WOMEN'S ROLE IN THE CHURCH #10
THE ROLE OF THE PASTOR
by the late Dr.Samuele Bacchiocchi
Are women any less capable than men of piety, zeal,
learning, leadership, counseling, preaching or whatever it takes
to serve as the pastor or elder of a congregation? If not, why
should women not be appointed to serve as pastors or elders?
These questions have elicited the deepest concerns of
evangelical feminists. Letha Scanzoni and Nancy Hardesty ask:
"Ordination is relevant to women who feel called to the
official ministry, and many women in all branches of the
church do feel this call of God upon their lives. Can the
church continue to deny them the opportunity to respond to
this call?" 1
These are serious questions that demand our attention. The
answers are largely determined by one's understanding of the
nature of the church and of the role of the pastor. If the church
is viewed as being primarily a religious institution which
provides religious services to society, then its leaders will be
seen as administrators chosen on the basis of competence. This
understanding of the nature of the church would demand that women
be given equal access to the pastoral office in accordance with
the equal employment opportunitites that govern all service
On the other hand, if the church is a spiritual family of
believers united to God and to one another by a common bond of
faith, then the pastor is a spiritual father of the "household of
God" (1 Tim 3:15: cf. 1 Cor 4:15) and the shepherd of the flock
(1 Pet 5:2). This understanding of the church, as an extended
family of believers, has important implications for the role of
women within the church.
This chapter aims at defining the New Testament
understanding of the nature of the church and of the role of the
pastor within it, in order to determine if women can legitimately
fulfill such a role. For the sake of clarity this chapter is
divided in two parts: the first examines the role of the pastor
as representative of the congregation, the second considers his
role as a representative of Christ. Special attention will be
given in the second part of the chapter to the implications of
the male imagery of God for the appointment of women as
pastors/elders in the church.
PART I THE PASTOR AS REPRESENTATIVE OF THE CONGREGATION
1. Models of Pastoral Roles
The understanding of the nature of the pastor's role within
the church determines to a large extent one's position on whether
or not a woman should serve as pastor/elder of the congregation.
Four major models of pastoral roles are generally held among
Christians and each of them has quite different implications.
A first pastoral model may be called the sacramental role.
According to this model, which is held by the Eastern Orthodox,
the Roman Catholic and to a lesser degree the Anglican church,
the pastor is seen primarily as a priest (sacerdos) whose central
function in the worship service is to preside at the eucharistic
(Lord's Supper) celebration. This view developed early in the
history of Christianity as the Lord's Supper came to be
understood as being essentially a sacramental reenactment of the
atoning death of Christ. This development led to the view that
the person presiding at the eucharistic sacrifice functioned as a
priest, acting not only on behalf of the congregation, but of the
very person of Christ.
This is the line of reasoning present in the Vatican 2
declaration, "Inter Insignores," which argues that at the
consecration of the eucharist the priest acts "in persona
Christi, taking the role of Christ to the point of being his very
image." 2 Since the priest becomes the very image of Jesus Christ
to the congregation, then it is only fitting that he should be a
man and not a woman, for Jesus was a man and not a woman.
According to these church traditions women cannot be
ordained as priests because by their very nature they are
incapable of receiving the "indelible character," that is, the
permanent divine grace conferred through the sacrament of
This sacramental view of the priesthood founders on three
First, the New Testament makes it unequivocally clear that
there is no longer a special class of priests as the was in Old
Testament times. Christ has fulfilled and done away with the Old
Testament priesthood (Heb 5:4-6; 7:27; 9:24-28; 10:9-14). By His
sacrificial death Christ has opened to all direct access to God's
throne of grace (Rom 5:2; Eph 3:12; Heb 10:19-22). Baptized and
believing Christians need no human mediator because they are all
"a holy priesthood" capable of offering "spiritual sacrifices
acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Pet 2:5).
Second, the Lord's Supper is never regarded in the New
Testament as a sacrifice in itself or as a reenactment of
Christ's atoning death. It is simply presented as a memorial of
Christ's sacrificial death (1 Cor 11:26). No special class of
priests is needed to preside over its celebration.
Lastly, if the priest represents the person of Christ and
not His masculinity, then the resemblance between Christ and the
priest need not be sexual but spiritual and consequently women
could represent equally well the person of Christ to the
A second pastoral model may be called the functional role.
In this model the pastor is seen primarily as an administrator of
an institution known as the church. His appointment to the
pastoral office is determined by his functional effectiveness and
capacity for leadership. Churches that view themselves as
religious institutions that provide religious and social services
to the community are naturally apt to ordain women as pastors.
They see their pastor not as the "head" or "shepherd" of the
congregation, but as an effective and functional administrator.
Since women can manage businesses and institutions as effectively
as can men, their appointment to the pastoral office is seen as a
matter of necessity in order to bring the administration of the
church in line with the equal employment opportunitites of
The problem with this functional model is that it reduces
the church from a community of believers to a service institution
and the pastor from a spiritual "head" and "shepherd" of the
flock to an administrator or policy setter. Administrative
competence can undoubtedly enhance the leadership role of a
pastor, but, as we shall see, it is not the fundamental Biblical
criterion for ordaining a person as pastor.
The church is meant to be not merely a functional
organization but a community of believers, the family of God. Its
pastors are not merely officials recruited without regard to
sexual distinctions as in secular institutions. Instead, they are
shepherds of the flock, appointed to represent Christ to the
people and the people to Christ. The pastor however, represents
Christ not sacramentally but functionally, that is not by
becoming the "very image" of Christ to the congregation, but by
representing the shepherding role of Christ, the chief Shepherd
(1 Pet 5:4). This double representative role requires, as we
shall see, that the person appointed to serve as pastor be a man
with specific spiritual and moral qualities.
A third pastoral model may be called the charismatic role.
In this model any person can be ordained as pastor if he or she
demonstrates having received from God some specific charisma,
that is, spiritual gift, such as prophecy, healing, faith,
wisdom, tongues, or preaching. In many ways the charismatic
pastoral role is a spiritual version of the functional pastoral
role described above. The main difference between the two is that
the competency required in the charismatic model is spiritual
rather than practical. Pentecostal and Holiness churches that
emphasize the charismatic role of the pastor have been ordaining
women as pastors since the 1890's, obviously because for them the
main prerequisite for ordination to the ministry is the
possession of some charisma.
There is no question that ordination to the office of
pastor/elder is not a right to be asked or fought for but a
matter of divine grace (1 Tim 4:14). One of God's gifts to the
church is the charisma of spiritual leadership: "And his gifts
were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some
evangelists, some pastors and teachers" (Eph 4:11; cf. 1 Cor
12:28-30). However, a person who has received a gift for
spiritual leadership is not automatically a candidate for
ordination to the ministry. Paul explains, for example, that a
man aspiring to serve as an overseer/elder in the church "must be
well thought of by outsiders" and by church members (1 Tim
3:6-7). This means that a man must prove himself before he can be
considered by the church to serve as pastor/elder.
Moreover, the stated requirements for such an office are the
evidence of moral integrity and exemplary leadership in the home
(1 Tim 3:2-5; Titus 1:6-9). No reference is made to the presence
of specific spiritual gifts. This does not mean that spiritual
gifts are irrelevant, but rather that they are secondary to those
qualities that would allow a man to exercise the same kind of
leadership in the church that he exercises in the home.
The Scriptures nowhere indicate that the gifts of the spirit
are "for men only." We have seen, for example, that both the Old
and the New Testaments speak of women ministering as prophets
(Judges 4:4; Acts 21:9; 1 Cor 11:5), a ministry which is
mentioned by Paul before that of evangelists, pastors and
teachers (Eph 4:11; 1 Cor 12:28-30). It is difficult, however, to
imagine that the Holy Spirit would normally call a woman to serve
as a pastor when, as we have seen in the previous chapter, the
same Spirit inspired Paul to instruct the church not to allow
women to serve as representative and authoritative leaders of the
church (1 Tim 2:12; 1 Cor 14:34).
If, as we have seen repeatedly in the course of this study,
God has established functional role differences for men and women
to fulfill in the home and in the church, then it is
inconceivable that the same God would normally call men or women
to serve in roles which are contrary to His creational order.
Paul devotes several chapters of his letter to the
Corinthian church - a church that resisted the idea of
hierarchy--to explain that the church, like the human body, needs
different functioning units, persons with different gifts, each
of which is essential to the proper functioning of the body. In
fact, Paul emphasizes that "the parts of the body which seem to
be weaker are indispensable ... God has so composed the body,
giving the greater honor to the inferior part, that there may be
no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same
care for one another" (1 Cor 12:22, 24-25).
A fourth pastoral model may be called the representative
role. This model differs significantly from those described
above. In this model the pastor fulfills a dual representative
function. On the one hand he functions as the representative head
of his members, and on the other hand, he serves as Christ's
representative to his members. This role of a pastor in the
"household of God" (1 Tim 3:15) is to a large extent similar to
the role of a father in the home. Like a father he cares for his
members personally, directing and correcting them as necessary.
The primary requirement for this kind of pastoral leadership are
those spiritual and natural qualities which lead the members to
respect the pastor as their personal spiritual leader. Leadership
skills and charisma are important but secondary requirements.
What is essential are the qualities of moral and spiritual
integrity which enable the pastor to serve as a worthy
representative of God and of the members.
The early Christians, as we shall see, adopted the
representative model of the pastor by appointing local elders to
serve as the heads of their congregations. Women were not
appointed as elders because this office involved oversight of the
congregation, "the household of God" (1 Tim 3:15): a role similar
to that a father is called to fulfill in the home. To explore
this reason more fully, consideration will now be given to the
role of the pastor in the New Testament.
2. The Origin of Elders/Pastors
Origin of Elders.
During His ministry on earth Jesus did not establish a
structure of church organization. He called, trained, appointed
and commissioned twelve men to witness for Him to all nations
(Mark 3:14; 16:15-16; Acts 1:8). It was after the resurrection
and ascension that Christ's followers began to develop a form of
church organization. The book of Acts gives indications of an
emerging structure, built on the pattern of the synagogue.
Initially, the church of Jerusalem must have been seen as one of
the several hundred synagogues that existed in the city (see,
e.g. Acts 6:9).
The minimum requirement for the existence of a synagogue was
a group of ten men to constitute the board of elders. 3 In most
cases the elders of the synagogue were also the representative
heads of their households. The twelve apostles appointed by
Christ functioned as the original board of elders (Acts 1:20,
Greek "episkope--oversight" ). Peter and John designate
themselves as elders (presbyteros --1 Pet 5:1; 2 John 1; 3 John
1). The vacancy caused by the defection of Judas was filled by
the election of Matthias: "His office ("oversight"--episkope) let
another take" (Acts 1:20). The apostles, as the elders of the
first congregation, supervised the worship and instruction of the
members, exercised discipline and administered the distribution
The dispersion of the Jerusalem church, caused by "a great
persecution" (Acts 8:1), resulted in the establishment of
daughter churches in Palestine/Syria. The eldership model of the
Jerusalem church was soon adopted by the new churches, as
indicated by the fact that Paul and Barnabas appointed "elders"
(presbyteroi) in every church they founded, committing them to
the Lord (Acts 14:23). The language of Acts suggests that the
elders (presbyteroi) could also be called overseers or bishops
(episkopoi--Acts 20:17,28). The same interchangeable use of the
two terms occurs in Titus 1:5-7.
It appears that initially the term "elder" designated the
status and the term "bishop/overseer" characterized the
responsibility of the elders, namely, to supervise and shepherd
the congregation (1 Pet 5:1-4). 4 By the beginning of the second
century, however, the term "bishop" came to be applied to the
sole leader of the congregation (monarchical bishop) who took
precedence over the presbyters and deacons. Initially, however,
the terms "elders" and "bishops" were modest words, used to
describe the representative and supervising function of what
today we call the pastor. Other terms were presumably also used
since other passages the in New Testament refer simply to "those
who are over you in the Lord" (1 Thess 5:12) or "your leaders"
The Use of the Term "Pastor."
The term "pastors" (pointer: which means "shepherds," is
used only once in the New Testament, namely, in the list of
offices given in Ephesians 4:11: "And his gift were that some
should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelist, some pastors
and teachers." The absence of the article in Greek before
"teachers," suggests that "pastor-teacher is a single office
embodying twofold function: that of shepherding or overseeing the
flock, and of teaching." 5
The limited use of the term "shepherd/pastor" indicates that
a: not a well-established title for the leaders of the
congregation who were better known as elders, overseers or simply
as leaders. Such leaders, however, were clearly seen as
"shepherds" as indicated by the metaphorical use of the verb
poimainein "shepherd the flock" to describe the work of the
elders (1 Pet 5:2; Acts 20:28: John 21:16). 6
What all of this means is that in the New Testament the
local elders/leaders functioned as the pastors of the
congregation. The term "pastor" may be seen as descriptive of the
shepherding function of the elders. Thus, the New Testament role
of the local "elder/overseer" corresponds essentially to the role
of today's pastor. In view of this fact the present policy of the
Seventh-day Adventist church to allow for the ordination of women
as local elders but not as pastors is based on an artificial
distinction between the two offices, a distinction which does not
exist in the New Testament.
The only legitimate distinction that can be made in the New
Testament is between the "local elders" and what could be called
the "elders at large" such as the apostles, Timothy, and Titus.
Both of them, however, then as now, functioned as "shepherds/
pastors" of the congregations. This means that the prerequisites
for the appointment of local elders and pastors are essentially
the same because both fulfill the same representative shepherding
(Here in Dr.Sam's last paragraphs he disagrees with his SDA
church in ordaining women as "local elders."To which I add mu
support - Keith Hunt)
Plurality of Elders.
Another important element, often ignored, is that in the New
Testament each church had several elders. This is indicated by
the fact that they are always referred to in the plural in
relation to any particular church. Paul and Bamabas "appointed
elders" in every church they founded in Asia (Acts 14:23). The
elders of the Jerusalem church are always referred to in the
plural (Acts 11:30; 15:2,4,5,22,23; 16:4; 21:18). Paul called the
"elders" of the church at Ephesus to come to him (Acts 20:17).
Titus is to "appoint elders in every town" (Titus 1:5). The sick
person is to "call for the elders of the church" (James 5:14). As
in the Jewish synagogue so in Christian churches one of the
elders was apparently appointed to serve as a presiding elder.
James served in such a role in the Jerusalem church (Acts
15:13-21), Timothy in the church of Ephesus (1 Tim 1:3) and Titus
in Crete (Titus 1:5).
The specific number of elders appointed in every church is
never mentioned. We can presume that the number was determined by
the size of the congregation and the number of men who were
suitably qualified (see 1 Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). The
qualifications suggest, as we shall see, that the elders were
mostly fathers who had proven their moral integrity and spiritual
leadership in their own household. This indicates that the church
was seen as an extended family where some of the qualified heads
of households were appointed to serve as heads of the larger
family of believers, "the household of God" (1 Tim 3:15).
A major factor which contributed to viewing the church as an
extended family is the fact that by accepting Jesus Christ as
their Savior, believers "receive adoption as sons" (Gal 4:5). As
adopted children they can call God "Abba! Father!" (Gal 4:6) and
relate to one another as "brother and sister" (James 2:14-15; 1
Cor 8:11; 1 Thess 4:6; Rom 12:1). Within this spiritual family
Christ Himself is called "the first-born among many brethren"
The pastor/elder functions as a spiritual father within the
church family because of his role in bringing new converts into
the church and nurturing them subsequently. For example, Paul
refers to the Corinthian believers as his children and to himself
as their father: "I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to
admonish you as my beloved children ... For I became your father
in Christ Jesus through the gospel" (1 Cor 4:14,16; cf. Eph 5:1;
Gal 3:26). Furthermore, church members are referred to as
"beloved children" (Eph 5:1), "sons and daughters" (2 Cor 6:18),
"brethren" (1 Cor 1:10,11,26; 2:1), "sisters" (Rom 16:1; 1 Cor
7:15), all terms indicative of a family relationship.
This understanding of the church as an extended family of
believers, led by elders who functioned as spiritual fathers and
shepherds explains why women were not appointed as elders/
pastors, namely because their role was seen as being that of
mothers and not fathers. This point will be further clarified
3. Functions and Qualifications of Elders
Shepherding the Flock.
The main function of the elders was that of shepherding the
flock. The flock is to be directed and protected so that it may
be nourished and grow. Paul charged the elders of Ephesus to
remember their important shepherding calling: "Take heed to
yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has
made you overseers, to care for the church of God which he
obtained with the blood of his own Son" (Acts 20:28).
The task of shepherding the flock included guiding and
directing the congregation ordering its worship services,
correcting abuses, refuting errors, and regulating the
relationship of its members. Preaching and teaching were also
among the main functions of the elders (Titus 1:9; 1 Tim 3:2).
This is indicated by Paul's instruction: "Let the elders who
rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those
who labor in preaching and teaching" (1 Tim 5:17). The manner in
which this pastoral responsibility was to be exercised is
described in 1 Peter 5:1-4:
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a
witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in
the glory that is to be revealed. Tend the flock of God that
is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for
shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in
your charge but being examples to the flock. And when the
chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading
crown of glory.
Respect for the Elders.
In view of the important role the elders fulfilled as
representative fathers and shepherds of the flock, members are
admonished to respect and obey them. Peter, for example,
immediately after describing how elders should exercise their
leadership, goes on to indicate the respect elders should
receive: "Likewise you that are younger be subject to the elders"
(1 Pet 5:5). Similarly Paul urges the Thessalonians "to respect
those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and
admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of
their work" (1 Thess 5:12,13).
A similar admonition is given in the book of Hebrews: "Obey
your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over
your souls, as men who will have to give account" (Heb 13:17).
Here submission is enjoined to the leaders of the church
(elders/pastors) because of the solemn responsibility entrusted
to them to be accountable for the spiritual welfare of the
Qualifications of Elders.
The qualifications of elders/pastors are directly related to
the functions they are called to fulfill within the church. A
list of the main qualifications are given by Paul in 1 Timothy
The saying is sure: If anyone aspires to the office of
bishop, he desires a noble task. Now a bishop must be above
reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible,
dignified, hospitable, an apt teacher, no drunkard, not
violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and no lover of money.
He must manage his own household well, keeping his children
submissive and respectful in every way; for if a man does
not know how to manage his own household, how can he care
for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may
be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of
the devil; moreover he must be well thought of by outsiders,
or he may fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
This and similar descriptions (Titus 1:5-9; 1 Pet 5:1-3;
Acts 20:28-30) indicate that any potential elder/overseer/pastor
of the church must have moral integrity, ability in management,
knowledge of the Word of God, aptitude to teach and a genuine
pastoral concern. Particular emphasis is placed upon the
Christian character of the elder, exemplified by his temperate
life-style, loyalty to his wife, and leadership in the home.
Possession of these qualifications must be recognizable before a
man can be appointed as leader of the congregation.
4. The Appointment of Elders
Restricted to Men.
Four major lines of evidence indicate that in the New
Testament the appointment of elders was restricted to men:
(1) Male Elders. The initial group of elders, as we have noted,
were the apostles themselves, who were all men. When the Gospel
proclamation reached beyond Jerusalem, the same pattern was
followed to appoint male elders in each congregation. The reason
is that Christian elders, as in the Jewish synagogue, were seen
as the spiritual fathers of an extended family. Jerome D. Quinn
The extended family of the ancient world is presumed and
proposed as the model and parable of a church that is bound
in faith and loyalty to the living Father who has bestowed
life on those who are now his sons and daughters. In that
family some of the sons are presbyter-bishops and so
"householders" (oikonomi, cf. Titus 1:7), men who visibly
represent and answer to the Father. The tried virtues of
Christian family life are the criteria proposed for choosing
these men to share in Pauline ministry (Titus 1:6). A father
who has not presided well over his own household ought not
to preside over a church (1 Tim 3:4-5). 7
(2) Specification of "Man."
In the descriptions of qualifications of an elder in 1
Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-7, specific reference is made to
"man--aner" as distinct from "woman." The importance of this fact
is brought out by B. W. Powers:
An elder is to be a 'one-woman man,' that is, a person who
is loyal to a wife and does not become involved with other
women; but the point is also made that he is to be a man.
This is further reinforced by the fact that an elder
is required to be able to manage his own household as well
as a qualification for the role of ruling as an elder. This
could never be said of a woman. 8
(3) Structure of Passage.
This conclusion is further supported by the structure of the
passage in 1 Timothy where the qualifications for the office of
elder (3:1-7) are given immediately after the prohibition
of women teaching as leaders in the church (2:11-15). The
collocation of this prohibition immediately before the
qualifications for eldership, suggests that the two are closely
related. Having explained why women should not serve as
teaching-leaders of the congregation, Paul then proceeds
immediately to spell out what kind of men are suitable for such
an office. The connection between the two has been recognized by
some scholars. 9
(4) Authority Role.
The discussion of the role of women in the New Testament
indicates that they could not have exercised the role of
elders/pastors, because the two roles were viewed as mutually
exclusive. A woman, as we have seen in chapter 6, was not to
teach as the leader in the church or to exercise authority over
men (1 Tim 2:12: 1 Cor 14:34), whereas the function of the elder
was to exercise fatherly authority within the congregation (1 Tim
5:17; 3:4-5) over both men and women.
Appointment of Elders.
The process followed by the apostolic church to elect and
ordain their church leaders is not clearly explained in the New
Testament. Three major factors seem to have contributed to their
election: qualifications, calling, and recognition by the church
and/or church leaders. In addition to the qualifications for the
office of elder discussed above, there was required a recognition
on the part of the church that the person aspiring to serve as
elder had been called by God. The church recognized that the Holy
Spirit had called Bamabas and Saul for their particular work
(Acts 13:2). Paul seems to refer to the recognition by the church
of Timothy's calling when he speaks of "the prophetic utterances
which pointed to you" 1 Tim 1:18). It is also reasonable to
assume that the person aspiring to the office of overseer (1 Tim
3:1) could testify that he believed himself to be called of God
to serve in such a role.
The qualifications and the calling were to be recognized
presumably both by the congregation (Acts 13:3; 1 Tim 3:7; 5:22)
and by church leaders (Acts 14:23; 1 Tim 5:22; Titus 1:5). This
recognition resulted in a special appointment to the office of
elder through the rite of laying on of hands. The performance of
this rite is suggested by Paul's admonition to Timothy not to
neglect the gift which he had received "when the council of
elders laid their hands upon [him]" (1 Tim 4:14; cf. 2 Tim 1:6).
An additional indication is provided by Paul's advice to Timothy:
"Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands" (1 Tim 5:22). Since
his advice is given in the context of the treatment of elders
(vv.17-19), it undoubtedly refers to their official appointment
to the office of elder.
In the light of the foregoing considerations we may say that
in the New Testament, the act of laying on of hands, which became
known as the rite of ordination, represents the church's
recognition of qualifications and divine calling of the man being
officially appointed to serve as shepherd and father of the
spiritual family of believers (1 Pet 5:2-4; Acts 20:28). The
notion of ordination as a sacramental act which conveys the
"indelible character" of the priesthood is foreign to the New
Testament. Instead, the essential function of the ceremony is to
invest a person, who had proven his moral and spiritual
worthiness, with the right to serve officially as a
representative spiritual father and shepherd of the congregation,
"the household of God" (1 Tim 3:15).
5. The Appointment of Women as Elders/Pastors?
Women as Spiritual Fathers? Can a woman be officially
appointed by the church through the laying on of hands to serve
as a representative spiritual father and shepherd of the
congregation? The answer of the New Testament is NO. The reason
is not because women are any less capable than men of piety,
zeal, learning, leadership, preaching or whatever it takes to
serve as pastor, but simply because such role is perceived in the
New Testament as being that of a spiritual father and not of a
spiritual mother. In chapters 5 and 6 we have shown that the New
Testament emphasizes the importance of respecting the functional
role distinctions of men and women established by God at
creation. These role distinctions, we have noted, do not imply
superiority or inferiority, but rather reflect a divine design
and concern for well-ordered and harmonious relations within the
home and the church.
Men and women were created not superior and inferior, but
rather different from and complementary to one another. What God
made woman to be and what He intends her to do, makes her
different from but not inferior to man. This difference is
reflected in the different roles men and women are called to
fulfill in life. The woman is to be wife and mother while the man
is to be husband and father. As father, man is called to be a
caring head and guardian of the home, a divinely established role
in the natural family which must be reflected in the church,
because the church is, as we have shown, the extended family of
God. This means that to appoint a woman to serve as elder/pastor
would be analogous to assigning her the role of fatherhood in the
The Larger Question.
The question of women's ordination must be seen as part of
the larger question of the distinctive and different roles men
and women are called to fulfill in the home and in the church.
David Scaer emphasizes the need to consider the wider scope of
The problem of women pastors cannot be handled in isolation,
but must be viewed in conjunction with the other sexual
misunderstandings of which it is both a part and a result.
Only citing the simple prohibition against the women
pastors, without viewing the wider horizon of which the
prohibition is a part, leaves unsolved the real and basic
problem of understanding the divine established relationship
of male and female. 10
The elder/pastor serves as the shepherd of the flock, the
father of the extended family of believers, which is the church.
Such representative role implies a spiritual authority which by
divine appointment belongs to man and not to woman. Essentially
this is the theological reason given by Paul in those crucial
passages (1 Tim 2:1115; 1 Cor 11:3-15; 14:33-36) where he
explains why women are not to serve as representative leaders of
the church, namely, because they "should be subordinate" (1 Cor
We have shown in chapter 5 that the Pauline (Biblical)
understanding of subordination is not demeaning but elevating. It
signifies not servile dependence, but willing and loving response
to the caring leadership of a husband (Eph 5:26-29). It is
patterned after the subordination of the church to Christ. Some
reject the analogy between the Christ-church model and the
husband-wife model because, to quote Rosemary Reuther, it is a
"hierarchical, dominance-submission model of marriage." 11 What
she fails to realize is that in the Christ-church model, the
husband too is called to be subordinate, first to Christ and then
to his wife by loving and caring for her sacrificially. The
Biblical (Christological) model calls for a male-female
partnership under the Lordship of Christ and the loving,
sacrificial leadership of man.
The Danger of the Partnership Paradigm.
The Biblical model of different and yet complementary roles
of men and women in the home and in the church may well be a
scandal to liberal and evangelical feminists bent on promoting
the egalitarian, partnership paradigm. Nonetheless, Christians
committed to the authority and wisdom of the Scriptures, cannot
ignore or reject a most fundamental Biblical principle. To
encourage the blurring or elimination of role distinctions God
assigned to men and women in the home and in the church means not
only to act contrary to His creational design, but also to
accelerate the breakdown of the family and church structure.
Donald G. Bloesch, a well-known evangelical theologian
inclined toward the ordination of women, acknowledges: "It cannot
be denied that the women's liberation movement, for all its solid
gains, has done much to blur the distinctions between the sexes
and that many women who have entered the ministry appear
committed to the eradication of these distinctions." 12 This
trend, as Bloesch observes, "is in no small way responsible for
accelerating divorce and the breakdown of the family." 13
Feminist ideologies are generally opposed to the sanctity of
the family and to the worthiness of the call to motherhood. The
reason is because such ideologies, as Michael Novak keenly
observes, "thrive best where individuals stand innocent of the
concrete demands of loyalty, responsibility, and common sense
into which family life densely thrusts them." 14
To realize freedom from the constraints of motherhood, many
evangelical feminists, like their liberal counterparts, denigrate
the role of women as homemaker and advocate abortion on demand.
Donald Bloesch warns that "The fact that some clergywomen today
in the mainline Protestant denominations are championing the
cause of lesbianism (and a few are even practicing a lesbian
life-style) should give the church pause in its rush to promote
women's liberation [and ordination]." 15
An indication of the promotion of lesbianism as a legitimate
"Christian life-style" is provided by the consultation on lesbian
theology at the 1986 joint annual meeting of the prestigious
American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature,
held in Atlanta, November 22-25. Several papers were presented
designed to articulate a theological rationale for the legitimacy
of a lesbian life-style. In view of this alarming trend, today
more than ever before, Christians are called to uphold the sexual
role distinctions divinely ordained for men and women to fulfill
in the home and in the church. The preservation of such
distinctions provides a most needed bastion of common sense and
an inoculation against all sort of nonsense ideologies which are
intent on perverting and destroying God's design for the
harmonious relations of men and women in the home and in the
6. Practical Considerations
The first and fundamental reason for restricting the role of
elder/pastor to men is theological and not biological or
cultural. Our preceding discussion has shown that from a Biblical
perspective a woman cannot assume the representative role of
spiritual father/shepherd of a congregation because that is a
male and not a female role. The Scriptures give no right to blur
or eliminate male and female role distinctions in the home and in
the church. In addition, we believe that practical considerations
support the Biblical instructions. These we shall now consider,
though briefly, because they constitute secondary reasons. For a
fuller treatment of these the reader is referred to Rosalie
Haffner Lee's essay "Is Ordination Necessary to Women's
Ministry?", published in this book as chapter 9.
Marriage and Pastoral Vows.
Many of the women who seek ordination are married or
planning to marry a man in another profession. This situation may
invite tension in the church and discord in the home. In the home
a woman pastor may find it difficult, if not impossible, to honor
her marriage vows to serve her husband as wife and mother while
the church demands so much of her time and attention. In the
church, members may question the quality of pastoral care they
receive from a female pastor who first must honor her commitment
to nurture her own family.
In her book "Women and Church Leadership," Margaret Howe, a
supporter of women's ordination, shares some of the responses she
received from a questionnaire she sent out to a number of woman
pastors. One of the respondents who was contemplating marriage,
wrote: "I wonder how I can marry and maintain my current
60-64hour week at my career." 16 Another wrote: "We are ready to
start our family, and I have had some anxieties about the
congregation's reactions. It's really none of their business, but
that's easier to say than feel." 17 Still another, "There seem to
be more crucifixion than resurrection experiences. I don't know
if I can sustain this." 18
Being a wife, mother and pastor at the same time raises many
questions. How can she handle pregnancy and subsequent child care
over an extended period of time? Should the church look for a
substitute pastor while its female pastor is homebound? What
model of parenthood does a woman project when she leaves her
children in a daycare center in order to minister to her members?
Should not her first obligation be to minister to her immediate
family members? What if her husband is transferred to work in
another part of the country? Should she let her husband go on his
own? Would not this be a violation of her marriage vows to remain
with him as long as both shall live?
Another important consideration is the negative impact of
the headship role of a female pastor both in her own family and
on the families of the congregations. As Bishop Kirk points out,
if the headship of the man in the congregation is rejected, his
headship in the family will be gravely imperilled. 19 The
headship of a husband in his own family can hardly remain
unaffected if his own wife serves as the head of the congregation
to which he belongs. What impact will this role reversal have
also on the families of the congregations? Will not this tempt at
least some of the congregation to arrogate to themselves a
position of headship in the family similar to the headship over
her husband exercised in the church by their female pastor?
Even more crucial is the impact of the role modeling of a
female pastor especially upon the children of divided families
who have either no father or a non-Christian father. To these
children the pastor becomes a father figure and sometimes the
only positive male role model in their lives. A female pastor
would deprive these children of an appropriate father role model.
Single Woman Pastor.
The problem of role modeling for a woman pastor becomes even
more critical when she is young and single. Male elders who are
her seniors will have great difficulty to accept a single young
lady in her twenties as their spiritual father and shepherd of
the congregation. A male elder of a small Seventh-day Adventist
church of about ninety members, where a young lady just out of
seminary had been ordained as local elder, told me: "Our church
has become a women's club. The few male members of our church now
seldom attend because with a female elder preaching most of the
time, they feel out of place in church."
Women also may have difficulty accepting a young female
pastor as their spiritual shepherd. Two of the respondents to the
questionnaire Margaret Howe sent out to female pastors offer an
example: "One respondent reported that a woman in her
congregation 'said that it made her physically ill to see and
hear a woman in the pulpit'! Another commented, 'I also work with
youth, and I find that many of the mothers wanted a 'good-looking
male' minister for their kids." 20 Howe continues citing examples
of members who could not bring themselves to give to their female
pastor her correct title.
It must be most painful for a young female pastor to feel
unaccepted as pastor by some of the members of the congregation
she is endeavoring to minister to. If she lacks the support of a
family, she may find it hard, if not impossible, to bear such a
heavy burden in addition to her loneliness and vulnerability as a
young female. This explains the reason for the Biblical
instruction that an elder must be a mature man who manages well
his own household (1 Tim 3:4).
Ministry of Women Today.
The intent of the foregoing considerations is not to
restrict or deny women opportunities to minister within the
church, but rather to encourage respect for the different but
complementary roles God has called men and women to fulfill in
the home and in the church. God has given to women unique and
invaluable gifts and ministries which are essential to the
healthy growth of both the private family and the church family.
The church that restricts the role of women to cleaning and
cooking greatly impoverishes its own spiritual life by depriving
herself of the warmth and love that only women can give.
The question ought not to be: Is it legitimate to ordain
women to the ministry?, but rather: To which ministry is it
legitimate to appoint women? In the concluding chapter I shall
point out that there is an urgent need to open up new forms of
ministries to professionally trained women who are willing to
serve not only in the traditional roles of Bible Instructors,
choir directors, children's Sabbath School teachers, and
deaconesses, but also in new roles such as health educators,
pastoral counselors, instructors of new converts, and directors
of family services. Such ministries are urgently needed in view
of the growing number of broken homes, single parents, alienated
and abused children, elderly members and drug-addicted young
The recognition of the Biblical validity and necessity of
the ministry of women must not obscure the equally important
Biblical truth of the role distinctions of men and women in the
home and in the church. Such distinctions calls for men serve as
heads of the family and for some of them as representive heads of
the extended family, the church.
The church must be structured in a way that supports the
structure of the family and the family must be structured in a
way that supports the pattern of church order. To appoint a woman
to serve as the representative spiritual father and shepherd of a
congregation would be analogous to assigning her the role of
fatherhood in a family. Both instances represent a violation of
God's design for the well-functioning of our homes and churches.
THE PASTOR AS REPRESENTATIVE OF CHRIST
1. The Symbolic Role of the Pastor
The pastor serves not only as representative of the
congregation, but also as Christ's representative to the
congregation. In the Old Testament the priests functioned as the
typological representatives of the redemptive ministry of Christ.
The book of Hebrews explains at great length the typological
correspondence between the ministry of the priests in the earthly
sanctuary and that of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary (Heb 8,9,
10). By offering His own blood once, for ever and for all, Christ
fulfilled and terminated the typological sacrificial ministry of
Old Testament priests which pointed to His redemptive ministry
(Heb 9:11-14; 10:1-14). Yet there is still a ministry of
intercession and reconciliation which Christ, the heavenly High
Priest, continues to perform on behalf of believers (Heb 7:25).
The pastor, in a similar and yet different way from the Old
Testament priests, serves as Christ's representative to the
To be continued
Dr.Sam here has given some very sound Biblical and logical points
on why it is men and not women who are to be ordained as
Pastor/Elders of the local churches of God.
As I have in detail proved in my studies on "church government"
women have all the freedom to teach the Gospel of Christ outside
of say a 2 hour church service once a week. And with the
instruction for them to teach younger women, teach and train
children, there is no need whatsoever to feel a woman cannot
serve the Gospel of God in a mighty big way. And I will state
again that Paul was NOT against women, as some believe and teach;
on the contrary, Paul acknowledged the work of women in the
Gospel ministry, even saying that some were his co-workers. All
of that and more is covered under my studies on church government
on this website.