[Disclaimer: I am not speaking for the blog as a whole, nor am I speaking for the other contributors. Of all of the other LNT contributors, I am a lone wolf here.]
Let me start off by saying that I’m conservative to the right of Genghis Kahn on a lot of issues. I was raised as a pew running, tongue-talking, Holy Ghost baptized, KJV Onlyist Pentecostal. Even for a couple of years after I left the theological background of my raising it was hard for me to give up the KJV, and I’m still conservative on the classical issues. I believe marriage is to be between one man and one woman. I believe women who have an abortion to avoid responsibility are committing murder. I believe those who are theologically and socially liberal have an agenda and that agenda has no place in the pulpit. If you name a hot button issue within the realm of Christendom there’s a good chance that I’ll land on the right side of it. (Take that however you want to!)
However, I was raised with two great aunts to who stood in the pulpit and proclaimed the Gospel. They boldly proclaimed that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. They urged people to run to Jesus and be washed in the blood of the Lamb for the forgiveness of their sins. I’m told stories of my great-grandmother who faithfully pastored two independent Pentecostal congregations through the 70s and 80s.
It wasn’t until I was in my teens that I had heard of people who didn’t believe that women should be pastors, and even then it wasn’t until I was an adult that I actually met one of these unicorns, and I found that the idea of women in pastoral ministry is actually a liberal issue.
Today, I am no longer Pentecostal. I am a proud Calvinist, but I am a pastor in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church – one of the few conservative-leaning denominations that ordain women to the pastorate, and I proudly stand on the liberal side with this issue, and here’s why…
1. There Were Dynamic Female Leaders in the Bible
I could go back to the Old Testament and mention Deborah the judge and Hildah the prophetess, and I could even talk about the Anna the prophetess mentioned Luke 2:36-38 who gave thanks to God for Jesus, but I think I want to start in a slightly more uncomfortable place for my complimentarian brethren.
Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.
– Romans 16:7, NIV
The first hurdle is to figure out whether or not Junia was a man or a woman. The Greek name, jIounivan, is in fact feminine so it is to be translated Junia rather Junias as the NIV 1984 and other translations have rendered it.
The second hurdle is to try to decipher what “outstanding among the apostles” means. While there is major controversy surrounding the actual meaning, one thing is clear – the patristics were confident that this woman was, in fact, an apostle.* Although, maybe not in the classical sense, but she was called and sent of the church.
Then, we come to Priscilla and Aquila. This husband and wife team discipled Apollos according to Acts 18. However, there’s something that we notice with Priscilla and Aquila that is different from the traditional way of addressing couples even in our modern day with the man’s name being mentioned first almost all of the time. It’s more often that you hear, “Let’s invite Joe and Mary over for dinner” rather than “Let’s invite Mary and Joe over for dinner.” Notice this observation made by Eddie Hyatt.
In Paul’s greeting to Priscilla and Aquilla in Romans 16:3-5, he greets them and the church that is in their house. Interestingly, he puts Priscilla’s name first in the greeting. This is telling for, in doing so, he violated the normal, conventional way of presenting a couple in the ancient world. The proper way would have been to mention Aquilla first, but Paul goes against accepted convention and mentions Priscilla first (Hyatt, Paul, Women and Church, 28-29).
That Paul would purposely mention Priscilla first is a powerful statement of her status and influence and of Paul’s estimation of her. Many New Testament scholars see this as evidence that she was the out-front one in the relationship and the pastor of the church in their home. R.C.H. Lenski, for example, said, “She by nature was more gifted and able than her husband, also spiritually fully developed, due to having Paul in her home for 18 months in Corinth.”
2. There Were Dynamic Female Leaders in Church History
I’m not going to spend as much time on this point because we could be here for a while, but I will point out a couple of examples the first being Hilda of Whitby.
The great-niece of King Edwin of Northumbria, she was baptized at 13 when the king and his household converted to Christianity in 627 A.D. 20 years later, at the age of 33 she answered the call on her life to become a nun. Under the direction of Aidan of Lindisfarne, she established a number of monasteries her last being Whitby.
The monastery at Whitby was what was known as a double house meaning that not only were there women who were becoming nuns, but there were there becoming monks. The implication of this is while they attended mass and had a priest of their own, Hilda oversaw the spiritual environment of that monastery. Whether we want to admit it or not, as an abbess she pretty much functioned as a pastor overseeing the spiritual care of both men and women.**
The second example I would like for us to take note of is that of Rev. Louisa Woosley. Unless you’re Cumberland Presbyterian, you probably don’t recognize that name, but during her 45 years of evangelistic ministry within the denomination, she saw about 100,000 conversions across 20 states. In 1891, she published the book, “Shall Woman Preach?” where she presents with all theological boldness and clarity a resounding ‘yes’ as an answer to question that the title presents.
3. We Can Raise Up Dynamic Female Leaders in the Church Today
Before I go on any further, let me just say that in a way, I get it. It’s hard to see that women should have a place in the pulpit when it seems all the only female pastors getting any exposure are those preaching false prosperity gospel (Paula White) or those preaching a gospel of social justice. The PCUSA, the UMC, and the Episcopalian Church are all shelling out naval-gazing humanists for pastors so it’s hard to see any hope for there to be room for Bible believing women in the pulpit, but the Assemblies of God are training up young women qualified to take the pulpit who aren’t afraid to stand up against those who have “an appearance of godliness but deny the power thereof,” and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church needs to get on the ball if we’re going to stand in the fight against an age of secularism that seeks to invade our churches.
I believe that if we will, we can raise up female leaders who will fearlessly exposit the truths of God’s Word, and in so doing they will proclaim the radical holiness and marvelous grace of our glorious God.
I will stand with women and I, as Brady Boyd says, “let her lead.”
P.S. Even after reading this, you may not agree with me, and that’s okay, but at least I didn’t call evangelical women worthless like Robert Truelove did.
*Was Junia Really an Apostle? A Re-examination of Rom 16.7 In this paper, the authors conclude, that Junia was not an apostle in spite of the fact that patristic testimony suggests that she was.