Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Women in Ministry Leadership - What I've Learned

In early 2009, during my time serving as an 'elder intern' at our local church, I attended a meeting with our church's elder team and a small group of women whom requested the church leadership revisit the position of women in leadership. So when the internet blew up a few weeks ago around this topic, I certainly was interested [here is a good summary] . If this topic doesn't interest you, you should spend your time somewhere else. But if you are interested, certainly read on...

Here is what I've learned about the topic and all the credit for it goes to my pastor Mark Norman for walking myself and the elder team at that time through this. Most of this was gleaned at this specific sit down meeting although there was lots of background discussion before this. As you can imagine, it's a big topic.

1 - The New Testament office of elder or pastor relates to a very very small subset of people. This is irrespective of gender. Meaning that even among men, the ones who are elder qualified or desire to be an elder or lead at that level is very small. Now of course, lots of people lead without the official title or role or office. Like John Wimber used to say, "You know your elders because they eld."

2 - Each person must decide for themselves how important the issue of women in leadership is with regard to the church home they choose. Is it a negotiable or a non-negotiable?

3 - Each person must study the Bible for themselves. There are lots of good, God-loving people that fall on both sides of the discussion and we probably won't really know the real answer in this lifetime. I can still vividly remember one of our church leaders articulating that perhaps he didn't like the decision either, but he was firmly convicted about what the Scriptures taught.

4 - Your leadership team must be able to articulate your position and how you arrived at it. If you cannot or will not do this, you won't have much credibility with the emerging generation.

Some other resources that I've found helpful:
Book Notes - Two Views on Women in Ministry
Can Men and Women Lead Together
The Theological Journey of a Female Pastor, Heather Zempel, one of the pastors at National Community Church
Evangelicals and Gender Equality, from Bill and Lynne Hybels.

And this final paragraph, from the book Two Views on Women in Ministry, is valuable to continue to work towards, I think...
Once you have decided as best as you understand it, what Scripture does permit women to do, can any reasonably objective observer of your church and your ministry quickly recognize you are bending over backwards to encourage and nurture women in these roles? If not, then you can't possibly be obeying Scripture adequately, even on your interpretation of it. Interestingly, over the years, I have had a number of outspoken egalitarian women, some of them well known in evangelical circles, confide in me privately and tell me that if complementarians would just do this much consistently, they could live with the remaining areas of disagreement and even stop lobbying for further privilege.


  1. "Gender and Grace" is also excellent. A bit wider in what it covers.