Can women serve as pastors?

The question of whether women can serve as pastors has been a constant issue for me in my Christian life. I have had to deal with it personally in my own family, theologically when I was assigned to write my Master’s thesis on it, and it continues to be one of the most frequently asked questions on It truly is an issue I wish I could avoid, as it is almost always an emotional and divisive topic.

Obviously, the question of women serving as pastors is a very controversial one. There are very strongly held beliefs on both sides of the argument. There are people on both sides who truly strive to use the Bible alone to come to a conclusion on the issue. Sadly, though, far more people allow their emotions, preferences, and preconceptions to be the determining factor. The most common non-biblical objections to our stand on women pastors are:

(1) You are a bunch of misogynist chauvinist pigs. This argument is usually either the opening salvo, or the conclusion. Basically, it says that the only reason to deny women from serving as pastors is if you hate women. It completely ignores the undeniable fact that there are several texts in the Bible that at least seem to place restrictions on women serving as pastors. You can disagree with our interpretation. But, to state that our understanding is a completely invalid application of the texts—that is unreasonable.

(2) I know you are wrong because God has called me, a woman, to be a pastor. There is often no value in reasoning with someone who thinks God has told him/her to do something. You could show him/her all the biblical and theological evidence and it would not matter. “Who are you to argue with what God has told me?” Sorry, but I’ll take what I know God has said in His Word over what you claim God has told you every single time.

(3) There are many women pastors who lead very successful ministries. The argument is basically that if God does not call women to be pastors, these women would not be leading large and growing churches. Where does the Bible teach that a large and/or growing church is a universal sign of God's blessing? The Mormon church is growing faster than most Christian denominations. Islam is growing faster than Christianity. No. Size, growth, and success are not what determine if a ministry is biblically sound.

Why do some women pastors lead mega-churches and ministries that are genuinely having a powerful impact for the kingdom of God? The power is in the Word of God, not the messenger. Isaiah 55:11 is key: “So is the word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” When God's Word is proclaimed, it always has an impact, no matter the messenger. See also Philippians 1:15–18.

Don’t get me wrong, I recognize that there are biblically-based arguments for an egalitarian understanding of the women pastors issue. I’ll leave a response to those arguments for a future post. I truly wish all of these emotional knee-jerk reactions could be set aside and we could focus exclusively on the interpretation of the biblical passages that speak to the issue of women pastors. Sadly, though, the vast majority of objections to our women pastors article are based on the above arguments.

What is truly most discouraging is when people essentially admit, “I do not care what the Bible says…” If you don't care what the Bible says, why do you care whether or not women can preach its message?

S. Michael Houdmann

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Can women serve as pastors?