Qualifications to be a Church Leader
Updated: May 16
The letters to Titus and Timothy do not exclude women from being church leaders.
Paul says church leaders must be good parents, honest, self-controlled, patient, friendly, enjoy doing good things, and be faithful in marriage, married only once (no adultery, bigamy, polygamy, or polyamory).
Women are only excluded from roles as elders and bishops when humans translate the Greek word (tis) meaning "all humans" or "anyone", with an indefinite pronoun, to "men" with a male pronoun.
The original 'man of one woman', if taken literally, would mean no single or remarried men could be overseers, bishops, or elders. Instead, 'man of one woman' means 'faithful in marriage'. While most of those who had a household and 'managed their household well' would have been men, women were not excluded. A deacon must be honest, unselfish and faithful in marriage, worthy of trust and respect. Paul aims that our behaviour means unbelievers hold God's word in high regard and that churches have a good reputation. (Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3)
When Paul writes to Timothy, he gives advice on (a) groups of men who should stop angry disputing, (b) groups of women who should stop overdressing, and (c) one woman who should stop teaching heresy. Paul instructs Timothy to let her learn and stop her from teaching until she learns the correct doctrine. It is a heresy that Eve came first, pursued knowledge, gave Adam life or taught him. The correct doctrine is that God gave both man and woman authority to have dominion and rule over the earth. Creation order is nothing to do with who has authority. Both Adam and Eve broke God's law and caused sin to enter the world. It is a heresy that marriage and children are impure, or that virginity and celibacy are virtues. The woman teaching this heresy should stop domineering her husband and be assured that she will be kept pure even through childbirth if she and her husband continue in faith and love together. (1 Timothy 2).
Paul is not saying that women's primary domain is at the home and men's is in the public sphere. His instructions in Titus 2 are that believers believe in such a way that no one will criticize God's word. Limiting women's roles can make unbelievers revile God's word. Women of the Bible have a number of roles, both public and private.
In Proverbs 31: 10-31, women are honoured for their noble character, carefully purchasing supplies, providing food for her family, clothes her family well, producing and selling linen garments, supplying merchants with belts and clothing, purchasing fields, planting a vineyard, trading merchandise profitably, is generous to the poor, is strong and respected, is wise and teaches others, she oversees the care of her house and is praised in public.
Other women of the Bible were leaders (Miriam), protectors (Zipporah, Abigail, Rahab), a judge and military leader (Deborah), advocates for change (daughters of Zelophehad), Royal Advisor (Huldah, Esther), prophets (Huldah, Anna, Philip's daughters), tradespeople (the daughters of Shallum), artisans (Priscilla, Lydia), teachers and church leaders (Priscilla, Nympha, Lois, Eunice, Junia), patrons & disciples (Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susannah).
More on biblical women's roles here.
My novel, Forgotten Followers: from Broken to Bold, shows Jesus #empoweringwomen as disciples, patrons, and apostles.
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