Women In Church Leadership

In the beginning of creation, God created men and women distinct, but equal, and existing in perfect harmony with each other (Gen 1:27-28). There is not a single indication that one gender had greater value or held a superior role than the other. 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).

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 that was once found in Eden through the Church (Joel 2:28-29).

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).

Joel’s prophecy is fulfilled in Acts 2:1-4, and 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 of our reverence for Christ (Eph 5:21).

There are only two passages in the entirety of the New Testament that seem to prohibit women in leadership and/or 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, Craig Keener (Ph.D., Duke University), 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.”

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. We recognize that misogyny, patriarchy, and gender inequality of any sort are the results of sin’s curse and not God’s will.