship and unity in Christ at our church we not argue or agitate for one of the other two Christian positions on this issue.
Our Position (Complementarian)
We believe God created both male and female in His image, and gave them equally dignity, value and purpose (Genesis 1:27). We also believe that men and women are equal partners in Christ (Gal. 3:28), and both men and women are equally gifted by God (Eph. 4:7, 11-13) so that the local church may be strengthened (1 Cor. 12:4-7). In the Trinity, there are three distinct and equal Persons sharing the same essence and yet who exercise different roles. God the Father sends the Son and the Spirit (John 5:23, 24, 36, Isaiah 48:16). God the Son and God the Spirit submit to the Father, yet each is equally God. This is equality in diversity. At Trail Christian Fellowship we believe there is an equality of persons between men and women, but a diversity of function.
For further reading we recommend:
Women and Men in Ministry by Robert L. Saucy & Judith K. Tenelshof
Two Views on Women in Ministry by James R. Beck & Craig L. Blomberg
Women in Ministry: Four Views by Bonnidell Clouse & Robert G. Clouse