Summary: Strong men are not intimidated by gifted women..
Strong men are not intimidated by gifted women.
1. The Bible endorses women in leadership. Paul’s first epistle to Timothy seems to limit women’s roles in leadership (see 1 Tim. 2:12). Yet Paul also gushed with praise for the women who served with him as co-laborers—women such as Phoebe (Rom. 16:1-2), Junia (Rom. 16:7) and Priscilla, who helped lay foundations in the early church (see 1 Cor. 16:19). In Phil. 4:2-3, Paul expresses solidarity with two women leaders, Euodia and Syntyche. And he refers to other women who obviously led churches, such as Chloe (1 Cor. 1:11) and Nympha (Col. 4:15), and he does not try to silence or restrict them.
Traditionalists who insist on barring women from leadership positions always refer to 1 Tim. 2:12 as an ironclad rule—yet they ignore the women who served with Paul. The obvious question is: Why did Paul tell Timothy to clamp down on the women in Ephesus when he allowed Priscilla to teach? The most sensible interpretation is that the Ephesian women were teaching heresy. They had no business teaching the Bible or leading the church, yet Paul encouraged faithful women.
2. Churches need women’s gifts and perspectives. God created both male and female, and His nature is revealed through both genders (see Gen. 1:26-28). This is why the biblical definition of a family is a father and a mother. If a child needs both parents to learn the ways of God (see Prov. 1:8-9), then surely we need instruction from both men and women in the church. If only men are allowed to function in leadership or teaching roles, the church itself will be male-dominant—and this can lead to issues of control, abuse or sexual sin (the problem of child abuse in the Catholic Church is just one obvious example).
I had just completed a teaching session in which I had explained why 1 Tim. 2:11-12 does not prohibit women from functioning in leadership roles in the Church. One student, who was obviously disturbed, challenged me with a question. “Can you show me one place in the New Testament where a woman ever functioned as a pastor?” I replied, “If you will first show me one place where a man ever functioned as a pastor!” He was stunned in that he could not think of a single example.
Eisegesis vs. Exegesis
My answer was designed to show him how much we read into the Biblical text. This is known as eisegesis--to read something “into” the text that is not there. On the other hand, exegesis means to “take out” or extract from what is there. It is so easy to practice eisegesis and read into the Bible our own prejudices, assumptions and traditions. The Church is guilty of eisegesis in many areas, but none so much as in the development of its doctrine of women and their role in the Church. An honest exegetical examination of the appropriate passages, however, reveals a very different view.
Women Pastors in the NT
There are numerous women leaders in the New Testament, some who obviously functioned in pastoral roles of oversight. Paul mentions 2 of these female pastors in Rom. 16 as well as a female apostle.