Friday, June 13, 2008

What About Women Deacons and Elders?

Complementarians differ on the issue of women deacons. Moderates say yes (like the church I attend) and others say no because any position that "elevates" a woman above the "lay people," which undoubtedly includes MEN, would give the impression that certain women exercise an authority in the church that certain men do not/cannot exercise, therefore women cannot be deacons because it would directly or indirectly put them in "authority" over some men. Pretty much all churches of the complementarian-persuasion are united in the belief that women cannot be elders/bishops/overseers. Note: all three terms are used interchangeably within the New Testament, and both complementarians and egalitarians agree that elder/bishop/overseer is the same leadership role.

I personally find it hard to believe that if a woman like Junia could be considered an apostle (not one of the 12 obviously, but one of the later apostles that witnessed Christ's ascension...) and apostles were the ones who were traveling missionaries, who planted churches, and appointed elders and deacons, that women would be denied the opportunity to serve as an elder or deacon. Plus, with the numerous legitimate female prophets recorded in both testaments, it's a bizarre notion that women would be prohibited from being a deacon or elder, two positions that were "under" apostles and prophets. The way we "modern" Christians "DO" church is quite different from the first century. The "office" of apostle and prophet are pretty much obsolete now. But in the first century church, apostles and prophets were at the top of the food chain (if one must be concerned with hierarchy.)

"And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of
healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues."--1 Corinthians 12:28

So, Paul considers apostles and prophets to be the most "authoritative" figures, although the whole purpose for any of these positions is sacrificial service and empowering others through the gifts of Holy Spirit to take part in what God is doing, not to have power over others. TEACHERS come next, which modern day pastors have become in the church, and so forth. Even if one denies that Junia was an apostle, one can hardly deny the abundance of legitimate female prophets in both testaments. Prophecy is not limited to predicting the future or receiving a new word from God. Prophecy can also come in the form of wisdom (which can be a teaching), knowledge, encouragement, and a reminder to God's people of their obligations to God and each other. Both prophets in the Old and New Testament did this. Prophetic voice s challenged the status quo to return people's hearts to God. A prophet's role is very similar to the role pastor. Prophecy takes on new dimensions in the New Testament age and goes beyond speaking "thus saith the Lord," although I cannot think of a MORE authoritative task. Prophecy can also be instruction for the building up of the entire body, given so all "may learn," "be encouraged," and just like teaching, it should be evaluated. Just because one prophesies or teaches does not make them unquestionable or above error. Hearers are always suppose to evaluate prophecy and teaching for themselves. Prophecy and teaching are GIFTS, not originally "offices," and definitely not a way to control or dominate people. That is why it is beyond me that some churches forbid women from expounding upon the scriptures in front of her church body, if she is capable. Can we not evaluate what a woman teaches as we do, or as we should do, when men teach? Doesn't true authority lie with Christ and His truth, not with the vessel that proclaims it?

So, in the next post we will look at the "requirements" for elders and deacons, the original language, various interpretations, and church history.

I'm curious as to what opinion readers of this blog hold to and if they align with their own church bodies. Do you think women can be elders and deacons, or neither, or women can be deacons, but not elders?


dennis b. said...

Biblically speaking, women should not hold any office in the church, whether it be deacons, elders, pastors, ushers, teachers, or worship leaders. The offices of the church were entrusted to men and women are to support men, so men can more freely officiate those ministries. It's a lead and follow formula that God designed. The public life of the church belongs to men, the private behind the scenes belong to women. When these two are in perfect harmony, the church funtions beautifully. Men fulfill their God-given roles to lead and women fulfill their God-given roles to help.

Terry said...

My church has women in ministry positions. If they are married, they are in ministry with their husbands, but they are ordained ministers. Our minister in charge of subordinate ministries is a single woman. We go to a a large, nondenominational church where this is not uncommon.

Terry said...

Oh, how do I feel about that? I have mixed feelings, but the husband and I both believe that this is where we are meant to be so that's that. Doesn't matter how we feel if God lead us there, now does it?

Tia Lynn said...

I hear ya Terry. I obviously have strong convictions about egalitarianism and believe it to be the ideal model of leadership, both in church and marriage, but I continue to go to my moderately complementarian church because it's still a good church and it's where we want to be for now.

Dennis, women can't be ushers? Women can't even show people to their seats without them "exercising authority" over men? That's says a lot.

musicmommy3 said...

I hate to sound argumentative but your comment makes it sound like the church is "all about men" when really it's all about God.

How is a worship leader exercising authority?

Do you really think that each and every job in the public church setting should be done by a male?

Is our only job as females to make a male's life easier and more fulfilling and to help his mministry or has God given women gifts in the kingdom too?

I may sound like an egalitarian to you. I'm really more a moderate complimentarian but I don't believe that women's only job or identity is to serve men and help them fulfill their callings.

In the home setting I think that men are the leaders of the home; but still, if the male expects his wife to only help him fulfill his calling and he doesn't help her to fulfill hers then I think that there is something seriously skewed there.

It's late y'all. I need some sleep. I hope that this made sense.
I hope to hear back from you dennis. We haven't had too many hard core complimentarians commenting and it's an interesting perspective.

dennis b. said...

The blog asked what readers believed and that's how I responded. I am not a hardcore anything, except a hardcore bible believer. I didn't make the rules about male leadership, God did, I just live by them. The bible plainly teaches that the public life of the church has been entrusted to men, while women, precious and valuable in God's sight as his children, are to support and follow the lead of her head, man. It is only in these capacities that women will be truly fulfilled, for it is the purpose she was designed to fill. Woman was made FOR man, not man for woman and she was created to be a helper to his calling.

Women contribute to church life by bringing up godly children, caring for the home, showing hospitality to the church/local community through charity, meal ministries, caring for widows and orphans, and other service-oriented acts. When women do this, it frees up the men to embody God's word through study, which then filters out through teaching, preaching, and leading their church and families in the ways of the Lord.

Just because women are to be subservient to men, does not make them of less value. Men cannot do it alone, but they must exercise authority alone and women must submit to that authority alone. It's the only way the church can mirror their relationship to Christ and live out the ideal that was set up at creation.

This is Bible 101. It's kind of strange, and a little desperate, that people are still trying to make the Bible say something different.

Michelle said...

Dennis, I appreciate you explaining your point of view to us. I think you did a really good job laying out your beliefs (really, I do).

All this first began to change in my mind when our pastor pointed out what the term HELPER actually means, from Genesis (God created a HELPER for man). The term Ezer is a term oftened used for God Himself, as OUR helper. Does the fact that He helps us make Him inferior to us? Not at all. Am I saying women are SUperior, like God? NOT AT ALL. I'm just saying that there are many, many pharases in scripture where God portrays Himself in feminine ways, feminine terms, and yet He is in no way subservient. Those verses had never been pointed out to me before - never. Then I began reading my Bible again with "fresh lenses", not intent on supporting any one point of view, and realized that nowhere does it command men to be the authority over women. Actually no one is commanded to be in authority over anyone. We've interpreted them that way or had them TAUGHT to us that way in our "Bible 101" classes but in my own reading I do not see it.

I cannot articulate my current beliefs as well as you have, because I recognize the complexities of scritpure and interpretation and am weighing these issues one at a time. I don't solidly fall (yet? who knows?) on one side or the other, which I'm quite sure is driving some here MAD. :) Like you, I am not interested in being hard core anything, but I CAN confidently say that I disagree with most if not all of what you said, even though I do think you expressed it well and appreciate you doing so.

musicmommy3 said...

Thanks Dennis,
You really did lay that out well and not in a prideful way. I appreciate others' input and viewpoints in this conversation. By myself, I could definitely be making mistakes in how I am reading and interpreting Scripture so looking at what others think/see is always beneficial for me.

"Woman was made FOR man, not man for woman and she was created to be a helper to his calling."

I agree that woman was made for man but I don't think our entire job was to be a helper to his calling.

I think we were supposed to be helpers together to fulfill God's calling in our lives.

They (Adam and Eve) were both given dominion over the earth, not just Adam.
Adam needed someone to help and partner with him, not just someone to serve him so that he could carry out what God wanted him to do.

We are definitely called to serve men but men are called to serve us too.

All my opinion of course. This is just what I personally see when reading Scripture.

I don't try to come to Scripture to prove anything. I don't come to justify a system of beliefs. HOwever, if the beliefs I have don't line up then they need to go away...even if it's what I've been taught in classes and church all my life. :)

mel said...

In response to your question, Tia, my conviction is that women have access to all levels of leadership/service, just as men do, according to their gifting. This includes the roles of deacon and elder.

We moved to a new church about a year and a half ago. I was aware of the church's restrictions on women's leadership (in theory and practice), but thought I could live with it. (They would probably be moderate complementarian.)

I spent time discussing the issue with the pastor and a mature woman in the church, but I haven't been able to reconcile my conviction with the church's practice on this issue. As my conviction grew that this is an issue of justice, not merely a topic on which I could agree to disagree, I wasn't able to make the choice, as you have, to stay.

I'm now in a church that supports all members of the body in their gifts and service... perhaps not coincidentally, it's also a place that practices community and vulnerability exceptionally well.

(PS - Although we left without bitterness, we didn't leave quietly. I was open with the pastor in telling him that although we were willing to walk with the church as it grew into some other areas, this issue--and his inflexibility on it--was the dealbreaker.)

Tia Lynn said...

Hey guys. I only have a few minutes, so if this is sloppy, forgive me. :)

Dennis, while I don't doubt your sincerety, I am a bit distrubed with your reasoning for such segregated gender roles. Take this statement:

"Women contribute to church life by bringing up godly children, caring for the home, showing hospitality to the church/local community through charity, meal ministries, caring for widows and orphans, and other service-oriented acts. When women do this, it frees up the men to embody God's word through study, which then filters out through teaching, preaching, and leading their church and families in the ways of the Lord."

You make it sound like if women do all the "serving," then men can do all the "leading." This distinction is disturbing for a number of reasons. One, it implies that men are exempt from "service-oriented" ministries and two, it implies that service and leadership are mutually exclusive.

Men, too, are called to raise godly children and manage their homes, as well as to care for orphans, widows, the poor, and perform other acts of service. Any teacher/preacher that "leads" without "serving," is in a dangerous predicament.

Your view also implies that while men need to be "freed" from acts of service to study God's word that women, since they will be busy with children, house maintenence, and serving others, that they need not study as vigorously as men.

This view, if lived out, would put both men and women in such dangerous, foolish places. Men who do not have to sacrifice or get their hands dirty would miss out on all the other sex has to offer both in the home and church, and women who bear the brunt of the work without the time or encouragement to learn God's Word for themselves would neglect their gifts and opportunity to contribute to all sectors of church life.

And for what? All to keep women's mouths shut in the presence of the body. Because we all know what chaos would ensue if women could offer a prayer, share a word, or heaven forbid, read the scriptures with insight on what they might mean or how they could be applied today!

Great thoughts Michele and Angela.

Mel, I totally hear you and actually agree with you. I do see it as a justice issue too. But I once was a fierce complementarian, disgusted at the very thought of a women pastor. So, I certainly can have patience and grace for more moderate-complementarians that give women every opportunity they believe scripture affords to them. I love the people in my church and am not ready to give up on the church just because they do not share my view. It's a good experience, because some people have never even heard that there was another view out there to consider. So, it's nice to at least be able to share that. But if God leads us somewhere else down the road or our vision for our lives changes, we'd be willing to go.

mel said...

It sounds like an amazing journey you've been on, Tia.

I forget sometimes that the medium of the internet requires ultra-clarity: I hope my comment didn't hint at judgement, because I would never condemn you or anyone else who chooses to stay in their congregation! I think there are many, many benefits both to your church and yourself in that situation, especially if it is a place you've been for a long time.

Blessings to you as you continue the journey, and thank you so much for your thoughtful and clear presentation in this series.

Tia Lynn said...

Oh no! No hint of judgment at all! I so admire your decision to take a stand like that.

dennis b. said...


Women cannot practice ministries of the Word in public church life because they would be abdicating men's God-given authority over them. If they deliver the awful Word of the Lord for all to hear and obey, then they become vessels of authority in the church. Even when women teach other women or children, they must have a male covering to keep the creation order intact and everyone's roles clearly defined.

If men would just lead and women would just follow, there would be no problems. All jobs and needs would be met and the sexes could find the joy of fulfilling the roles they were created for.

Women should read and study the bible for themselves, but it should point them to biblical submission to their head (husband for married women, fathers or pastors for single women) and reliance upon their head for spiritual guidance, direction, and leadership. Men sort of serve as a filter for the woman. She can hear the word of God for herself, but the man must teach and direct how the word of God is carried out.

I think it's one of the most beautiful relationships there could be when men and women joyfully dedicate themselves to God's design. The blessings are just unstoppable when we live like this.

Michelle said...

But Dennis, respectfully... that's just it! Men ruling over women has been anything but beautiful and blessed throughout the ages. Maybe you will say, "That's because men haven't led well and women haven't followed well" but I think not. I think it's because power corrupts, and the hunger for it is a result of the fall - not part of the order of creation. When Jesus came to make all things new and declared there is now neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free, I think He painted a picture for us of what God truly intended and even of how He exists within the trinity. Oneness - not authority or self seeking/serving, total oneness and "other-focus". That, to me, sounds beautiful and has the potential for unstoppable blessings world wide.

Paul said...

Hey Tia!!

I read your latest entry and just had to give my input :) My mother-in-law is an ordained minister in the Assemblies of God (which we belong to) Coming from a Calvary Chapel background like you, for awhile I was a little uncertain about that. But when I asked her about it , she told me before she pursued her dream and calling to be a minister of the gospel, she first went to her husband (who is in authority over her as the bible says) and got his blessing to go for it. I was like, oh!!! I get it, that makes sense! (and hopefully it does to you too, I'm not always that great at explaing myself on paper) That really helped me out in seeing that woman do belong in certain leadership roles in the church. She's not the head pastor, but she supports him and fills in places where os would be hard for him to minister. Like to woman, moms and so on.Not that a male pastor can't minister to woman, but in certain situations having a woman to talk to with the credinitals to back her up is sometimes more comforting. And that's about it for now :)I hope my 2sense made sense!


musicmommy3 said...

"Men sort of serve as a filter for the woman. She can hear the word of God for herself, but the man must teach and direct how the word of God is carried out. "

That's a little weird for me and I really believe in male headship. :)

Here's where I think we have a prob...males are to be the head but that doesn't mean that women cannot do anything except serve men. Women are still supposed to use their gifts to serve God...and people to of course...male and female.

A person who prophesies in an assembly is not in authority. At all. They are simply delivering a message from God. There is no authority whatsoever there. If a friend of mine comes to me with a word from God she/he is not in authority over me. They are just delievering a message. Women greeters are not in authority over anyone. They are practicing hospitality in the formal setting. Someone sharing a testimony or a song is not in authority over me. They are simply using their gifts to build up the body. I see PLENTY of Scriptural NT backup for that for both male and female. I will be willing to give chapter and verse if you are so interested.

I know someone who is gifted in the prophetic and her husband asks her to seek God about things. He can hear God of course but he recognizes the giftings of his wife and it's beautiful to see that really work in their marriage. If they followed like some thought...she should just cook the meals and wash the clothed and leave all the hearing of God to her husband.
I think there is beauty in hearing God together. She would submit to her husband if he said to go a certain way even if she felt like she heard differently; but it would not be without warning him. That's being a real "helpmeet" IMO.

Suzanne I loved your comment. Thanks so much for sharing.

Michelle, I've got to meet you one day. You're so great!!

Tia Lynn said...

SuzyQ!!! It's so good to hear from you. That totally makes sense to me. Although I kind of think that goes both ways. I don't think people should use their "callings" to take advantage of their spouse. If one is married, neither spouse is independent of the other and should make those sort of big decisions together, not as some spiritual lone ranger. :)

You should pop back in when we get to the marriage posts. I'm curious of your opinion, since you too are from a calvary background, but have now experienced other types of churches.

Dennis, here's the problem, you, and many other complementarians, believe that preachers/teachers/pastors have authority over others in the sense of "ruling" or "controlling others" and egalitarians believe those who teach and preach have been given the authority to SERVE OTHERS in that particular gifting, through imparting the gospel to others. The real authority is in the TRUTH of the Gospel and with Jesus, not with the vessels that proclaims the truth of the gospel.

Terry said...

Don't paint us complementarians with such a broad brush, Tia Lynn. One of the things that rankles me most about the modern church is that preachers and pastors are treated as and EXPECT to be treated as authority figures only and not servants themselves. So many preachers expect to be bowed to and treated like celebrities-so unlike Jesus. So I actually agree with you on that point.

Tia Lynn said...

I am so sorry, I should have been clearer. I definitely was not speaking about ALL complementarians, but the kind of complementarianism Dennis ascribes to, which many others do as well. it is those complementarians that do not even allow a woman to speak in the assembly, let alone lead prayer, read scripture, and so on. I know the moderates do not reflect this at all. And where the disconnect lies is how each side views authority; its purpose and function and who ultimately holds it.

musicmommy3 said...

Can a person in authority not serve though? Does it have to be a "one or the other" approach. What about Jesus? He was certainly an authority over, well, everyone yet he served the people. There are pastors who serve rather than lord over others with their authority.

Dennis b. said...

Ofcourse men are to serve, but it's a different kind of service. Men serve THROUGH leading, and if they are called, teaching and preaching. That IS a service to the church. The women follow their lead and support their role by fulfilling other roles, tending to the physical needs of the body, instilling godly values into children, tending to women's troubles, etc. etc. It's the perfect balance, so every base is covered.

Michelle said...

Dennis, I'm not buying it. I'm sorry. Jesus praised Mary for leaving the "women's work" to sit and His feet and learn for herself. He also tended to women's troubles and welcomed the children, HIMSELF. I get that you are sincere but I don't think you're painting the same picture He did.

musicmommy3 said...

Sorry Dennis, I was actually referring to Tia's comment where she was saying that egalitarians look at pastors, teachers, etc. as those who are serving not those in authority over others. :)

Anonymous said...

TiaLynn--thank you for another helpful post. I am amazed as I read various blogs the vast differences in how people think. I'm conducting a survey to find out what people think their fellowships do well. I suspect I will find as much diversity in that as well.
Dennis--I believe the Bible is not as cut and dry about these issues as you seem to think which is one reason I appreciate this blog so much.

Tracey, In Word Adorning said...

I'm curious, I notice when we interpret scritpure we read the words and accept them literally most of the time. Unless they are hard to swallow like: "women keep silent in church, from the beginning God never ordained divorce, Eve was decieved not Adam etc." when we can't accept them at face value we go digging through history looking for obscure facts to negate them. You ever notice this? What determines when a verse is interpreted in historical context and when it is to be believed just becaus it is written?

Tia Lynn said...

I would say all of scripture needs to be looked at within it's original historical and cultural and original language to decipher its original intent and meaning. If all of scripture was read at face value, it would contradict itself. I don't dispute Eve was deceived, SHE WAS. Adam knowingly disobeyed, while was tricked into think eating that blasted fruit was a good thing and justifiable. Ofcourse God did ordain divorce, who support that? However when the sin of adultery and violence creeps in, then there must be allowances for it, even though it was never God's intent for divorce. It was also not his intent for spouses to cheat on eachother or beat the crap out of eachother. If women being silent in the church was taken literally, even complementarian church would be in trouble, since they allow women to sing and so forth. It has to be looked at in it's original context.

donnav said...

Wow...just read the other comments...

ok, I'm just going to answer your question & my views on some of the comments will be clear!!

I DO believe that women can and should be anything in the church that God calls them to. That when all of our gifts are utilized the community we are in as a whole is clicking on all cylinders.
My community here in Portland, Or (The Bridge)currently has 3 pastors. Two of which are female. We are set up a bit different and don't have elders & deacons per say. We have a leadership team of which I am one of many females.

Tia Lynn said...

Oh hey Angela, I just realized you were asking me a question and not dennis.

Yes, people can absolutely be in authority and still serve. For instance, say a group of people have a vision for a church body. These people have different gifts, some become pastors, others teachers, other administrators, and others worship leaders. I come into this body and decide to be a part of it. I would submit myself to those in leadership because they are carrying out the vision for this church. They have the authority to make decisions that will affect the entire body, how worship is done, how services are ran, how outreaches and community service projects will be conducted, etc. This, in my opinion, is how "authority" should be viewed, as leading and guiding the church into being kingdom builders, not "ruling" over others, which is why I don't see a problem with women in leadership. It's not about telling men "what to do," but using gifts in the body to bring people closer to Jesus and making the church an effective agent for change in the world.

IF men or women are trying to "rule" over other people and crossing boundaries into someone's life to control people, then you should run for the hills. Thats not godly authority or service and no christian should engage in that.

Spiritbear said...

Tia Lynn,

Love this Blog. Glad to see there are other egalitarians out there. Even if they arent in Churches that agree with them

God Bless

Meliss said...

Hi Tia

I would love to read a post by you sometime on headcoverings. :)

Tia Lynn said...

Oh it's coming! We'll get there eventually. :)

Beuwolf said...

I would like to take your comment on this: In 1 Timothy 3:1-14, it states there that an Elder and Deacons should be HUSBAND of ONE WIFE. If women can be ELDERS and DEACONS then what about this qualification?

It is either one takes what the Scripture says or deny the Scriptures as a whole.

Also in Romans 16:7 where you got the Junia, the phrase to describe her was "who was outstanding among the Apostles" does not mean they were one of them . . . sheesh, it simply means she and Andronicus are regarded highly by the Apostles.