At the beginning of creation, God created both men and women distinct but equal and in perfect harmony with each other (Gen 1:27-28). There is no indication that one gender had more value or held a superior role. Once sin entered the world (Gen 3:1-6), we see evidence of sin’s curse in cultural patriarchy (Gen 3:16). God found both Adam and Eve guilty of sinning, but for different reasons (Rom 5:12; 1 Tim 2:14).
Women Leading in the Old Testament
God did not abandon women even as the world did. In the Old Testament, God used several women to lead, judge, and prophecy over women and men, including Miriam (Mic 6:4), Deborah (Judg 4), and Huldah (2 Kgs 22). By the end of the Old Testament period, Joel prophecies a future in which God’s Spirit would restore the gender equality found once in Eden through the Church (Joel 2:28-29).
Women Leading in the New Testament
In a society in which women still didn’t have the same value as men upon his arrival, Jesus chose a woman as the first person to whom he revealed he was the Messiah (John 4:26). She became the first to announce to others that Jesus was the Messiah (John 4:28-30). Jesus traveled with women who funded his ministry (Luke 8:3), used feminine imagery for God (Luke 13:34; 15:8-10), and first appeared to women after his resurrection who proclaimed this news to the disbelieving disciples (Luke 24:1-11).
Women Leading in the Early Church
Joel’s prophecy is fulfilled in Acts 2:1-4. From there, we see women like Phoebe (Rom 16:1-2), Priscilla (Acts 18:26), and Junia (Rom 16:7) leading and teaching in the same ways and with the same titles (i.e., deacons, apostles, etc.) as their male counterparts. When spiritual gifts are written about in the New Testament, it’s never stated that they’re only given to a particular gender or that men and women should use these same gifts (i.e., prophecy, leadership, teaching, etc.) differently because of their gender (Rom 12:3-8; 1 Cor 12:7-11, 27-31; Eph 4:11-12; and 1 Pet 4:10-12). Furthermore, as a body of believers, we are instructed to mutually submit to one another our reverence for Christ (Eph 5:21).
Passages that Seem to Prohibit Women from Leading
Only two passages in the New Testament seem to prohibit women in leadership and teaching roles over men within the Church (1 Cor 14:34-35; 1 Tim 2:11-12), but many scholars agree that this is a misunderstanding of the context. One such scholar writes,
“Context and background demonstrate that the two passages used to argue against women’s ministry apply to particular situations within the two particular congregations; these texts, therefore, do not contradict those that support women’s ministry.” – Craig Keener (Ph.D., Duke University)
Women in Church Leadership Positions
We recognize that misogyny, patriarchy, and gender inequality result from sin’s curse and not God’s will. As such, Madison Church firmly believes that God’s ideal for the Church, as stated repeatedly in the biblical texts, is for women to serve in any leadership position they’re gifted for and called to. Similarly, we conclude that there are no roles women should be excluded from based on their gender alone.