Can Women be Pastors or Deacons?

Question: Can a woman be a pastor or a deacon?

Answer: This is a controversial topic. Our guidelines must come from what God has revealed in Scripture. 1 Timothy 2:12 says, "I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man." From this Scripture, women can teach and oversee other women and children. This scripture restricts a woman from being senior pastor of a church, but not necessarily from other staff positions.

What confuses the issue is our present-day terminology. Today's church usually has a pastoral staff, and may have also have offices for elders and/or deacons. Pastoral staff, elders, and deacons are not the same, although in some cases they may overlap. For example, we have a woman on our pastoral staff who is our children's minister, but she is not an elder or deacon.

The Bible speaks of 2 offices. "Elders" (overseers) in Scripture "rule" the church. They are the decision-makers. 1 Timothy 5:17 says, "Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching." (Also see Acts 15:2-6, 22) The qualifications for this position are found in I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9, and apply to men only (Titus 1:6, 1 Tim. 3:2). A senior pastor would obviously be an elder, but not all elders are pastors.

"Deacons" in Scripture "serve" in the church. The word literally means "servant." Nowhere in Scripture do we find deacons making decisions or voting. Elders are in a ruling position in the church, and deacons are in a serving position. In many Baptist churches (because there is no office named "elder"), deacons are functioning as elders, even though they are called "deacons." The qualifications for deacons are found in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. Women are mentioned in v.11, which has been the source of confusion in many churches. Some people interpret it as "women deacons", while others say it should be interpreted as "deacon's wives."

The argument in Baptist churches is primarily over a title. In Baptist churches (where deacons function as elders), it is our opinion that women should not fulfill the office of deacon. Can women still be servants in the church without having a title? Of course, and God sees a person's heart anyway. He will reward anyone who serves Him with a sincere heart and without the need for recognition. The peace and unity of a church is more important to God than the title of a position.

"Pastors" and pastoral staff are not the same positions as elders and deacons. For example, a youth minister can be gifted to be a pastor over youth, but may not be mature enough to be an elder. However, a senior pastor would be considered an elder.

Getting back to the original question, women can have ministries, such as Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, and Kay Arthur. Women can serve on pastoral staff over women, children, and possibly youth. The restriction applies to being senior pastor, elder, or being in authority over men. Some churches that have separate offices of elder and deacon have allowed women to serve as deaconesses, but not as elders. Baptist churches that only have one office (deacons who function as elders), should only have men serve in this position, OR decide to create 2 separate offices that function according to the above scriptural guidelines.

All pastors, elders, and deacons must not be argumentative, have a humble attitude, and seek to preserve the unity of the church (Eph. 4:3).

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