The authorization of women in church ministry: to be, or not

The purpose of this article is to consider the questions surrounding the authorization of women in church ministry. This article is not an attempt to attack, belittle or to disrespect the efforts and the worth of those that oppose the views written in this document. This article was written specifically to address the subject of women in church ministry, and while I may disagree with the positions some women hold in churches, I am not against those who have a genuine purpose. However, whether I agree or disagree with those who hold a genuine purpose doesn’t establish truth.  Surely, there are great men and women that stand too maintain the authorization of women in church ministry. On the other hand, there are also great men and women who oppose the position of women in the ministry. Nevertheless, this article is NOT a judgement of sincerity, purpose, motives or character, but of truth.

The doctrines that authorize women to work in the ministry as bishops, elders, pastors, apostles, prophets, teachers, or evangelist should be recognized as a fairly new concept. The debates and divisions over the matter has only become a problem within the last hundred and sixty years. This may sound strange to those who grew up in churches where women are regularly authorized to hold ministers’ roles. But the evidence points towards Antoinette Louisa Brown, later Antoinette Brown Blackwell (May 20, 1825 – November 5, 1921) as the first female to be ordained as a preacher in America. If the doctrine of women in the ministry is approximately a hundred and sixty years old, and yet church history consists of more than 2000 years, this leaves more than 1800 years of church history with no record of female ordination into the ministry. But there’s more to consider on the subject. The new testament church history consists of more than 2000 years, and the old testament history makes for more than 4000 years, giving a total of 6000 years without a single representative of women’s ordination. The evidence of history is put forward, asking, why isn’t there biblical (examples) evidence of women’s ordination in 6000 years of biblical history? This evidence does not deny the existence of many great women found in biblical history, instead it reveals that the ministry of women under the old testament was not of  priest, or prophets. Thus, how scriptures are read and interpreted should follow these streams of historical paths. In the past however, when the subject of women preachers arises, great historical figures like Mariam and Deborah are suggested. These great women of old played valuable roles in our religious history and yet, there is no direct proof of them being ordained as elders, as priest, or prophets. The ministry of women under the historical old testament existed outside of the old testament priesthood, and outside of the office of the prophets. So, why is this important to the present church? Because, the things written in the old were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope (Romans 15:4). If there’s no evidence, how can there exist in the church comfort and hope. If God our Lord in 6000 years of biblical history left the church without a single example of women elders, priest, or prophets, then, upon what rock is the doctrine of women’s ordination found?

Let me pause here for a moment. This article will be read by some critical thinkers who will completely miss the point, because they’ve already assumed I am anti-feminist. On the other hand, after reading this article, some free thinkers will feel the need to share its information. But after realizing how unpopular the message is, their zeal will be stolen.  Finally, a few undone souls will read the contents of this article and understand its purpose, and its precious message. This article is not about the masculine vs. feminine. It’s not about popularity, but truthfully, the recognition of truth and its piety. So what about the origin of women preachers, where did it start? 

On September 15, 1853, the First Congregational Church in Butler and Savannah, New York (in Wayne County) ordained Antoinette Brown Blackwell as their pastor, making her the first woman minister of a recognized denomination in the United States. Antoinette Brown Blackwell was a strong women’s right activist and spokesperson, and spend a great deal of her time traveling to conferences for women’s rights. As a child Antoinette Brown Blackwell dream was to become an ordained preacher. I could press on to discover more about Antoinette Brown Blackwell, but that is beyond the point. The point being, those who believe in the ordination of women will often use scriptures to defend their position, when indeed, Antoinette Brown Blackwell is the true source. So, what is the weight of all this?  The women’s right movement against civil abuse and neglect open the door for a direct attack against the church. I am all for women’s rights in its place, but I cannot support their cause when it contradicts the teaching of the bible.

The women’s rights movement’s birth Antoinette Brown Blackwell dreams to become an ordained preacher. This is the absolute origin of every woman in the ministry and since then, its followers have worked hard to find scriptural support. The famous scripture passed down by Antoinette Brown and her followers would be that of Galatians 2:28. So there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free people, between men and women; you are all one in union with Christ Jesus. The supporters of women in the ministry interpret this verse as ministerial equality.  However, it’s essential to note, that Paul never address the Galatians about who is allowed to preach. Instead his message was clearly about returning to the law after being freed, and how through Christ believers have received a universal salvation, for both Jews and Gentiles, for both slaves and free people, and for both men and women. Salvation may be one element, but alone, it does not qualify individuals for ministry. Therefore, the letter to the Galatians must not be used to support the idea of women bishops, elders, pastors, apostles, prophets, teachers, or evangelist.  I could spend a great deal of time explaining how the LAW was peculiar to males, and how it divided  Jews and gentiles. But time  is of the essence.

Succeeding, great historical figures like Mariam and Deborah (and others) are frequently used to suggest biblical permission for women to fill the offices of church ministry. There’s no argument, the great women of faith of ancient times were strong examples of women in leadership. The Lord spoke through Micah saying, I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. Nevertheless, the ministry of  Miriam did not conflict with the offices of the priest or prophets. Miriam was called a prophetess, not a prophet. Miriam was called a prophetess not a priest. It is imperative to understand that the role of a prophetess isn’t interchangeable with prophet or priest. A prophet is never referred to as a prophetess, and prophetess is never addressed as a prophet. The ancient prophets were not only prophetic, but during their ministries some were priest and others kings. This is not the case with the ministry of the prophetess. Mariam’s ministry was that of a prophetess, a ministry of helps. The ministry of a prophetess is that of helping.  As Our LORD made Eve a help Adam, so is the prophetess to the ministry.  She is not beyond the ministry, she doesn’t see herself as equal, yet (as did both Mariam and Deborah) God uses her gift as one subject to the overall ministry. (part 2)

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11 thoughts on “The authorization of women in church ministry: to be, or not

  1. I don’t recall anyone being “ordained” in any of the Bible. No one is ordained to be a prophet, or a priest. I don’t understand why we have “ordained” ministers to begin with, when the word “minister” is based on the word “serve”. We are all called to serve. We are all ministers, male or female. Who was the first people to declare the gospel? Women! Did Jesus violate his own rules when he told women to go tell men that he is risen? Why didn’t Jesus just tell his Apostles himself? Why did Jesus ask women to do it? That was the gospel that they declared to a man. They taught men the gospel. And yet, someone said, “I do not permit a woman to teach, for Eve was in the transgression, not Adam.” Why was that said? In what context was that said? Was it pertaining to women in general, or wives? Well, the men were having a pity party, thinking that they bet on the wrong self proclaimed Messiah. But the women, Jesus met at the tomb. Go tell my disciples, he said to the women.

    Ed Chapman

    1. First, let’s acknowledge Antoinette Brown Blackwell as the first female to be ordained as a preacher in America and before this, there were no women in ministry.

  2. Second, let’s acknowledge that there was NO ONE “ordained” in any ministry in the bible. Everyone Christian, female or male, is called to serve (minister). So, what’s the point in acknowledging post Catholicism stuff? My question would be, “Why is anyone “ordained” to be a minister, when we are all called to be a minister. Who has the authority to “ordain” anyone, when that is a natural calling for every Christian?

    1. I will give you proof. But before I do, Paul is the apostle you quoted, “I do not permit a woman to teach, for Eve was in the transgression, not Adam.” But allow me to finish the quote; But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. If you follow the context of the scriptures the apostle answers your question. There are two reasons women aren’ allowed to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

      1) For Adam was first formed, then Eve.

      Creation is proof that God never intended for women to be over the man. He purposely created man first and then the woman.

      2) Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

      This had nothing at all to do with culture or married women, otherwise we would have to conclude that married women are being denied ministry because they’re married. At any rate, there is no evidence of the so called disturbance theory held by so many.

      1. I disagree with your conclusions. First, please name those in the Bible that were “ordained”, and by whom. Who ordained even the “prophetess”. Second, you didn’t do your homework in regards to Adam and Eve. They were husband and wife, first of all, not just male/female, boyfriend/girlfriend. In regards for the women to remain silent, there are instances in the bible where men are to remain silent, as well. You say that it has nothing to do with married or not, culture or not…I disagree. I go back to my point that Jesus told women to proclaim (PREACH) the gospel to men. They were the first to PREACH JESUS to men. Jesus could have well done that himself. But he didn’t.

        Ed

  3. My only problem with this and alot o Apostolic Doctrines,seem to always seem to focus on a western Culture.In the Past,Women could not vote,they were Oppressed in a lot of areas,I am not defending Women lib,But i feel Christian women in the western Culture were oppressed in many ways.I believe they had liberties Doctrinally and were held down,We have to look at history what western christians did to the Women,American Indians,and also the Africans braught here to be slaves,(and many misused the Bible to show these things were right)I do not see how we can can make look at any of these things Biblically and use them to prove a doctrine.No matteerhow many Interpeted the Bible in the Past whether a Woman had a right to preach and be ordained or notto be ordained and preach,In those times it just wasn;t going to Happen,This is where problems come in,We put Culture above the The Word ofGod,Thats what theydid back then,it was the culture women were not going to do nothing but stay home marry and have kids,nothing more.If they got out of line many times it was ok for a husband to hit them.Do you think in these times culture would allow a woman to preach? or have an opinon or a voice? I am not so much against what you wrote and i am not trying to defend Womens certain roles in the Ministry,I just think American History is a bad way to try to prove a Doctrine being right.

    1. I agree Apostolic 757, in the past women were oppressed by ignorance. They didn’t have the right to vote, or to own property. They couldn’t work and save money in a separate account, they didn’t have a voice… all of which stem from the culture and not of God. The bible taught men to love their wives, in the same way Christ loved the church. I’m sure you can agree, that this is the proper biblical behavior. The problem, however, is men of old allowed culture to hinder them from loving their wives according to the word of God. For example, there is nothing in God’s word of reference that would indicate women don’t have a vote. There is nothing in God’s word that indicate women can’t own property or any of the other oppressed rules laid on them by men. On the other hand, we can be found in the same guilt if we allow women to operate in ways that are against the structure of creation. If men are to love their wives as Christ loved the church, than Godly men are to represent Christ in the home. If this is true, the wife is a representation of the church, the bride of Christ. In this illustration, The man is Christ and the woman is the church. With this in mind, this is how every Godly family ought to function, and this how every Godly church should function.

      1. Clark,
        You had said:
        “On the other hand, we can be found in the same guilt if we allow women to operate in ways that are against the structure of creation. ”

        My response:
        Against the structure of creation? Godly church? We are all the body of Christ (male), as well as being the bride of Christ (Female). We are the image and likeness of God (and since females are too, then what does that tell you?) We are equal. There is a deeper meaning than that of the superficial teaching about women being subservient to men. My own daughter is in the US Navy. Today’s religious nut cases would have a problem with that. I don’t. I was in the US Navy. And she is following my footsteps. I am proud of that, no matter what religious nut case has to say about women in the military…because some whack jobs would say that goes against the structure of creation. Calvinism comes to mind as those whack jobs.

        Ed

  4. Sure ED, I will give you, two (examples of ordination) for every woman bishop, elder, pastor, apostle, prophet, teacher, or evangelist you discover. Please, don’t attempt to explain how women were the first to preach the Gospel. The women didn’t preach. The bible does not support your idea. Jesus never told the women to go preach the gospel. You know better. The great commission was given in Matthew 28. Where were the women during the great instructions to go and preach the Gospel to every creature?

    It’s shameful to hear you give women the great commission, when it was clearly given by Jesus to his Apostles whom he appointed and send.

    Mat 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.

    On another note, I feel you’re taking matters personal. If this thread is too heavy that you have to resort to name calling and demeaning remarks. I would have to ask you to withdraw.

    1. 1. Just base on dictionary.com the first definition of preach is to proclaim or make known. And I did not even yet research the Greek…haha!

      2. Jesus told the disciples BEFORE he got to the cross that after he resurrected from the dead to meet him in Galilee. But they didn’t go to Galilee. WHEN did they go to Galiliee?

      3. After the women told them that Jesus is risen, didn’t a couple of them run to the tomb? Where was the tomb? Jerusalem or Galilee?

      4. Do you see my daughter going against the structure of creation by being in the military? If you do, that would be the only reason that you would see my comment as name calling. I am sure that you have identified whack job preachers in your day…men of course.

      Ed

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