Religious leaders, scholars, congregations and individual Christians have debated the role of women in the church for many years. It should come as no surprise that the debate has sometimes been quite heated.

There are different views on the subject, but this short blog post will focus on the main division, which is women pastors.

Gretchen E. Ziegenhals writes about the split in an article titled “Women in the Ministry: Beyond the Impasse,” which is posted on the Baylor University website at

Ziegenhals is the Leadership Education Project Manager at Duke Divinity School and a graduate of Yale Divinity School.

She says most Christians believe women should use their God-given gifts in the church. The division is over whether or not women should become ministers.

On one side of the argument are the complementarists, who believe that men and women have different but complementary roles in the church and in the home, Ziegenhals says.

This group believes that the role of leadership belongs to men and opposes women in ministry.

On the other side, there are people who firmly believe that men and women are equal and have equal gifts, she explains. This group, called egalitarians, believes that men and women should share power 50/50 and that no door should be closed to women.

The two sides are currently sharply divided, but Ziegenhals believes they can come together by genuinely listening to the stories of Christian women. Listening is the only way for men and women to develop a relationship of love and respect in the church, she says.

It’s sad that people have stopped listening to each other. Our minds and hearts are closed. We are too angry and set in our own beliefs to hear other people’s opinions with an open mind.


Both sides of the argument can trace their views back to the Bible and to the Apostle Paul, who was one of the most influential Christian leaders in history. He preached the gospel and established churches throughout the known western world. His letters to these churches make up nearly half of the New Testament.

Complementarians say that Paul ordered women to be silent in church. They use 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 as a source. The group also believes that women should never assume authority over men or preach to them. Women can teach children and other women, but no more, according to this way of thinking.

Equalists say that Paul was writing about very specific issues in these passages. They say he did not intend his words to be generalized or used to denigrate all women.

These leaders support Paul’s recognition of a woman named Phoebe in Romans 16:1-2 as “a deacon of the church,” which is the rank of minister. Paul also introduced her as his emissary or representative of the Christian church in Rome.

Paul recognized a woman named Priscilla and her husband Aquila as teachers who held the church in their house in Romans 16:3-5. He said they risked their lives traveling with him and helping him spread the gospel.

He also mentioned a woman named Mary in verse 6 and said in Acts 21:9 that Philip the Evangelist – not to be confused with Philip the Disciple – had four daughters who had the gift of prophecy.


People’s beliefs and teachings about women in the pulpit may give us food for thought, but the behavior and teachings of Christ are what matters. He’s the Son of God, and that’s the Christian church, after all.

According to Crossway, a nonprofit evangelical publisher of Christian books, Christ sees women in terms of their relationship to God rather than their gender or marital status.

Yes, Jesus chose 12 men as his disciples, probably in keeping with the mores of the day, but he welcomed the women who traveled with him and shared the gospel with others.

A post on highlights that Christ spoke directly to women in public, as he did to the woman with a bleeding disorder whom he healed.

Society said he shouldn’t have spoken to her because of her gender and disorder, which made her unclean. Yet Jesus teaches us through his words and behavior that the rules of society are not necessarily fair.

When he spoke to women, Christ spoke in a benevolent way, as he did when he healed the bowed woman. And he treated with compassion a woman caught in adultery, telling her accusers that she who was without sin should cast the first stone.

No one could claim to be without sin, and the crowd dispersed. (Consistent with the times, no mention is made of the man who was caught with the woman.)

The Lord gives women as well as men. When he gives women the talents to preach and teach and calls them to lead a church, what right have mere human beings to prevent women from using these gifts?

It’s presumptuous of us to ignore the Lord, isn’t it? It’s arrogant to say that a woman can’t be called when God can do anything, isn’t it?

The teachings of Christ should be the last word in the battle that divides women in ministry, right? I think they should.

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