During the past several decades the subject of women in ministry has been much debated in Christian circles. There has been some very important scholarship on this particular subject during that time and in the wake of it, significant movement in terms of the ministry roles occupied by women. What follows expresses the position of the Elders of Red Mountain Community Church on the matter as a result of our prayers and study on the subject. To begin with, we will state our position in a short paragraph, and then in ensuing paragraphs we will deal with some of the specific scriptural issues we have worked through on this matter over the years.
We believe that women have been equipped by the Holy Spirit not only for meaningful ministry but for roles of leadership in the particular ministries of our Church under the umbrella of the teaching authority of the Elders. We believe that this expresses the intent of the commands of Scripture as they are brought to bear on our specific culture. Therefore, while we adhere to what we feel is the Biblical teaching that a Church should be led by male Elders (1 Timothy 3:1-7), under the direction of the Holy Spirit we freely empower women to serve as Pastors who work under the umbrella of the Elder’s authority where that seems to be in accordance with the leading of our Lord.
AN IMPORTANT DISTINCTION
The position stated above emerges clearly from scripture when we understand the distinction between office and ministry. A biblical office is a position of responsibility and authority, a trust or duty assigned by the church to a person to be performed for the common good. The scriptures delineate two offices within the church, that of elder and that of deacon. The office of elder is the highest office. Elders have the responsibility of overseeing all aspects of the church’s ministry. The function of the office of deacon is to assist the elders in carrying out the ministry to the congregation and to assist the congregation in carrying out their ministry to each other and the community. The scriptures enumerate specific qualifications for those who wish to occupy these two offices in 1 Timothy 3:1-13, Titus 1:5-9, 1 Peter 5:1-4 and Acts 6. The passage in 1 Timothy clearly limits the office of elder to men while leaving the office of deacon open to both men and women. (The term “wives” in 1 Timothy 3:8 in the NIV may also be translated “deaconess.”)
By contrast, a ministry is any function carried out by any believer that builds up the church. Examples of ministry are teaching Sunday school, serving in the nursery, visiting a shut-in, cooking a meal, etc. Ministry flows naturally out of giftedness and since all believers are gifted by the Holy Spirit all are expected to minister in some capacity (1 Corinthian 12:3-7). If you are gifted to teach you are expected to teach and if you are gifted to serve you are expected to serve, each according to his or her own measure of faith (Romans 12:3-8). Throughout the New Testament gifts and ministries are listed without regard to gender (see Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12:3-11 and 28-30, Ephesians 4:7-13, and 1 Peter 4:7-11). Thus gifts and ministries are not gender specific. All types of ministries are open to both men and women according to their particular gift or gifts. All believers are ministers of the church but only a relative few hold office in the church.