My Fellow…Women?

So I’m beginning my little bit on women in ministry. I’m going to take my time with this one by starting with verses that seem to support women in ministry, then interact with verses that seem to counter this point, and then I’ll go over some  some practical reasons to allow or disallow women in the ministry. This may take more than three posts and it may change. I’ll let you know as this project moves along.


Let’s begin.

I’ll starts with Romans 16. We are looking here at the end of the letter. Paul is giving his ending monologue and is giving some reference to friends and comrades. What is intriguing here is that Paul seems to be giving shout outs to women as well. The first one that is most peculiar is Phoebe, who is mentioned as a deacon (diakonon).

Now we should go ahead and look closely at the problem. Your interpretation may use a different word or may say deaconess. It is true that if you simply look at the word as applied to a female, it would be feminine. Many interpreters do. But what is odd is that the same Greek word is used in reference to Christ in 15:8 (diakonon). There is a large number of interpreters and Christians who view Paul’s theology as subjecting women to male control across the board. If Paul viewed this issue as strongly as proponents of women being under men at all times in spiritual and family matters (some would say at all times period), then why does he not make a distinction by coming up with a different form that looks feminine for the woman or masculine for Christ? It could be that Paul is not paying attention to his language (which I tend to not see Paul being this sloppy) or he might be using it with almost intentional reference to women having high honors in the Church, which was revolutionary for that culture.

(I know that last statement includes an understanding of historical context, so to put it simply, women were, in Jewish context at least, under the man’s household. The man was the final say in anything. This was a social order that led to women being given in marriage and not choosing their life long mates. They might be given a chance to share a highly moderated form of their opinion, but other areas might not even let a woman do that. This means that the stating of a social norm is not distinctly Christian for Paul. A reasoning for Paul is that there is “no male and female,” but we’ll cover that later.)

So Phoebe was a deacon!

Which is crazy for that era.

Paul mentions ten women in this part of the letter. He even gives them some outstanding mention, like “co-workers”, one hard workers for others benefits (women in that era were not assumed to have this ability), and even says that one is “highly respected among the apostles.” I think that last one earns some merit for the case.

So according to Romans, there are women who have been assumed into possible leadership, and dare I say Spirit filled to do leadership. Even the idea of being among the apostles is a very high honor for a woman in those days, even more to be highly revered among them.

This evidence probably is not very conclusive, but it does show the possibility of a leaning of New Testament theology towards women being included in efforts and helping organize the Church of Christ (and no, I’m not referencing the denomination). It also gives us reason to question things like women have a base evil that needs to be controlled, women are the reason humanity is fallen, and women don’t belong in pastoral leadership.

Next up…


Come with your thinking caps on.

Grace and peace to you all.


5 thoughts on “My Fellow…Women?

  1. Great post man. There is a lot of discussion over this issue still. I am glad you are taking it slowly and thinking it through. I am going to enjoy reading these and maybe re-thinking my stance, although I sense we are on the same page. Great post keep them coming.

    • Interesting that you bring up your position. I’m pretty old school Wesleyan on the issue (I mean 1800’s old) on the issue right now, but I’ll keep that a surprise until the end. Let me know if you want a copy of a video of one of my professors on this issue. She give a brilliant exegesis of multiple passages. You should shoot some comments about my exegesis and hermeneutic. If you disagree with me, then rip my post to shreds (if you dare, mwahahahaha). If you like it, then okay. I’m hoping more people give disagreements.

      (Or you can just play devil’s advocate)

  2. Rusty,
    Good to talk to you in a disconnected way via blogging. Interesting topic as this is a large issue in the PCA currently. I am not PCA but I’m lazily keeping up with the issue they are having. As you may know, the PCA position is a rather strict complementarianism at least insofar as ecclesiology. That being said, there is a push to allow female deacons and the discussion is at the general assembly level.

    I myself have just finally realized that the Scripture allows for female deacons (deaconesses depending on nomenclature). This is largely due, I believe, to a more biblical understanding of the office of deacon. I believe that any discussion of deaconesses must discuss the truly biblical office of deacon and not assume it is what many churches refer to as deacons. Thus, I, being a complementarian and not an egalitarian, do not see female deacons as being proof positive of every office being open to females ordinarily (the last word giving me sufficient breathing room I believe). I look forward to your future posts.

    Oh, and for what it is worth, I’m EPC (Evangelical Presbyterian) and women in ordained office is a non-essential in the EPC. Thus, individual presbyteries are free to ordain women or not. Likewise, the individual church has freedom in calling women or not. So, this issue pops up from time to time in my denomination as well. There is a discussion regarding this at our general assembly level as well, but nuanced to the peculiarities of the EPC, which I won’t bore you with.


    • Interesting input, Jack. I look forward to hearing your input. It might differ a little from my personal viewpoints, but I always receive it with hearty welcome.

      It’s great to hear from you also.

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