Should Women Be Elders In A Church?

Denny Burk has a great post on the issue of egalitarianism and complimentarianism, highlighting a DFW church who has recently turned egalitarian on their stance concerning women in ministry. Well worth the read.

I am complimentarian and think the Bible teaches this as well.



  1. Why not? We are all “spirit” and in the afterlife does it matter if a female versus a male had a leadership position in the church? When I look around the older people in the church, the most dedicated seem to be the women anyway.

    1. Answer to #3

      It is not in God’s creative order – God/Jesus/Holy Spirit –
      Man/Woman/Child. Read Timothy and Titus and Genesis and you will receive the answer you are looking for. Don’t confuse cultural and political (world) view points in your understanding

  2. Now, in all fairness, I think the title of the post could give the wrong impression. Irving Bible specifically stated that the role of elder seems limited to men.

    “5. Though women are free to use all of their giftedness in teaching and leading in the church, the role of elder seems to be biblically relegated to men.”

    I know, it could be more emphatic, but they haven’t cross THAT line … not yet, anyway.

  3. Friendly questions: Do you believe that men and women complement each other without any form of hierarchy? Or, if I may put it another way: How strongly do you personally agree with CBC’s hierarchical patriarchal position that women should not be allowed to perform any leadership roles that would imply or provide some authority over men?

    Secondly, would you apply this standard of limitation/exclusion to ALL ministry? For example, in parachurch ministries, should women be allowed to occupy leadership roles with authority over men? If so, why should they?

    Thank you for your insight!

  4. Let me respond to each of you briefly, as I could spend a lot of time and words here.

    True, women are often the most dedicated in some churches, but we can’t disregard the Scriptures based on a cultural norm in the churches. I believe that the Bible clearly teaches that men are to be the spiritual leaders in the church and the home.

    However, we are not just “spirit.” We have a body too. And this is very important. God created the physical world and our bodies will be resurrected and united with our spirit and we will have a new glorified body for eternity upon the new physical earth. It does mater in the afterlife how we conducted ourselves now. I could go on, but I’m pressed for time now and typing with this cast on my finger is tedious. We can chat over the phone if you’d like. Thanks for the comment. Call me.

    True, the title of the post could give the wrong impression, but a thorough reading of the link at Denny’s blog would point out that IBC has not crossed the men/elder boundary, as you pointed out. However, there is a link to Rob Bell’s church at Denny’s blog where this line has been crossed.

    So the title to me seems appropriate for 2 reasons:

    1} It is a question for people to answer on this blog.
    2} It is the bottom line question we must ask when we talk about women in ministry. I believe that the Bible clearly teaches that women should not be elders {see more info below}.

    Let me answer your questions {again, they’ll be brief- we can talk more if ya like!}

    Do you believe that men and women complement each other without any form of hierarchy?

    Certainly we complement each other. Marriage, employment, etc would give evidence of this. The world would be boring and messed up if we did not complement each other.

    Yes, I agree with CBC’s position that women should not be allowed to perform any leadership roles that would imply or provide some authority over men. This needs clarifying though as there are many sides to this.

    I believe that as the local church goes, Paul’s criteria for women not having authority over men {2nd Timothy 2:11-15} is stated and rooted in creation {Genesis} and that this implies an hierarchy and structure in human relationships. Specifically in the church, this passage means that women are not to be elders. I say this because “not having authority over” and “able to teach” are the 2 criteria which separate deacons from elders in the pastoral epistles. So I believe when says that women are not to exercise authority over men or teach, he is saying that women can’t be elders.

    To answer the next question: would you apply this standard of limitation/exclusion to ALL ministry? For example, in parachurch ministries, should women be allowed to occupy leadership roles with authority over men? If so, why should they?

    This is where it gets tricky and complicated. I believe the above limitations on women specifically prohibit the role of elder in the local church. But what happens outside in para-church organizations, conferences, work places, government, etc?

    Let me give some guidelines in dealing with the tension without giving specific examples of where its appropriate to have women in charge over men {I have worked under women managers at Starbucks and had no problem with the issue of submitting to them as my superior at work, for example}.

    John Piper and Wayne Grudem are especially helpful here {see their book Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood}. Piper gives these criteria to help determine when the boundaries might be crossed:

    “All acts of influence and guidance can be described along these two continuums:

    Directive……………….Non-Directive” {page 51-52}

    So it works like this:
    In society {bank managers, police women, etc}

    The more personal it is the less directive
    The more directive it is the less personal.

    Does this help? Let me know. Bottom line: in the church women are not to be elders but there are plenty of ministry opportunities and I would encourage that.

  5. Good reply Ben. I love to get you thinking and debating.

    Hope things are going well, when is the little one due?

  6. Any day now. We’re ready! I’ll let ya know. Pray for Heather. I still marvel that women give birth. I’d tap out when the nausea started in the first trimester. Amazing. Thanks!

  7. Great response to a sensitive issue. And to add biblical reference to your explanation we can see in Deborah the use of authority but applied socially and politically. The work of Old Covenant ministry was a priestly and the sole responsibility of men.
    I think responsibility is a key word in understanding the nature and significance of this discussion. In churches where men are carrying out their biblical responsibilities there is usually a healthy church with healthy families. And it is interesting to observe churches where men only show up once in a while to the women doing most of the work. Often they have a spiritually dead feel about them (the churches that is).
    Back to responsibility, the question is “who will God hold accountable in the church?”. I think scripture does place the role of responsibility on the men.
    Keep walking with the king

  8. I actually am an elder in our church. I spent many months in prayer and in the Word and speaking to pastors about this before I jumped in. I look at all areas of ministry inside and outside the church and think of the lady in the arctic area who is the only one taking God’s word to these indigenous people. Should she only teach the women and leave the men out to never learn their role as God has designed it? Paul also said “HE” doesn’t allow it. He didn’t really say -“thus sayeth the Lord” on that one. What about women organists and musicians who lead the entire congregation into worship? Should all of those be men too because they are exercising leadership over men in that instance. What about there is neither male or female, slave or free, we are all the same in the eyes of God? I know of a baptist church that vehemently adheres to the teaching of men only UNTIL they couldn’t get 12 men to serve, so they asked a woman to come on until such time they could find a man. If male elders are doing such a great job leading the church, then why are there so many more women in the church than men? A woman can tell you that her husband has a need, a need only she would know about, to send a group of men to speak to him and minister to him. In other cultures, where men and women sit on either sides of the pews and not as families, where only men gather and women are left to do all the work, wholeness under God’s name is not being sustained, only the culture continues on. So even in the areas of the world where men rule, there is no harmony in the house or the house of God. I would rather have God remove a finger than to disobey him this way. I did not really want to be an elder and labored with God to discern what he was saying to me. I prayed even that my southern baptist husband would say no, he did not, and he blessed me to do so. I DO believe if men followed every other part of the bible as perfectly as they want to follow this part, they would always have happy kids, wives and workplaces. The fact is, they fail in those areas; they do not exercise perfect biblical leadership skills from A to Z. Hard to just single out this one. If he has ever been divorced, is he out? If he remarried, he’d be husband to two wives by biblical standards. Even some of those pastors exist. Anybody firing those guys. Lots of double standards all over the place here. There are things that our women elders bring to the table that the men could not possibly bring because we are different in our tenderness of heart. I’m not making a case for myself or anyone else as elder, I’m just trying to give a different look at this.

  9. If and when our reasoning lacks the necessary scripture to back it, we have to still adhere to 1Tim 3, Titus 1,as a Biblical requirement for elders in the church, regardless of whether we’ve been faithful in the past(or not) to the command.

    I think the above quote is supposed to be Gal 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

    This references salvation…not eldership.

    We need to get back to the Bible in every case. Pray–confirm answers to prayer with scripture, in context.

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