Christianity,  Theology/Bible

Pastoral leadership is not a “choose your own adventure”

Laura Ortberg Turner has an interesting contribution to CT’s series on women in leadership. In “Too Girly To Lead?,” Turner contends that God doesn’t care about gender when it comes to pastoral leadership. She appeals to 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, which says,

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Turner observes that Paul says nothing about these gifts being gender-specific, and then she concludes that both women and men receive spiritual gifts that make them equally suitable for pastoral ministry. In her own words,

Never does he suggest that spiritual gifts are to be divvied up according to men and women. God, it would seem, is much more concerned with gifts than with gender.

She then issues a sharp condemnation against complementarians who disagree with her view. She writes:

There is something especially pernicious about men and women in the church who use Scripture to tell women they cannot teach but then have a hard time saying what exactly it is about women that makes them unfit for the job.

I think this rhetoric is unfortunate. Is it helpful to accuse complementarians of being “pernicious” simply for exhorting people to do what they believe the Bible teaches? Was Paul being “pernicious” when he penned 1 Timothy 2:12? Was Jesus being “pernicious” when he selected only men to be numbered among the twelve? The Christian life is not a “choose your own adventure.” It’s submission to the Lordship of Christ as he has revealed it to us in the Bible. At the end of the day, this is not a debate about giftedness or equal rights for women. It’s a discussion about what the Bible actually says and then how we are to obey it. And this is precisely where Turner’s argument jumps the tracks. She has mishandled the biblical text even as she mischaracterizes complementarians.

Complementarians agree with egalitarians that God distributes spiritual gifts to both men and women—even the gift of teaching. That is indeed the teaching of 1 Corinthians 12:4-6. But Turner curiously omits the wider context of 1 Corinthians in her argument. In both 1 Corinthians 11 and 14, Paul stipulates gender-based guidelines for the use of gifts in the gathered community. In chapter 11, Paul says that women who pray and prophesy must do so in deference to a principle of male headship (1 Cor. 11:3, 8-10). Likewise in chapter 14, Paul prohibits women from judging prophesies in the gathered community. Again, the issue is framed in gender-specific terms:

34 Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says. 35 And if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church (1 Cor. 14:34-35).

Given Paul’s very clear gender-specific instructions in the wider context, it’s just not credible to read 1 Corinthians 12 as Turner does. Paul clearly intends for our understanding of giftedness to fit within the framework of his instructions about gender-roles in the gathered community. That is not a politically correct reading, but it is nevertheless what the text says. When you combine that with what Paul says elsewhere about qualifications for pastoral ministry (e.g., 1 Tim. 2:12; 3:1-7), it is difficult to see how a narrow appeal to 1 Corinthians 12 advances the evangelical gender debate. Indeed, it skirts the key issues that are still unresolved between complementarians and egalitarians.

In that light, there’s nothing at all “pernicious” about calling people to obey what the Bible teaches. On the contrary, it’s the essence of love (1 Cor. 13:6).


  • Lauren Law

    We just need to remember something special about Paul’s writings…he was a brand new Christian in his early writings and he wrote as a brand new Christian. But at the conclusion of his ministry he penned that God was not a respecter of persons…Romans 3:28 shows that he had matured out of the cultural belief that women were inferior to men and concluded, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Anything said to a man applies to a woman…and vice versa. If we’re going to say women cannot speak or teach in the church, we have to then say that men can’t either…and that’s just plain silly. Ultimately…the woman who speaks or teaches in the church does so based on her personal relationship with Christ. The woman who fails to teach or speak because a “man” has instructed her not to do so is not following Christ’s leadership. Male and female were BOTH created in His image and BOTH saved by His Son and BOTH gifted by the Spirit. End of discussion.

    • Ken Nichols

      Lauren, your opening statement is a big problem, and it discredits the rest of your position:

      You said, “We just need to remember something special about Paul’s writings…he was a brand new Christian in his early writings and he wrote as a brand new Christian.”

      First, it’s not true. Paul was a Christian for many years before he even began his ministry. Perhaps 14 years before he began his missionary journeys.

      Second, it’s not even helpful. Either Scripture is inspired by God, or it isn’t.
      The early church deemed Paul’s letters to be Scripture, as did Peter himself.
      If Paul’s letters to the church were as a newbie, then why are they in the Bible? Think about that, deeply, and reflect on your accusation.

    • Mel Mariner

      Paul was not a brand new Christian. First of all he was a pharisee with all the training and biblical knowledge that goes with it. Certainly more formal education than Peter. After his conversion (a very personal encounter with Christ) he left for awhile before starting his ministry which he mentions in Galatians 1. He knew his stuff well enough to call Peter on his hypocritical behavior mentioned in Galatians 2. Someone that lived with Jesus for three years, being taught personally and preached boldly on the day of pentecost.
      James said that God does not show favoritism and that is obvious on who was the first person to bear witness to Christ being risen. But you seem to miss the obvious. Jesus said that serving, being less and least was the best place to be.

      Philippians 2:5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

      He has given us our areas to teach. I do not know why some women think that is not important enough. Do you not think God will bless that submission?

      I suspect the declaration of END OF DISCUSSION probably says the most about the topic of submission from your view point.

    • Femi Osunnuyi

      Dear Lauren the way you went about making your point does concern me. It smacks of a willingness to prove a point at all cost, and sadly in your case, via a blatant mishandling of the Scriptures and facts. Others have already pointed out why your line of reasoning is injurious in coming to an accurate conclusive position regarding any teaching of Scripture, and your best intentions aside, your above argument is certainly no candidate for ending the discussion for some other reasons:

      1) Paul did not pen ‘God was no respecter of persons’, that would be Luke referring to Peter in Acts 10. And this occurred probably not too long after Paul’s conversion (in the previous chapter).
      2) I believe you were quoting Gal 3:28 and not Rom 3:28. And Galatians -where Paul had supposedly ‘matured out of the cultural belief that women were inferior to men’ -was written 4-7 years BEFORE 1 Corinthians and 14-18 years before 1 Timothy! I know you will now to turn around and say he moved from maturity to immaturity?

      I really do not want to sound condescending, so please forgive me if this is what has been conveyed, but your comment really did alarm me and I decided out of concern not to take the easier option of ignoring it. Such an approach to the bible, with a sense of an unwarranted confidence will simply be unhelpful for your growth.

  • Mary Gray Moser

    I won’t argue Scripture with somebody who thinks she knows better than Paul, that he was not inspired of God in his epistles. Just let me point out that women always have been and always will be a distraction to men and that’s one good reason, it seems to me, for women to stay out of the pulpit.

  • Kamilla Ludwig

    Lauren Law’s reasoning is even sillier than Laura Turner’s! I want to call both their arguments specious, but I am never sure if I’m using the word correctly.

    As Denny points out, no one thinks women get one set of gifts and men another. The question is not about giftedness. It’s about how and when we are to exercise our gifts. The old saying goes, “God doesn’t call the gifted, He equips the called.” Think Moses and Aaron, for example.

    If Mrs. Turner thinks Complementarians are pernicious, well, I’d like to see her go toe-to-toe with … that list is too long to get started on.

  • Don Johnson

    C’mon Denny, you know there are egalitarian readings of those supposedly female restrictive verses. So they are anything but clear and need to be discussed, it is an exegetical question.

    1 Cor 11:10 says that a woman (in a congregational setting) has authority over her own head, in other words, can decide whether to do the “cultural head thing” or not. That is, unless you add words to the text like the ESV does to make it say what those translators wanted it to say.

    1 Cor 14:34-35 are immediately repudiated by 1 Cor 14:36 once one realizes that Paul uses the eta expletive of repudiate twice, so to me 34-35 look like a quote from Corinthian legalists. Why would a believer today want to side with a legalist against Paul?

    • Richard Hutto

      Don, you called out Denny for his commitment to his interpretation and then are so committed to yours you claim all of us who disagree are siding with a legalist instead of Paul?

  • buddyglass

    “Is it helpful to accuse complementarians of being “pernicious” simply for exhorting people to do what they believe the Bible teaches?”

    When one believes the thing being advocated is both wrong and damaging, pernicious may be a good word to use. Consider how you might react to someone vocally promoting the teaching, based on a twisting of scripture, that God fully approves of homosexual relationships.

    Does that seem “pernicious”? defines the word as: “causing insidious harm or ruin; ruinous; injurious; hurtful”. I’m guessing that is, in fact, how Turner regards the complementarian view of male and female roles in church leadership. And, incidentally, how most complementarians regard the egalitarian view of the same.

  • Brett Cody

    Your point seemed interesting until I read the words, “so, to me…” I don’t read the Bible to find out what it means ‘to you’, I read it to find out what it means. What is the clearest meaning of the text as the author intended it within its immediate context? That is the perspecuity of scripture. It means what it most clearly means. Even conceding to your arguments from 1 Corinthians, you still have to deal with 1 Timothy 2:12. I have wrestled with this for some time and I honestly can not get away from the fact that even if Paul can be called sexist (as some do, though I don’t) it was his letter that made it into the canon of scripture–not anyone else’s letters to the contrary. I delight, therefore, in submitting to the authority of the Word of God and agree with the text of 1 Tim. 2:12. I don’t practice my faith based on loopholes like the ones you mention here, much less how the scriptures appear “to me”.

    • Don Johnson

      Evangelicals disagree on the meanings of LOTS of different verses, so there is NO perspicuity of all Scripture, regardless of how much this may be desired. The Reformers agreed with that also, the original meaning of the phrase “perspicuity of Scripture” referred just to salvation contra the Catholic church which claimed it HAD to come thru them and the Reformers admitted that other verses were more complex.

      I agree that what counts is what it meant to the original audience and that is what I seek. Since I do not claim to be an infallible interpreter, I add “to me” to my understandings, as that is what they are, I speak for myself based on my studies.

      On 1 Tim 2:12 it is not correct to treat it as an isolated truth statement, verses were added much later and are not inspired. If you know Greek, you know there are a lot of challenges in translating this verse and the teaching unit it is in, it is anything but perspicuous. But since you asked, my understanding is that this verse refers to a temporary injunction for a group of women while they are being taught, that is, they are not to teach while being taught. After they are taught, each one might show themselves faithful and if so they can teach.

        • Don

          Of course, everyone should be taught before they teach. In this case, I think it is a group of currently-out-of-order women that need to be taught.

  • Brett Cody

    You have given me more to consider. Thank you. I still am left asking why Paul didn’t clarify that verse in the way you explained it, though.

    • Don

      The key thing to see is that Scripture was written FOR us but not written TO us. In other words in this case, we are not Timothy. Timothy was Paul’s spiritual son, as such he and Paul would have a large shared context in general and Timothy and Paul would know details about the situation at Ephesus that we simply cannot know. So we approach Scripture with humility.

      • Shaun DuFault

        Except Don, that the letter to Timothy was also written to us. Unless you want to suppose that God in His infinite wisdom of moving Paul to pen this letter made a mistake of inserting it into canon.

        The thing about it is that the whole Bible is written to us. I guess you want to say that all the instructions that Paul had for Timothy was only for the context of Ephesus. Some egalitarians suppose it was just “certain women” but the truth is that they don’t know. These egalitarian guesses only go back to the 2nd century AD. The other aspect that seems to always be overlooked is that the reasoning for Paul’s instruction to Timothy in that famous passage is rooted in Genesis which brings a clear universal understanding of the text, unless one may think that Genesis was only written to the Israelites of Moses’ day.

        • Don Johnson

          No, the whole Bible was written FOR us, it most certainly was not written TO us and thinking it was can lead to huge mistakes in interpretation.

          This is because one always reads a text using a worldview, and if you use the wrong one (say reading the NT using a 21st century worldview instead of 1st century one) you will be inserting ideas into the text (eisegesis) and not even know it. The words in a text are a part of the culture of the time and place that produced it, without knowing that culture and doing one’s best to read it inside that culture is fraught with the potential for error.

          On 1 Tim 2:13-15, it may be the case that Paul is directly repudiating a false Gnostic or proto-Gnostic teaching that Eve was formed first and had special knowledge. I think this is more likely than Paul giving a reason for 1 Tim 2:8-12.

  • Laura Ortberg turner


    Thanks for taking the time to engage thoughtfully with what I wrote. I am grateful for that, really, and while you and I will probably never agree on this issue, you were gracious in your remarks.

    Clearly, I do think my reading (and the readings of many others I respect) of 1 Corinthians 12 is credible, and that the passages you cite from 1 Timothy are not meant to be normative. If they were, we would also have to take seriously Paul’s admonishment in 1 Corinthians 11:6-7 for women to either cover their heads when they pray or shave them, and men in baseball caps at church should be kicked out. If a woman’s long hair is her glory, as Paul says, we should never allow a woman to keep hair shorter than, say, shoulder-length.

    “As woman came from man, so also man is born of woman,” we read in 1 Cor. 11:12. “But everything comes from God.” The same God who said that there is no slave nor free, Jew nor Gentile, male nor female but that we are all one in Christ Jesus.

    So, again, my two cents–and clearly, yours are different. And that’s life! Isn’t it a good thing that God has given us minds to think about this? Again, Denny, I’m grateful for your thoughtfulness and grace and pray for you God’s best blessings.

    • Denny Burk

      Thanks, Laura. I appreciate the rejoinder.

      I just wanted to highlight that our disagreement is not over the spiritual aptitudes of women. Most complementarians–excepting Mark Driscoll with whom I disagree–do not attribute the prohibition on teaching to an inferiority of gifting to women. We agree that women are gifted in all kinds of ways. It may be even the case that in some churches the women are more apparently gifted to teach than any of the men in the congregation.

      For complementarians, however, such gifting is not the point when it comes to pastoral leadership and teaching. For us, the Bible only allows qualified males (not just any male!) to be pastors. I know we disagree over the meaning of the texts that lead us to that conclusion. Nevertheless, it’s incorrect to say that we hold our view because of some deficiency in women.

      Again, thank you for your gracious response, and blessings to you!

      Denny Burk

      • Kamilla Ludwig

        Denny and Laura,

        I’d suggest it would be helpful to *not* consider Driscoll a Complementarian. It would be unspeakably immodest of me to provide the details, neither do I think it really necessary.

        Laura, I hope you know that imperfect obedience to an instruction does not invalidate the instruction. There are churches where many of the women do cover, in many of those it is their own desire to be obedient to the Scriptures in this point and not at the heavy hand of some male in charge. For myself, I was compelled to begin wearing a headcover during worship when I was given the grace to repent of the feminist heresy.

        As for men wearing baseball caps during worship? I’ve personally never seen it but would be sure to have a private word with an elder or pastor if I did.

        • Mel Mariner

          I am closely acquainted with a sister in Christ that wears a head covering at her church. She had no heresy to repent of, she was raised to wear one. As for baseball caps, I see them at church but ours is a college ministry. It was hard for me at first, not because of scripture but because I’m old enough that I know of the rule of taking off your hat indoors. Once I realized that it would be a sin to chase away young people from the gospel over something like a cap I repented. Their culture has no context for the rule that you are speaking of or mine.

          • bravelass


            But isn’t that what the Church is for, in part? Isn’t that we are to encourage elders and mothers in Israel to do? To teach not only proper doctrine, but right attitudes, modest dress, the way we present ourselves at worship?

            The culture has no context for such Instructions, but the Church does.

            • Mel Mariner

              Not when they are babes in Christ, no. If you are loving in example and treatment the Holy Spirit sorts that out in time. You encourage them to grow spiritually, not just look like it on the outside. Paul said that he was all things to all men in order to win them to Christ.
              It’s kind of like when your children were learning to walk and potty train. Everyone worries about the age their child did what but when they are ready to get their driver’s license no one even remembers that anymore.
              With a college ministry you can’t assume they are there as believers. They may be just be checking things out expecting legalism having come from a works based church. Or they can be coming from a background with absolutely no church exposure in childhood so the only thing they know about the body of Christ are the stereotypes from TV and liberal media.

              When you said that you were compelled did you mean that someone else hammered you about it or that you grew in Christ to the point of being led to do that?

              • bravelass

                Oh, I disagree most strongly. If you don’t teach people when they are babies, they will never learn. They may learn somethings like walking, but you must teach them proper grammar and pronunciation as they are learning language. Some things are, indeed, caught. But many, many things must be taught.

                Our elders and mothers in Israel are the parents of our congregations. If they don’t teach the “children” that come into their care from day one, they aren’t loving those “children”.

                And this also goes, to some extent, to those unbelievers that we may look on as guests. I hope you would gently teach a young woman acting inappropriately, even if she were a first time guest. As, I would hope, the elders would teach a man visiting.

                Regarding my wearing a head covering, I was compelled out of obedience. Not at the urging of anyone else.

                • James Bradshaw

                  “Regarding my wearing a head covering, I was compelled out of obedience”

                  It is rare to encounter someone who takes the Bible at face value on ALL things. I never understood why those who can easily recite Paul’s admonition against homosexual conduct will ignore his insistence upon women covering their heads and men keeping their hair short.

                  As I’ve said, few people really “believe the Bible” in its entirety. Most of us pick and choose things according to the values we already have.

                  I’m just willing to admit that I do that. 😉

                  • Lauren Bertrand

                    As always, you are one of the few here (along with Buddyglass) who see through the inherent irrationality of ever even claiming to be a Biblical literalist. I won’t even begin to debate all the rhetorical gymnastics I have witnessed from some people here in order to suggest that the complementarian view doesn’t inherently impose a subordinate (and therefore inferior) role for women. I’m sure to see more back-pedaling in response to this post.

                    • Laurence Jeffrey

                      Submission is by no means inferiority. Christ is equal with the Father but was in all things submissive. We are called to submit to one another but by no means does that mean that we are inferior to any other person. Submission is not synonymous with inferiority. And yes the Bible does spell out specific roles for each of us to play, God made men to be the heads of women. what do you do with verses that say “and wives submit to your husbands as is fitting in the Lord”? At the end of the day either the Bible is the absolute Word of Almighty God or it is not. If you believe you can pick and choose what you like and what you don’t then you are placing yourself above the absolute authority of God. Tread carefully about how you approach the Scriptures. We must always approach the Word of God prayerfully with fear and much trembling, rightly dividing it and not conforming it to our own whims. Because as God Himself spoke through the prophet Isaiah “But this is to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at My word.” So figure out if the Bible truly is God’s word or not.

  • Mary Gray Moser

    Bravelass, I’m with you. Christian women, like women who are not saved, .wear clothes that look like they were sprayed on. This should not be.

  • Suzanne McCarthy

    It appears then that complementarians would rather have male leadership, than have the most reliable leadership.

    But even among complementarians there are scholars like Kostenberger who point out that there is no lexical evidence to support the notion that authenteo means to have authority” in a positive way. His syntactic argument can cut both ways, so it is a draw. It is not about following the scripture but about who decides how to translate it – the males or the best educated scholars – not necessarily the same thing.

    • Mel

      The best female teachers I have learned under are the ones that do not think they have to be just like a man to be worth anything.

      • Suzanne McCarthy

        Is this addressed to me? Does the fact that I studied biblical languages from the time I was a young girl make me just like a man? I have invested the time and I respect both male and female teachers.

        And the Lord did not practice telling men to provide for their own families and women to submit. Quite the contrary.

        In fact, for centuries most orthodox male theologians were supported by women. That is a consistent feature of the early church.

        • Mel Mariner

          Actually it wasn’t addressed to anyone in particular.

          But I will say that none of the good teachers I have learned under have ever told me why I should be happy to learn under them or how they were good enough to teach me. If they did, I would get up and leave. It wouldn’t matter which sex they were.

          • Suzanne McCarthy

            I don’t see that anyone is saying that here. The only odd thing is that some say it is better to study the truth under a male than a female. But I would rank morality and truthfulness as higher than gender in chosing a teacher.

            I think men do use their gender to justify being in the teaching role.

            • Suzanne McCarthy

              I am not in any teaching role but i believe people who misrepresent scholarship ought not to teach – that’s all.

              • Mel Mariner

                I have only studied under females in a bible study setting. Under men in a life class and in worship. I would rank morality, truthfulness and humility equally.

                There have been a few men that I have run across that are very educated biblically but are horses patoots. When someone is teaching from a position of pride then Satan is in the driver’s seat.

                I can submit under a man or a woman in a teaching setting. I do not want my sons being lead by a woman though. It comes across as very bossy

                • Suzanne McCarthy

                  “There have been a few men that I have run across that are very educated biblically but are horses patoots. When someone is teaching from a position of pride then Satan is in the driver’s seat.”

                  I wouldn’t put it that strongly myself, but I certainly veer away from Bibles that insert the masculine pronoun into the English translation where their is none in Greek. It seems to be a sin of pride or maybe grammar. But these translations should be avoided.

                    • Suzanne McCarthy

                      Some people say there are “trustworthy” and “untrustworthy” Bibles. This rhetoric was initiated by CBMW members. But as far as I know, they only list as “trustworthy” those Bibles which insert a generic masculine pronoun. So I veer away from Bibles approved by them.

                  • Mel Mariner

                    I prefer the NASB though I use many different translations. The NRSV is not one of them. My catholic friend uses that one. Though she doesn’t use it because she is gender challenged. She is just like me and she prefers to use as many translations as possible when doing a study. She just likes to stick to catholic approved ones. I doubt she has even noticed the gender differences.

                    • Mel Mariner

                      Teaching and leading are too different things. It is true though that many of the churches that like to have women leaders also like to ignore the sin of homosexuality. I think that should be answered to but it never it is. They like to bring up the men that abuse power on the complementarian side but ignore the abuse of twisting scripture to allow sin.

                      As for silencing women, I will say it again slightly different. God does His greatest work with those most humble. I have yet to see a woman yet that felt the need to give a man an earful about what they saw to be wrong in the church as someone that I would find worthy of trusting or following.

                      As for calling on a group of men to apologize for giving their opinion on something. I don’t understand where people get the idea that it’s their place to do that. If it’s wrong then I’m sure God will deal with it. Most likely He will deal with the people that demanded something when they shouldn’t too.

                      I’m not sure how that works to be honest. We are forgiven but are we free from the embarrassment of what our pride looked like in this life when we get to heaven?

                    • Suzanne McCarthy

                      Maybe he does have a conscience and its hurting right now. This needs to be rectified before the central actors die.

            • Lauren Bertrand

              “I think men do use their gender to justify being in the teaching role.”

              You would be entirely correct to think this.

    • Mel Mariner

      I hate that there isn’t a stupid delete button or edit or anything on this thing when you realize that you messed up your post.

    • bravelass


      Right. Because “reliability” is tops in the spiritual gifts inventory. If that were the criteria, why bother restricting it to Christians?

      But then you also know very well the question is not what Complementarians want, but what God wants, and the Scriptures instruct. It is what our Lord practiced, a practice continued by the first disciples, through the Fathers and down to our present age by all orthodox Christian bodies.

      But as I say, you know that.

  • Suzanne McCarthy


    As you know, male theologians were typically provided for by wealthy widows. That is the orthodox way and it is what Jesus and Paul practiced. But this is not a part of complementarianism. Complementarianism is born out of the present social context.

  • Marg

    Denny, I think it is reasonable to ask the questions about why we choose to heed and implement certain instructions in Scripture and why we choose to ignore others.

    Like Laura, I want to know “what exactly it is about women that makes them unfit for the job” in the eyes of some Christians.

    Many (most?) hierarchical Complementarians do not insist that men lift holy hands when they pray (1 Tim 2:8). Many hierarchical Complementarians do not insist that women not wear gold or pearls when in community with other believers (1 Tim 2:9). But hierarchical Complementarians do insist that women cannot teach men, even though (unlike the preceding verses) 1 Timothy 2:12 uses the singular for “woman” and “man” (and not the plural), and we can’t be sure what Paul meant by “authentein”. Also, 1 Cor 14:34-35 cannot be about silencing orderly women from speaking during a church meeting, as Paul elsewhere encouraged all believers, men and women, to engage in all sort of vocal ministries including praying and prophesying out loud (cf 1 Cor 11:5).

    We all pick and choose what verses are relevant to us, and we need to be aware of what our reasons are for doing this. Questions are important. If God wants to use only (mainly?) men as leaders: Why?

    In regard to your comment about Jesus choosing only men to among the Twelve, I’d like to point out that Jesus chose the Twelve before the New Covenant was in effect; he chose them in a vital juncture between the Old and New Covenants. And he chose them for symbolic reasons. Moreover, considering that Jesus chose Judas to be one of the original Twelve, he did not choose them all for leadership reasons.

    So my question is why do you think God only wants “qualified males . . . to be pastors” when some women are clearly gifted and qualified to lead? Why would God make that rule, if in fact it is his rule?


  • Marg Mowczko

    Looking back I can see that what I wrote in my previous comment is not that clear, so let me summarise:

    Complementarians silence women in church meetings, and exclude them from leadership, primarily by using 1 Cor 14:34-35 and 1 Tim 2:12. They think that these verses are relevant prohibitions in the current context of church services. They think these verses reflect God’s will for all time, in every church.

    But most Christians do not implement the instructions in 1 Timothy 2:8 and 1 Timothy 2:9 even though these instructions are addressed more broadly to “men everywhere” and to “women” (plural), rather than “woman” and “man” (singular) in 1 Tim 2:12.

    Christians have used their reasoning to determine that the instructions in verses 8 and 9 are not particularly relevant in church services today. They do not think that it is God’s will for all time, in every church, for men to lift holy hands when praying; they do not think that God still prohibits women from wearing pearls and gold in all churches.

    Why have people decided this? And how have they decided what is, and what isn’t, God’s will?

    People have used their reasoning.

    I would like to know the reasoning behind the Complementarians’ decision that 1 Cor 14:34-35 and 1 Tim 2:12 should be universally binding. Why do Complementarians think that these verses better represent God’s will than 1 Tim 2:8, 9? What do they think God’s intent with these instructions are? What makes a woman unfit to be a leader?

    • bravelass


      You know very well it isn’t simply “the Complementarians” decision to view 2:12 as binding and 1:8,9 as not. Women have never held the presiding office in the Church, historically speaking and up until what I will broadly term our present day. Specifically, 2:12 is tied to creation and 1:8,9 is not. Even so, if you don’t insist on looking for the worst forms of hypocrisy you will find that there are not a few Complementarian churches where men do lift their hands in worship and many of the women wear a head covering. I’ve even seen one (gasp!) where men frequently greet one another with a holy kiss.

      When you write, “People have used their reasoning.” My immediate response is that is precisely the problem with the way many put the mantra “sola scriptura” into practice. They have not thought with the mind of the Church.

      What makes a woman unfit to be a leader? Nothing. What prompts you to even ask the question? Although there are some misguided individuals of the, “women have smaller brains” variety, this has never been the mind of the Church. In fact the Catholic Church, that bastion of an all-male priesthood, has recently recognized a woman as a Doctor of the Church — and she is not the first woman so recognized.


      Your point about support from wealthy widows is neither here nor there. Someone, man or woman, uses their wealth to God’s glory? Great! But so what?

      As for your speculation about Denny’s conscience, well I can only say I’m glad I don’t have your nerve in my tooth.

        • Suzanne McCarthy

          Lol I am moderated so it is an unfair platform. But I m very happy not to have my nerve in your tooth!

          • Suzanne McCarthy

            Really, I am referring to CBMW founders, some of whom I know, and have brought shame on the Christian community. I won’t back down from asking for an apology until all main actors in this unpleasant drama have passed on.

          • bravelass


            You would do well to listen to my dear brother’s admonishments (over where you’ve been posting as “Sue”).

            I am quite certain Denny has good reasons for moderating you. Although he and I have had our disagreements, I’ve never found him to be unreasonable. In fact, I’d wish he moderated a but more!

            It’s really unseemly for you to go whining like that when you are, in fact, Denny’s guest. And not a paying lodger.

        • Marg Mowczko

          Who led the church in Philippi in the early days, if it was not Lydia? (And quite possibly Euodia and Syntyche too.) Who led the church that met in Nympha’s house, if it was not Nympha? Who led the church that met in Priscilla and Aquila’s house if were not Priscilla and her husband Aquila? And as for a woman functioning as a presiding leader, it is possible that this is exactly what “prostatis” means, used in reference to Phoebe, a minister of the church at Cenchrea.

          If godly, capable women are not unfit to lead, why are they prohibited? This is my question which I would like answered. Why would God prohibit capable women from leading, if indeed he has so? And why have people interpreted certain verses, written to local churches, experiencing local problems, as being universally binding, but ignore other verses in the same letter, even the same chapter? I believe these are valid questions.

          I chose 1 Tim 2: 8,9 because they are in close proximity to 1 Tim 2:12 which is the verse than many people get stuck on.

          I think it is hyperbole to say that I “insist on looking for the worst forms of hypocrisy”. Moreover, the picking and choosing of what verses to heed and what verse we can ignore takes place in all churches. I never implied that it only happens in Complementarian churches.

          As for 1 Tim 2:13-14, we know from several surviving Gnostic texts that it was taught that Eve was created first, etc. It is entirely plausible that Paul is correctly a false doctrine in 1 Tim 2:14-15.

          There is plenty of evidence from early church literature that false teaching and sexual immorality were a problem in the early church. Moreover, I think there are parallels with 1 Tim 2:12 and Rev 2:20:
          “Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication …” Rev 2:20 KJV
          Being a woman leader and teacher was not the problem in Rev 2:20, it is what Jezebel was teaching and doing that was the problem.

          Paul was silencing disorderly, false-teaching women in 1 Cor 14:34-35 and 1 Tim 2:12, not well-behaved, sound-teaching women. (He also silenced disorderly tongue-speakers and prophets – presumably both men and women – in Cor 14:28,30.)

          Lastly, I have a great deal of respect for Denny, which is one of the reasons I read his blog, and even respond from time to time. I am genuinely interested to hear what he has to say.

          • bravelass


            Arguments from silence and suppositions about meanings don’t get you to where I think you must be as a committed religious feminist. You can’t argue office on the basis of, “Who else could have done it?” Well, you could but that and about $4 will get you a coffee at Starbucks.

            What I’ve yet to see religious feminists acknowledge is that their argument isn’t with simply the Complementarians. It is with Orthodoxy, Catholicism, as well as the Reformers (at least historically). So, while Complementarianism mat be a novel way to express things, what they are attempting to defend is as old as the Church.

            If you go back and look at my comment again, you will find it is not hyperbole, but a caution against cherry-picking examples.

            • Marg Mowczko

              I consider that the Church began on the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came on all believers. On that day Peter announced,
              “And it will be in the last days”, says God,
              “that I will pour out my Spirit on all people,
              and your sons and your daughters will prophesy.
              And your young people will see visions,
              and your old people will dream dreams.
              And even upon my male ministers (servants)
              and upon my female ministers (servants),
              in those days I will pour out my Spirit and they will prophesy!”
              Acts 2:17-18

              I am not arguing about “office”, but I am happy to discuss specific ministry functions mentioned in the New Testament, including the ministry gifts and functions of leading and teaching.

              Patriarchy crept into the Church during the Post-Apostolic period and has persisted for most of the Church’s history. Numerous women are mentioned in the New Testament in a positive way; almost no women are mentioned in the works of the Apostolic Fathers; and many of the subsequent writings were written directly to men with terrible things said about women in general.

              Many classic Christian theologians have believed, and taught, that the subjection of women is rooted in the Fall and Genesis 3:16.

              I do not consider Complementarianism to be a traditional belief of the Church. True Complementarians do not share the misogynist views about women held by too many traditional theologians. Complementarians look to “the Created Order” rather than the Fall for the basis of the subjection of women. This is a huge departure from classical Christian theology. Complementarianism, with the view that men and women are equal, and that women are not inferior to men, is a new doctrine, originating in the 70s.

              “Always reforming” is a good thing.

              For clarity let me add that I do not believe that “the Created Order” determines male primacy or gender roles, etc. And I do not believe that Paul taught a Complementarian ideology.

              Kamilla, Please use a bit more grace, and less derision, in your comments to me. We are sisters-in-Christ, despite our disagreement. I bear you no ill will.

              • bravelass


                I use the term “presiding office” to avoid confusion over different church polities. Part of the problem with these discussions is that many confuse gift with office so we need to be clear about these things. For instance, the Church has affirmed women’s leadership and teaching in many settings. But it has never, contrary to your claim of post-apostolic patriarchy creep, affirmed women in the presiding office. Ever.

                It is known in some circles as the dominical practice, it began with Our Lord. It was followed by the Apostles, both before Pentecost in the choice of Matthias and after. It is even shown in God’s sovereign choice of Saul/Paul. Only men have been ordained to the presiding office.

                And let us not forget that God is utterly sovereign. As He tells us through St. Paul in the letter to the Galatians that, “when the time was full” God sent forth His Son. Christ chose only men for the twelve, not because He was bound by the culture, but because it was His will — to come when the time was full and to do the will of the Father.

                I find it a bit ironic that you call for me to extend grace just after you misread me, accusing me of hyperbole that wasn’t there.

                • Marg Mowczko

                  I tend to use the New Testament, and not later church practices and traditions, in forming my views about what men and women did in Church.

                  There is very little information about church “offices” in the New Testament. However, all the verses which speak about the ministry gifts which are essential for ministry functions, positions or offices are all entirely gender neutral in the Greek – as gender neutral as John 3:16.

                  Paul mostly referred to his ministry colleagues, which included women, as “sunergoi” or co-workers. These include: Timothy (Romans 16:21); Priscilla and Aquila (Romans 16:3); Urbanus (Romans 16:9); Apollos (1 Corinthians 3:6-9); Titus (2 Corinthians 8:23); Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:2:25) Euodia, Syntyche and Clement (Philippians 4:1-3); Aristarchus, Marcus and Jesus also called Justus (Colossians 4:10-11); Philemon (Philemon 1); Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke (Philemon 24). These people, and others such as Phoebe, may well have been presiding leaders.

                  I cannot see much evidence that “the Church has affirmed women’s leadership and teaching in many settings” in its history from the Post Apostolic period until relatively recently – “the present day”. Moreover, most of the recent encouragement has been given to women to teach and lead other women and children. This is despite the fact that there is almost no biblical evidence of women teaching and leading women on theological issues, but there are more than a few examples of women teaching and leading men with no hint of disapproval from the men themselves, or from the biblical writers who recorded these occasions.

                  1 Timothy 2:12 does not represent a biblical consensus on the issue of women leading and teaching men. And certain women may well have been affirmed in a presiding office during its first hundred years or so.

                  • bravelass

                    “I tend to use the New Testament …” So the Church can be trusted to determine the canon, but not the place of women ?


                    • Jane Dunn

                      Surely you’re not suggesting that “the Church” is infallible in all that it determines? Not even the Catholic Church goes that far about papal utterances.

  • Akash Charles

    is this not similar to christian’s who approve gay marriage

    they choose to ignore parts of the bible- much like egalitarians- so this always keeps my wondering why so many egalitarians are opposed to gay marriage.

    anyways ignoring the bible never works!- It is God’s word and it is time we started calling out such women for their pride and satanic influences just like we do to so many male leaders- so how about some equality!

  • bravelass

    Oh goodness, Jane! Whatever made you leap to that? I was simply reflecting Marg’s argument back to her. She trusts the Church with the determination of the canon, but not what the canon means, how we are to interpret it, how we apply it, etc. it strikes me as being very shaky ground to stand upon.

    If the Church allowed evil patriarchy to creep back in so soon, how in the world can we trust her to have settled the canon correctly?

    • Jane Dunn

      Kamilla – Just because the Church gets some, or many, or even most, things right, it does not follow logically that we have to accept as correct every aspect what the Church determines “what the canon means, how we are to interpret it, how we apply it, etc.” We can trust the Church to have settled the canon correctly while at the same time it allowed, in your words, “evil patriarchy to creep back in so soon,” because neither the Church nor her leaders are infallible in all that they do and say.

      • bravelass

        That sounds nice until you stop to wonder who gets to determine when the church is correct and when it is wrong. Who gets to decide this and how is that determination to be made?

        • Jane Dunn

          Well, I don’t think we are going to be able to solve that dilemma in these blog comments. Suffice it to say that the Catholic Church has one answer, and the Protestant denominations have several hundred others. Good Christians have been wrestling with those questions for more than two millennia. If no one had challenged Church teachings, we would not have had the Reformation. Personally, I am most persuaded by the Wesleyan quadrilateral approach, but I certainly don’t agree with everything in the UMC Book of Discipline.

          As a Christian feminist, I generally agree with Laura Ortberg’s CT article. But, I don’t think the word “pernicious” was especially helpful. But, then again, I also don’t think it’s helpful when Complementarians level charges of “heresy” at the Egalitarians or feminists either. I think you are as wrong as you think I am wrong, but, we both must admit that, for now, we all can only see through a glass darkly.

          • bravelass

            Ah, but there’s the problem. One of us stands with the Church historic — all three branches. And the other follows the spirit of the age. Christianity and feminism are antithetical to each other. Feminism, all feminisms, grow from a mistaken anthropology. And, because it is a mistake in anthropology, it inevitably affects christology. Because of this, it is appropriate to call feminism heresy.

            • Don Johnson

              The basic protestant answer on the canon contents is that the Council of Carthage in 397 ENDORSED the canon as currently being used in the vast majority of churches, but did not SELECT it.

              And more importantly (as it directly contradicts your thesis), that the church councils made mistakes in interpreting Scripture that we as prots do not need to endorse as a part of our faith.

              • bravelass

                Uhm, no. The “basic Protestant position” with regard to the ecumenical councils (unless you mean something else?) is that they *could* have made mistakes. With the exception of the seventh council on iconodulia. In fact, most Protestants (or at least most of those even aware of the councils), hold the definitions to be binding.

                Whatever level of authority you ascribe to the Church’s holdings on the canon is really beside the point. If the Church can be trusted on the matter of the contents of the canon, why not its meaning?

                Who gets to decide? How are those decisions on meaning to be made?

          • Akash Charles

            sorry but anything that has an obsession for power and satisfying pride is not christian- and no feminism in the 21 century is not about equality for women- so you cannot use that definition-actions speak louder

            christian feminist-oxymoron!

  • Brett Cody

    Are you not propounding a ‘secret knowledge’ of your own? How do you know with certainty that Paul was writing 1 Tim. 2:13-15 to repudiate a false Gnostic teaching? You were not there. See how slippery a slope you have built your foundation upon?

    • Don Johnson

      No, I am not proposing a secret knowledge, esp. not of my own. MANY Bible interpreters who know a lot more than I do teach that the Bible was not written TO us but was written FOR us. See, for example, Gordon Fee “How to Read the Bible for All its Worth”.

      • Marg Mowczko

        Judging by the contents of Paul’s first letter to Timothy, there was clearly a problem with false teaching in the Ephesian church. In 1 Timothy 6:20 Paul indicates that this false teaching was a form of Gnosticism (gnosis).

        Irenaeus (c115-c202) wrote a five-volumed work (c 180AD) in which he identified and refuted several strains of Gnosticism. This work is commonly called Against Heresies; however its true title is: On the Detection and Overthrow of the Falsely-called Gnosis. Irenaeus copied Paul’s expression from 1 Timothy 6:20 exactly, ”falsely-called knowledge” (??? ?????????? ???????), for the title. This work opens with Irenaeus remarking on “endless genealogies”, a phrase copied from 1 Timothy 1:4.

        Cognates of the word authent?s, a word used in 1 Timothy 2:12, are also found in Gnostic texts.

        Albert Wolters, (a Complementarian) has noted that, “. . . the word authent?s played a prominent role in Gnosticism; for example it was the name of the supreme deity in the systems of early Gnostics Cerinthus and Saturninus (first and second centuries AD).”
        [Albert Wolters, “A Semantic Study of authent?s and its Derivatives” in the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 1/11, Spring 2006, p44-65.]

        Authent?s, which is grammatically feminine, is typically translated into English as “supreme power” in works by Early Church Fathers who addressed Christian Gnosticism. There is a clear link between the word authent?s (used in 1 Tim 2:12) with Gnosticism.

        I think it is highly likely that 1 Tim 2:13-15 is a correction of some of the false teaching in the Ephesian church. And we shouldn’t forget that Ephesus was the city of Artemis, the “Great Mother” goddess who looked after virgins and mothers in labor (Acts 19:23-41; 1 Tim 4:3).

          • Brett Cody

            Paul clearly states in 1 Tim. 2:13-15 that the order God put in place was a complementarian order. This was not a result of cultural issues unique to the church in Ephesus. That is why Paul attributes this order to Adam being formed first, then Eve. Further, the egalitarian view is not a result of creation, but a result of sin–God even forecasts this curse when He tells Eve that her desire will be for her husband. It is due to this *very clear* admonition from scripture that I cannot approve of egalitarianism.

  • Brett Cody

    It seems to me that there is an awful lot of things that have to be considered in order to reach the interpretation that women are allowed to teach or preach. Thank the Lord that He allowed so much extra-biblical commentary to be preserved. Otherwise, we would be unable to properly put into practice what the scripture clearly states.

    • Don Johnson

      The concept of the perspicuity (clarity) of all Scripture is simply false and the Reformers never claimed any such thing. If you accept it, the truth is that there are a lot of Scriptures that require “extra-Biblical commentary” in order to be understood in cultural context. Of course, if you do not want to do that, you can always provide your own 21st century cultural context which is guaranteed to be incorrect in many ways. Your choice.

      • Marg Mowczko

        “All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.”
        Westminster Confession of Faith (1647) Chapter 1, paragraph 7.

        We can be fairly sure that Timothy understood the letters Paul sent to him because Timothy could read and understand the Greek of the day and because both Paul and Timothy knew the situation (context) at Ephesus. But we can’t even be sure of what Paul meant by the word authentein in 1 Tim 2:12.

        While 1 Tim 2:12 might seem plain and simple in English, this verse and those following are not as straightforward as they might appear.

        Even Peter admitted that some things Paul wrote about were not easy to understand (2 Peter 3:15-16).

        One thing I do know is that 1 Timothy 2:12 does not represent a biblical consensus on the topic of women teaching and leading men. There are plenty examples of women teaching, leading, advising and directing men with not one hint of complaint from the men, or from the Bible writers. I have a list of these Bible women in my article “The (Im)propriety of Bible Women with Authority” which you can google.

  • Mel Mariner

    People underestimate what God can do with a woman that that is obedient to scripture. Audrey Wetherell Johnson started a bible study for a small group of women when she couldn’t be in China anymore. It has grown to over a thousand studies in 38 countries. You don’t have to be seen and known by everyone for God to use you for amazing things.

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