Women in the Church – A Deeper Look at Patriarchy


  • Why is the ministry and gifting of godly Christian women so often still being prohibited in the Church?
  • How are women being treated and why?
  • Where do people get ideas from?
  • Is modern Patriarchy biblical?

Let’s look at the TRADITION of Patriarchy in cultures worldwide and see why this belief system dominates, but first, let us consider this question:

Where do people get ideas from?

We get ideas from our Cultures. 

Cultures are the ways of living and doing things which make sense to a group of people, so that becomes a tradition or a cultural expectation that everyone follows.

Cultures are the “Traditions of Men.”

This includes Patriarchal Traditions in cultures worldwide.

Patriarchy has been so universal in human society that it could be said to be the default mode [the pre-set option] of human existence.

Patriarchy has been part of the cultural life in the world for generations.

Let’s look at Patriarchy worldwide from a historical understanding.

>This next section is taken from an article by Carrie A. Miles, Ph.D. 

Scott Bartchy defined Patriarchy this way: “Patriarchy is not just the rule of men over women, but as the rule of a few men over every one else, male and female.  Patriarchy involves not only the subordination of women and children, but also the subordination of most men.”                                                                    

(S. Scott Bartchy, professor of Christian origins and New Testament History at UCLA)

Historically, “few men had a choice about what they would do in life.  It could be observed historically that 90 percent of the population, both male and female, were peasants.  Aside from childbearing, men got stuck with the nastiest and most dangerous work.  Ultimately, however, it is the limitations  of scarcity and the resulting need for women to bear children that allowed men to become dominant over them.”

“The very thing that made a woman valuable—her unique ability to bear children—also made her dependent.”

“Although many scholars claim that men became dominant over women because of man’s superior size, strength, and aggression, historic family structure is better understood as based on a unique female characteristic: women’s ability to bear children.  As the only member of the marriage who could bear and feed children, women would still have ended up specialized to the home, even if they had been bigger and stronger than men.” 

“Although the woman may have held considerable power within her domestic areas of concern, a housewife had little decision-making authority or ability outside it. Thus, the strong economic need for women to bear children results in the economic realities of separate spheres for men and women and in women’s subordination to men in family, society, government, and church.”

(Source:  Carrie A. Miles, Ph.D.  Excerpts from an article entitled:  Patriarchy or Gender Equality?  This article can be found at:  http://www.godswordtowomen.org/Patriarchy_or_gender_equality.pdf)                               

< Now let’s consider Christianity and Roman Patriarchy.    

Christianity began as a small Jewish sect within Israel, a once-sovereign nation, that was ruled by Rome–like the rest of the known world in the first century.  The Roman Empire was itself dominated by a class known as the “patricians.” Patricians were the powerful and wealthy men of the ‘citizen class’. 

This citizen class made up only a tiny percentage of the Roman population; yet in Roman law, everyone else existed only to serve them

Ancient Rome was a highly competitive.  They had an honor/shame-based culture.  Promoting and preserving one’s personal and family prestige were of the utmost importance.

This culture required demanding revenge for all slights and injuries.  There were continual social contests to gain honor for oneself at the expense of others.  This struggle for power, honor, and respect had very real consequences in Rome, especially for people who did not achieve it.  

It is estimated that one third of the population of cities located around the Mediterranean were enslaved, another third were former slaves, and most of the rest were “free” (never-enslaved) people who lived in dire poverty. 

Patricians held life-and-death authority over their slaves and children, though not over their wives.  In short, Rome was very much a “kill or be killed,” “eat or be eaten” economy.

Households, among those wealthy enough to have a house, were also places of business.  These households sheltered not only the patrician, his wife, and his children, including grown children and their families, but also his slaves and production workshops. 

The Latin word familia referred to such households–often with the interactions between master and slaves.

Part of the Apostle Paul’s reputation for supporting patriarchy comes from what some scholars perceive as similarities between his writings on the family and the “household codes” of conduct written by Greek and Roman philosophers like Plutarch and Aristotle. 

While these secular writings ordered obedience upon slaves, children, and wives, they were actually addressed to the family patriarchs themselves, encouraging them to “rule” or “govern” well those under their control.

Some scholars see the texts labeled Ephesians 5:20–6:9 as Paul’s mirroring of these household codes to assure secular authorities of the respectability and conformity of Christian family life. 

We read it from the familiar King James Version as:

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of

the church.  . . .  and he is the saviour of the body. . . .

Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.  . . .

Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ.”

(Eph. 5:22–23 and 6:1, 5)

But a careful reading of this passage—one that does not take it out of its literary or social context—shows that, rather than supporting patriarchy, Paul was standing patriarchy on its head.

As a leader of a very small, suspect sect, Paul could not hope to change the Roman social order.  Instead, in this letter he asked each of the three pairs addressed—masters/slaves, fathers/children, and husbands/wives—to radically transform the meaning of these legal structures, rejecting the requirements of the flesh in order to achieve a higher spiritual goal.

(Source:  Carrie A. Miles, Ph.D.)

 ~ ~ ~

< In our next section we will take A Serious Look at Patriarchy and the Bible. 

We can ask this critical question:  Does the Bible support patriarchy or not?

This section is taken from an article by a student of theology. This author invites us to consider the message of her article: 

Why Modern Patriarchy Is Not Biblical

by Kathryn J. Riss, Th.M.

Patriarchy is defined as “a state or stage of social development characterized by the supremacy of the father in the clan or family, in both domestic and religious functions, the legal dependence of wife, or wives, and children, and the reckoning of descent and inheritance in the male line.”                        

(Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language 2nd Ed. unabridged).

Patriarchy is the nearly universal social system by which men dominate women and other men.  Unfortunately, combined with the fallen, sinful nature of humanity, a misogynist. that is, a person who has an attitude of hatred toward women and the aggressive nature of males, patriarchy has produced many evils.

In pagan societies, this mixture produced the kidnapping and enslavement of women, the rape of women, the outdoor exposure of female infants, and the human sacrifice of virgin girls.

Jewish patriarchy practiced polygamy and the depriving of rights of Jewish women.  Christian patriarchy produced a 500-year witch-burning craze which resulted in the torture and murder of as many as one million women and girls.

Although the rights of women have improved over the centuries, the excesses of patriarchy have not ended.  Modern Hindu societies still practice wife-murder in order to maximize financial gain from dowries and the burning alive of wives on their husband’s funeral pyres.

Moslem societies enforce the seclusion of women, denial of their rights, and the mutilation of young girls, often leading to their death, under the religious euphemism of “female circumcision.”  

Throughout the world, but especially in China, where population control is strict, millions of female fetuses have been aborted due to the preference of parents for a son. 

The term for societies which value the male line is called:  ‘patrilineal’.

And in all societies, rape, pornography, prostitution and the sometimes violent subjugation of women continue to multiply the evils and injustices of unrestrained patriarchy.

< Biblical revelation was given within the patriarchal contexts of ancient Israel and the first-century Roman Empire.

This revelation limited the practices of patriarchy by commanding children  to honor both father and mother, held men accountable to God for the treatment of their wives, and upheld God’s directive in Genesis 2:24 that marriage should be between one man and one woman.

However, patriarchal abuses continued.  Polygamy was a common practice under ancient Judaism, which continued into Jesus’ time.

In the world today, the physical, emotional, spiritual, and sexual abuse of women and girls is unintentionally enabled by religious organizations which fail to confront abusers or to correct the patriarchal belief system they use to justify their behavior.

It is important to recognize that the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures deny the patriarchal belief system, leaving room for the development of a model for male-female relations more in line with the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1.  God created woman, as well as man, in the divine image.

  • In Genesis 1:26, God created BOTH man and woman TOGETHER in the image of God:

We read in Gen. 1:26:

“Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind (adam) in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ So God created humankind (adam) in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Gen. 1:27, NRSV).

  • Both humans, not just the male, were created in God’s image.  The word adam basically means earthly.  Genesis uses it for the human race and also for the first (male) human being.  Since it is joined to plural words in Genesis 1:26, it cannot mean the first human being alone.    The generic usage is doubly confirmed by the statements, “let them have dominion” and “male and female He created them.”  Women are specifically included by God! 
  • God’s image includes all the divine characteristics that separate humans from the animal world.  Sovereignty and dominion are major aspects of the character and image of God that are given to all people.                  

In fact, Genesis 1:26-27 indicates that God’s purpose for creating human beings in His image was so that they could exercise dominion!

  • Women are created with these godly characteristics just as much as men.  Human sexual differences were created and designed to function FOR reproduction, NOT for governance.
  1. God gave both man and woman a divine command to exercise dominion over Creation, NOT each other.
  • God did not give a domestic command to the woman and a governing command to the man, but addressed the same double command to man and woman together

In Genesis 1:28:

*  God addressed man and woman together.

*  God blessed them together.

*  God appointed them together with the instruction to rule over the rest of creation. 

“. . . male and female He created them.  God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’”

After all, it would be pretty difficult for the man or the woman ALONE to be fruitful and multiply all by themselves.  God was setting up human community right from the beginning.

  • Sovereignty and dominion are God-given gifts to all human beings, they are NOT faults in women, but virtues in men.  Rather, they are virtues in all people when rightly used.  As a result of the Fall, men have misused these gifts by dominating women and other men. 

Wars, violence, and rape have resulted.  Women have forfeited their sovereignty and dominion gifts by allowing themselves to be subjugated by men, desiring their approval. 

These misuses of God’s gifts are results of the Fall from which Jesus Christ came to redeem mankind.

As someone has observed:  “Always ask why—not who, but why—for if you ask WHO gave the man authority over the woman, you may not find out why the man was given the authority, BUT if you ask WHY the man was given authority over the woman, you will find that it was the man’s idea.”  

(Quote from Susanna Krizo)

Instead of patriarchy, Christian men and women need to crown Jesus Christ as Lord over them, so that both men and women can serve Him together!

  • According to Genesis 1:29, the proper use of our God-given dominion and sovereignty is to govern God’s creation wisely. 

This dominion includes control over ourselves, being good stewards of the natural world, and by subjecting evil spirits to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. 

If we obey God’s commandment to love others as ourselves, we should exercise dominion jointly, through mutual cooperation and respect. 

  • Therefore, to rob woman of her sovereignty is to violate her creation as a human being in God’s image and her God-given command to subdue the earth.  Like a man, a woman may use her sovereignty to yield willingly to others, but it should never be taken away from her.
  1. Domination of man over woman is the result of sin.
  • The first mention of man ruling over woman occurred AFTER Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.  It was not part of God’s original design, but resulted from their sinful, fallen condition. 
  • “He will rule over you” was spoken to Eve, not Adam.  It was not an imperative, but future tense.  The fact that her husband would rule over her was a consequence of sin that God told Eve would occur.  
  • It was NOT addressed to Adam, let alone a commandment given to him! Rather, God warned Eve of what would happen as she turned toward her husband–for what she really needed from God. 
  • Adam’s statement, “the woman you gave to me, SHE gave me the fruit and I did eat,” emphatically blamed Eve for his own violation of God’s commandment. This shows his hostility and rejection of his wife.  He was more concerned about himself than about her. 
  • Adam’s independence from and blame toward his wife created an imbalance in their relationship in which her love for and reliance upon him was not reciprocated [mutually given] in the same measure.  This relational imbalance has enabled men to dominate their wives, who tolerate the behavior, in order to preserve the relationship.
  • The dominion God gave, both to man and woman, was over the animals and the earth.  Nowhere did God grant some men dominion over other men or women.  They just took it!  The result was violence, lust, and oppression, which grieved God so much that He decided to wipe out mankind with a flood.
  1. Scripture nowhere directs a husband to rule over his wife, nor a wife to obey her husband.
  • The Ten Commandments contain no directive for wives to obey their husbands or husbands to govern their wives. 

The second commandment directs children to honor both father and mother, showing that the marriage partners share equal authority over their offspring.

  • No command of Scripture anywhere directs a husband to govern his wife.

When God blessed Abraham, He said, “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord. . . “(Genesis 18:19).  Abraham’s wife is not mentioned as one who Abraham would command!

In 1 Timothy 3:4, Paul says that a bishop should be “one that rules well his own household, having his children in subjection,” not his wife!  Verse 12 says that deacons should be “husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their households well.”  Roman husbands were legally the rulers and judges of all those belonging to their households.  Yet, Paul deliberately omits any reference to Christian husbands ruling over their wives!

The New Testament never uses the active voice of hupotasso, “to bring into subjection,” in relation to marriage.  Nowhere in Scripture are husbands allowed to bring their wives into subjection

Christians are to bring evil into subjection, not other Christians!

  • The New Testament instructs wives to “submit” to their husbands, not to “obey” them.  Obedience was instructed for children and slaves. 

The voluntary decision to submit by the wife is under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  She voluntarily submits to her husband as she is submitting to the Lord; that is, with godly wisdom.                     

Absolute obedience belongs to God alone!

  • The original, Greek word translated “submit” or sometimes, erroneously, “obey” (hupotasso) means to defer to someone respectfully. 

To quote the Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, the middle or passive voices, which are always used in NT marriage contexts, mean a “voluntary yielding in love.”

  • The Greek words to “obey” (hupakouo) and to “obey a ruler” (peitharcheo) are not used in any New Testament command for wives!
  • Nor is a husband ever described as “ruler,” archon, but “head,” kephale, which means source of life, as Jesus Christ is the source of life for His Bride, the Church.  [kephale is pronounced keph’ a lay.]
  1. The New Testament teaches that a married couple should come to a decision by mutual responsibility, equal authority, and consensual agreement. 

1 Corinthians 7:3-5 is the ONLY passage that directly addresses how a married couple should make a decision, and it tells them to decide the matter “by consent” or “by agreement.”  It is also the ONLY passage which uses the word “authority” (exousia) regarding husband and wife, and Paul gives it to both equally!

Paul gave the wife authority over her husband’s body, counterbalancing the husband’s first-century legal power over his wife’s body. 

Paul’s declaration removed a husband’s most basic “right” to control his wife, replacing the patriarchal norm with biblical mutuality

In stark contrast to the legal positions and social expectations of the first century, Paul upholds the rights and responsibilities of husband and wife as equal in 1 Corinthians 7. 

Although first-century parents customarily arranged marriages between their pre-adolescent daughters and much older men, Paul recognizes the rights of both men and women to remain unmarried. 

Ancient societies did not expect husbands to be faithful to their wives, whereas women were secluded to ensure their chastity. 

By contrast, both Jesus and Paul held both husbands and wives equally responsible to remain faithful within marriage.

  • Nowhere does the Bible tell husbands to break an impasse by making the final decision.  That would leave the couple in disagreement.   As Abraham Lincoln said, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” The same is true of women!
  • Agreement is essential for effective prayer and Christian service, because without it there is no true unity.  The New Testament urges Christians to be of one mind in Christ.
  • Scripture teaches that Christians should settle an argument by seeking the Lord together.  Paul counseled, “I beseech Euodias and beseech Syntyche that they be of the same mind in the Lord” (Phil. 4:2).  When these two “women who labored with me in the Gospel” disagreed, Paul humbly asked them both to come to an agreement. 

Paul did not “pull rank” of one over the other or command a decision by the rest of the Philippian church leadership.  He did not even impose his own apostolic authority.  Apparently, Paul believed that mutual love and respect were more important than who had the last say.

Although patriarchy practiced a “chain of command” from the oldest male over the clan, Jesus forbade His disciples to rule over one another, calling them instead to exhibit humility and love.

  • Jesus condemned authority being exercised among His followers.  He said, “The princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them and they that are great exercise authority upon them, but it shall not be so among you.  But whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister, and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant, even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”  (Matt. 20:25-28)
  • Jesus’ commandment prevents ANY rulership over others.  Instead, Christians are to love, honor, prefer, and submit to one another. 
  • This instruction is given to ALL believers, not just women.
  • It is better to walk with God than to follow a “chain of command” with hierarchy.  Mature believers should walk in love, in obedience to God’s Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit. 
  • Leadership is given by God for the benefit of others; not to dominate, but to guide, to teach, to encourage and to set an example.  Scripture asks, “Can two walk together unless they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3)   And “Love does not seek its own way. . .” (1 Cor. 13:5). 
  • If love does not seek its own way, no husband who loves his wife can insist on imposing his will on her.  That is fallen man’s way, not the way of Christ.  God does not bless a domineering spirit!

The Bible shows patriarchy to be a result of the Fall, not God’s original design for marriage and family.

Patriarchy undermines not only the gospel and the message of Scripture, but also the health of families, marriages, and communities.

**The epicenter of gender injustice is patriarchy

guised as a biblical or a religious ideal.**

Because religion offers the most exalted and irreproachable authority shaping gender relations in cultures around the world, it is important to take on the challenge to uproot patriarchy as a biblical ideal and as a long standing practice among Christians.

  • While patriarchs were the religious leaders of their extended families, the New Testament teaches that all believers are on an equal footing before God.  Galatians 3:28 states, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” All become followers of Jesus on the same terms: faith and repentance.                       
  • Natural distinctions are irrelevant in God’s Kingdom.
  • Entrance into the community of Christians is by believing in Christ as Lord and Savior and by water baptism, administered to all.                

By contrast, Jewish patriarchy required males to be circumcised into membership.  Ten male Jews were required to establish a meeting; women did not count.

  • In the Church of Jesus Christ, all believers, not just men, are ‘priests’.

1 Peter 2:9 declares:

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 

This word is addressed to ALL believers, including women!

  • Christian ministry flows from giftedness over which the Holy Spirit is Lord.  Scripture nowhere states that some gifts are given to men and others to women, but says in 1 Peter 4:10: 

“Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.” 

This means that like men, Christian women should function freely in the abilities with which God has endowed them. 

  • Spiritual gifts are manifestations of the Holy Spirit, who lives and works within every Christian.  We operate in the spiritual gifts according to God’s empowerment, our faith, and the need of others, not gender.  The life of the Holy Spirit in Christians equalizes all in Jesus Christ, who alone is Lord of His Church.

While patriarchy leads to polygamy and other abuses, the biblical pattern is marriage between one man and one woman.

Patriarchy was characteristic of the Old Testament.  Free to rule, the men did what they wanted; and being fallen, they didn’t always want what was right.

The Old Testament patriarchs married multiple wives, and so accumulated huge clans.  The ten tribes of Israel descended from the polygamous marriages of Jacob and were perpetuated under the Israelite monarchy.

David had numerous wives; Solomon had over 1,000 wives.

Continuing into Jesus’ time, Jewish men still could marry multiple wives and divorce them at whim.

  • When asked by the Pharisees if this practice was lawful, Jesus told them, “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts permitted you to put away your wives; but from the beginning it was not so.” (Mt. 19:8).

Jesus pointed them back to Genesis where God created one man and one woman for each other.  Polygamy did not originate until Cain’s descendant, Lamech, a murderer, married two women (Gen. 4:17-24).

  • God’s pattern “in the beginning,” which Jesus re-established, was the exact opposite of patriarchy. 

Instead of the woman leaving her own family for her husband’s, the Bible commands a man to leave his parents and be joined to his wife. Jesus directs us to God’s original plan for marriage–the unity and equality of Adam and Eve before the Fall. 

  • Jesus quoted Genesis 2:24 to the Pharisees: ‘Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.”  Jesus’ words reversed the patriarchal practice of sending a woman to live with her husband’s family. 
  • God designed His family organization in the interests of the wife, who remained under the protection of her family of origin. 

Under God’s original commandment regarding marriage, the wife would enjoy the support of her relatives during pregnancy, childbirth, and lactation. 

Under this system, the husband could not easily abuse his wife, for in joining her, he would be accountable to her parents and brothers. 

Also, the husband couldn’t marry another woman, for it would be impossible for him to join more than one woman’s family!

God’s design for marriage prevents patriarchy and its excesses.


We should work together to overcome the results of the Fall and reinstate God’s design for marriage:  Not patriarchy, but mutuality.

The challenge for a man is to yield his independence and take responsibility for his own faults instead of blaming and denigrating women.  He must turn back to God and to his wife. 

The challenge for a woman is not to make her marriage relationship more important than her relationship to God.  She must be strong in doing what is right and not compromise God’s standards in order to please a man.

Both men and women need to put God first in their lives, obeying Him rather than their own sinful tendencies or the ungodly demands of others.

Christians should base their marriages on mutual love and respect, not a power struggle. 

Both husband and wife should defer to the other. 

Decisions should be made by mutual agreement. 

The process of coming to agreement will build Christian character into both partners as they listen to each other, consider each other’s needs, and seek the mind of Christ.  

(End of article by Kathryn J. Riss, Th.M.)

~ ~ ~

What do ‘some’ Christian leaders believe, teach, and practice TODAY about the place of women in marriage and in the church?

Why do some Christians still hold to a Patriarchal View of the Scripture?  Is their belief valid?    

For Christians—Where do Christians get these ideas from?

The obvious answer would be that Christians get their ideas from the Bible.  There are some passages in the Bible which seem very clear that women should ‘keep silent in the church’—from the plain reading of Scripture. 

First, we need to explore this question:   What Do ‘some’ Christian Leaders Believe, Teach, and Practice about the Place of Women in Marriage and in the Church and Why?

We need to ask ourselves:  Do we agree or disagree with what some Christians believe about women in the home and in the church??

Some Christians call this idea:  ‘Biblical Patriarchy’.

Two groups can be categorized under Biblical Patriarchy:  One is Traditional Patriarchy; the other is Complementarianism.

  • Why was this term: ‘Complementarian’ chosen?

This term was chosen, rather than using the traditional term:  Patriarchy, to disassociate it from Patriarchy.

The term: ‘Complementarian’ was a softer term and it was hoped to attract Christians since they thought that this term would have more appeal than rigid Traditional Patriarchy.

One of the key phrases that this group is known for saying is:

“Women are EQUAL to men, BUT . . .”

So, women are equal to men, BUT.  This can only mean that women are NOT equal if there is a BUT in their belief system! 

The difference between these two groups is mainly in the term.  Yet, it is clear that a Complementarian View is still based on a Traditional, Patriarchal view of gender, but with a few changes. 

Additionally, Complementarian belief is NOT consistent regarding what they believe that Christian women CAN or CANNOT do, especially in the church.

Both Biblical Patriarchy and Christian Gender Complementarianism fosters co-dependency which causes harm to women who live under it.  Christian Gender Complementarianism, even when practiced in a loving way, creates a situation of co-dependency for women.  Christian-endorsed co-dependency for women is not a healthy emotional way to live and causes harm to women who live by it. 

(Source:  Daisy Flower)

These groups usually gather around two main Bible verses!  Plus a few more.  

Both groups begin with:  Male entitlement–based on Scripture.

We quickly observe that Man’s View of church leadership is quite different from the Jesus’ Model of Leadership!

WHAT is being promoted as biblical and Christian, but is not–is what we need to look at

The Traditions of Men in Society and what is to be expected in the Church have often become the SAME.   

There are various distinctives or characteristics of Patriarchy.

One of the most extreme views in this teaching is that:

ALL women should submit to ALL men in ALL areas of life, even secular areas, outside of church life.

As you can see, THIS is a very extreme position to hold!!

Because of this belief, many godly Christian women in the Church have been wounded over the centuries and still are today!

In my research regarding spiritual abuse, it was evident that many women had been harmed by the belief that ONLY MEN could be church leaders and that women were NOT PERMITTED to be pastors, elders, or church leaders–and that this was based on the Bible!

So many women have had to ‘leave’ something.  They have had to leave their home church; they have had to leave their denomination, and in some cases, women have left the institutional church altogether—because of the treatment that they have received IN the church.  This ought not to be! 

How People Understand and ‘Make Sense of the World’ is Very Important.

In trying to understand how different people—even those who call themselves Christians—can arrive at such different conclusions, we must consider our “worldviews.”  What does this mean?

Our ‘worldview’–and everyone has one–is how we see the world.  Everyone asks important questions about the reason for life, the world, and for reality. 

Everyone asks questions such as:  “What is the origin of the universe?”  “What is the purpose of life?” and “What is real?”  

Our worldview is based on HOW we see a Divine Being (God) and ourselves in relation to the world, and to these ques­tions.

All humans ask these questions and the way we answer these questions becomes the basis for the way we think, how we make decisions, and how we act.

It is important to be aware of our own worldview because it helps us analyze our own perspective on things.

We grow into our worldview as a result of the way we have been taught by parents, by our family, by our church, by our schools, by the media, and by the way we have experienced the world.

While there are hundreds of competing worldviews, most people who call themselves Christians adhere to a “theistic” worldview.

Theism acknowl­edges that there is a personal God who created the universe and who has given moral principles.              

As Christians, our view of gender ought to be based on our view of God and what the Bible says and NOT based on the cultural views around us.

In Summary:

Patriarchalists and Complementarians will cherry pick, misapply, and misinterpret biblical passages, or engage in eisegesis,* to support their contention that the same behaviors that are signatures of codependency are God’s design for all women for all time.

[*Eisegesis means reading into a Bible passage one’s own ideas.  It is the opposite of exegesis, which is to accurately explain or interpret what is IN the biblical text.] 

So then, we need to ask this question:

WHY do Patriarchalists and Complementarians want to prohibit Christian women from preaching or teaching God’s Word in the Church?

  1. They say that this restriction is IN the Bible. Therefore, the Bible says, NO to women teaching men.

Our question would be:  Does the Bible REALLY say NO preaching or teaching of God’s Word to men?

  1. Gender complementarians associate certain behaviors or activities with being “feminine” or not being feminine.

Patriarchalists and Complementarians often engage in eisegesis.  That is, complementarians read their personal assumptions and prejudices about gender or their culture’s norms of gender role expectations into the biblical text.

Both groups also ignore or try to explain away examples of godly women in the Bible who do not meet gender complementarian parameters, but who serve as counter-examples.

  1. Human cultures have mostly always favored male dominance. 

Women have been subservient to men in most cultures—and for countless ages. 

So, how is this fact ‘biblical’?

Isn’t this just agreeing with the godless and pagan cultures which dominate most nations of the world that elevates male dominance and privilege??

* Doesn’t this basic cultural belief, in so many nations of the world, simply affirm and make females subservient to males. 

* Aren’t women really second class when it comes to the created order?

* Therefore, shouldn’t women need to be controlled, ruled, and treated like children?

When you have male privilege and male dominance in a society, then the hidden reality is that women are so often abused in these societies. 

The fruit of the mindset of male dominance is harmful to women!

Physical, emotional, economic, and spiritual ABUSE just goes with the territory!  Harm to women and girl children must STOP!

So, what are we seeing here??

When males do NOT treat women as equals, created by God, and co-regents in managing God’s creation, then they are NOT honoring the Creator, nor are they honoring the Creator’s design! 

The results of this belief and this behavior are seen all around us!

Men and women in so many places are now taking a stand against injustice—one main issue is:  the injustice against women and girls.

< You don’t have to be a Christian to grasp that men and women should be treated equally!

So what is different about the Kingdom of God?

Genesis 1 establishes the bedrock of human identity.  In this text we find the source of all human responsibility and authority.  God blesses the man AND the woman alike with the gift of a common identity: both of them are the image-bearers of God.

In the same manner, God summons male and female alike to a common calling:  BOTH are given the responsibility and the authority to be fruitful, to fill the earth, and to have dominion, or rule over it. 

The Creation account of Adam does NOT support a hierarchical ordering of male leaders OVER female helpers (the complementarian bias).

Instead, the Creation account opens up the very exciting perspective of humanity as a community of man and woman in union together. 

(Source: Christiane Carlson-Thies)

Biblical equality includes one’s heritage.  This means that who you are born to, your gender, or even your economic status, does not matter in the Kingdom of God.  It is WHO you ARE in Christ that really matters!

Clearly, ideas have consequences and biblical teachings have a colossal impact on the daily lives of girls and women.  Accuracy in interpreting Scripture is critical in building families, churches, and communities where females are treated not as responsible for sin and, therefore, incapable of moral virtue,  but as created in God’s image for shared dominion (Genesis 1:26-28).

As Christians, we should be leading the way with respect and honor of both genders.  Women and men working together is the ideal model that Christians can present to the world.

Women and men should be able to work together in the business world, in the church, and especially in the home.

We are each suited to some functions in the church better than others.  God does not withhold teaching and leadership ability based on gender.

In Eph. 4.11–13, we are reminded about the ministry gifts of people that Christ Jesus gave to the Church:

“some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.”

These gifts and callings are available to both men and women—there are no biblical gender restrictions recorded in this passage.

In conclusion, individuals today are fighting everywhere against ridiculous cultural and religious restrictions placed upon women.  Many individuals are taking a stand and saying:  “Enough is enough!”

Christians should be the ones leading the way for justice and equality regarding race and gender issues.

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** A Special Thank You to each of the scholars and authors who have provided informative material regarding the many inter-connected topics with this issue. **

The following are links to helpful articles on the internet about this topic:

*Patriarchy or Gender Equality: The Letter to the Ephesians on Submission, Headship, and Slavery by Carrie A. Miles, Ph.D.


*Why Modern Patriarchy Is Not Biblical by Kathryn J. Riss, Th.M.


*Patriarchy and Hermeneutics by Mark Hanson

http://reformedpendulum.com/index.php/articles/homeschool-movement/ patriarchy-and-hermeneutics/

*Even Warm and Fuzzy, True, Correctly-Implemented Gender Complemen- tarianism is Harmful to Women, and It’s Still Sexism by Daisy Flower 


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Beck, James R., and Craig L. Blomberg, eds. Counterpoints Series, ed. Stanley N. Gundry. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.

Belleville, Linda. “Male and Female Leadership Roles in the New Testament,” vol.1. Chicago: Covenant Publications, 1993. 20-44.

———. Women Leaders and the Church: Three Crucial Questions. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000.

Bilezikian, Gilbert. Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible Says about a Woman’s Place in Church and Family. 2d ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1985.

———. Community 101: Reclaiming the Local Church as Community of Oneness. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997.

Bristow, John Temple. What Paul Really Said about Women: The Apostle’s Liberating Views on Equality in Marriage, Leadership, and Love. Harper SanFrancisco, 1991.

Bushnell, Katharine C. God’s Word to Women. 1923. Reprint, Peoria, IL: Cosette McCleave Jolliff and Bernice Martin Menold, n.d.

Clouse, Bonnidell, and Robert G. Clouse. Women in Ministry: Four Views. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989.

Collier-Thomas, Bettye. Daughters of Thunder: Black Women Preachers and Their Sermons, 1850-1979. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1997.

Cunningham, Loren, and David Joel Hamilton, with Janice Rogers. Why Not Women? A Fresh Look at Scripture on Women in Missions, Ministry, and Leadership. Seattle: YWAM Publishing, 2000.

Evans, Mary J. Woman in the Bible. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1987. Reprint, Carlisle, England: Authentic Media, 2002.

Fleming, Bruce C.E. “On the Meaning in Context of Those Troublesome Verses on Women in 1 Peter.” Priscilla Papers, Summer 1991.

France, R. T. Women in the Church’s Ministry: A Test Case for Biblical Interpretation. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997.

Grady, J. Lee. Ten Lies the Church Tells Women: How the Bible Has Been Misused to Keep Women in Spiritual Bondage. Lake Mary, FL: Creation House Press, 2000.

Grenz, Stanley J., and Denise Muir Kjesbo. Women in the Church: A Biblical Theology of Women in Ministry. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995.

Groothuis, Rebecca Merrill. Good News for Women: A Biblical Picture of Gender Equality. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1997.

Gundry, Patricia. Woman Be Free: Biblical Equality for Women. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979. Reprint, n.p.: Suitcase Books, 1993.

Hull, Gretchen Gaebelein. Equal to Serve: Women and Men Working Together Revealing the Gospel. Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1987. Reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998.

Johnston, Robert, Jean Lambert, David Scholer, and Klyne Snodgrass. A Biblical and Theological Basis for Women in Ministry. An Occasional Paper, No. 1. Chicago: Covenant Publications, 1987.

Keener, Craig S. Paul, Women, and Wives: Marriage and Women’s Ministry in the Letters of Paul. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1992.

Kroeger, Richard Clark, and Catherine Clark Kroeger. I Suffer Not a Woman: Rethinking 1 Timothy 2:11-15 in Light of Ancient Evidence. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998.

———. “Pandemonium and Silence at Corinth.” The Reformed Journal, June 1978.

———. Women Elders…Called by God? Louisville, KY: Women’s Ministry Unit, Presbyterian Church (USA), 1992.

McKenzie, Vashti M. Not without a Struggle: Leadership Development for African American Women in Ministry. Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 1996.

———. Strength in the Struggle: Leadership Development for Women. Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 2001.

Mickelsen, Alvera, ed. Women, Authority, and the Bible. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986.

Noren, Carol M. The Woman in the Pulpit. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1992.

Osburn, Carroll. Women in the Church: Reclaiming the Ideal. Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press, 2001.

Perriman, Andrew. Speaking of Women: Interpreting Paul. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, London: Apollos, 1998.

Scholer, David M. “Galatians 3:28 and the Ministry of Women in the Church.” Theology News and Notes, June 1998.

———. “Patterns of Authority in the Early Church,” in Servant Leadership: Authority and Governance in the Evangelical Covenant Church, vol.1. Chicago: Covenant Publications, 1993. 45-65.

———. “Women in Ministry,” a Bible Study. Reprinted from The Covenant Companion. Chicago, IL: Covenant Publications, December 1, 1983; December 15, 1983; January 1984; February 1984.

Smith, Marilyn B. Gender or Giftedness: A Challenge to Rethink the Basis for Leadership within the Christian Community. N.p.: World Evangelical Fellowship Commission on Women’s Concerns. 2000.

Snodgrass, Klyne. “‘Your Slaves—on Account of Jesus’: Servant Leadership in the New Testament.” in Servant Leadership: Authority and Governance in the Evangelical Covenant Church, vol.1. Chicago: Covenant Publications, 1993. 7-19.

Spencer, Aida Besançon. Beyond the Curse: Women Called to Ministry. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1985. Reprint, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1989.

Swartley, Willard M. Slavery, Sabbath, War and Women: Case Issues in Biblical Interpretation. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1983.

Torjesen, Karen J. When Women Were Priests: Women’s Leadership in the Early Church and the Scandal of Their Subordination in the Rise of Christianity. San Francisco: Harper SanFrancisco, 1995.

Trombley, Charles. Who Said Women Can’t Teach? Gainesville, FL: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1987.

Tucker, Ruth A., and Walter Liefeld. Daughters of the Church: Women and Ministry from New Testament Times to the Present. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987.

Tucker, Ruth A. Women in the Maze: Questions and Answers on Biblical Equality. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992.

Van Leeuwen, Mary Stewart. Gender and Grace: Love, Work, and Parenting in a Changing World. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990.

Webb, William J. Slaves, Women and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001.

Witherington, Ben, III. Women in the Earliest Church. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

———. Women in the Ministry of Jesus: A Study of Jesus’ Attitudes to Women and Their Roles as Reflected in His Earthly Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

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For Further Reflection

Two sites which provide Free Articles for personal research are:

 Christians for Biblical Equality and God’s Word to Women.

CBE           www.cbeinternational.org

GWTW      www.godswordtowomen.org


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 © 2016   Barb Orlowski, D.Min.