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What Role Should Women Play in Church Leadership?

Recently, a key appointment and consecration in England enflamed the centuries-long argument regarding the position of women within church leadership.  This delicate topic has faithful supporters on both sides. The godly and correct answer will not be realized within this TBL news article.  However, it is worth review and discussion.

The Rev. Libby Lane recently was named Bishop of Stockport within the Church of England; she becomes the first woman to rise to the title of Bishop within the historic Church of England.  To confuse matters slightly, there are other Anglican women bishops serving in other countries–but those churches are not officially within the Church of England.

Regardless, Rev. Lane’s ceremony was marked with much controversy, and a public disturbance from a British (male) Anglican priest.  This specific church has been battling the topic of women in leadership for many decades.  As the women’s movement has taken full shape over the past 45 years, clamoring for equal participation within all churches has been evident.

Most people are aware that the Roman Catholic Church does not allow women priests or bishops, however, you might not know that even the RCC has been dealing with this question internally for the past several years.  There is a group of RC nuns who have gotten into some trouble with Rome for openly questioning the centuries-old Roman policy.  Many people thought that Pope Francis would open the door to women priests, but even the fairly liberal leader has stated that the Catholic doctrine on the matter is simple and he has no desire to change it.

Some Lutheran churches/denominations do allow for women bishops, while some do not.  Currently the Southern Baptist Convention does not allow women to be pastors.

In a progressive society like the United States, which has undergone the women’s suffrage movement as well as the equality platform of the 1970’s, it is difficult to consider that perhaps God is not as “progressive” as we might think.  It is unclear, but we do know that God’s Word does not change, though society and our perceptions have changed over time.

“As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”
(1 Corinthians 14:33-35, NIV)

“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” (1 Timothy 2:11-12, NIV)

These two verses are often cited by those who deny the right of a woman to be bishop (or other high leadership role).  The same persons make mention that Jesus selected 12 men to serve Him as His apostles.  However, as is the case with many subjects in the Bible, one can select other verses (and stories) which would seem to offer the contradicting opinion.

This hotly contested debate is not going to end any time soon.  Who is right, and who is wrong?  What is truly Biblical?  What do you think of Bishop Lane?  Is she someone that British girls should look up to and trying to emulate?  Undoubtedly she is a strong Christian, and a natural leader.  Can we all at least admire her for that?



About Ken

Ken Lambert, D.Min, lives with his wife and twin boys in southern New Hampshire, and has written for a variety of religious and secular publications. He is co-author of Top Ten Most Influential Christians- since the Apostles, and is an adjunct instructor for Agape Seminary (Church History, Wisdom Books).

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One comment

  1. Women are essential to the ministry of the Church. However there are positions and offices that by both tradition and scriptural mores that have been deemed inappropriate.

    Basically it is almost parallel to the situation existing between the offices of Deacon and the Priest. Deacons have a prescribed function and Priests have another. Is one superior to the other? A thousand times NO, their functions are just different. In fact the Deaconry existed quite a long while within the Church before the Priesthood as we know it evolved!

    Woman had an essential role during Christ’s ministry and we should always keep this foremost in our minds I think, however there are prescribed functions and we should be careful not to cross those borders.

    Based on MANY years of Christian service I will be one of the first to herald there are positions within the Body that women fulfill much better than men, they certainly are not second class Christian servants by any means. But just as in a Marriage women have a role and men have another role.

    In our own Jurisdiction woman are accepted into ministry as far as the position of Permanent Deacons, this is to the disagreement of some of our constituents in Sister Churches but was reached after much prayer and deliberation, but not into the ordained Priesthood.

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