Do women have the right to be in Church leadership? Are they allowed?

Paul telling a woman off 😉

Yes, the title is meant to be provoking. Should women be allowed in church leadership? Alas, it’s the same old argument that has been going for years. And people still aren’t happy with a woman speaking in a church, let alone leading one.

Indeed, I didn’t used to be happy with it. I was completely reformed which meant that women were not allowed in church leadership at all. Well, I say not at all. The church I attended was a complimentarian church; that is a church where they believe men and women are equal under God, but that they have different responsibilities. For women, church leadership is not one of them.

I’ve moved on from this view, onwards and upwards and all that ;). I am now an egalitarian; that is, men and women are equal under God, and that men and women can both play equal parts in life, and in church ministry. Shock horror! How dare I? What about all the biblical verses about women?

Yes, we’re now on to Paul and what he says about women. I don’t really want to get into all the social context and the greek and the Hebrew. But you can do in the comments, if you wish. I would just like to concentrate on what is being said in one verse.

1 Timothy 2:12:

I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.

Who’s not permitting women to teach? Paul, or God? Hmmmm.

The other letters that give instruction about women not teaching are also, traditionally written by Paul too. Hmmmm.

I’m not saying that Paul is sexist. Because he uses women a lot in ministry and within the church. But what I’m saying is that Paul said that he wouldn’t permit a woman to teach in church.

OK, I know this could be ripped to shreds. If you want to do that, you can. Most of you who want to do that will say, ‘The Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of God himself! If God didn’t agree with Paul then he wouldn’t have allowed it in the Bible!’

Yes, I get that. But the Bible comes with its own history, its own context. Do you not think that Paul may have been pragmatic at all? Do you not think he had to make pragmatic decisions?

Does a women commit a sin if she goes into church leadership? Be careful how you answer, you could hurt someone badly. What if a women feels called to ministry leadership? Are you really going to say she’s misguided and misinformed? Ouch if you are.

Is God against women in leadership? If so, why did he use women in the past? Don’t tell me that it was because men failed to step up to what God had commanded. You’re a) telling me that women are second rate and b) that God has a double standard.

How would Jesus treat women in church leadership?

I think we’re all going to learn some home truths in heaven. And that well applies to me too. I could be wrong on this issue. But my conscience says that I’m not. And my reading of scripture convinces me that I’m not either.

Do you think Jesus would deny women leadership in the Church?

Dean Roberts

Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre. Read More @

  • Fascinating – it is always interesting to hear about other denominations. There has been much talk on twitter in the last couple of days about ‘complimentarianism’. Unless you really think that this is a compliment being paid to women by the Church – which I presume you don’t – I think this must be ‘complementarianism’, ie a belief that men and women complement each other: the two are needed to make up a whole.

    I can’t see any objection to this idea, but nor can I see any logical connection to a belief that this means women should not preach or lead worship. On the contrary, I think the next logical step would be to believe that when men and women lead worship, they bring different spiritual gifts to bear.

    • Interesting perspective, Laura. As I said at CNMAC11, it will be interesting to see how the women bishop debate pans out. We’re all watching with eager eyes!

  • Tony

    Hey bro. What do you think about Jesus’ disciples/apostles all being men despite many women following Jesus? Currently in my thinking I would distinguish between leadership roles in the Church that involve government of the Church and those that don’t. Paul emphasises elsewhere (1Cor 7) when he is giving his opinion and not necessarily the Lord’s so I don’t think you can argue from silence on that one.


    • I guess both complimentarians and egalitarians use the same argument. Jesus had disciples who were men, but he discipled women too. And Jesus only had male disciples, but women were present, somehow.

      I don’t know. Can we really say that it’s fine to dismiss the sociological context of the Biblical time and just assume that Jesus only wanted men to be in government positions within the church? I don’t know whether we can. The very fact that Jesus taught women was bad enough for that time. The very fact that he dealt with prostitutes and samaritan ladies was bad enough. Maybe a women apostle/disciple may have hindered Jesus’ mission? I don’t know – it’s just speculation.

      But as you know, I don’t believe that an individual man/woman should be left in charge of a church on their own anyway, for, mostly pastoral and practical reasons as opposed to theological ones.

      • Kaf

        With you on the pastoral and practical Dean! (Motherly engineer mentality) But can’t help thinking that theological reasons are what we really should be worried about.

        That said, my overall impression of Jesus is that he was a liberator of women, especially those particularly oppressed by religion. Mind I am struggling to think of an encounter with a woman who wasn’t a ‘sinner’ or ‘sick person’. Mary and Martha maybe? But they weren’t particularly ‘liberated from oppression’ unless you count worrying about the kitchen…

        I personally am really glad Jesus didn’t have one or more token girl disciples (I really think they would have seemed token) and stuck with the 12 brothers/tribes as the people would have recognised.

        • Good points Kaf. I guess you’re probably struggling because like I said, the author’s intentions are mainly not women’s rights, although arguably Luke and Paul are closet feminists. Who would have thought?

          We do have to look theologically at this, and we have to weigh things up with an open mind. John Stott always said that a good evangelical is one who is open to change in his/her theology. That’s true. But I personally can’t see any reason why women should be excluded from the gifts of the Spirit which have been clearly given to both men and women. I think people often forget that at times…

          Loving what you said about the 12 disciples being what the people would have recognised – what a gem! I always overlook that one 🙂

  • Liz

    As a woman who is in a position of leadership that I feel God has called me to, I find this subject a tough one. Thankfully my church has several women in leadership, but also has gender specific ministries, recognising that men and women are different. We are ‘egalitarian’ as a church I think and it is sad that many people leave churches when the question is raised about women in leadership.

    You have to put the bible in its place – I’m reading Leviticus at the moment, and those rules need to be contextualised, otherwise we risk using them to suppress groups or individuals. We don’t really know the church and society that Paul was talking to.

    If your heart is in leading people to Christ, with Christ at the centre of your own life, why shouldn’t you be allowed to lead?

    Good blog!! x

    • Amen. I mean when talking about males and females and their roles in church – the elephant in the room is that males and females are different, aren’t they? But that doesn’t mean exclusion is necessary.

      Great point about the heart leading people to Christ. Surely this should be the basis for anyone considering any sort of ministry? Thanks for commenting!

  • Lizzy

    As has already been mentioned I believe that God does call some women into leadership and they definitely have a place in leadership within the church. Also, from a personal view some of the most inspirational ministers i have known across many denominations have been women. Do people really believe that these women have not been called and are not being used by God to do His work?

    • Unfortunately, yes, I’m afraid Lizzy. Because they say that women are ‘misguided’. Hmm. I cannot go with that one.

      If someone says that the Spirit of the Lord is on them to preach good news and to set captives free, then I’m gonna say ‘Preach it brother!’ ‘Preach it sister!’ It’s all level playing field at the cross. And I don’t think that is just in terms of salvation either…

  • AgentCormac

    For my money, the very fact that you are having this debate in the 21st century speaks absolute volumes about the bible’s total lack of relevance today and, despite all your theology, the church’s utter inability to make it compatible with modern society.

    • Thanks for your input, AgentCormac. But any society, culture or belief system will have its disagreements within that said society, culture, belief system. So I don’t think you’d be an exception in that.

      Christians who disagree with women in church leadership in a senior pastorate role are trying to abide by what God would expect just as much as outwardly feminist Christians are too. We’re not perfect, and would never claim to be so 🙂 We’re all trying to work things out.

      • AgentCormac

        And there you go again, Dean: ‘…trying to abide by what God would expect’. What?! You have no idea what this deity of yours would expect! It’s all just speculation. Guess work. ‘Complex theology’. As I have said before, you are all just making it up as you go along. How anybody can take this nonsense seriously is utterly beyond me. And the fact that you are now clearly refusing to engage in any kind of debate here tells me that you have nothing whatsoever to back up your fairy stories. (Sorry to be insulting.)

        • It’s not that, it’s just that there are certain passages that aren’t as clear as people would like. Plus when someone, like me, says it was Paul saying that he wouldn’t permit a woman to teach, not God, then some fundamentalists would have a massive problem with that.

          I’m not debating whether there is a God or not and whether the God of the Bible is the right one in this post, AgentCormac. I’m debating whether women should be allowed in church leadership or not, and you’re more than welcome to join in that debate. But we must stick to the nature of the post 🙂

          • AgentCormac

            But don’t you see that the very fact you are even having a debate about whether women have a role to play just shows how ludicrous church theology is in the 21st century? Let me put it another way – do you think women should be allowed to drive? Do you think they should be able to vote? Do you think they all need to have a male guardian?

          • Yes, I do think this is stupid. But you do realise that there are people in your position as an atheist who don’t believe black people should have rights, and most definitely there will be atheists who don’t believe women should have rights too.

            And just to add to that – not all church denominations share a more narrow view of women…

  • Great post, totally with you theologically on this, examines the points well. Thanks for sharing this, glad you enjoyed my post. Added something to it, so feel free to check it out:

    • Thanks mate! Will most definitely have a look!

  • Love this bit:

    “Is God against women in leadership? If so, why did he use women in the past?  Don’t tell me that it was because men failed to step up to what God had  commanded. You’re a) telling me that women are second rate and b) that God has a  double standard.”

    I write a lot on topics related to women in ministry here:

    • Amazing! Would you ever be interested in doing a gues post, Marg?

  • AgentCormac

    You’ve gone all quiet on me, haven’t you Dean? Has someone advised you to ignore me so I’ll go away? My guess is they have. Which is a shame really because you seem like an intelligent and decent guy. But avoiding serious debate and only listening to those who basically agree with your own take on life really isn’t healthy, you know. Good luck, my friend. I don’t agree with anything you say or stand for on the religion front – from my perspective it is all just a very transparent lie. But good luck anyway. I hope you find happiness.

    • Agent Cormac,

      Let’s not get oversensitive now. I havent checked the blog for the last few days as I’ve been busy with work. No one’s told me to ignore you at all. In fact, the only comments I’ve had from people is that they like you commenting on here. I’ll reply to your other comment now.

  • A refreshing read – short, simple and to the point 🙂  Well – simple as in clear to understand – not lacking intelligence! 🙂  I have just written a post on the beginning of my journey into Egalitarianism – which is not easy to do for risk of offending.  Crazy really.  If you’re interested – the link is

    Thank you for writing honestly about this sensitive subject.  I appreciate it 🙂



    • Thanks Jo! I’ve subscribed to your blog. Will have a proper read of your post later on. Should make an interesting read at that!

  • Anon

    Considering there was women prophets and women in leadership in the OT, Miriam, Deborah etc..

    There were Women disciples, apostles, teachers, and women in leadership in the NT, Luke 25 and Romans 16. Aquilla and Priscilla, Junia, Phoebe and Mary and Martha.

    And considering God is not sexist and gender equality has been emphasised from Gen1, to Joel 2:28, to Matt. 1 to Gal. 3:28, and so on…..

    Christ and Paul were both mental when it came to addressing women’s rights. Paul came from a culture who thought it was better to burn the Torah than teach it to a woman, yet he teaches that women should be educated.

    Every day a Jewish man would thank God he was a Jew, wasn’t a woman, and wasn’t a slave. Now read Gal 3.28 and see it’s importance.

    Naturally women should be in leadership. Non question.

  • I shall again play the contrarian here.

    I don’t really like either of these questions, but I especially dislike the first.  The question of “rights” with respect to church leadership is very presumptuous.  Do any of us have a “right” to lead God’s people?  Being an American, I’m a huge believer in rights in a political sense (our “Bill of Rights” and all that).  But I think we can easily get carried away with the concept, often reframing our desires as “rights” in order to impose a claim what we want.  When we then turn a question of God’s commands, purposes and design into a question of of our “rights” we are on very dangerous ground indeed.

    Secondly, I have a problem with the “complementarian” vs. “egalitarian” dichotomy, because it masks too much beneath simple answers.  Let’s be clear:  that God made men and women equal in value in His sight is obvious from Scripture as brother Anon refers to in Gal 3:28 above (“… nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”).  That he made them to be different and complementary is also obvious from the Creation account and from Jesus’ own words in Matt 19:3-4 (“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?”).  One could also say it is an obvious biological fact.  The problem with egalitarianism is that it tries to assert one against the other, rather than understanding one in light of the other.

    This interplay between our equal value and complementary roles is no more clearly demonstrated than in Ephesians 5:22-27:  “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:22-27)  To argue that man’s headship is cultural ignores the clear context of the passage, which calls out the eternal truths of Christ’s headship over and sacrificial love for His church.  What is also clear is that man’s charge is both wonderful and daunting … he is to lay himself down for his wife with sacrificial love.  The woman’s charge to submit gets much of the attention, but the command to the man is one of the most beautiful and challenging in Scripture, and often gets completely lost in the controversy.  However, this passage provides important context for the larger discussion over God’s design for church roles and responsibilities (again, too often reframed as a human-centered quibble over “rights”).

    Beyond question there is immense good which has proceeded from clearly enunciating the value of women in our Western society.  There is also much confusion over roles, because egalitarians have pressed so hard that there is no longer any room in the “enlightened” Western mind for the other half of the equation. There is a great deal to this discussion that owes to intellectual laziness and a desire to conform to our culture’s notions of enlightenment.

    This was foretold by the Apostle Paul:  “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”  (2 Tim 4:3)  We need to be very careful, and recognize that when the church becomes like the world (i.e., when we sacrifice obedience to “relevance”), we cease to be change agents.  We lose our “saltiness” and are “no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” (Matt 5:13)

    For those who are willing to see it, there is a beautiful model set forth in Scripture for men and women, in which we embrace both the great value and the distinctive roles God has creatively, ingeniously and graciously granted us.  When we do so in obedience, we find ourselves transformed and joyful in submission to His design and commands.

    More thoughts on this here:

    The Curse: Your Desire Will Be for Your Husband

    And here:

    The Curse II:  And He Will Rule Over You

    Grace and peace to you.

  • Hi Dean,

    I just revisited this page – two years later and saw that you responded to my comment. I’m sorry I didn’t see your response before.

    If you’re still interested, the answer is “yes”. Please email me.

    If you see anything on my website that you’d like to reblog, that is fine.

    • I would love you to write 🙂 The offer is definitely there still!