Last week I had to write a paper for my grad class. We didn’t get to pick the topic. It was assigned: “The Role of Women in Ministry.” Quite frankly, I’m pretty tired of the topic. I’ve been dealing with it one way or another since I came to Christ in 1979.

At the time, I was an officer in the Air Force and had dreams of a business career. It’s what I had had wanted to be since I was in junior high school – a business woman. Not a normal dream for a young girl, perhaps, but it was mine.

In college I struggled with how to have both a business career and children. I didn’t really want children, I just assumed I would have to have them some day. It was what women did. But I didn’t think I had the energy for both. I guess God didn’t think I could either because He sent me a man who didn’t want children! As I was getting to know Phil (and starting to fall in love with him), I was surprised and excited to learn he also didn’t want to have children.

Shortly after we were married, I came to Christ…and I cried for nearly two years! We attended a small church in Southern California, and every woman in that church was either a stay-at-home mom or in a stereotypical women’s career. They all had a life that I truly didn’t want. (Please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t de-value those choices. They just hold no interest for me. It’s not how I’m wired. In our family we joke about how my sister got all the “mothering” genes.) It was several years before I met another Christian woman who was committed to the business world and seeing Christ move in it. But until then, I struggled — was I required to embrace a life that I had never wanted and give up my dreams of a business career in order to be a “good Christian wife?”

Well, I’ve done a lot of reading and studying about what the Bible says is an appropriate role for women, in the home, outside the home, and in the church. And while you may think from my preceding narrative that I was prone to accept women in ministry, it’s not been so. For most of my Christian life, I’ve been overcompensating for my biases when reading material on the subject. But over time I have changed my position. At the risk of being too controversial here, I’d like to make some observations:

  • I’ve found that most people really haven’t studied Scripture to learn what it says about women in ministry. They just accept a surface reading or what the were taught by their parents or pastors
  • Yes, there are some passages that seem to limit the role women can have in the church.
  • There are also passages in which the apostle Paul clearly commends women who held positions at all levels within the early church (from apostle to lay positions), from praying to prophesying to teaching.
  • These two facts make for controversy in many Christian circles. And that grieves my heart. While writing this current paper, I read reviews of a book in which both men and women were so very angry toward the authors and readers of the book. Again, I cried. Because it hurts my heart that simply because I’m a woman I’m at the center of a controversy that causes such anger.
  • We have historical records that verify that women served in ALL positions within the church during the first 300 years after Christ’s resurrection.
  • When discussing the role of women in church in our class, a young man who started with the premise that women should not be allowed to be pastors said something that finally boiled it down for me: The very fact that there are “exceptions” (that were approved by Paul) in Scripture to Paul’s (seemingly contradictory) statements that women should not speak or teach says that it is OK for women to speak and teach and lead local congregations.
  • We ought to all be careful lest we squash the call of God on someone else’s life.

My desire isn’t to start a firestorm. Just to get people thinking. Feel free to add your own comments, but please, let’s remember to honor one another – no angry invectives here, please. Oh, and if you want to read the paper I had to write (danger, danger, danger), just drop me an e-mail.

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