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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

13 September 2005

Women Pastors: Yes or No?

Q: Is it right for women to be pastors of the church?

A: Not if Paul wrote the truth when he said the bishop should be “husband of one wife.” Actually, the entire word of Scripture only speaks of male pastors. We also have the example of Scripture, including the Old Testament priesthood: Yes, all Israelites were priests, but only certain men were in The Priesthood. So also all who followed Christ were (and are) disciples, but only certain men were called to be fishers of men, apostles, pastors and teachers (that is, those who preach and teach doctrine on a congregational level), and the like.

Finally, we should consider the “icon of Christ” reason: Jesus is to His Church as bridegroom is to bride. The one who stands in His stead at the congregational level acts as a “best man” who speaks for the Groom (“in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ,” as the Lutheran absolution formula says). The Church receives pastors as icons or models of the Groom, just as the congregations model the entire Christian Church. Scripture uses very fleshly, almost carnal illustrations of the relationship between Christ and the bride. A woman as “pastor” in such a situation — well what would you call an intimate love-relationship between two women?

See also the previous post, Family Disagrees Over Women Pastors.

Send email to Ask the Pastor.

Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.


Blogger TKls2myhrt said...

In my switch from evangelical to confessional lutheran, this issue gave me the LEAST pause for thought. I always felt that women pastors were wrong, but never knew why.

I saw a bumper sticker yesterday that said: Ordain women or stop baptizing them! I can't even begin to understand the logic behind that one. ;)

14 September, 2005 21:26  
Blogger Mrs. T. Swede said...

I agree 100 percent. What would you say to pastors who allow women to assist with communion, though? My husband and I won't take communion elements distributed by a woman because we believe it to be wrong.

15 September, 2005 08:34  
Blogger TKls2myhrt said...


I wouldn't take it either, although that wouldn't happen in the ELS at this point in time.

I've said this before, but I'll say it again. I've never been in a church that so highly values women. Women in the confessional lutheran church are very active, very highly respected as thinking beings and are EXPECTED to be very educated and well-catechized. The elders in my church routinely seek out women's thoughts and opinions on matters, in their process of research before making decisions. Following God's model men and women should never be demeaning or exclusionary. I've been in many conservative denominations, but the confessional lutheran church does the best job of fully supporting, embracing and valuing women. To me it doesn't matter that I don't read liturgy or assist pastors or become a pastor; it's simply not appointed by God for me to do so. There's plenty of other work to do!

15 September, 2005 09:30  
Blogger Lisa S. said...

Part of the problem is that we have had somewhere between 20-70 years when catechesis was sort of assumed, but not necessarily DONE. The beautiful teachings of male/female, Christ/The Bride, Head-ship etc. may not have gotten explained, and the vacuum has been filled by society's desire for equivalence of the sexes.

We also forgot some of the cool teachings about Vocation, and in our Pietism we wanted to show God and others that we women could do "Holy Work" (like being a pastor) just as well as guys. (After all, doesn't everybody think that being a pastor means you are really more spiritual than everybody around you? ;-) )

15 September, 2005 14:28  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a 18 year old Lutheran who felt a HUGE spiritual rebirth after reading the entire Bible and I know for a fact that God summoned me to read it, as my family and I have NEVER been religious and rarely even go to church. I have a deep wish to follow the Holy Trinity. God gave me the ability of art and creativity to teach the Gospel through the books that I had 6 years ago planned to write. However, after I finis, I was thinking about becoming a pastor.

However, I am very confused about Paul's meaning in 1 Timothy, restricting women in the church. I researched it and found two different interpretations that make sense:
1. That Paul was refering to the disorientation of the church of that distinctive peoples
2. the reasoning of the male/female headship.

If God truly doesn't want women to have authority in the church, is there anything that we women can do inside of the church without breaking God's law? I truly believe that God wants me to commit myself FULLY to Him, that's why He has gradually sneaked His way into my books for the past 5 years.

18 July, 2006 01:48  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would have to question - why would God give gifts like leadership, teaching and pastoring if God didn't want them to be a pastor?

Honestly, I'm not saying that all women should be pastors or that only women should be pastors, but I'm thinking that if God is so smart and in control, I can see him saying, "All right, early Christians, you people will have enough problems without worrying about sexism/gender roles right now."

Which means that God may be saying today, "We're coming close to the end times here, every, lets work together for a little while longer, and then we'll have a great staff party when it's over."

All I'm saying is, God, who is so smart, would probably realize that while women pastors may not have been practical or workable 2000 years ago, they may be a valuable asset today.

-Stephanie Van Dyk

Feel free to email me if you want to talk further on this. I'd love to hear some other opinions.

26 November, 2006 02:25  
Anonymous Brett said...

It is almost inconceivable that Jesus Christ would not welcome women into the church. In fact, he lambasted organized structure that excluded people. Women have been part of ministry in many denominations (http://blogs.pioneerlocal.com/religion) and continue to serve the church universal.

20 June, 2008 09:44  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Paul wrote that the bishop should be “husband of one wife.” But keep in mind that at that time, it was legally permissible by that society for a man to have multiple wives. Think back to Solomon, who asked the Lord for wisdom - was it 800 "wives" that he had? The bishop should be "husband of one wife"- not multiple wives. So maybe his emphasis was on the importance of a MONOGAMOUS marriage. He doesn't mention "no women bishops" in this passage, does he?
Yes, Scripture only speaks of male pastors. But again, consider the social context of the day- women weren't socially equal to their male counterparts, now were they? Which would explain precisely why Paul exhorted men to "love their wives as Christ so loved the Church". Love your wife, rather than beating her... Radical, isn't it? Jesus fought against condemnation and judgement.
If you want to know the truth about anything as far as Christianity is concerned, look to the example of Christ - he showed that he valued women - he didn't condemn the woman at the well. When He rose from the dead, he didn't first show Himself to the male bishops, the priests, or the apostles, did He? He made himself known to the WOMEN first!
Finally, note that In Christ, there is no male or female, no Gentile or Jew.... the overall picture should be one of unity, so where Scripture is silent, we should each follow our conscience and focus on the big picture - and that is people coming to Christ - and not let an issue like this divide Christians.

03 August, 2008 12:54  

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