Roles of Men and Women in the Church

Adopted 1990

On the basis of such Scripture passages as Genesis 1-3; I Corinthians 11:3-16; I Corinthians 14:33b-36; Ephesians 5:22-26; Galatians 3:28; I Timothy 2:11-15; I Peter 3:1-7; Romans 16 and Philippians 4:3, we teach:

1. God created man and woman in his own image, that is, he created them with a true knowledge of Him and with perfect righteousness and holiness. Even though our first parents lost this image in the fall into sin, yet God in his grace promised the Savior and in Him restored this image.

2. This spiritual equality of man and woman is a blessed reality, as St. Paul writes in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

3. Through faith in Christ all Christians are members of the universal priesthood of believers and as such are in full possession of all its rights and privileges and are exhorted to exercise them.

4. At the creation of man and woman God established an order, or structure, by assigning individual identities and roles to each sex. According to Genesis 2, Eve was created to be a helper to Adam and as such was to be under his headship.

5. The headship principle is clearly taught in the Old Testament. In Genesis 3:16 the Lord says to the woman: “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” The original structure at creation remained in effect after the fall into sin.

6. The headship principle is clearly set forth also in the New Testament. In I Corinthians 11:3 Paul says, “the head of the woman is man,” and in Ephesians 5 the apostle tells wives to submit to their husbands “for the husband is the head of the wife.” (Eph. 5:22- 23) The apostle Peter refers to this headship principle when he singles out Sarah as an example in obeying Abraham and calling him Lord. (cf. I Peter 3:1-7)

7. The headship of man in his role of leadership to which the woman is subordinate is therefore God’s arrangement for good order. (Genesis 1:31)

8. The prime example of the goodness and necessity of the headship principle is found in the relationship between God the Father and God the Son. (cf. I Corinthians 11:3) Biblical Christianity has always taught that the Father and the Son are equally God; there is no difference in their degree of divinity. And yet in I Corinthians 15:28 the Son himself is said to be subject to the Father. It is interesting to note that here the same verb is used for the Son’s subjection to the Father as is used for the woman’s subjection to the man in Ephesians 5 and I Timothy 2. In I Corinthians 15:28 the purpose of the Son’s submitting to the Father is not to put the Son in an inferior position, but to bring about a beautiful plan. The purpose of the wife’s submitting to her husband and of the woman’s being submissive within the Christian congregation is also to carry out a beautiful plan, viz., the establishment of a marriage that not only lasts but is also a wonderful harmony, and the establishment of an orderly and harmonious fellowship within the congregation.

9. Our Lord has revealed that He wants the headship principle to be upheld in the church. It is for this reason that the Lord has restricted the pastoral office to men. (cf. I Timothy 2:11-14 and I Corinthians 14:34ff)

10. The same principle applies to woman suffrage in the church. Scripture forbids the women “to have authority over a man,”( I Timothy 2:12)

11. However, this principle does not forbid consultation between men and women in the church. Informal meetings or forums may be held, therefore, at which women may have opportunity to seek information and express their views. But the final decisions are to be made by the men. The Lord himself has placed this responsibility upon the men and they are to carry this out in a manner that is sensitive to the feelings and wishes also of the women.

12. Scripture encourages women to use their talents in areas of church work which do not conflict with the headship principle or the public administration of the means of grace. As members of the priesthood of believers there is much for women to do in church. In Romans, chapter 16, the apostle Paul commends Phoebe to the Christians at Rome as a servant (diakonos) of the church at Cenchreae and sends greetings to women who had been of assistance to him. He mentions Priscilla and her husband Aquilla as “fellow workers in Christ Jesus” (v.3) and a certain Mary “who labored much for us.” (v.6) And in his letter to the Phillippians he urges the congregation to “help those women who labored with me in the gospel,” (4:2) Nor should we forget the many women who ministered to our Lord during his earthly ministry whose names are recorded in the Gospels. Women may, for example, lend their counsel in open congregational forums; teach parochial school, Sunday school, vacation Bible school; direct choirs; serve on committees in advisory capacities; assist the pastor and elders in calling on the sick, shut-ins and singles; and also assist in works of charity in the congregation and community.

13. From the above passages it is evident that women used their talents in the Lord’s service and they were commended for it. The church today can learn from the early church to do the same, but always within the parameters which God himself has established. In the past there has been perhaps too much emphasis on what women are not to do rather than on what they are to do, thus giving some the impression women’s talents are neither needed nor appreciated

14. While we must continue to uphold the scriptural principles so far as ordination of women and their exercising authority over the man is concerned, it is clear from the passages under study that women’s participation in the work of the Gospel is a blessing to the church. God has given the ministry of the Gospel to all believers; it is the office of the pastoral ministry that he has restricted to qualified men.

15. Finally, Christian men ought to take their leadership responsibilities seriously, and Christian women also have the responsibility of encouraging men to fulfill their obligations and duties of leadership.

16. When men and women labor together in the Gospel, taking heed to the Word and working within the scriptural limits, then truly God is glorified and the church is edified.