What About Female Leaders In The Church?

godgirlthings asked a question:

Hello pastor! I had a question and was thinking of someone who would help me, you came to my mind because of how much God uses you to inspire me. So, I’m a bit confused. My dad and I were talking about how women are not allowed to lead in certain churches and if it’s right for a woman to be the leader of a church, could you let me know what the Bible says about this? Thank you so much, God bless you!!


Hey dear friend, I know this is a very divisive issue with many viewpoints, and I know we won’t all see eye-to-eye on it. I did write a super-long post that partially answers your question here:

– Mega-Post: Female Pastors, Neo-Feminism, and The Scary Words Submission, Quiet, and Penis

(Please forgive the sassy, off-color title. I wrote this when I was a little bit more snarky, back in the day.)

I’m very much open to women being leaders in the church – mainly because the early church was so pro-women that it would be impossible to say it’s not. I mean the church herself is called the “bride,” and I just don’t think theologians can keep word-playing themselves out of that one. The verses we’ve used to “shut down” women in church are surrounded by a much larger context that requires some digging. And if anything, the Bible is incredibly tough on men, with a much more brash upright tone with them.

If men are about to use the Bible as a patriarchal tool, they better cut out all the parts from Genesis to maps. And if men are so desperate to be leaders: I hope we know what we’re getting into. That’s not some kind of easy position to play around with.

The Book of Nehemiah shows men, women, children, and different social classes rebuilding the city of Jerusalem. Women were essentially the “first Christians,” having discovered the empty tomb and the risen Jesus. Phoebe is a deacon. Lydia was a rich young fashionista who gave safe refuge for missionaries. The couple Priscilla and Aquila are always mentioned with the wife’s name first, and order was quite important in the Greek Scriptures (notice that Judas is constantly named last in every list of the disciples, along with what he did). I could go on.

I understand that many conservative-leaning churches will interpret the Bible to have zero female leaders, and I don’t claim a superior interpretation over them. It’s not “my right thinking” versus “their outdated ways.” It’s a doctrinal difference that doesn’t decide our ultimate eternity with God. It’s not an issue we have to fight over. In the huge scheme of things, I’m probably more concerned with helping the poor or stopping human trafficking or counseling a suicidal friend. But I will always encourage and promote female leadership in church.

– J.S.

14 thoughts on “What About Female Leaders In The Church?

  1. One of the things I find a bit funny about this issue is that many of those churches who interpret the scriptures as zero-tolerance for female leaders have many women who do counseling, teaching, and even preaching for other women, and even men sometimes!

    So they are doing the full role of a pastor as it’s laid out biblically, but they are withheld the title of ‘pastor’.

    I’ve always found that a bit odd.


  2. I love this post, you tie it all together in the very last paragraph. Thank you for stating where our priorities should be.


  3. Yes, very well said. I know that some conservative evangelicals struggle with this one. It’s not that they don’t think that there are some women who can preach a great sermon–some are much better than male preachers. The thing that seems to stop them from agreeing with female preachers is what the bible says about elders having to be men.


    1. As I understand it, the verse in the original only uses one gender-pronoun in the phrase “one woman man” which was translated to the “husband of one wife” from the Greek, there aren’t any other “he” or “him” in the entire passage. Since back in the day, all wives had one husband, but it wasn’t a given that all husbands had only one wife, it was a rule for monogamy. Therefore, in the original, the rule that they ‘must be male’ isn’t there so much as it was translated there when originally translated into other languages. By then, male leadership was the norm in the patriarchal secular society that they couldn’t imagine anything being different in Church. Now that we have an egalitarian society, the call to be counter-cultural reinforces that rule rather than does away with it.


      1. Hey Jamie, thank you for this extra info. I’m going to have to study up on this, very cool. I love the theme of being counter-cultural; that’s right on.


          1. Thank you, this was my go-to site in seminary! I ended up buying a giant interlinear Bible, a great birthday investment. I admit, not since my last post above (which I linked at the top) have I studied this passage in great detail. Probably time to dive back in.


  4. inteally appreciated almost everything you had to say. As a female pursuing a non-ordaining M.Div at Covenant Theological Seminary in a largely male program, I have really wrestled with the role of women in leadership. I feel very strongly called into ministry as a leader, but I’m not sure what that means or exactly where and how I could put my gifts to work.

    The one part that I want to push back on is the very end where you say it’s not an issue worth fighting over. I can understand the line of thinking – it’s such a divisive topic, and kind of overblown in some ways. However, I can’t help but be a little offended at the implication that it’s really not that big of a deal when compared to things like feeding the poor.

    Women being shut out of leadership positions in the church is a huge deal. Completely ignoring how utterly draining it is to deal with the rampant sexism within the church, we are NEEDED. The Church is incomplete without us. God is calling His faithful to use their gifts, and whole parts of the Church are stamping that out. Women are being relegated to voiceless roles, and the results are disastrous. Not only is this a huge part of why sexism is such an issue within the Church – even moreso than outside the Church, which is disgraceful – but women are better equipped to minister to women, to understand the impacts of sexism, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, pregnancy, miscarriages, the struggle with submission, etc. (I’m not at all saying that men can’t understand these areas – just that it requires some effort and education, and this is not always seen as necessary). So, an entire population of people are not being ministered to well and equipped to be real agents of change in the Kingdom. And that’s just ONE consequence. I can easily think of multiple more (but I don’t want to keep rambling on your page).

    That’s a pretty big deal. I don’t think we have even begun to understand all the damage done by keeping women silent and constrained. So, yes, to me, that IS worth fighting for. That IS worth confrontation and messiness. Because it’s wrong. It’s sinful. And it’s hurting the Church and its people – men and women included. This is an issue that should be just as important as feeding the poor – because there are women leaders called to that particular fight that are being shut out from the battle.

    Just my two cents.

    Thanks again for posting! I really did appreciate the refreshing affirmation.



    1. Hello Margaret! Thank you for your wonderful, thoughtful response. You’re right; I think it sounded like I was diminishing what to fight for, when that was my very opposite intent. I fell dangerously close into the fallacy of relative privation. I do believe both are important and each needs attention. While all of us cannot do everything, each of us are called to different areas to wrestle with and pray through with our entire might. Right on.


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