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Leadership is male?

February 11, 2012

It has been a contentious issue for a long time. Should the leadership of Church just be the domain of men – or are women equally able to provide leadership?

Those who argue on the side of male leadership will point to 1 Tim 2:11 “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man;she must be quiet.” which does seem to be conclusive. However the little phrase “to assume” or more literally “to usurp” is the key to this verse. Paul who elsewhere (In Romans 16 Paul lists a number of women in his greetings which we can only assume are church leaders) accepts women having some role in leading, is advising Timothy not to allow those who are not appointed to leadership to undermine his ministry.

So perhaps a more sensible way forward is to recognise that women can have leadership roles, but not the role of an Elder? In Timothy (3) Paul sets out the “person specification” for Elders, and it is quite clearly male. They (and indeed so are Deacons) are to be faithful to one wife and able to manage their children! Seems fairly clear. However in (11) Paul mentions Women (sometimes translated as Deaconesses, or as Deacons Wives) So was Paul inconsistent?

Maybe we have all completely missed the point on this issue. We are so busy defending our position either pro or anti women in leadership, that we have totally overlooked the blatantly obvious fact that Paul expects leaders to be married!

The bible has three passages which outline the roles and responsibilities in family life, sometimes referred to as “household tables”, In the Ephesians passage (5:21 – 6:9) he sets out relationships between Husbands and Wives, Parents and Children, and – as Roman households also had servants and slaves – Masters and Children. The fundamental principle that over-arches this passage is  5:21 “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ”

In the household the Father has authority and the wife is to submit (24), the father however has to love his wife (33), and ensure that his is not over-harsh to exasperate his children (6:4) or threaten his slaves (9). The other household table passages are consistent with this!

So there is a really clear picture of leadership in the house that does not exclude women, but fundamentally includes their insights, skills, and ability to manage the family. A single father household will always really struggle. The final decision may be down to the Father, but the overall sense is of leading by inspiration and consensus. It is defiantly not a top down “do as I tell you” model!

So to return to the qualifications for Elders, it is very significant that in 1 Tim 3 Elders are to”4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)” Leadership is from Eldership, but unless Elders know how to share the leadership task with their wives in the home, they are explicitly prohibited from taking on leadership in the Church.

So Eldership is most certainly male, but it is also married! Leadership is from Elders and their wives. This is for the sanity of those called to Eldership and the protection of the Church!

But human nature being what it is – I expect someone will now start a campaign against the unfairness of not appointing unmarried Elders! I await the disgruntled responses.

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