The roles that women play in church leadership today have been of critical importance in enhancing performance of church ministries in both complementary and active roles. Credible studies on egalitarianism indicate that the intention of God regarding church ministry and leadership roles has been that both men and women serve in equal positions and status.
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Rakate points out that the perspective of biblical equality embraces skin color, religion and gender while supporting the fact that God created individuals equally with same responsibilities to serve him.1 However, different viewpoints from complementarianism and egalitarianism on the role of women in the church have been areas of critical importance. It is against this backdrop that this paper takes a critical look at the role of women in church ministry.
To begin with, the term elder in the new testament (also called presbusteros) has been used several times to refer to the seventy disciples documented in Luke 10: 1-24, to the twelve apostles in Luke 6: 12-16 as well as other individuals who were in authority and held leadership roles in a Christian assembly.
Hamman points out that the term elder in the New Testament did not denote age, but represented both character and position of a person in terms of honor, experience, dignity and maturity.2 A deacon in original biblical language ‘Diakoneo’ refers to a servant. The term has been used 34 times in the New Testament to refer to a person serving at the table with examples from Acts 6:1 and Luke 10:41.
According to acts 6:3-5, the core qualifications of an individual filling the office of a deacon include good reputation, use of wisdom and manifestation of the Holy Spirit in his or her life. Other possible qualifications include being internally dynamic and good looking.
On the other hand, the qualifications of an elder are too many as indicated by Paul in Titus 1: 6-9 and also in 1Timothy. They include having a good reputation, a long term convert, ability to manage household well, patient, forbearing, hospitable, teachable, respectable, sober, faithfully married to one wife and blameless of any questionable character.
One of the fundamental issues in Christian ministry regarding the involvement of women in the ministry has been whether or not they should serve as deacons and elders. Paul in 1st Timothy 2: 9-15 strongly opposes women assuming leadership roles while favoring complementarianism. He says in verse twelve of Timothy 2: 9-15 that “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.”3
This statement has been repeated several times in 1 Corinthians 14:13, Titus 1: 6-9 and 1st Timothy 3: 1-13 and strongly indicates that leadership positions are a domain of men. The crux of the argument is that although God created men and female to be equal, it did not imply that the roles and functions they were to carry out were to be similar.4
Conversely, egalitarianism favors women and leadership roles. In Galatians 3:28, Paul says that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”5 However, it would be hasty to interpret Paul’s position to mean that women are equal with men in terms of leadership roles. The fact that men and women are one in Christ refers to faith and salvation which is offered to all regardless of gender, race or economic status, and not leadership roles.
However, it is imperative to note that outside the church, women leadership roles are applicable, though it is abundantly clear that it has not been an easy affair as men still dominate many leadership positions. In the church, women have made immense contributions in complementary roles and in leadership roles in some churches. This has been in leading assemblies, composing songs and teachings.
To sum up, the discussion above has been based on the thesis statement that “the roles that women play in church leadership today have been of critical importance in enhancing performance of church ministries in both complementary and active roles”.
From the discussion, it is apparent that different views which are biblically-based have been raised favoring both egalitarianism and complementarianism. As noted from egalitarianism, women play important roles in church ministries and deserve to be treated equally as men since they are equal before God.
Hamman, Jaco. “Resistance to women in ministry and the psychodynamics of sadness.” Pastoral Psychology, 59(2010)769-781.
Rakate, Faith. “Women in leadership: contextual dynamics and boundaries.”Journal of International Women’s Studies, 12(2011): 166-168.
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1 Rakate, Faith, “Women in leadership: contextual dynamics and boundaries,”Journal of International Women’s Studies, 12(2011): 167.
2 Hamman, Jaco, “Resistance to women in ministry and the psychodynamics of sadness,” Pastoral Psychology, 59(2010)781.
4 Ibid. 781
5Rakate, Faith, “Women in leadership: contextual dynamics and boundaries,”Journal of International Women’s Studies, 12(2011): 168.