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Women in ministry – delicious hot potatoes

By Dr Christopher Peppler

Confusion, not Confucius, says, “He who handles hot potatoes seeks burnt fingers or
mash!” I seek to produce some nutritious mashed potatoes, but I am bound to get my
fingers burnt. The sub-title of this article should be, “A position on women in ministry in
728 words… and other miracles!”. I can’t do justice in such a short article to this
important topic, and I can’t even attempt to discuss the matter. What I can do though, is
make some statements and hope that they stimulate a healthy appetite for the subject.

When dealing with a topic like this we, as Christians, can come at it from one of two
directions. We can start with modern culture and then seek biblical support and
justification, or we can seek to understand what the Bible teaches and then try to apply
this to our time and culture. This second way is my convicted choice.

First off, let me state my firm belief that women and men are equal. In Christ, men and
women are equally children of God. Role distinctions do not imply inequality in human
society any more than they do within the divine society of the Godhead.

There are however differences between role/office and function/ministry. Roles within
the family, and offices within the church, are specific positions of responsibility.
Functions within the family and ministries within the church are non gender specific
areas of service.

I believe that a woman should function in any capacity within the family. Income
production, financial management, and so on, are not exclusively male domains. Child
care, cooking, and so on, are not exclusively female functions. However I believe that the
man should assume the headship role in the normal two-parent home. 1 Corinthians 11:3,
“Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of woman
is man…”

I believe that a woman should minister anywhere within the church body. Teaching,
preaching, and leading are not exclusively male ministries. Elders lead but not all leaders
are Elders. Preaching and teaching are to be under the oversight and direction of Elders,
but this applies equally to men and women. Sunday school, caring, and dance are not
exclusively female ministries. However, I believe that only men should hold the office of
Elders in the Church. (Titus 1:6-9 1 Timothy 3:1-7 etc.)

The way I understand it is that headship is God’s wise provision for order and health
within both family and church. He has ordained that husbands should be the head of their
homes under His mandate as prescribed in scripture. He has also ordained that in the
extended family of the church … Christ should be head. Ephesians 5:23 “For the
husband is head of the wife as Christ is head of the church…” In the family wives have
authority under mandate from their husbands as prescribed in scripture. In the church a
group of male Elders have authority under mandate from Christ Jesus as prescribed in
scripture. So Elders stand in the same relationship to the church as wives do to the family
– Elders are wives and mothers, not husbands and fathers. Jesus is the head and husband
of the church and God the Father is… well, the father.

But what is headship? As I see it, a head is one who is given authority, within a specific
mandate, to be the final arbiter. A Managing Director is head of a company under
mandate from the board of directors. A President is head of a country under mandate
from its citizens through constitution and vote. Husbands are heads of their families and
Elders have delegated and derived headship of the church.

I mentioned earlier my belief that women can and should preach and teach within the
church. I understand ‘teaching’, in the sense that Paul views it in 1 Timothy 2:12, to be
linked to authority. Only the Elders have authority to establish doctrine and practises
within the local church. Having done this, then I cannot see why a woman, equipped and
gifted for this ministry, should not preach or teach within the mandate of established
doctrine and under the oversight of the Elders.

So there you have it – mashed potatoes without, I sincerely hope, too many of my
sensitive little fingers being burnt.