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.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

** 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 


~ ~ ~ ~ ~


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.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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


~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 © 2016   Barb Orlowski, D.Min.


Women in the Church— Exploring Biblical Gender Equality In a Kenyan Context

Upon returning from a family vacation at the end of May, 2015, I was catching up with my website email. In the emails, I found a curious invitation from a church leader in Kenya–to speak at their April, 2016, Pastors and Church Leaders Conference on the topic of:  Biblical Gender Equality.

I was delighted to be invited to speak on this important topic, BUT: Was this a legitimate request?  And, what actually might be involved in getting me over to Kenya in order to make such a talk happen??  These were my initial questions as my mind and heart grappled with the potential of this being a doable God-thing, or not!  This international request was certainly alluring and I was immediately intrigued with such a prospect.

Over the next number of months, I was getting to know this pastor/overseer of a group of churches with their home base in Eldoret.  I also received confirmation from a number of American church leaders who had been there to speak at various pastors conferences over the years on timely Christian leadership topics.

I felt that this church leader was certainly progressive in wanting someone to speak on the topic of Biblical Gender Equality in his country–since Africa has been patriarchal for eons.  The Holy Spirit has been moving in so many places to give people their own answers on this topic.  The Lord was also at work here among this particular network of church leaders and they were willing to have a Canadian come and expound on this vital biblical topic.

So the drama of verifying that this was a Holy Spirit ‘Go’ was part of the intrigue of this international request.

Beginning in January, 2016, and for the next three months, I continued to research this topic indepth.  I borrowed insights from a number of scholars and authors on this topic and compiled the needed information into a tapestry of words to clearly convey what needed to be covered in this four day conference—which would be interpreted from English to Swahili.

I began the first session at this conference by reading 2 Tim. 3:16, 17, which reminds us that:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

The whole Woman and Man topic is both very serious and yet it is also humorous—since men understanding women and women understanding men has been a hilarious topic to start with throughout the generations!! 

Humans have problems dealing with human sexuality.  There is much brokenness in this area, which is part of who we are as humans in a fallen world.  There are only two kinds of humans that God created—male and female.  Christians should be the ones who lead the way in understanding human sexuality and who model what godly living is all about.

Here are some questions that I used to introduce this topic and to stimulate thinking among this inter-denominational group of church leaders:         

  1. Are Christian men supposed to have more privilege than Christian women in the home and in the church?
  2. Should gender differences influence an individual’s place in ministry?
  3. When it comes to expounding the Word of God in the church today, who is allowed to preach and why?
  4. Is the gift of preaching the ‘wrong gift’ to have in the conservative evangelical world, when you are a Christian woman?
  5. If church ministry is to be grounded in servant leadership, rather than hierarchy, why are women so often NOT permitted to preach or teach in the local church?
  6. If ministry is: ‘serving’ on the behalf of Christ, then shouldn’t women and men be able to make up a ministry team to minister to the needs of the local church?
  7. If in Corinthians 11 it says that women should wear a headcovering, why do most women attend church without a hat/headcovering now?

Even a few decades ago all women wore hats to church and for just going shopping downtown.  What changed?

  1. Does your church OR would your church have a woman in the function of a pastor, elder, or deacon? Why or why not?                        
  2. Why do we need to work for gender equality in the home, in the church, and in the world?
  3. Does the gender power imbalance further fuel and justify violence, especially against women (and children)?

I then gave my outline and where I was going with this topic.  At first people were curious about this lady speaker from Canada, but after a day of working through the material together, they were keen to track with me through this compelling subject.  Their interest was evident and their desire to learn was key.

The following are the four main topics which we covered:

  1. What’s Going On?                                                                    

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 their ideas from?

We are going to look at the TRADITION of Patriarchy in cultures worldwide and see why this belief system dominates.

What does history teach us about the Patriarchy in the Jewish and Greco-Roman cultures?

Next, we are going to take a serious look at the TRADITION of Patriarchy in light of:  What Does the Bible Actually Teach?

  1. 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?     [NO!]

  1. What Does the Bible Really Say Regarding the Problem Passages?

We need to look at some of the ‘problem Scriptures’ in order to understand what is really biblical—regarding God’s View of women in marriage and God’s View of women in the Church?

Why are there differing beliefs about what the Bible says? 

How can we get our own answers on this topic from the Bible?

This should lead us to ask:  What should be the Christian’s belief and practice?

  1. What Are We Going to Do About it?         

Who are we and What is Our Identity In Christ?

How Can We Be a Part of the Solution by ensuring that Kingdom Principles are HOW we are Motivated in Christ’s Kingdom?

It is encouraging to know that numerous Christian leaders have studied this issue and have changed their minds from a belief in a Patriarchal or a Complementarian View to a Mutualist View of Scriptures.

Lastly, I provided some useful ways that Christians can be part of the solution to this ongoing problem in the church and in the world today.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Here is one illustration that struck a chord with everyone. 

Illustration:  So, let’s take a walk together to church. 

Men, women, and children are on their way to church.  Everyone is happy and sharing about their lives the past week, with one another. 

As they approach the front doors to the church, and the women enter the church, they all stop talking—since the Bible says that ‘women are to remain silent in the church’.  So not wanting to offend God, the Bible, or their families, ALL the women NOW stop talking.   

Here are some questions that we might ask ourselves:

  • The question may be: Is it OK for women to just whisper, but not to talk out loud while in church??  
  • Another question might be: Is it OK for women to SING during worship, but not to talk in church??  
  • What about—Can women read the Bible out loud during a church service, since this would be ‘talking’ and be very un-silent??
  • This also includes: Can ladies give announcements about church events OR do they need to pass a note to one of the men leaders in order to get this announcement stated out loud for the Christian community??
  • What about women being asked to take up the offering—even if they do not ‘say’ anything to anyone?!

So you can see that things are starting to get ridiculous with such interpretations of these particular passages from the Bible.

An image that was a winner at this conference was Vladimir Kush’s sculpture of the Scissors, which I used as an image of male/female unity in Christian marriage and the Body of Christ.     http://vladimirkush.com/gallery-maui



As a friend responded, after seeing this image:  “Such a perfect depiction of Ezer kenedgo!  Seeing those scissors, it is clear that Adam was failing at ruling ‘alone’.  He was a single blade–so he made a ‘stab’ at ruling, but he really wasn’t ‘cutting it’!!!  TWO MATCHING BLADES ARE NEEDED!!”

– – – – –

On the last day of this conference in Kenya, a Visible Application of how this message was impacting these church leaders was when three of the leaders stood on the platform and one of them offered an apology to the sisters–on behalf of all the brothers there.  It was a touching moment.  This humble act was a significant step in their desire to ‘apply’ what they were hearing from God’s Word.   This is how they were prompted to take immediate action on what they were hearing!

It further confirmed to my mind and heart that this email invitation and my entire trip was a God-thing and that the Holy Spirit was and continues to be involved with getting the topic of Biblical Gender Equality established among many more of God’s people–in Kenya and beyond!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

There is An Opportunity to Support our Brothers and Sisters in Christ in Africa.

There is much poverty in Africa.  Getting the word out regarding Biblical Gender Equality requires time, energy, and funds. 

For those who have a heart to further this teaching in African nations, continue to pray for God’s leading and regarding this open door of opportunity to teach and serve God’s people in Africa. 

People can contact me through my website email: 


 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 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

~ ~ ~ ~ ~


© 2016   Barb Orlowski, D.Min.

Women in the Church and Purpose, Calling, and Role

Subtitle: The Danger of Abusive Sexual Stereotyping

by Alison Rowan


Complementarianism claims that the sexes are ‘equal’ but that they have different ‘roles’. This is also called ‘gender differentiation’, and divides the responsibilities that God is supposed to have designed as a perfect plan for humans in the very beginning. They say the female ‘nurturing’ and ‘submissive role’ and the male ‘headship’ or ‘leadership role’ is meant to exist for marriage and the church, but it does not matter for secular affairs.

When Complementarians say the ‘role’ of a man or husband is the patriarchal leadership within the home and church, but not in society, it leads to all kinds of inconsistencies and artificial rules, conflicts due to rankings of authority, and a mess that Complementarians themselves disagree over finding a satisfying implementation that accounts for these anomalies. In truth, contrary to their dogma there are Sixteen NT Instances where Women Teach and Lead Men, either in actual example or by deliberate lack of prohibition.

Because their hermeneutics lead to an interpretation of 1 Tim. 2:12 saying that a woman should never hold any office or perform a function in the church where men would need to follow her advice or instruction, there are some ludicrous scenarios that come out of this mindset.

For instance, a woman cannot be the church’s worship leader since men are present, yet be the conductress of an excellent mixed gender secular choir that sings the occasional sacred oratorio, and the concert venue being sometimes in a church building . . . although some would disapprove or even dissuade her from doing that!

Some say a woman cannot even read the Bible aloud in the presence of men, but she can write a thesis or Bible commentary for men to learn from?! She can teach Bible classes to children–but at what age should she stop instructing her own son?!  She can be a gifted and inspiring high school religious education teacher, but not be in church youth work with teenage boys–and certainly not be involved in the main Sunday meetings or be permitted to lead a mixed gender Bible study!

One thing they all seem to agree on is that it is wrong for a woman to make major domestic decisions or to aspire to be the breadwinner over being the homemaker and child-raiser. Thus, when circumstances dictate that she needs to, there is a sense of guilt and ‘missing the mark’ (sinning) from God’s ‘perfect plan’ if she has to, say as a single mum. Yet if she puts herself ‘under the authority’ or ‘covering’ of a man … father, pastor … ? … it’s now OK!

There is increasing dissatisfaction, disillusionment, and frustration being felt, voiced, and demonstrated by withdrawal from volunteering by women in the western churches that espouse ‘roles’ for them. They are asking: “What is my purpose in life? How do I know if I am doing what God has called me to do? Is there really only one role for me–because I am a woman?”

In addition to that, the words: ‘purpose’, ‘calling’, and ‘role’ are used inter-changeably, becoming the chief cause of the frustration and disillusionment. To remedy this dissent, it is necessary to both define and distinguish between these three words and to give these despairing women some hope.

  1. Purpose  (Why mankind was created and why we are redeemed)

1 Peter 2:5-9 makes our purpose clear and is true for all:

“You yourselves, like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ . . . you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

God’s purpose is universal and unchanging for every single believer, wherever we are and whatever we do, it is the reason for which Christ purchased us.  It is to know Him and proclaim His excellencies, giving testimony of His salvation. In order to accurately proclaim the excellencies (to portray the image) of God, which is described in Gen. 1:27 and 5:1-2 as ‘male and female’, both genders are required to play an active part, supplementing and completing His image in each other. With mutual co-operation we will then clearly tell forth His goodness and desire that all should know His reign of love and righteousness in their lives–to ‘subdue and fill’ the Earth with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord.

Ultimately, our purpose is to be intimately one with our Saviour as His Ezer Kenedgo, his capable helper, perfectly matching Him in the New Creation and our hardships and challenges are currently training and preparing us for that joy. In all our trials, we know that everything works together for our good for we are individually called, according to that purpose.

  1. Calling  (What we do to fulfil our purpose)

One’s calling is highly individual, depending on natural temperament, aptitudes, desires, and talents as well spiritual gifts, experiences of life, robustness of character, and faith. It is also something uniquely designed by God for us and also something for which God uniquely designs and prepares us.

There comes a ‘knowing’ something ‘in the bones’ that cannot be shaken or dismissed about one’s call. There comes an attraction, a necessity to do it and dissatisfaction and frustration when its performance is denied or delayed.  Yet when functioning in one’s call, it is like wearing a well-fitting coat and as people are benefited, much good fruit ensues.

Further to this natural equipping there is his ‘grace’ or enabling anointing to fulfill his call.

“He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.” (2 Tim. 1:9)

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Pet. 4:10)

“I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.” (Eph. 3:7)

The types of “gifts of God’s grace . . . through the working of his power’’ are outlined in Eph. 4:11: “apostle, prophet, evangelist, teacher, pastor” and in Rom. 12:6-8. Together they describe callings which entail all sorts of ministries and service within the church. These are only ‘according to the grace given’, not ‘according to the role’, nor ‘according to the sex’, since there is no gender specific pronoun in the Greek, which states for example, “ho didaskon en te didaskalia”—‘the (one) teaching, in the teaching’ etc.

“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them:  if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Rom. 12:4-8)

This list encompasses all sorts of callings:

  • “prophecy”–God-given insight for the progress of the church or individuals
  • “serving”–in administration, music, catering, maintenance, newsletters, bookstall etc.
  • “teaching”–the Word by any to all
  • “exhortation”–people-centred, pastoral encouragement and advice, and also preaching to the unsaved or to the congregation with exhortation to receive from the benefits of the cross
  • “contributing” (financially)–skill in business to earn the wage to be generous, making Spirit-directed appropriate gifts
  • “leadership”–with diligence and humility in all areas, whether, a prayer group, Bible study, admin team or the whole church
  • “acts of mercy”–charitable activities whether visiting the sick or prisoners or helping the under-privileged.

Many find great fulfilment in discovering their unique calling and then labor in it faithfully, eventually to enjoy their reward when the King returns.

Likewise, Christ’s betrothal gift to the Church, to make herself ready for when He returns, are the five-fold ministries in Eph. 4:11. How are they apportioned?   By gender?   NO–the qualification is given a few verses earlier and puts these gifts into their proper context: “to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” (Eph. 4:7). It is His sovereign choice, for ‘each one’.

God’s own sovereign choice of calling, being a spiritual entity, is not on the physical body with its genitalia, but resides within one’s born again spirit. Since it is also woven into the individual’s temperament, desires, and life experiences, it therefore transcends sexual stereotypes. As R.M. Groothuis says:

“Unlike traditionalism and women-centered feminism, equalitarianism does not sexualize the entire person. Gender is not viewed as the primary determinative factor in a person’s life; spiritual, intellectual, experiential, relational, and personality factors are likewise important. A person’s sex does not deterministically and indelibly color all of a person’s character, being, and life experience. Sexual identity is not conflated with personal identity.”*

(*Women Caught in the Conflict: The Culture War between Traditionalism and Feminism by Rebecca M. Groothuis. Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, 1997, p. 126.)

Admittedly, most personality profile determinants, such as Myers-Briggs, do show sexually weighted percentages on a few of the personality types and, therefore, the most suitable type of employment can have a gender preference. However, I believe it is abusive to either prohibit or to enforce certain callings according to sexual stereotyping and that it does not appear to be how God Himself makes His choices.

All of the callings in the Body of Christ are to fulfill the higher purpose, stated above and it takes a humble, accountable group of leaders to ensure that all are given space and edified so that they can grow into their own calling and usefulness in the Body for that purpose to know God and make Him known.

God’s first mandate to Mankind still stands: to fill the Earth, not only with Adam’s seed, but also Christ’s seed. It is also to fill it with the knowledge of the Glory of the Lord, by being His Male and Female likeness, bringing order –having dominion–good custodianship over all God’s creatures, especially the human ones! This is still our purpose towards which our callings function.    

A study of the Greek words for the requirements for leadership, aside from a generalized recommendation for faithful monogamy if the candidate is married, also shows no gender specification, therefore, all callings are open to both genders. This is especially evident in the appointment of Phoebe as a deacon and a leader. 

  1. Role (What we do in life and to fulfill our calling)

In considering these three terms, purpose–which is universal and unchanging and calling–which is individual and unchanging, we quickly recognize that role–which is individual and changing throughout life, is really the most transient. The most appropriate definition for role is that: a role is a part played in a scene of one’s life and can change, develop, or diversify with time and circumstances. There is no strait-jacketed, fixed definition that delineates the sexual differences into only two categories for life, as Complementarians teach.

Because role is connected to what we physically do, what we are physically, does affect it. A 250 lb. woman will never be an Olympic hurdler!  A 125 lb. man would not be the anchor man in a tug-of-war team! Likewise, a grandfather will never breastfeed, but can be a great friend and inspiration to his growing grandchildren.  Simultaneously, he can be a counsellor to his son’s marital problems, a caring husband, a gardening expert, a volunteer for several charities and a golfing partner to an ex-colleague, who both, now, no longer are agile enough to play badminton together.  

It may be that in doing some of these roles it may also be revealed that he is fulfilling a calling on his life–to be one who shows mercy with cheerfulness. Through all his actions and words, he involves His Saviour and brings the knowledge of His love into all his relationships. He is fulfilling his purpose, too.

Role is also connected to personality type, intelligence, and general psyche.  As examples, the sanguine would not be suited to work in an abattoir, neither would someone with Asperger’s syndrome be a good marriage guidance counselor, but could be an excellent historical researcher, scientist, or musician. The choleric make better executive decisions than the phlegmatic and the melancholic, but their pastoral advice may be too prescriptive and inappropriate. Since these qualities are common to all humans, is it not unjust, counterproductive, and abusive to invent an artificial gender distinction and make it law in both secular and ecclesiastical spheres?

The only places where gender definitely does play a part is with the ‘be fruitful and multiply’ edict of our Creator! Even while raising the children, the genders do not necessarily define which parent is best at what. Personally speaking as an aspie, I do not have the intuitive sensitivity and ‘people skills’ usually associated with mothering, whereas my husband does! He is also an excellent father to our five children and I do my best with the three who have Asperger’s and the two who definitely don’t. At least we all understand our limitations!

I gave up a promising career as a scientist to follow the traditional ‘Christian’ model–‘a woman’s place is in the home’ and by living very frugally, my husband’s teacher’s wage saw us through. If he had not had the intelligence or qualifications that would have allowed entrance to and progression in his career path, it would actually have been better if he had raised the children while I earned the wage. I believe there has to be flexibility, not law. That is the way of grace and closer to God’s heart.

With all that said, I would like to ask: Where in the Bible are there defined ‘roles’ that are set in stone for the separate genders as the Complementarians claim?  I see Proverbs’ virtuous wife being the manager of her household and business, being the wage earner for her husband who may be an unpaid city elder, (judge and councillor) ‘sitting in the gates’.

I also see Paul’s advice to the widowed Ephesian women through Timothy  (1 Tim. 5:11-14) to remarry, have (new) children, and manage their households and for them (instead of the servants) to stay with their children (from the new or previous marriage), rather than wander from house to house as idle gossips, which they could only do if supported by the church (on the widow’s list) or if their estate brings in the income or their new husband does.

Lydia ran a lucrative business and managed her own household, presumably as a widow. There is flexibility here. Also, all of the necessary qualifications were found in Lydia to be an overseer! (The brief mention in 1 Cor. 1:11 of ‘the brethren of Chloe’, I believe identify her as the overseer of the household of faith in her care, likewise the two ‘elect ladies’ in 2 John).

In conclusion, I cannot find in the Genesis accounts, any justification for reading into the text of Gen. 1:26-8, that Adam was given the ‘leadership role’ (having dominion over), whereas Eve was given the ‘nurturing role’ (be fruitful), as the Complementarian’s claim. There seems to be a level of deliberate dishonesty to do so, when it unequivocally states that God blessed them BOTH at the same time with the same words.

In fact, it is very instructive to study the pronouncements in Eden to see exactly what authority was granted to whom and when. Likewise a careful examination of the claims that God had set up these roles as a ‘divine order’ or ‘perfect plan’ BEFORE the Fall, also shows that it is only assumed by reading Patriarchy into the early Genesis text, from the post-Fall scenario when man DID have authority over woman. Reading by honest exegesis, I cannot see any foundation for Adam having authority over Eve, his perfectly matching ezer kenedgo, in God’s ‘very good’ pre-Fall Eden. There was no Patriarchy in Paradise!

If the blood of Jesus fully paid for Adam’s sin, why is it that the Complemen-tarian Church behaves as if it did not pay for Eve’s?! Implementation of our full redemption, purchased at such horrendous cost should not be denied, but the timing of it needs to be understood. Our spiritual disconnection was completely dealt with at Calvary: Christ has joined our spirits to His (1 Cor. 6:17) and again granted us all authority over all the works of the Evil One in the use of his Word and His Name. Is that authority diminished on female lips? Is it written anywhere that her spiritual authority only functions under a man’s ‘covering’ or is this belief a mere eisegetical assumption of Complementarianism?

All physical effects of the Fall will be dealt with in the future Resurrection and New Creation, but the social disconnection (in the realm of the soul) is to be implemented now, in the present time.

Therefore, other than the physical specializations for procreation, I propose that there were no fixed, separate ‘roles’ regarding social or spiritual functions, nor disparity of authority in God’s perfect pre-Fall creation.

Since the born-again spirit is indeed neither male nor female, neither should there be any artificial distinction of roles and authority now, in the glorious, post-redemption liberty of all the sons of God, whatever the genitalia of the flesh they currently inhabit. Procreation excepted, we are indeed equal ‘in Christ’ in every single respect and outworking, in this present age and in that which is to come. 

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With Thanks to Alison Rowan for her research and article composition.

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For Further Reflection

To read more articles by Alison Rowan, go to this link:

Biblical Equality Resource Articles:


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© 2015   Barb Orlowski, D.Min.


Spiritual Abuse and Shamed into Silence


When it comes to victims being heard, the tactics being used to keep them silent continues to be used as a controlling tool. If so-called ‘spiritual leaders’ in any Christian organization can keep the voices of those who have been harmed from being heard, then their work is done.

If victims are told that no one will believe their story–that may be enough to squelch any initiative on their part to bring the evil perpetrated against them into the light. Shaming victims is a strategic method to keep truth from being brought forward as well as to make victims to wallow in a sea of imposed guilt.

There are many offenses which have been kept under wraps by the tactics of unscrupulous leaders who try to keep institutions free from charge and deflect the blame onto the victims. Whether it is sexual abuse of children or adults, domestic violence, or spiritual abuse–deflecting from those severely wounded towards the perceived merits of spiritual leaders and/or spiritual institutions–is something that Christians need to be made aware.

Continuing with the ‘ideal’ that Christian leaders are without blame and that victims are simply troublemakers intent on bringing an institution down–is far from the biblical ideal of allowing the light to shine in dark places in order to ferret out what has gone on in the darkness. Shame, instead, belongs where individuals and institutions use their power to make a mockery of the truth.


Speaking Out

Rebuking and trying to silence people is a theme that can be found in the Gospel stories. A few key passages regarding this urge to keep certain people silent can be found in a number of NT passages. A few have been selected to illustrate this point.

Parents Bring Their Young Children to Jesus

In the following passages we see that ‘people’ brought their little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them—BUT, the disciples rebuked them! This may have been typical behavior in the Jewish culture and the disciples may have been doing just what was expected in this public setting. If we think about it, we could probably imagine that it was mainly the mothers who were bringing their children to Jesus. Maybe the dads were involved too, but most likely, the greater number were the moms who were coming to Jesus for his ‘blessing’ on their wee children.

Matt. 19:13-15

“13 Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.

14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.”

Mark 10:13-16

“13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.”

Luke 18:15-17

15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

A Blind Beggar Receives His Sight

Jesus was approaching Jericho. A blind man wondered what all the commotion was about. People near him told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. Immediately this man took action. He started calling out.

But, those who led the way promptly rebuked him and told him to just ‘be quiet’. Apparently it wasn’t very cool to be shouting out in public in that society. And more so, if you happened to be so unfortunate to be sightless.

Didn’t this man know his lot in life—possibly to be seen, but definitely not to be heard! This just wasn’t socially acceptable. The crowd was intent on stifling the boisterous and ‘overexcited’ behavior of this blind beggar.

This did not deter him; in fact, it seemed to motivate him all the more to be heard! We read: “but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” His lively actions were rewarded.

We can read this story found in Luke 18:35-43:

35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”

38 He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

39 Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

40 Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.

42 Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” 43 Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.”

This account is also found in Mark 10:46-52. In Mark’s account the man’s name is given: ‘Bartimaeus’.

“46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.”

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These accounts of Jesus being angry with his disciples for their rebuking the parents who brought their young children and the blind beggar who was rebuked by the people around him for shouting out when Jesus was walking near him, indicate that stifling of the marginalized is not a Kingdom principle.

The idea of speaking out about so much that is called Christian is thought to be brash and unsophisticated.  The thinking may be that in order to be a good Christian, one should be: easy to get along with, not one who rocks the boat, and people who mind their own business.  In many situations, this would be acceptable.  What is not acceptable is when injustice and harm have been perpetrated on the vulnerable and when the ‘system’ favors the authorities and their image, while little attention is paid to those who have been deeply wounded!

There seems to be confusion when it comes to what Jesus taught, what the Apostles affirmed, and what is acceptable to be challenged in Christian settings.

The internet has provided a level playing field. People with no voice can now be heard. Issues and concerns can be investigated in the public square–rather than pushed to the back room.

Another Tactic: Touch Not the Lord’s Anointed

A verse of Scripture, both in 1 Chron. 16:22 and Psalm 105:15, has found its way into ecclesial vocabulary in some places. This is another passage that has been used countless times to silence people. Church leaders have conveniently used the phrase from these verses: “Touch not my anointed!” and so many have been intimidated by it.

Many Christians are afraid that it is biblically wrong to speak up or confront a church leader. One thing is certain; this passage is always used to silence criticism.  It just comes in handy for unscrupulous leaders to elevate this passage to their own interpretation—which is: I am NOT to be criticized, since I am an anointed and ordained church leader!

Unfortunately, many folks do not have the understanding to counter their ridiculous claim. A quick look at this verse in Psalm 105 gives a context for what is being talked about here.

First, it must be noticed that it refers to “mine anointed” and is plural.

“Do not touch my anointed ones;
do my prophets no harm.”

Psalm 105:15


Second, this expression is so often taken out of context.  The context here refers to God’s protection of His ‘anointed people’ Israel from the hostile nations during the time of the Exodus and their settlement in Canaan.  What is significant is that the Old Testament context shows that this phrase–‘not to touch the Lord’s anointed’–consistently refers to protection from physical harm and NEVER implies freedom from criticism or accountability.

Third, when David was rebuked by Nathan, the prophet, for his hidden sins, Nathan was NOT challenged for criticizing the king.  In fact, since it could be very hazardous to their health–a faithful prophet needed to be extremely careful when and how they might expose the hidden secrets of a king!!  Yet, King David received the ‘word of the Lord’ from Nathan, which was in the form of strong rebuke.

David was now in a position to begin to seriously wrestle with all the wrong that he had committed. He was now getting a picture of how Yahweh saw his behaviors and was deeply grieved about his wrong choices! It was David’s turn to be deeply grieved by his actions.

The full account of this story can be found in 2 Samuel 12:1-15.


The Psm. 105 and 1 Chron. 16 passages talk about when the nation was in its infancy and they wandered throughout the land as strangers, since it was not theirs yet.

We read from Psalm 105:12-15:

When they were but few in number,
few indeed, and strangers in it,
13 they wandered from nation to nation,
from one kingdom to another.
14 He allowed no one to oppress them;
for their sake he rebuked kings:
15 “Do not touch my anointed ones;
do my prophets no harm.”

The actual context referred to the personal encounters of Abraham and Sarah and Isaac and Rebecca in Egypt, the land of Pharaoh and Abimelech, in the land of the Philistines.  The ‘touching’ referenced here seems to speak directly to sexual touching in marriage.  These kings wanted these beautiful women to become one of their wives, but they were already the wives of these patriarchs of Israel. This presented a dilemma.

In Abraham’s time, Yahweh stopped the Pharaoh’s action by a disease among his people and later stopped Abimelech by speaking to him in a dream. In Isaac’s time, the king of Gerar of the Philistines noticed from his window the caress of Isaac to his wife Rebecca. Isaac was called in to be questioned and then was strongly reproved by this king.

All of the accounts pointed to the fact that both Abraham and this son, Isaac, did not fully trust Yahweh to protect them while they wandered among these nations.  It is also curious that there is a reference to ‘prophets’ in the plural.  Could Sarah and Rebecca be included in this main thought: “Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.”? Just a thought.

To Summarize

To summarize this section, we can conclude that it is wrong and unkind for Christians to criticize their leaders for no reason.  On the other hand, if there is a cause, then there should be appropriate action taken and with the right attitude in approaching a church leader.

Further, it is wrong for clergy to put themselves above criticism.  There should be a healthy give and take of congregants with leaders and vice versa.  Church leaders need the checks and balances of peer groups who challenge their thinking and their behavior.  They also need to be open to constructive criticism–that may come from anyone in their church family.  This can be a positive, rather than a negative, experience and be of benefit to everyone concerned.  Leaders, who put themselves above criticism and stifle others by using this passage incorrectly, need to be put on alert. 

Many Voices Needed

Since fear and shame have been tools that have been used over time with immediate results, there are numbers of people who are taking a stand against fear and shame tactics.  After a post on a popular blog there were a few comments that were pertinent to this subject.

This commenter highlights the fact that shame is why many comment ‘anonymously’ on various blog sites.  The following commenter also notes that no single one of us has the resources, etc., but throws out the idea that it is going to take each of us supporting one another that will make the difference.  My response to this person’s idea follows afterward. 

Been There Done That

February 1, 2013 @ 3:05 PM

I suspect this shame is why many of us, myself included, comment anonymously here and elsewhere. That, to me, should speak loud and clear about the “church” organizations many of us fear. It’s more reminiscent of an organized crime syndicate than the body of Christ. (Julie Anne, it’s funny you should post this article on the same day that someone on TWW [The Wartburg Watch] told of their harassment after leaving a comment on a blog.  These go hand in glove.  “Shamed into Silence” indeed!)

The fear is real, because, unfortunately, the repercussions have often been far too real. And no single one of us has the resources, finances, or fortitude to push back. It’s going to take all of us supporting each other to call this out.

My comment response: Yes, BTDT, I agree: “It’s going to take all of us supporting each other to call this out.” I have been saying this for a long while now.

I happened to see a TV advert about SpongeBob and its creator, who chose the name: “United Plankton Pictures, Inc.” for their logo.  From the picture, you see cartoon plankton holding hands with one another. Now that got me thinking. According to a definition of plankton, these organisms are “so numerous and productive that they are responsible for generating more oxygen than all other plants on Earth combined.”

So, there in a nutshell is our picture—all those concerned, including the nobodies, the nones, the dones, and the eliminated, joining together, hand to hand, shoulder to shoulder like the plankton. You never know what might happen when, like the plankton, many individuals unite! What could this do in the murky waters of the ‘church’ ocean—much more spiritual oxygen maybe?!!

Here is a look at the logo that I was describing:


With Thanks to United Plankton Pictures Inc.

Link to blog article: http://spiritualsoundingboard.com/2013/02/01/shamed-into-silence/#more-3730


It is important for those who have been harmed in the church not to be shamed into silence. Each voice needs to be heard.

If this describes you, you might ask yourself: Are you tired of being intimidated? Use your voice when you are strong enough to be heard and when you can face any backlash that might come against you.

For those of you who have found your voice–check up on all your facts, be clear, be fair, and know that what you have to say needs to be said.

Use a pseudonym, if that works for you, but get your thoughts out there where they can be heard.  You are one of many who have experienced harm in the church and by trusted church leaders.  It is important for you to share your personal story—you are not alone!

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For Further Reflection


“Let me not be put to shame, LORD,

for I have cried out to you . . .”

Psalm 31:17a


I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame,

nor let my enemies triumph over me.

 Psalm 25:2

Guard my life and rescue me; do not let me be put to shame,     

for I take refuge in you.

 Psalm 25:20


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© 2015   Barb Orlowski, D.Min.

Women in the the Church and Luke’s Teaching From Acts 2, 10, and 11


There seems to be much discussion about the place of women in the church, that is, what women can and cannot do. From the entirety of Scripture, there is much more evidence to support the fact that women CAN MINISTER in any and all capacities. This is primarily based on the fact of the empowering of the Holy Spirit upon individuals.

This article will consider how the impact of the Holy Spirit upon the Jews and the Gentiles as recorded by Luke, in the Book of Acts, can inform us today. Luke’s account provides foundational support for both women and men to be called of God, anointed and empowered for pertinent Christian ministry in the church and in the world.

Let us examine Acts 2, 10, and 11 and glean from these passages some pertinent truths of what Luke was intending for his readers to understand and to practice. 

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Acts 2—The Believing Jews and Pentecost

So, what was the point of the Day of Pentecost when it comes to ‘how’ women should function in the church today? Obviously it was a significant day in the cycle of Jewish feasts—which pointed to spiritual realties that would come.  It is not hard to understand the implications of the Passover. Fifty days after the Passover celebration, came the Feast of Pentecost in the Jewish calendar.

Details after the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ are found in the Book of Acts. Though the disciples were living in the joy of seeing their Lord raised from the dead, talking and eating with him again, they also followed through on what they were told to do next, after his ascension: To wait and to expect, as a community of Christ followers, in order to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

I am sure that they wondered what this could mean, but they had the promise, both from the Scriptures and the words of Jesus, himself, that this would be their personal experience. This was the time of huge change—since Christ had come in the flesh and had completed what he was sent to do. In our context, we could ask: Was this Acts 2 event/experience to be only for the apostles, only for the converted male followers of Christ, or was this ‘promise’ for ALL of God’s people–which included women and maybe children too?

Who Was Gathered in the Upper Room?

We read from Acts 1:12-14 that a group of about 120 gathered in a designated place. Many from Jesus’ family were there too. Both women and men gathered together to pray, to wait, and to expect. Notice Peter’s salutation to them when they considered appointing someone to fill the position of Judas.

“12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus.”

When the Day of Pentecost had come, Luke records in Acts 2 that:

“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” 

Moving Out into the Open

As this group found their way outdoors, those gathered in Jerusalem at that time were perplexed at the phenomena that they were witnessing–and some even ridiculed them.

Peter wasted no time to clarify what exactly was going on. He based his explanation on a familiar passage to them, found in Joel 2.

14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.     . . .

22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”

Peter gave witness to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and verified the basis for what was happening:

32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.”

What Jesus told them, based on the OT and NT promises was now being fulfilled—before their very eyes. There was no longer any waiting. Men and women, who had trusted that Jesus was the Messiah of God, were the recipients of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on this Day of Pentecost. There was no going back to the ways that things had been shaped by Jewish culture, based on the OT Scriptures.

A New Era Had Begun!

A new era had unfolded and those who gathered on this day were the first fruits of many more men and women who would boldly declare the Gospel message to many nations. It is quite obvious, from a biblical perspective, that the reader of the Acts account should be able to factor in that women were included and that women have a place in ANY and ALL ministry in the Church today–since the day of this significant outpouring!

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Acts 10 and 11—The Gentiles are Included

To continue with our look at the inclusion of women in the Book of Acts, let us consider the account of Peter going to the house of Cornelius and what transpired there. This lengthy account can be found in Acts 10 and 11.

For the Apostle Peter, to be called and commanded to go to the home of a Gentile was quite a big deal for any serious Jew. It was by direct revelation to this spiritual leader in the early church that this was the divine will of Yahweh.

We are familiar with Peter’s lunchtime vision about the unclean animals. We are intrigued as we recognize the unique timing—at the same instant as his vision, the three men sent by Cornelius, were at Peter’s door.   Peter could not avoid going with these men to the centurion’s home. Even still, it was so far out of cultural norms that this story needed to be explained more than once by Luke–in order for the readers to get the full impact of what was so cross-culturally taboo for a Jew to even think of doing. The reader watches this story unfold, blow by blow.

It is noteworthy that Cornelius was expecting them. In fact, he had called together his relatives and close friends to be assembled there upon their arrival. Upon entering this home, there was a large gathering of people—also waiting and expectant—as to what this Jew might say to them.

From his Jewish perspective, Peter made this significant statement before them all: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.” (10:28)

Cornelius described his angelic visit. From that report, it solidified Peter’s response which confirmed what he now realized: “. . . God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.” From there Peter rehearsed pertinent Jewish history and tied together the recent events regarding Jesus of Nazareth, and established that HE was indeed: God’s Anointed One.

Peter affirmed that: “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.    42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Right in the Middle of Peter’s Sermon!!

What happens next arrests the reader and demonstrates that what had happened to the believers on the Day of Pentecost was indeed happening right here and right now in this Gentile home!

“While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.”

Just as on the Day of Pentecost, Peter gave voice to what had just happened to his fellow Jews. Here again, Peter acknowledged what exactly was happening among these Gentiles. “Then Peter said, 47 “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.”

Peter Now on the Red Carpet

In chapter 11, we read how Peter had to defend his actions after being rebuked by fellow believers for having overstepped Jewish cultural boundaries. “So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.” Peter had to rehearse the entire story about his vision and about the angelic encounter of Cornelius.

Peter emphasized the fact again that the ‘voice’ that spoke from heaven made it clear that he was NOT to ‘call anything impure’ that God, himself, had made clean. Peter words, recorded by Luke, endorsed again what the message was: “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”

With those words, there was no more need to defend this multi-ethnic situation any longer. There were no further protests and praise was given to God!

“When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

Again the teaching from Acts 10 and 11 is clear. Though Peter was slow to grasp the full message—that the Holy Spirit had come upon all, not just the Jews–he eventually got it, at least this time. This account of the significance of the coming of the Spirit upon those gathered in the home of Cornelius, underscores again that the Spirit ‘came upon ALL’—both men and women assembled there.

The Gentiles heard the Gospel and in their hearing and receiving the impact of the Good News, they were empowered by the Holy Spirit–identically as the believers waiting in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. Luke’s thorough description of this event in Acts highlights the empowering of the Spirit upon all who believe!


In summary, we see that a host of both Jewish and Gentile men and women were filled with the precious Holy Spirit beginning with these two momentous events. It was God’s timing for change and for the new era of the Spirit to commence. We can thoughtfully conclude that: there are no restrictions between the calling of women or men today–to fulfill all that God calls them to be and to do in His Kingdom!

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For Further Reflection

How did the early church deal with the challenge of including Gentiles into the church? What were the criteria that they used to establish that the Gentiles were ‘worthy’ of inclusion in the church—that is, the Redeemed Community of God’s people?

Acts 15 gives details of the sharp dispute regarding the inclusion of the Gentiles as believers by teaching them that it was imperative that they be circumcised, “according to the custom taught by Moses” OR they could not be saved!

From this passage we see that there was strong contention about this crucial and Jewish traditional issue. We also observe how the early church dealt with such strong controversy. It was a time of huge change and the leaders of the church needed the wisdom from God, patience, tenacity, and the witness of both the Word and the experience of their ‘sent forth’ ones to establish any purposeful change.

We listen in on the Council at Jerusalem in Acts 15:

“Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.

Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”

The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. 13 When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. 14 Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:

16 “‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, 17 that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’ 18 things known from long ago.

19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”

From all of the contributors to this tense situation, we observe the following:

  1. Peter verified from the Scripture and from his own recent life experience that God accepted the Gentiles–since the evidence was that they had received the filling of the Holy Spirit ‘exactly as they had’ on the Day of Pentecost.
  1. Barnabas and Paul also recounted their experiences of the signs and wonders that God had done among the Gentiles through them from their recent missionary adventures.
  1. When Barnabas and Paul had finished, James spoke up. James confirmed Peter’s description that “God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles.” James also pointed them to the words of the prophets which were in agreement with this.

To conclude, these chosen leaders proved by the Old Testament Scriptures, the very words of the prophets, and the verifiable recent life experiences of Peter, Barnabas, and Paul on the frontlines of mission that this was God’s divine will. They corroborated how the Gentiles were filled with the Holy Spirit and signs and wonders were done among the Gentiles–as a further witness to God’s working among them. All of these factors pointed to the need to no longer carry on the ‘Moses’ tradition’ of circumcision.

Instead, there were four main guidelines instituted for the discipling of the Gentiles after their conversion to Christ. A letter was written and taken to the church at Antioch by Paul, Barnabas, Judas, and Silas.

That which had been done for centuries by the Jews–to show their covenant devotion to the words of Moses and Yahweh’s Law–was now set aside since there was a new season of the Spirit’s visitation in the lives of Jews and Gentiles. This became the new path for followers of the Christ, the Son of God.

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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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© 2015   Barb Orlowski, D.Min.