Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

Prominent Biblical Scholars on Women in Ministry

Statements from Prominent Biblical Scholars about Women in Ministry

Some Christians think that only people who have a “loose approach to scripture” can believe that women should be leaders and teachers in the church. I strongly doubt that any evangelical Christian would regard these scholars and theologians as having a loose approach to scripture, and yet each of them believes that appropriately gifted women should be leaders and teachers in the church. Here is a sample of various statements made by these prominent scholars (some of whom are now deceased.)

F.F. Bruce (1910-1990)

F.F. Bruce was the Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis at the University of Manchester, and belonged to the Open Brethren.

“An appeal to first principles in our application of the New Testament might demand the recognition that when the Spirit, in his sovereign good pleasure, bestows varying gifts on individual believers, these gifts are intended to be exercised for the well-being of the whole church. If he manifestly withheld the gifts of teaching or leadership from Christian women, then we should accept that as evidence of his will (1 Cor. 12:11). But experience shows that he bestows these and other gifts, with ‘undistinguishing regard’, on men and women alike―not on all women, of course, nor yet on all men. That being so, it is unsatisfactory to rest with a halfway house in this issue of women’s ministry, where they are allowed to pray and prophesy, but not to teach or lead.”
F.F. Bruce, “Women in the Church: A Biblical Survey,” Christian Brethren Review 33 (1982) pp.7-14. (Source) 

Gordon D. Fee (b. 1934)

Professor Emeritus of New Testament at Regent College, ordained in the Assemblies of God

“It seems a sad commentary on the church and on its understanding of the Holy Spirit that “official” leadership and ministry is allowed to come from only one half of the community of faith. The New Testament evidence is that the Holy Spirit is gender inclusive, gifting both men and women, and thus potentially setting the whole body free for all the parts to minister and in various ways to give leadership to the others. Thus my issue in the end is not a feminist agenda—an advocacy of women in ministry. Rather, it is a Spirit agenda, a plea for the releasing of the Spirit from our strictures and structures so that the church might minister to itself and to the world more effectively.”
“The Priority of Spirit Gifting for Church Ministry”, Discovering Biblical Equality Complementarity without Hierarchy. Ronald W. Pierce, Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, Gordon D. Fee (eds) (IVP Academic, 2012) p.254.

Craig S. Keener (b. 1960)

Professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary, ordained in an African-American Baptist church but serves in settings with a range of traditions.

” . . . we Pentecostals and charismatics affirm that the minister’s authority is inherent in the minister’s calling and ministry of the Word, not the minister’s person. In this case, gender should be irrelevant as a consideration for ministry–for us as it was for Paul. . . . Today we should affirm those whom God calls, whether male or female, and encourage them in faithfully learning God’s Word. We need to affirm all potential laborers, both men and women, for the abundant harvest fields.”
Was Paul For or Against Women in Ministry?, Enrichment Journal, Spring 2001. (Source)

I. Howard Marshall (1934-2015)

Professor Emeritus of New Testament Exegesis at the University of Aberdeen, belonged to the Evangelical Methodist Church

“Much anguish is felt by women whose God-given talents have been denied expression. This is due to the inability of complementarians to provide any coherent and persuasive reasons for denying women these [ministry] positions in church—women are asked to accept a scriptural command simply because it is God’s will even if they cannot understand why it is so. . . . [Anguish is also caused by] the arbitrariness of the way in which the ruling is put into effect, with all the going beyond what Scripture actually says and the casuistry that is employed regarding the limits of what women may and may not do.”
Comments made at a panel discussion at the Evangelical Theological Society 2010 meeting. (Source) 

Leon Morris (1914-2006)

New Testament scholar, ordained Anglican minister 

In his commentary on Paul’s letter to the Romans, Morris stated that “Phoebe is certainly called a deacon” in Romans 16:1; and Junia along with Andronicus (mentioned in Romans 16:7) were “outstanding among the apostles which might mean that the apostles held them in high esteem or that they were apostles, and notable apostles at that.” Morris adds, “The former understanding seems less likely . . .” The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988) p.529 & 534. Morris also wrote essays advocating for women in ministry, and he welcomed women at Ridley Theological College, Melbourne, where he was Principal from 1964 until his retirement in 1976.

John Stott (1921-2011)

Anglican minister, theologian, one of the principal authors of the Lausanne Covenant in 1974

“If God endows women with spiritual gifts (which he does), and thereby calls them to exercise their gifts for the common good (which he does), the Church must recognize God’s gifts and calling, must make appropriate spheres of service available to women, and should ‘ordain’ (that is commission and authorize) them to exercise their God-given ministry, at best in team situations. Our Christian doctrines of Creation and Redemption tell us that God wants his gifted people to be fulfilled, not frustrated, and his church to be enriched by their service.”
J.R.W Stott, Issues facing Christianity Today (Basingstoke: Marshalls, 1984) p.254.

Ben Witherington III (b. 1951)

Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary, ordained Methodist pastor

“We need to keep steadily in mind that what determines or should determine the leadership structures in the church is not gender but rather gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit. The family of faith is not identical with the physical family, and gender is no determinant of roles in it. Gender of course does affect some roles in the Christian family, but that is irrelevant when it comes to the discussion of the leadership structure of the church. This is why we should not be surprised to find even in Paul’s letters examples of women teachers, evangelist, prophetesses, deacons, and apostles. Paul is not one who is interested in baptizing the existing fallen patriarchal order and calling it good. One of the tell tale signs of Paul’s views on such matters can be seen in what he says about baptism— it is not a gender specific sign that we have for the new covenant unlike the one for the old covenant, and Paul adds that in Christ there is no ‘male and female’ just as there is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free. The implications of this are enormous. The change in the covenant sign signals the change in the nature of the covenant when it comes to men and women.”
Why Arguments against Women in Ministry aren’t Biblical, on Dr Witherington’s website The Bible and Culture here

N.T. Wright (b. 1948) 

New Testament scholar, Anglican Bishop of Durham (2003-2010)

“It is the women who come first to the tomb, who are the first to see the risen Jesus, and are the first to be entrusted with the news that he has been raised from the dead. This is of incalculable significance. Mary Magdalene and the others are the apostles to the apostles. We should not be surprised that Paul calls a woman named Junia an apostle in Romans 16.7. If an apostle is a witness to the resurrection, there were women who deserved that title before any of the men. . . . Nor is this promotion of women a totally new thing with the resurrection. As in so many other ways, what happened then picked up hints and pinpoints from earlier in Jesus’ public career. I think in particular of the woman who anointed Jesus (without here going in to the question of who it was and whether it happened more than once); as some have pointed out, this was a priestly action which Jesus accepted as such.”
“Women’s Service in the Church: The Biblical Basis”, a conference paper for the Symposium, Men, Women and the Church, St John’s College, Durham, September 4 2004. (Source)

Many More . . . 

Numerous other evangelical scholars also believe that the Bible, correctly interpreted, does not restrict gifted women from any ministry function or position. There are too many to mention them all, but here are just a few: Kenneth Bailey, Gilbert Bilezikian, Michael Bird, R.T. France, Richard Hays, Kevin Giles, Joel B. Green, Stanley Grenz, David Instone-Brewer, Walter Kaiser, John R. Kohlenberger III, Richard N. Longenecker, Scot McKnight, Roger Nicole, Roger E. Olson, Philip Barton Payne, Howard Snyder, John Stackhouse, etc. (I have deliberately chosen to mention only male scholars to avoid an accusation of women being self-serving.)

Finally, a quotation from Dallas Willard (1935-2013),

“It is not the rights of women to occupy `official’ ministerial roles, nor their equality to men in those roles, that set the terms of their service to God and their neighbors. It is their obligations that do so – obligations that derive from their human abilities empowered by divine gifting.”
How I Changed my Mind about Women in Leadership (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010) p.10 (Italics by the author).

Who else can be added to the list of well-known respected evangelical scholars who advocate for women in ministry?

Related Articles

The Holy Spirit and Equality in the Book of Acts
Unity and Equality in Ministry – 1 Corinthians 12
Galatians 3:28: Our Identity in Christ and in the Church
The Means of Ministry: Gifts, Grace, Faith . . . Gender?
Gender Division Divides the Church

Posted June 30th, 2015 . Categories/Tags: Equality and Gender Issues, Equality in Ministry, , , , , , , , , ,

Unkind, judgemental, bizarre, and off-topic comments will be deleted.

100 comments on “Prominent Biblical Scholars on Women in Ministry

  1. Julie Zine Coleman says:

    This is awesome! I had no idea that these great scholars supported an equal role in the Church. Thank you so much for posting this!

    • Marg says:

      Hi Julie, there are many of them, too many to mention. That’s why I tried to restrict my lists to the “heavy-hitters” (as Tim calls them below.)

  2. Tim says:

    Thanks for the list of scholars. I know comps can bring their lists too, but it’s good to know there are heavy hitters for egalitarian doctrine too (many of whom comps lol to for guidance on other issues).

  3. Don’t forget about John Ortberg, who although he’s not written a book on the topic, teaches on equality all the time and is a firm egalitarian. And Jim Henderson, author of The Resignation of Eve. (http://www.amazon.com/The-Resignation-Eve-Willing-Backbone/dp/1414337302)
    Also, my pastor Bill Hybels. The book How I Changed My Mind about Women in Leadership is a great one with essays from evangelical leaders. http://www.amazon.com/Changed-Mind-about-Women-Leadership-ebook/dp/B0043VEGJI/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1435711698&sr=1-1&keywords=how+i+changed+my+mind+about+women+in+leadership

  4. Love this post Marg. We hear so much of the negative comments it’s great to hear these positive contributions to bring some balance to the gender debate. Thanks so much for posting this.

    A couple of observations: Craig S Keener states that women are affirmed in their callings in Pentecostal circles. My own experience over 20 years in (Australian) Pentecostal scenes is that though this is the official position, a culture of preference for male leadership, or wives leading alongside husbands, is still pervasive. Wifely submission in marriage is still heavily taught.

    Ben Witherington 111 says: “Gender of course does affect some roles in the Christian family, but that is irrelevant when it comes to the discussion of the leadership structure of the church”. So it appears he also believes there are gender based roles in marriage, though he affirms the callings of women in the wider church.

    It seems a couple of these scholars are still on their journey and it’s difficult to understand how they can affirm women in their ministry callings while perhaps still assigning them to submission in the home. Nevertheless, it’s good to have these quotes all in one place!

    • Marg says:

      Hi Cheryl, I have an Australian Pentecostal background too, so I know what you mean. They believe in spirit-gifting and a form of equality, but most also believe in male “headship“. (The quote from Craig Keener was taken from a Pentecostal journal.)

      I’m fairly sure that Ben Witherington is egalitarian when it comes to marriage too, so I imagine he means procreation when he talks about “family roles” (e.g. only a woman can give birth and breastfeed). I’ll try and find out more.

      • Thanks for the clarification re Ben Witherington Marg. I don’t know anything about him. Perhaps he was talking about procreation, as you say.

        • Peter Llewellyn says:

          Ben Witherington III has long affirmed gender equality across the board. In his many books on the NT his views come through very clearly.

  5. One observation I have had Marg, is when one of these “leaders” publicly advocates for women in ministry, so many Christians start “backing away” from these men’s ministries.

    I observed how many attacked N.T. Wright, examining his theological positions with a “magnifying glass.”

    And other Christians have been poking “fun” at Pentecostals for years (sad!) But in some Pentecostal circles (here in the US) women have been in leadership for over a hundred years.

    So it seems, (from some of my observations,) that to male scholars, there is a cost to advocating for women.

    I am waiting for the day when there is a “critical mass” of church leaders in various denominations that advocate for women in leadership: so we can finally put this business of women in leadership behind us and get on with kingdom building.

    As always Marg, your blog is a great support tool. 🙂

    • Marg says:

      I’ve noticed that women scholars are especially hesitant in claiming to be egalitarian. Their acceptance in academia, and by the broader reading public in particular, can be precarious, so I have no idea about the ideologies (patriarchal or egalitarian or in between) of some of the major female scholars.

  6. Jeff Miller says:

    I’ll add to your list Luke Timothy Johnson, a Roman Catholic scholar. See pages 208-211 in his Anchor Bible Commentary on 1 & 2 Timothy. He says, “I recognize, above all, that the uses to which this text [1 Tim 2:8-15] have been put within the tradition to support patriarchal power arrangements, to suppress the leadership of women, and even to legitimate patterns of abuse against women (both within the assembly and within society as a whole) need to be acknowledged candidly and as emphatically disavowed” (p. 208).

  7. Beth says:

    BT Roberts, the founder of the Free Methodist Church, first published Ordaining Women in 1891. You can find the full text through the link below.

  8. Jeff Miller says:

    More Roman Catholic scholars: Karl Rahner & Hans Kung.

  9. Beth Ann Smith says:

    Rikk Watts your fellow Aussie and New Testament professor at Regent College Vancouver strongly advocates for women in leadership.

  10. Thanks again for another great aritcle. I like your lists of men who support women in the clergy. It’s good to know plenty of male leaders also believe women can be equally gifted in the calling of ministry. Great post. God Bless.

  11. ANDRES GUARIN says:

    Me gustaría que estos artículos fueran en idioma español también.

  12. RJ Thesman says:

    I like these guys!

  13. Little Sheep says:

    I see many encouraging women to be in ministries of all kinds but none advocating for women pastors or elders?

    • Marg says:

      They may not be using the words “pastor” or “elder” in these quotes – church leaders are not called pastors or elders in some denominations. Nevertheless “all kinds of ministries” includes official ministry roles such as being a pastor or elder.

      Have another look at the quotes. These men are advocating for the recognition of the gifting and authorisation of women ministers by the Holy Spirit, and for the removal of restrictions imposed by certain denominations. This allows women to follow God’s call, whether that includes being a pastor, elder, or some other kind of leader or teacher in the church.

      • J. Wyclif says:

        Actually Marg, I was with you when you posted this quotes, but now I think you’re going somewhere else with your commentary and suggesting they are saying something that they clearly are not. Note that in the quotes most of them are very careful to delineate that the Scriptures encourage “leadership” and “teaching” of women, but nowhere do they suggest that women may be pastors or shepherds of the churches according to the Bible.

        Let’s be careful to take the point that they made, instead of trying to overextend it to where they clearly did not intend. I for one believe and encourage a strong and vital ministry by women, and my church (Anglican) would be impossible without the wonderful ministries created and run by women, but I do not believe that women can properly be pastors if our life in God is regulated by the Bible.

        • Marg says:

          Hi J.,
          With the exception of John Stott (who I’ve included because I really like what he says, even though he still had a line which he believed women were not permitted to cross) these scholars are saying what the broad consensus of New Testament teaches: that gender is irrelevant and gifting is what counts in ministry.

          The ability to function as a pastor is also a gift, and, like all the other gifts, it is not tied to one gender. That is the position of these scholars (except for John Stott.) Note that F.F. Bruce uses the phrase “to teach or lead”, and Gordon D. Fee uses the phrase “‘official’ leadership and ministry”; these men are talking about ministries that include being a pastor.

          Interestingly, no woman or man is ever called a pastor in the New Testament. And there is certainly no New Testament verse which states that women cannot be pastors, even senior pastors.

          Just to be clear. I am not misrepresenting the views of any of the scholars in my post. They agree that giftedness, not gender, should be the criterion for all ministry to the broader church. Gender may, however, be an issue in a few specialised ministries (e.g. ministering to battered women).

          As Ben Witherington said, “We need to keep steadily in mind that what determines or should determine the leadership structures in the church is not gender but rather gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit.”

          I hope you will take the time to read this short post: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/ministry-gifts-grace-faith-gender/

        • Gary Sweeten says:

          Your conclusion assumes that the ecclesiological structure is hierarchical. That is not the model in the New Testament. A Pastor is a Teacher and Feeder. An Elder is a mature Christian. Jesus said, “You shall not lord over each other as the Gentiles”. I am not a Roman Catholic. If I were, I would agree with you.

  14. Dean T says:

    Did you see that Rev Dr Scott Harrower (Ridley Melbourne) and Dr Greg Forbes (Melbourne School of Theology) have written a new book called ‘Raised from Obscurity’ – assessing the data in Luke-Acts. Let me know if you want to review it!

  15. Nick Quient says:

    Hey Marg!

    You could also add all of Fuller Theological Seminary (my current school) professors to this list. Joel B. Green, John Goldingay, John Thompson, Donald Hagner, etc.

    Love your blog!


  16. Cosmas says:

    Great article and thank you for your review of Raised from Obscurity. You are a blessing to the body of Christ.

  17. Hank says:

    You might consider adding Richard Hays to the “heavy hitters” list.

  18. My wife Linda and I attended a Christians for Biblical Equality conference ten years or so ago, and she, an MD, was astonished not only at the religious abuse stories the members told there, but also their persistence in the face of that abuse. We were impressed by the extremely strong call of the Holy Spirit on their lives, including the almost universal number of graduate level degrees in religious studies all them had. Now if that group could just attract blue collar women, they’d have something.

    I used to blog on this subject, too.

    • Roy Dunn says:

      This is a comprehensive list of ministries who have enriched the Church with their teachings. I am pleased to say that our assembly in Melbourne Victoria to have a ministry team that includes 2 ordained women. Each gives a mighty contribution to ministry that cannot be disputed. One is indeed prophetic and the other exhaustive in their contributions.

      • Marg says:

        That’s great, Roy.

        I truly believe churches are healthier when men and women can use their God-given gifts and abilities, and serve the church together without artificial restrictions.

    • Marg says:

      Craighton, I’m a member of CBE, and I am also concerned that it is mostly people with a tertiary education who are involved in our group.

    • Guy Coe says:

      Craighton– any relation to Terri Hippenhammer from Washington state? He’s consulting for the C&MA denomination on “policy governance” currently.

      • Yes. Terry is my younger brother. He’s doing good work helping church boards govern better. I recommend “Simple Church” by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger, and “Church Refugees: Sociologists reveal why people are DONE with church but not their faith” by Josh Packard and Ashleigh Hope to help turn churches around from losing members. There are millions of mature Christians who are leaving the institutional church because it has become detrimental to their spiritual well being. We need to wake up before it’s too late.

  19. Guy Coe says:

    Another good summary post, Marg. You can add Walter Kaiser and Loren Cunningham to your “heavy hitter” list. Of course I still think the most persuasive argument is to take note of Jesus choosing and commissioning Mary Magdalene as the first witness (and thus teacher) of the resurrection, to be the “apostle to the apostles” –and also that He told her to tell them to wait for Him in Galilee, another form of prophetic teaching. It’s not to their credit that they were slow in accepting these words from her, as it still is not for those who downplay the value of the words of Spirit-led and gifted women JUST BECAUSE they’re women. Such attitudes are long overdue for being changed in the church. Perhaps it bears mention that the teaching words of many women are recorded as Scripture, including the Magnificat of Mary, the hymns of Miriam, and the instructive words and prophecies of Huldah, etc.

    • Marg says:

      Hi Guy,

      Walter Kaiser is already in my list of “many more”. Thanks for mentioning Loren Cunningham.

      It’s sad that the church has been abysmally slow in recognising the intrinsic equality of all human beings.

      As I’ve said elsewhere on this site: “The inspired songs, prayers, praises, and teachings of Miriam (Exod. 15:20-21), Deborah (Judges 5:1ff), Hannah (1 Sam. 2:1ff), Abigail (1 Sam. 25:28-31), King Lemuel’s Mother (Prov. 31:1-9), Mary (Luke 1:46ff), and Elizabeth (Luke 1:41ff) are considered prophetic and are included in Scripture.” Thus their words have the authority of Scripture. But too many churches still do not believe that any woman can be authorised for a teaching or leading ministry where men are involved.

      I can’t help but wonder what they think will happen if a woman teaches or leads a man (which actually happens all the time in western societies anyway.) Are men really that fragile, or susceptible in some unspecified way, that they will be diminished or tainted if taught or led by a woman?

      Barak, King Josiah and his all-male delegation, King Lemuel, Apollos, and other men in the Bible did not seem to have a problem with a woman leading or teaching them. Gender just wasn’t an issue. And it shouldn’t be an issue today if we genuinely believe that at least some women are capable and trustworthy.

  20. Pastor Josh says:

    Dear Marg & Friends –

    Being a complementarian pastor myself, I feel that some critiques of this conversation should be mentioned….not for the sake of stirring up unnecessary dissension, but in order to promote healthier dialogue between our two “groups”.

    1) While there are several good, conservative scholars listed here (and some far less conservative ones), biblical theology is never primarily determined by how many people hold to a certain view. This is a very minor part of the dialogue between us, because what’s always most important is “What does the Bible actually teach”, regardless of how many people (or who) agree with what it says. None of us are ever to abandon our commitments to what the Bible actually teaches simply because some popular teachers hold to a different view. Even popular teachers can be wrong in their understanding of a particular doctrinal issue.

    2) While it’s fine that our two groups – complementarians and egalitatarians – continue to disagree with each other, we still should speak to and about one another as charitably as we can. When you and your friends make comments suggesting that complementarians disagree with you purely for matters of personal opinion rather than for any biblical reasons, you are being extremely disrespectful toward us. Here are some examples of this which you and your friends have posted here:

    – “We hear so much of the negative comments it’s great to hear these positive contributions to bring some balance to the gender debate.” (Cheryl M.)

    – “I am waiting for the day when there is a ‘critical mass’ of church leaders in various denominations that advocate for women in leadership: so we can finally put this business of women in leadership behind us and get on with kingdom building.” (Lisa G.)

    – “I truly believe churches are healthier when men and women can….serve the church together without artificial restrictions.” (Marg)

    These are very condescending remarks which misrepresent the complementarian perspective. You misrepresent us with these comments because, first, our arguments are not based on personal opinion, but on a commitment to biblical truth (I truly HOPE that a similar commitment – and not simply personal opinion or popular vote – motivates your theological convictions, as well.)….

    Second, because it’s dishonest to refer to complementarians as always being “negative” in their views of women. We, too, love and respect women! In fact, it’s partly because of our high regard for women (and the place of honor that we see given to women in Scripture) that we believe God has ascribed to us distinct functions in our roles, both in the home and the church. Our chief concern is always to exhort men and women to fulfill the roles which God has given to them – not simply what we determine to be correct in our own minds.

    Yes, of course, there is lots of room for all of us to serve God in a multitude of different ways according to how God guides and convicts us – both inside and outside of the church – but if we (complementarians) are correct in understanding God’s Word to teach that men are to be the primary spiritual leaders in our churches and homes – and we certainly believe we are correctly understanding what the Bible teaches – then it would be unreasonable to think that God truly calls women in to pastoral ministry, since the Lord will not contradict what his Word teaches.

    In cases throughout history where women have claimed to have a pastoral call, our conviction – of course – is that they misunderstood God’s call on their lives and stepped outside the bounds of what the Bible teaches is most honoring to God. Does this mean that God couldn’t use the women who stepped into pastoral positions? Absolutely not – God can use anybody to accomplish anything. Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that the Bible’s teaching on this subject is no longer relevant or true.

    Much more can be said about this, of course, but I know you weren’t aiming for a theological debate here. I just wanted you to hear from someone who doesn’t share the view of everyone else on this page – we really aren’t “bad guys” just because we disagree with you on this issue! We, too, love women, respect women, and regard women as being image-bearers of God, suited to serve others in numerous ways. In no way do we aim to demean or belittle women! On the contrary, we are convinced that women are worthy of high honor!

    Based on our (complementarian) understanding of Scripture, there is no higher honor available to anyone than to love, serve, and teach our children. As a both a pastor and a father myself, I can testify to this…..our kids are truly amazing, and are such a source of joy in our lives! They learn from us so fast, and what they learn from us becomes a constant part of their daily lives as they interact with us, with each other, and with other people. If they learn to be faithful Christians, it will chiefly be because we taught it to them in the home ….and if they don’t learn to submit their lives to God, it will surely be due – at least in part – to our failure as parents. Children are the most important mission field that we have, and women – being worthy of great honor in the home – are (in an ideal family situation) blessed with a greater opportunity to spend time with their children, and teach them by both word and deed how they should live their lives.

    In regard to both the church and the home, we always want women to be able to live up to their full potential for God’s glory – and to make good use of every talent and gift which God has seen fit to bless them with. However, if we are truly submitting our lives to God, then all of us – men as well as women – must do all that we do in a biblical way, living our lives as God has instructed us in his Word. We should never knowingly choose to live in disobedience to Scripture, and we should strive to keep whatever freedoms and liberties we have as individuals within biblical parameters.

    As one example of what this might look like, it just so happens that my own wife is a ministry leader! She is the local area director for Child Evangelism Fellowship – a wonderful, Christ-glorifying ministry which seeks to bring the gospel to children through churches and communities all over our county. She has held this position for nearly sixteen years now (the first ten years as a single woman), and the Lord continues to bring much spiritual fruit and blessing out of her ministry. However, she is not ordained, she is not an elder, and she is not a pastor (nor would she want to be, because of her own biblical convictions about this). On the contrary, she is a missionary who serves under the authority not only of her own ministry leaders (at both the national and state levels), but also under the authority of her local church, which happens to be the church where I serve as associate pastor.

    My wife is a devout and mature Christian, and is also a very gifted speaker and teacher. In her position, she teaches children, and trains both teens and adults regarding how to teach God’s Word to children more effectively….always recognizing the boundaries of her own authority as a teacher, and her role as a servant of the church. She occasionally speaks in church services, but only as a missionary who is offering updates on how God is blessing the ministry, and in order to let her supporting churches know how they may best pray for her and sew into the ministry of CEF.

    As much as my wife loves serving in her ministry position, though, her greatest passions are to train our children in godliness and to encourage and support me in my pastoral work. She longs to leave CEF so that she can devote her full attention to ministering to her family in these important ways, which she believes are her highest callings according to God’s Word. So far, it still seems clear to us that God isn’t quite finished with her in this current role, but she’s praying every day for God’s clear guidance concerning when that day will come!

    In any case, all of us must be careful to let God’s Word – not our own opinions or experiences or the (perhaps wrong) opinions of others – govern over our lives. The devil would like nothing more than to persuade us in our hearts to disregard what the Bible says and to live according to our own personal preferences, but this is certainly not what brings honor to God.

    I’ll leave it to you to continue studying the pertinent biblical passages on this (and every other) doctrinal issue and to seek peace in your own hearts about how God has divinely instructed us to order our lives. Suffice to say, though, that my wife and I strive to submit our lives to God’s Word, and while we may agree with you that the issue of female leadership in the church isn’t exactly a “gospel issue”, we do believe it’s an important one that should be carefully considered. I hope that each of you will make Scripture the guiding authority of your life, and that you’ll then bring all of your personal opinions and preferences under submission to what God’s Word says.

    • Marg says:

      Hi Pastor Josh,

      The only time the word “complementarians’ is mentioned in the article is in a quotation from Howard Marshall, so, unless you think he’s mistaken, I can’t see how the article misrepresents complementarianism.

      The comments you quote from do not mention complementarianism at all.

      • Clement says:

        Marg, you really didn’t afford Pastor Josh an adequate response??!!

        • Marg says:

          Pastor Josh was concerned that we were misrepresenting complementarianism in our comments. But complementarianism is not mentioned once in the comments’ section before Pastor Josh brings it up himself. He has read his own concerns into other people’s comments.

          I was disappointed that he made the subject of Women in Ministry into an “us and them”, egalitarianism vs complementarianism, issue. This dichotomy is unhelpful and false. In today’s church there is a broad variety of views on women in ministry, and many Christians identify with neither complementarianism or egalitarianism. He also makes some other presumptions that have no bearing on this post.

          Furthermore, Pastor Josh suggests to some commenters that they not rely on their own experiences, but he relates some his and his wife’s own experiences. (I honestly have no idea why he did that.)

          Anyway, I am under no obligation to give a response to everyone who leaves a comment. There are other comments on this page that I have not responded to.

  21. Amanda Drury says:

    I’d add:

    Dr. Amy Peeler
    Dr. Judy Stck-Nelson
    Dr. Beverly Gaventa
    Dr. Kara Lyons Purdue
    Dr. Elaine Bernius
    Dr. Jacqueline Lapsley

    And the list of brilliant women bible scholars goes on! 😉

  22. I’m not a “heavy hitter” like the men pictured, mentioned and quoted from who support women in ministry, even as lead pastors and preachers, but I would like to add my name to the list of “not so heavy hitters” who do. I have long supported and promoted women’s full equality with men (and vice versa!) in church, family and society. I am now attending my third Baptist church pastored by a woman (in succession). I find gifted and educated women make great pastors and preachers.

  23. Ananda says:

    This conversation has been”what we think” the church should be but instead lets seek God’s word on the matter. We are all called to be in the “ministry” men or women, but it must be within the roles that the bible has clearly set out for us.

    Romans 3:4 God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.

    (Genesis 3:14-16) “And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: {15} And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. {16} Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

    (1 Timothy 3:1-13) “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. {2} A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife…12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

    (Ephesians 5:22-25) “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. {23} For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. {24} Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. {25} Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;”

    (1 Corinthians 14:34-35) “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. {35} And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.”

    (1 Timothy 2:8-15) … {11} Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. {12} But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. {13} For Adam was first formed, then Eve. {14} And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. {15} Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”

    (Titus 1:5-6) “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: {6} If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.

    (Titus 2:3-5) “The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; {4} That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, {5} To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”

    • Marg says:

      On the contrary, each of these scholars have carefully and prayerfully sought and studied the Scriptures to find out God’s will for what the community of God’s people should be like, even if the snippets I’ve provided mostly allude to biblical teaching. There are plenty of other places throughout their writings where they quote Scripture and verse, including the verses you’ve given. (These Scriptures are also the focus of several studies on this website.)

      We all need to be very careful that our conduct and demeanour as Christians does not cause God’s word to be blasphemed and disrespected by those around us in the wider community (Titus 2:5, 8, 10). More on this here.

      • Ananda says:

        We live in a time where we have elevated scholars and men above God’s word. They aren’t verses quoted in this article because there are no verses that state women can be pastors. Women are clearly in ministry in the bible but do not hold the role of bishop and pastors and deacons.

        Someone can “seek God and pray” but if they can’t provide scriptures to back up their saying then it is now the word of men and should be taken as an opinion rather then doctrine.

        Romans 3:4 God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.

        • Marg says:

          I understand that you disagree with what is being stated in the article, but we can disagree without trying to assert that the other is disregarding or dismissing Scripture, or being deceitful in some way.

          In the New Testament no one except for Jesus Christ is identified as a bishop/overseer (epikopoi) or as a shepherd/pastor (poimēn). This article has many scripture verses to back this point: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/women-pastors-in-the-new-testament/

          But there is a woman who is identified as an apostle (apostolos) and another who is identified as a deacon (diakonos). See Romans 16:1-7.

          Paul typically used the exact same terms to describe his male and female ministry colleagues

          Paul’s favourite term was co-worker. Paul mentions several of his co-workers in the New Testament which include three women: Priscilla and Aquila (Rom 16:6); Urbanus (Rom 16:9); Timothy (Rom 16:21); Titus (2 Cor 8:23); Epaphroditus (Php 2:25) Euodia, Syntyche, and Clement (Phil 4:3); Aristarchus, Mark and Justus (Col 4:10-11); Philemon (Phlm 1); Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke (Phlm 24).

          Whenever the Apostle Paul used the term diakonos, he always, and only, used it in reference to ministers with a sacred commission, and he mostly (with one exception) used it for ministers of the gospel. Paul referred to several people, including himself, as diakonoi (ministers): Paul (Rom 15:25; 1 Cor 3:5; Eph 3:7; Col 1:23, etc), Epaphras (Col 1:7), Tychicus (Eph 6:21-22; Col 4:7-9), Phoebe (Rom 16:1-2), Apollos (1 Cor 3:5) and even Jesus Christ (Mark 10:42-45; Rom 15:8). (The one exception is the minister in Romans 13:6 who is not a minister of the Gospel but still has been entrusted with an important sacred commission.)

          Another of Paul’s favourite ministry terms is the word “labour”. Paul uses the word “labour” (verb:kopiaō; noun:kopos) several times in his letters in the context of his evangelistic and apostolic ministry (1 Cor 3:8; 15:10; Gal 4:11; Phil 2:16; Col 1:29; 1 Thess 3:5). He also uses the word in reference to leadership ministries (1 Cor 16:16; 1 Thess 5:12; 1 Tim 5:17). While Paul uses it in the context of ordinary manual labour (1 Cor 4:12; 1 Thes 2:9; 2 Thess 3:8;), the description “in the Lord” means that the women Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis laboured in Christian ministry, possibly in evangelism, or in some other ministry (Rom 16:12).

          Paul rarely uses the term “bishop” for a minister, for either a man or woman.

          Just to be clear, no one here is calling God a liar. We can all agree that God is true. I hope the use of Scripture in this comment eases some of your concerns.

          • Ananda says:

            Thanks for the reply. You gave me a lot of verses to look at and think about.

            Maybe I’m having a hard time understanding where you’re coming from so here are a few questions for you.

            1. What is your definition of “Ministry”?
            2. Do you believe they are any gender roles between Men and Woman within family and church?
            3. Do you currently hold a position of leadership?

            Rom 16:1 is interesting because Phebe can be called a deaconess. However Rom 16:7 is not proof that Junia is an apostle and can only be used to show a possibility.

            No matter what ‘titles’ we decide to give someone, it is clear by (1 Timothy 2:8-15) that men have a kind of ‘authority’ that women does not when it comes to teaching. Eve was deceived while Adam was not. This in itself is enough to convince me that man in spiritual leadership provides protection. When this protection is taken away, the serpent shows up and bad things happens…

          • Marg says:

            Hi Ananda,

            1. Ministry = service. The lists in Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:28, or Ephesians 4:11 are a sample of Christian ministries. [More on these lists here.]
            2. I do not see that the New Testament teaches that, in the New Covenant community of God’s people, gender is the arbiter, or an arbiter, of who can do what. Rather, it is the Holy Spirit, continuing the ministry of Jesus on earth, who gifts and authorises a person for ministry. Biological differences between the sexes come into play for those who have children, but the Bible never says that only the husband or only the wife can be the breadwinner, or do the shopping, or make the final decision on a matter, or clean the house, or change nappies, or pray aloud in church, or lead in prayer and Bible reading in the home, etc.
            3. Question 3 has little relevance if we’re talking about what the Bible says about women in ministry.

            ~ Actually, Phoebe is not called a “deaconess” in the Greek of Romans 16:1, she is called a diakonos: a deacon or minister. (The Greek word for “deaconess” was coined a couple of centuries later.) Having said that, I agree that titles do not matter. Paul did not call Phoebe “our sister”, “a deacon of the church at Cenchrea”, and “a patron of many and of myself” as though they were titles. They are ministry descriptions. Paul was careful in his letters to avoid using ministry terms that denoted hierarchies. As I said, his favourite ministry term or description was “co-worker” which has the sense of sharing work – working together.

            ~ We know Eve’s excuse for sinning – she was deceived. What was Adam’s excuse? The fact is both men and women sin. Yet God continues to use both his imperfect sons and his imperfect daughters for his purposes, for mission.

            ~ Nowhere (that I know of) does the Bible say that the man’s role is to protect women. Rather, we are all meant to love and care for one another, regardless of gender. Love includes protecting one another as the need arises. Plenty of Bible women protected men. Here are just a few of them. Abigail, Michael, Rahab, Priscilla with Aquila, and others also protected or rescued men. Several risked their own lives to do so. What Bible verses say that men have a particular responsibility to protect women? I don’t know of any, but am happy to be proved wrong.

            1 Timothy 2:8-15 is not that clear, in fact some would say verses 12-15 are far from clear. [I write about verses 12-15 here.] I know many churches who do not follow the instructions given in 1 Timothy 2:8-15 to the letter: plenty of Christian churches do not insist that men raise their hands peaceably while they pray, and plenty do not forbid women from plaiting their hair, having gold or pearl jewelry, or wearing expensive clothes. Yet some of these same churches throw a spotlight on 1 Timothy 2:12 and enforce their interpretation of it. Why is that? How can this uneven implementation of 1 Timothy 2:8-15 be justified?

            Anyway, if you want to discuss 1 Timothy 2:8-15, this is not the best page for it. Feel free to click on one of the articles that addresses these verses if you wish to discuss it further.

  24. drwayman says:

    Excellent write-up!

    • Clement says:

      What about the amount of prominent leaders that disagree with you? such as John McArthur, David Pawson, John Piper, Wayne Grudem, Wayne House, Dorothy Patterson, James Borland, Susan Foh, and Ken Sarles.

      It appears that you are arguing on the basis that these leaders agree with you? is that not to avoid the issue on what the Bible actually says & means?

      • Marg says:

        Hi Clement,

        You are perfectly free to write your own blog post on these people. I do, however, mention several of them in other blog posts. Search for their names if you’re interested in what I write about their beliefs.

        Nowhere do I indicate that this blog is a comprehensive statement of what the modern church says about women in ministry. My introduction indicates that there are other Christians who criticise the ideology of Christian egalitarianism.

        • Clement says:

          Lol, hi Marg, it seems you are not interested in engaging with those with a view contrary to your own, which is a shame.

          • Marg says:

            Clement, I find it interesting that people who do not know me are quick to make assumptions and judgements from one web page or a few lines of text. I am currently engaged with many people who hold different views to me.

      • drwayman says:

        Clement – I disagree with them & agree with God’s Word understood plenarily.

        • Marg says:

          I’m so glad that you are involved in men’s ministry, Dr Wayman. The church needs more men like you.

          • drwayman says:

            Thanks Marg – I’m just trying to be like Jesus who showed immense respect for women, commissioning the first evangelists. Since Jesus commissioned women, why the church does not, is unthinkable. Why would God eliminate 1/2 the world?

            A man of quality does not fear a woman of equality.

  25. drwayman says:

    Marg – Maybe you will enjoy this. I don’t know who wrote it so I can’t give credit:

    Ten Reasons Men Should Not be Ordained Pastors

    10. A man’s place is in the army.

    9. For men who have children, their duties might distract them from the responsibilities of being a parent.

    8. Their physical build indicates that men are more suited to tasks such as chopping down trees and wrestling mountain lions. It would be “unnatural” for them to do other forms of work.

    7. Man was created before woman. It is therefore obvious that man was a prototype. Thus, they represent an experiment, rather than the crowning achievement of creation.

    6. Men are too emotional to be priests or pastors. This is easily demonstrated by their conduct at football games and watching basketball tournaments.

    5. Some men are handsome; they will distract women worshipers.

    4. To be ordained pastor is to nurture the congregation. But this is not a traditional male role. Rather, throughout history, women have been considered to be not only more skilled than men at nurturing, but also more frequently attracted to it. This makes them the obvious choice for ordination.

    3. Men are overly prone to violence. No really manly man wants to settle disputes by any means other than by fighting about it. Thus, they would be poor role models, as well as being dangerously unstable in positions of leadership.

    2. Men can still be involved in church activities, even without being ordained. They can sweep paths, repair the church roof, change the oil in the church vans, and maybe even lead the singing on Father’s Day. By confining themselves to such traditional male roles, they can still be vitally important in the life of the Church.

    1. In the New Testament account, the person who betrayed Jesus was a man. Thus, his lack of faith and ensuing punishment stands as a symbol of the subordinated position that all men should take.

  26. Glen Shellrude says:

    While there are some competent evangelical NT scholars who are complementarians (e.g. Thomas Schreiner), I cannot think of any ‘Tier 1’ (=heavy hitters) who are not. Perhaps it has already been mentioned, but I think John Stackhouse’s Partners in Christ: A Conservative Case for Egalitarianism is the best book on the topic (recently released under the new title by IVP…previous title was Finally Feminist).

  27. Clement says:


    The above link contains a list of prominent, many Ph.D level scholars & theologians that disagree with you.


    • Marg says:

      A few of these people are known outside of the USA, but most are not. And some barely qualify as scholars, or not at all. The majority of these people are not heavy-hitters. Rather than being prominent, as you describe, they are parochial.

      Do you know why D.A. Carson and Douglas Moo are not on this list? They had good reasons to sever their association with CBMW.

  28. Pam says:

    I found a blog from 2009 referring to Women’s Ordination and particularly to a reason that had been given as to why Queensland Baptists rejected the recommendation to accept Women’s Ordination. When I clicked on the “Here” link, Safari couldn’t find it so I’m presuming this link has been closed. Can anyone give me any documented evidence of this comment. I happen to be researching this topic right now.
    Look forward to any help offered.

  29. Funny how you avoid the Biblical scholars through Church history and including the Gospels and Councils of the Church. There is no problem with women being teachers or leaders in the Church, its the priesthood and episcopate which are gender specific … male. Through out the Scriptures and Church history women serve in many capacities alongside their weaker counterparts (males). Not one of them in the Scriptures was a priest. Will we be Biblical Christians, or latest fad Christians?

    • Marg says:

      Hi Stanley,

      I haven’t avoided what other biblical scholars say, and have said, about women in the church. They are mentioned in other posts on this website, including one which is very similar to the article on this page, here.

      Church leadership was never intended to be a priesthood. No New Testament author uses “priest” words for any leader other than Jesus. And nowhere does the New Testament (including the Pastoral epistles) plainly state that only men can be overseers of a Christian community (i.e. a church).

      Also, women in leadership is not a fad. Many of the first leaders in churches founded by Paul were women.

  30. Charles Read says:

    This is an interesting list and an equally interesting set of comments!

    Here in the UK, especially in England. all the evangelical scholars teaching theology in universities are egalitarian. In our seminaries there are some complementarians, but not that many. In my own denomination (The Church of England) we have 11 seminaries, 6 of which are evangelical and in these 6, 4 have only egalitarians on the faculty. Of the other two, one is almost wholly complementarian but the other has a mixed staff and is moving in a more egalitarian direction, having recently replaced a complementarian principal with an egalitarian one. Most of our ministry students train on regional courses, which is where I teach, and there are no complementarians teaching on these courses. In the 5 non-evangelical seminaries in the Church of England there are several evangelical faculty – all egalitarian.

    You might add to the list from the UK Richard Bauckham (who once famously challenged John Stott over this issue – Stott believed women should only exercise ministry in a team led by a man), David Wilkinson, Richard Briggs, Walter Moberley, David Hilborn, Tony Thiselton – to name a few.

    • Marg says:

      Thanks for your comment, Charles.

      I’ve been wondering whether to clarify my paragraph on John Stott, because I am aware he still had a caveat about women in ministry.

      I definitely should have included Richard Bauckham. I’ve read a few of his books and papers. Thanks for the other names too. In Australia, where I am, many of our scholars are egalitarian or have strong egalitarian leanings.

  31. Leonie says:

    This is very interesting. I was once with a church who believed that Paul was against women in the ministry – using 1 Timothy 2:12 and 1 Corinthians 13:34. Also used was 1 Timothy 3:2-12 (“A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife”) showing that the Bible only permits male leadership as pastors. They did allow women to lead bible school for children. Then I went to another church and was I surprised to hear a woman giving an opening prayer! The women give opening and closing prayers and are encouraged to ask questions regarding the sermon etc. But still believe that women are not to be pastors.

    • Marg says:

      Hi Leonie,

      Some churches today only use 1 Timothy 2:12 as a basis for restrictions. Only a few still use 1 Corinthians 14:34, and so women are allowed to speak in some capacity (e.g. praying or giving announcements in church services). These churches recognise that women prayed and prophesied aloud in church meetings in Corinth (1 Cor. 11:5), which means the prohibition in 1 Corinthians 14:34 must be about a specific type of speech. (More on 1 Cor. 14:34 here.)

      I have no doubt that women, such as Priscilla, functioned as pastors in the first decades of the church. And I strongly suspect Paul’s restrictions in 1 Timothy 2:12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34 were addressing bad behaviour, rather than silencing godly and gifted women. (More about 1 Tim. 2:12 here.)

      1 Timothy 3:1ff is simply a list of basic moral qualifications for church leaders, and does not give anything like a blanket ban of women leaders in every church for all time. (More about 1 Tim 3:1ff here.)

      I believe women and men should be encouraged and equipped to minister in whatever they are gifted to do, whether this is in a Sunday service or in some other setting.

  32. J Dondale says:

    I believe that anyone “can be” called by God, to be used as He intends. If that “person” happens to be a “female” it makes her no less called than if a “man” was called. The “only” factor that is critical here is that “called” people “must” preach “the Scripture” not taking one word out nor inserting a word in….. that being said…. I must say that I have had occasion to sit and “fall asleep” while a male person hummed and hawed at the pulpit…… and have been also in attendance while the male had me standing on my seat to make sure I heard every word. Likewise ….a woman in the pulpit. I don’t believe it matters to God, who is at the pulpit as long as HIS WORD is being spread. Go and tell all nations…..

  33. […] My experience, though, is that egalitarian Christians carefully engage with Scripture. Groups such as Christians for Biblical Equality, forums like the Junia Project and bloggers like Margaret Mowczko (and many others) are proof of that. (See Prominent Biblical Scholars on Women in MInistry.) […]

  34. Clement says:

    David Pawson is a well known bible teacher who wrote the classic book “Leadership is Male”.

    In this video he clearly argues that our gender differences inform our God given roles.

    • Marg says:

      I have his book on my shelf, and I’ve read it a few times. I strongly disagree with a few of his points.

      Also, in regard to the other video you shared, I fail to see how being able carrying a water pot on my head or being unable to penetrate determines my ministries. Neither ability is needed for ministry.

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