There was a time someone could reject the idea of female pastors on the basis of scripture’s clear teaching. In this day and age of “questioning meaning” and “deconstructing faith,” it is important to explain this position to modern believers.
I grew up in the United Methodist Church (UMC) where women were ordained as pastors my entire life. I saw no issue with this and once filled the pulpit myself when our Pastor was out of town. My view on female pastors, however, began to change when after 20 years as a false convert God saved me and I began to read His word for myself for the first time in my life.
Passages such as 1 Timothy 3:1, “if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do” and Titus 1:6, “an elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife,” are clear that men are the biblically qualified not only to fulfill but also to aspire to the office of pastor/elder/overseer. Concerning women in the gathering of the church, 1 Corinthians 14:34 confirms “women should remain silent in the churches”.
The people I encounter who dispute these verses in order to make a case for female pastors do so using irrelevant texts not relating to the way God has ordered His church. Whether it is Miriam, Deborah, Priscilla, Phoebe, or Mary Magdalene, none of these women fulfilled the role of pastor and none of the passages that speak of these women concern themselves with the order and function of the local church assembly. Others will point to passages such as Ephesians 4:11-13 or 1 Corinthians 11:5, but those passages likewise do not pertain to the gathering of the church.
Since the Bible speaks clearly on this subject, why the vigorous debates? I believe it goes back to Genesis 3. The serpent (Satan) asked Eve, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” to which Eve confirmed that yes, God really did say this and not only did God say it, but if Adam or Even disobeyed by eating or touching the fruit that their consequence would be death. Then the serpent proclaimed, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” We see two tactics used here by Satan and it is the same two tactics I see used by those who defend female pastors. The first tactic is to doubt what God’s word says, the second is to doubt that He meant it.
When I was a member of the UMC, I heard rumors there were those who used the Bible to say women could not be pastors, but I was a false convert who did not care to look and see if that was true, if God really said such things. Soon after conversion, I left the UMC and realized that God did in fact say these things. The next question I had to answer was “But, did He really mean it?” Did He really mean that pastors can only be men? Did He really mean women must remain silent in the gathering of the church? Were all the people I knew who supported the idea of women pastors really wrong? Those were hard questions to work through.
As I worked through them I realized if I truly believed that the Bible was God’s authoritative, inerrant, infallible, and all-sufficient word, then there was no other conclusion I could come to except to reject the idea of female pastors. So why is this such a heated debate? Again, it goes back to Genesis 3. After Adam and Eve sinned, the punishments for women, as described in verse 16 were, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you will bring forth children yet your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you”. That means as universal as pain in childbirth is for a woman, so is the sinful desire for a woman to rule over her husband. Stated another way, because of the fall, women will always have to fight the sinful desire to be in the position(s) God has specifically stated only men can fill. That is why women desire to be pastors in the first place–sin, a sin that goes back all the way to Genesis 3.
Jesus never called a female apostle, the apostles never appointed a female apostle or elder, the biblical qualification for elder/pastors are clear that this is a position only to be fulfilled by men. As a woman, I trust God and trust the way He has structured His Church is good. In 1 John 5:3, John proclaims, “…this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome.” It should not be a burden for a Christian woman to keep this command of Christ of only men fulfilling the pastoral role. If a woman finds that it is burdensome, I would encourage her to do as I did—search the scriptures, pray, and trust in the authority and sufficiency of God’s word and His design for His church for all God does is good.