Women Teachers and Preachers—and the Denial of Scripture

Women Preachers and Teachers—and the Denial of Scripture


Women Teachers and Preachers—and the Denial of Scripture

Richard Hollerman

None of us will question whether or not women are interested in publicly preaching and teaching the Word of God. It would seem that more and more women aspire to leading congregations of professing Christians. Just how many would this be? One source has this as an answer:

Honestly, no one knows for sure and it would be next to impossible to actually count the number. However, survey estimates consistently find that right around 10% of American congregations have a female as their senior or sole ordained leader. (http://hirr.hartsem.edu/research/quick_question3.html)

The same article says:

The Faith Communities Today 2010 national survey of a fully representative, multi-faith sample of 11,000 American congregations found that 12% of all congregations in the United States had a female as their senior or sole ordained leader. For Old-line Protestant congregations this jumps to 24%, and for Evangelical congregations it drops to 9%. (Ibid)

In continuing our quest for some sort of answer, we would find this as an answer from the same source:

Wave 1 (1998) of the National Congregations Survey found that 10% of its overall sample had a female as head or senior religious leader; Wave 2 (2006) found 8%. The 2001 Pulpit and Pew survey of American pastors found that 12% were female, this jumping to 20% for Old-line Protestant congregations and dropping to around 2% for Evangelical. A 2009 Barna survey reports that 10% of Protestant congregations are led by females, and the 2008 Mainline Protestant Clergy Voice Survey found that 20% of Old-line Protestant congregations were led by females. (Ibid)

When we compare various denominations, we might have this as an answer:

According to a study done in the mid 1990’s by Barbara Brown Zikmund, Adair Lummis and Patricia Chang there are 16,321 female clergy in 15 Mainline and conservative Protestant denominations.  This means that roughly 12 percent of clergy in those denominations are female.

The distribution is not equal across denominations however.  The more theologically liberal groups such as the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ lead in the percent of their clergy who are female with 30 and 25 percent respectively.

Most theologically conservative groups in the list – the Southern Baptist Convention, the Free Methodist Church and the Assemblies of God all have less that 10 percent of their pastors being female.   (Ibid)

Thus, we see that mainline and more liberal denominations more freely “ordain” woman as pastors over a congregations, whereas more conservative organizations have fewer. Notice these findings from 1994:

Denomination Total Clergy in 1994 % Female Clergy
American Baptist Churches 5758 12%
Assemblies of God 18,570 8%
Christian Church
(Disciples of Christ)
5469 18%
Church of God
(Anderson, IN)
2955 10%
Church of the Brethren 1163 12%
Church of the Nazarene 3413 11%
Episcopal Church 11,314 12%
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 13,225 11%
Free Methodist Church 1878 1%
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 14,578 19%
Southern Baptist Convention 35,130 4%
Unitarian-Universalist Association 1236 30%
United Church of Christ 7297 25%
United Methodist Church 20,617 15%
Wesleyan Church 2190 11%


Again, we see that the more liberal churches do allow (and probably encourage) women to occupy the position of minister, pastor, or senior pastor. Although these statistics come from 1994, we think that the participation of women has not decreased but probably has increased. In other words, surely more women have chosen to be pastors or preachers today than in the past—because a confidence in Scripture has decreased.

We might also point out that these percentages and numbers would only include women who have become “pastors” or “ministers.” The numbers would swell if the numbers were to include women who are teachers or others who participate in a public way but do not occupy the chief position in a congregation.

We would also point out that these statistics only include those women associated with a congregation or a denomination, but there are other women who might be called traveling preachers or teachers.

Pentecostals and Charismatics seem to be prone to allow women participation even when there is an official denial of women “pastors” in a congregation. All of this must be considered as we seek answers about how many thousands of women are pastors.

The Word of God is Clear

Liberal denominations allow women to occupy places of leadership and preaching, probably because they deny the absolute inspiration and authority of Scripture. On the other hand, those denominations that profess to believe the Scriptures allow women preachers and teachers since they claim that “the Holy Spirit leads them to obey the will of God.” Thus, they are convinced that the Spirit of God allows them to have a public participation in the congregation. (In reality, they are not submitting to the Spirit of God but actually denying Him and His instructions.)

Some of these reasons might cause people to see more clearly the will of God regarding women’s participation in a public capacity:

First, Scripture is quite clear that women are not to speak in a public way in a congregation and are especially not to speak in the presence of men. We read: “A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet” (1 Timothy 2:11-12). Notice that a woman is to “receive” and not “give” instruction. She is to be submissive and not authoritative. She is to remain “quiet” rather than be vocal.

This is not too difficult to understand, it is? It is quite plain, but thousands of women openly violate the Spirit’s instructions here. Further, many men actually encourage women to disobey Scripture in this matter. In fact, whole denominations encourage women’s participation and take pride in the number of women who do violate Scripture and insist on being pastors or other leaders.

Further, Paul goes on to state the reasons why this instruction is God’s will. Was it because of a local situation in Ephesus? Was it because of first century custom? Not at all. “For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived fell into transgression” (1 Timothy 2:11-14). Man was first in creation and women was first in deception. Thus, the woman must remain quiet in an assembly. But we know that many denominations openly deny the inspired instruction here and allow (or encourage) women’s participation, thus these reasons mean little or nothing to them!

Let’s go on. What was the situation in Corinth? Paul writes: “. . . As in all the churches of the saints. The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church [the assembly].” (1 Corinthians 14:33b-35).

Notice that this is a general command and not directed to a situation in Corinth alone—“as in all the churches of the saints.” Notice also that women are to keep “silent” in the churches and are not to “speak” in the churches or assemblies. Again, we see that this is very, very simple—yet millions of people deny these inspired instructions of God’s Word.

Second, women are not to pray publicly. When visiting various congregations, we have noticed that often women lead in prayer or are called on to lead in prayer. But Paul, inspired of God, says, “I want the men [the Greek has “males”] in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension” (1 Timothy 2:8). The apostle gives authority for the men/males to pray publicly—“in every place”—but he gives no permission for women to lead in prayer. Of course, if women are forbidden to speak publicly, we can see that they would likewise be forbidden to audibly pray in public.

Third, only men were to become elders (presbyters) or overseers (episcopos) or pastors/shepherds (poimein) (see 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). These terms were used for the same function in the first century. They referred to the same position (see Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5-7; 1 Peter 5:1-3). Since women are not permitted to become pastors (shepherds), overseers (or bishops), or elders, we can see that they would not be permitted to publicly teach—which these roles would require.

Fourth, only men were to be “servants” or deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-13). These men served in a public way and with some degree of authority in the assembly. They were to be “husbands of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:12) and obviously women cannot be “husbands”—even though some sodomite/lesbians do insist on being “married” to other women!

Fifth, there is no record of any woman being an “evangelist” in the New Testament. It is true that we read of “Philip the evangelist” (Acts 21:8) and Timothy was told to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5), but where is the passage that permits a woman to work publicly in this capacity? Paul tells us that Christ gave “some as evangelists” (Ephesians 4:11), but how could a woman do this since she is forbidden to speak in the assembly (1 Timothy 2:11-12)?

Sixth, it is true that there were some women who were “prophetesses” (Acts 21:9; cf. Acts 2:15-21), but let’s remember that prophecy can be done in a non-public setting. This doesn’t require a woman to speak publicly to groups of people.

It is better to obey God than imagine that one is following Jesus while disobeying Him.

A woman can convince herself that she is being “spiritual” while disobeying Him! Remember that even when Paul the apostle forbids a woman from speaking in the assembly, he is doing so in the context of prophecy (see 1 Corinthians 14:33-37 with vv. 26-33). And, after he gives his restrictive commands, Paul states, “If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment” (v. 37). It is a dangerous thing to think that you are being spiritual when God says that you are in disobedience to His command!

Recently, we heard a woman preacher (well known in America and around the world) give her testimony. She said that at one time she was in a mainline denomination (from another source I learned that this was the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, where she met her second husband) that did not permit a woman to have a public preaching position. When she insisted, they expelled her and she went on to become an assistant “pastor” of a charismatic church nearby. Eventually, she started her own church. Now she draws many conferences of thousands of men and women and she revels in the fact that she is following the Lord’s direction and guidance. As we have seen, in reality, it is impossible to follow the Lord’s “direction and guidance” when we directly disobey Him!

As Samuel said, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat or rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry” (1 Samuel 15:22b-23). Even if a woman thinks that she is offering God a pleasing “sacrifice,” the Lord plainly says that this is actually “rebellion” and “insubordination”! A professing Christian who claims to follow God’s leading but who clearly disobeys Him is hypocritically obtaining a following. In the case above, we find it dismaying and bewildering that multiple thousands of professing “Christians” are following something that the Lord denounces in no uncertain terms!

Let us all be willing to do the will of God regardless of the cost and regardless of whether it is different from the prevailing religious culture of the time. It is true that we are living in a time when old commands are being turned upside down and what is right was one time wrong and what is considered wrong was one time considered right.

May God help us to live above the contemporary culture when that culture violates the will of God.



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