Can Women Be Pastors? (A Video Answer)

In our Exploring Northridge class – there are a few questions that we hear almost every time. One of them is about women in church leadership. Here is a video (3:30 long) answering that question.

Can Women Be Pastors? from David Whiting on Vimeo.


As always – if you receive this by email, click HERE or on the title above to see the video.

  1. I don’t understand why 1 Cor. 11:2-16 is explained as being culturally based. In 1 Tim. 2:13-14 Paul takes his reasoning from creation and in 1 Cor. 11:8-9 he does the same for head covering. His reasoning starts in 11:3 that God is the head of Christ, Christ the head of man, and man the head of women, which is why women should pray and/or prophesy with their head covered. Even after Paul’s appeal to nature he concludes that the churches have no other practice, women praying and prophesying with their head uncovered. Until the twentieth century the church didn’t have any custom of women not wearing a head covering in some fashion. If head coverings are a cultural accommodation, could not women teaching be considered one as well, or a personal preference of Paul’s?

  2. Even a hot topic out east eh? Very good explanation. More importantly, Biblical. Now for an intoxicating subject, drinkiing…=)

  3. Thanks for the explanation. I’m curious how this would apply to a small group ministry. There seem like there are small groups in which women facilitate, mainly by administrating the question/answer time after watching a video or talking through sermon notes. There seems to be a fine line there, but I’m having trouble getting my arms around how one knows if that line has been crossed. Any thoughts?

  4. Rob –

    Those are hard things! I agree – where is the line? My wife is in charge of the nursery; there are men who serve in the nursery. Is that a violation?

    I don’t think so. I also don’t think facilitating discussion is a violation.

    We specifically believe that a woman is not to teach the Bible to men – as THE authoritative book in our lives. And we do not believe that a woman is to have biblical authority over men. But how do you do that in the bookstore, cafe, children’s ministry? I’m not sure – other than those women are led by a staff member and must handle themselves carefully and not assume an authoritative role over men, but a cooperative, organizational role.

    In small groups, wives may facilitate discussion, but not teach a passage. I think when you lead small groups, you usually do some teaching. That isn’t what our female discussion leaders are to do. And they do it under the leadership of their husbands – who may ask them to lead the discussion because they are better at getting people to talk then men.

    We don’t think any of these violate the Scriptures, but we often think through how to apply these commands.


  5. Dear North,
    I want to share this with you – don’t know of another way but this site – The news will report that this man – Ken Parfitt, who stopped on 390 yesterday morning to help another and was himself struck and critically injured – died this morning. Most of us would breathe a prayer for the family and turn to our business at hand. Listen to the beginning of the Loonsberry show (warning: after the stuff about Ken Bob gets wild). The prayer of Ken’s wife is an example of the prayer my heart should pray at all trial. What an example! And what a God we serve!
    I add that I don’t know the type of church the Parfitts attend, but the day of Pastor Boehm’s motorcycle accident, a fellow North attendee and I were at a homeschooling curriculum sale out past Spencerport way, being held at a church that is probably very similar to the one Loonsberry describes. Earlier, in fact just after PB had been struck, Joe and I came upon the scene in the car, were routed around it, and went home to check with dad to see if he knew anything about what had happened. Of course, we were praying for all involved. All we knew was a motorcycle had been hit. Later that day, out at the church holding the curriculum sale, I got the call from mom saying it was Pastor Boehm that had been hit and was at Strong in the need of serious prayer. Now, I can’t get into the long skirts all the time and the long hair that the people in the type of church we were at espouse, but this I know: They love God with a genuine passion! Seeing how distressed I was and hearing me grab my friend and say we need to pray now, the people began to gather around us and asked what had happened. I shared about PB’s accident and needs and those fellow Christians stopped the sale – a man went to the mic on the stage and shared the prayer request for PB with all there and asked them to join in prayer right that moment. We all prayed. Afterwards, several people came up to assure that they would keep praying, some asked what church we attended and some shared names of acquaintances they knew at North. Powerful moment of connecting with the body!
    I want to share all this because this man Ken and his family is a friend of one of my mom’s friends. Ken worked at Harris with my brother John. His son went to school with another North attendee. We never knew this man and this side of Glory will probably never meet his family, but the truth is, as believers, we are all connected, we are all one body. I am reminded this morning that I must be strong to speak for Jesus; I must be courageous and live my life, despite how hard it is in this culture, as an example of God’s light and love. May we all pray that our light and momentary troubles afford the opportunity to share the love of Jesus with others. He is the reason for the season; He is the reason I breathe. May I remember that as I go through the grind of check-out lines and brief interactions with strangers, as well as in the pursuit of meaningful relationships with neighbors, friends and family.
    Bob Loonsberry:
    It is a podcast of his show…
    In the beginning of the show he talks about what happened as he helped Ken Parfitt after the accident on 390 yesterday.

    Please continue to pray for Jamie, their children and families.

  6. hot one for us too…it takes a degree of humility to believe that God made us to be certain things and to NOT be other things. We like to be the masters of our own destiny, not made for a purpose.

  7. I can understand the “old man” (unsaved man) not wanting things to be in the Bible, BUT the “new man” (saved-born again man) picking and choosing what he wishes wasn’t in the Bible? I just can’t get my simple Clarks Summit mind around that one.
    As far as women preachers? Give it time. The church has caved in on so many other issues… The culture will win on that one too. That’ll bring more people in, right? Isn’t that what we want?

  8. Jasone did you listen to the whole video or just that one sentence? David is not saying that it doesn’t apply to our lives or is something that we as a church will choose to ignore/ disobey? he’s explaining why we as a church obey that teaching even in this culture which is becoming more and more accustomed to women as leaders.
    not sure what your point was in your posts above because you didn’t really make one, but cynically commenting while misinterpreting what someone is saying is a waste of everyones time who visits this blog.

  9. Jasone…I think the problem your having here comes from the vast difference between your walk with Christ, I’m assuming you have one, and David’s. One of the things I respect David most for, there are SO many, is his passion to be open, honest, transparent and compassionate when it comes to understanding, living out and communicating God’s Word to those he comes in contact with.

    It seems like maybe you are still struggling with the idea that even a new man, spiritually minded and enlightened by God can have compassion when it comes to the truths that are in God’s word. David’s not afraid to admit that some of the things God says can be hard to accept. He accepts them. And lives them out probably better than anyone I know BUT and this is HUGE, he understands that the culture we live in and the people we are trying to reach for Christ (that’s what we want by the way, to live out the great commission) will struggle with some of God’s truths and commands. After all, His ways are not our ways!

    What we all as Christians should strive to show the world around us is that we love, care and understand where they are coming from because we came from the same place. A life of sin and enmity with God and his truths and commands. We embrace them and live them out but we understand that some are hard to embrace. That’s why Grace is so Amazing because some how our hearts have been changed to know and accept the truths and commands of God even though we may not always love the implications of them.

    Being honest about your feelings about God’s word isn’t sad…acting like your better than everyone else and trying to make people look bad is sad…especially from a new man.

  10. Jasone –

    For some reason you are still hiding and putting false emails in the email field (third time). I am sorry to see that. I would have enjoyed interacting with you on some of your comments, but you prefer to hide while giving your comments.

    You know how to reach me. If you are willing to really interact and not hide, then I don’t mind comments that are disagreeing and disagreeable. But coward comment-ers that handle things sinfully aren’t something I feel is right to tolerate (especially from those who aren’t even part of our church, it seems). I will take down your initial comment (on “crunchy” post).

    I look forward to receiving an email from you. You know how to reach me.


  11. It is sad that Jasone has taken so much attention when he doesn’t want to abide by the rules that David has for his blog.

    I am interested in knowing why 1 Cor. 11:2-16 can be seen as being culturally based and thus ignored, when Paul ties the tradition that he has passed down to the Corinthian church, and is in the other churches, to creation as well. It also could be tied in with Paul’s view of men having authority over women in 1 Tim 2:11-15.

    If the rules for headcoverings are ignored for being culturally based, then the rules for women teaching and having authority over men could be culturally based and ignored. They both are rules based on creation, but only one is ignored. The note for 1 Tim. 2:13,14 in the Life Application Bible says “Some scholars see these verses about Adam and Eve as an illustration of what was happening in the Ephesian church. Just as Eve had been deceived in the Garden of Eden, so the women in the church were being decieved by false teachers.” Showing that some believe that Paul’s use of creation is allegorical and not a basis of why men are to always be in authority over women in church.

    There is also no conclusive evidence that women in Roman or Greek society with loose hair, or with their head uncovered were seen as sexually deviant. This could be true in Middle Eastern and Jewish culture, but wasn’t the case in western Roman/Greek culture. It was common in Roman society for woman higher in society to have their heads uncovered and in “elaborate hairstyles.” Greek society varied from city to city but in some cultic practices a women would let her hair down as a sign of the egaltarian nature of the soul whether the body is male or female.

    I like the statement “we don’t want to be sexist around here,” but in the case of women as pastors, elders and teachers you are sexist. Your sexism is based on the Bible but is still sexism.

  12. Let me defend Jasone here a little bit. His concerns haven’t been addressed by David. Instead, Jasone has been picked apart because he doesn’t want to post his email address. Big deal. Spook him and tell him that he’s from CS. Next, attack him from every direction and even tell him he’s being sinful( that’ll win him over ). Finally, boot him off your blog. You win and Jasone loses. And look- you never had to answer any of Jasone’s concerns. Nice.

  13. What was his concern? That some Christians are honest enough to admit that there are things in God’s word that they wish weren’t there, right? I thought that WAS addressed… maybe I’m wrong.

    Or were you referring to his concern over the “pointless debate” about a name for people that are willing to make sacrifices for the gospel?

    It seems to me jasone is just trying to cause problems, anonymously and from a distance.

  14. It is pretty unfortunate that this is all happening in the comments of this blog. I really love good discussion, but intentional antagonism toward David and his comments for the sake of stirring up anger and quarreling is silly…

    The issues mentioned by jasone have been addressed, despite the antagonism. And I LOVE the fact that David calls these hard truths “things I wish weren’t in the Bible”. This NEVER meant “things I will choose to ignore”.

    Our understanding is very limited, but God’s way is supremely perfect. We can look at scripture and from our limited vantage point say “this shouldn’t be…”, but we surrender and live obedient to scripture despite this, knowing that there is a reason. God knows better!

    When I first read a new passage, I always ask myself two questions. What do I like about this passage and what don’t I like? The parts I like are often those that I agree with, and give me a starting point to move into those I don’t like. The parts I don’t like are almost always those I have the most trouble understanding or that I have the greatest struggle applying to my life.

    I think it is incredibly healthy to look at a passage and “dislike it” or “wish it wasn’t there”, as long as the final result is obedience…

  15. Mark –

    A few thoughts for you, and perhaps – some more later.

    I know you are feeling “ignored” through the comments section here. Sorry about that. I don’t struggle with your question, and feel that it has very logical, biblical answers.

    I AM struggling with two things. First, to answer your question adequately requires more than five minutes to write a response. I have a couple of difficulties with devoting much time to this right now. First, I believe that you and I do not hold the same views on Paul or on the inspiration of the Scripture. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I believe that is true. Second, a constant battle I have is the wide distribution of my blog. It is primarily (though not exclusively) for Northridge Church members/attenders. So every time someone from outside the church asks a question that requires time to be devoted to an answer, I struggle with the correct use of my time.

    So – because of a combination of those reasons, I don’t know if I will get to an answer soon.

    If you are truly looking for an answer, I would recommend “Recovering Biblical Manhood/Womanhood” by Piper and Grudem.

    Thanks. I hope all is well for you guys in CA!

  16. David,
    “Feeling ignored” is nothing new, and I actually find it amusing.

    I was raising the question because there is a logical inconsistency in your video. Women aren’t to have authority over men because Paul ties his reasoning to creation, yet women don’t have to where head coverings, even though Paul’s reasoning is tied to a hierarchy of authority, reflection of glory, creation, nature and being the custom of the churches regardless of the culture they appear to be in, because there is assumed to be a cultural reason for Paul’s command for women to wear a head covering.

    Are there logical answers to why one command should be followed, while another ignored, even though both commands are rooted in the same reasoning? Yes, but it really has nothing to do with logic, or the Bible for that matter. It is called cognitive dissonance management, which allows people to hold conflicting ideas without the anxiety and discomfort that those ideas should bring. People can reduce dissonance by changing their ideas, or behavior, or they can justify, or deny that the conflict is present. A smoker may desire to live a long healthy life, but they continue to smoke. Instead of changing behavior they justify their habit, or deny the reality that smoking will cause health problems. I read a quote by R.C. Sproul (Knowing Scripture) that reflects this dissonance as people deal with head coverings and authority in the church by making it a cultural issue, he stated

    “It is one thing to seek a more lucid understanding of the biblical content by investigating the cultural situation of the first century; it is quite another to interpret the New Testament as if it were merely an echo of the first-century culture. To do so would be to fail to account for the serious conflict the church experienced as it confronted the first-century world. Christians were not thrown to the lions for their penchant for conformity.

    “Some very subtle means of relativizing the text occur when we read into the text cultural considerations that ought not to be there. For example, with respect to the hair-covering issue in Corinth, numerous commentators on the Epistle point out that the local sign of the prostitute in Corinth was the uncovered head. Therefore, the argument runs, the reason why Paul wanted women to cover their heads was to avoid a scandalous appearance of Christian women in the external guise of prostitutes.

    “What is wrong with this kind of speculation? The basic problem here is that our reconstructed knowledge of first-century Corinth has led us to supply Paul with a rationale that is foreign to the one he gives himself. In a word, we are not only putting words into the apostle’s mouth, but we are ignoring words that are there. If Paul merely told women in Corinth to cover their heads and gave no rationale for such instruction, we would be strongly inclined to supply it via our cultural knowledge. In this case, however, Paul provides a rationale which is based on an appeal to creation, not to the custom of Corinthian harlots. We must be careful not to let our zeal for knowledge of the culture obscure what is actually said. To subordinate Paul’s stated reason to our speculatively conceived reason is to slander the apostle and turn exegesis into eisogesis.

    “The creation ordinances are indicators of the transcultural principle. If any biblical principles transcend local customary limits, they are the appeals drawn from creation. ”

    That you don’t struggle with this question shows that your management system allows you hold conflicting ideas about commands in the Bible: some must be followed while others can be ignored, even though they are based on the same principle.

    As to the two issues that you do struggle with: 1) You are right I do no hold the same views as you about Paul and the inspiration of Scripture. I would question your view on those things when you are willing to ignore one command from Paul for what would appear to be nothing more than cultural expediency and not exegesis of the text. However, in fact I am no longer a Christian; you could say that my cognitive dissonance management system broke down. This should not hold you back, as a response may be beneficial to those in the congregation who may also see the problem or want more clarification but may not want to bring it up. By responding to my comment you could further edify those in the congregation as to what you believe the Biblical answers are.
    2) I understand your struggle with addressing those that are outside of the church, but again I would see your response as a educating those in the church, and those that read your blog, not just the one person who raised the question. You also expressed that you “would have enjoyed interacting” with Jasone comments, who apparently has not attended the church and I with others that have responded on your blog don’t see the point of his comments other than to be antagonistic. It would seem hypocritical of you to be willing to address Jasone and not me when I had no intention of antagonizing you (though I will admit that I have come across that way before), and because I was an attender of the church, volunteering my time and talents to the church, even still I keep up on your reading your blog, and listening sermons (I don’t believe that I have missed one yet since I left Rochester). I never became a member because my convictions at the time prevented me from do so. It is true that I am outside the church, especially now physically and spiritually, but that has not always been the case, and I still feel connected to it. Guess that is one area that my cognitive dissonance system still works.

    Though I have enjoyed other books that you have recommended, I don’t think that I will make time to read that one anytime soon. From reading sections and reading reviews of the book the authors seem to just be seeking conformation for their bias. This just riddles the book with contradictory material according to reviewers, and doesn’t clarify the confusion. Of course Paul wrote that “God is not a God of disorder/confusion” and yet his writings are the source of this confusion within the church.

    I don’t really expect a personal response, but this could be an interesting topic on your blog to further explain the role that gender plays in the church, or a sermon topic to clarify gender roles.

    I really do try to keep things short, but some things are hard to address well. So I understand that my question is more involved than what can be answered in “five minutes to write a response” or from a 3 1/2 minute video clip.

  17. Mark –

    I’m truly not ignoring your question. I’m struggling with the best use of my time. I gave you a recommendation and you choose not to read it because of reviews you read. (I doubt you would want someone to reject a book YOU recommend because of someone else’s review). But I’m struggling with how much time I should give to your question when you’ve rejected your faith and don’t seem interested or pursuing Christ. That is no offense to you. I just can’t give attention to every thought or question that comes my way. But I have it in my “inbox” and hope to devote a little bit of time to in the coming weeks. Thanks for your patience.

  18. David,
    I chose not to read the book not just based on reviews, but also reading sections of it, including the chapter relevant to head coverings. Within that chapter the author begins with the premise that “wearing head coverings no longer speaks to our culture” and from there redefines Paul’s meaning without any support from the text or from history, for a conclusion that is more culturally agreeable, but against what he has argued is what Paul wants people to do in churches.

    When someone has rejected a recommendation that I make, I ask why, and sometimes it is simply a matter of one’s time, and I am ok with that. I just choose not to use my time to read something that is contradictory, because they are starting out with a premise that they hold higher than the text they claim is inspired. I rather like it when people point out issues with things I recommend.

    The thing is I am interested and pursuing Christ, that is what has brought me to rejecting Jesus as that Christ. That is also why I still listen to your sermons, read other books defending Christianity, that maybe I would come back to belief, somethings would be easier if I still believed.

    I have lots of patience, and read your blog often so I can wait for you to devote more time.

  19. I’d comment but then a man might read it and then I might be in danger of having biblical authority over him. Can’t risk that…. I guess this means that men should also not read anything that women write. So, if a man is to consider other widely accepted perspectives on the interpretation of this particular text it would need to come from another man, right?

    • Karen,

      No, that isn’t a true representation of the complementarian viewpoint at all. There are many women given significant roles of authority in the Bible – both Old and New Testament. There is one role in the Old Testament reserved for men (priest) and one role in the New Testament reserved for men (elder). And yes, there are a wide variety of interpretation on this and every biblical text. There are scores of books written from various perspectives and even books written by those who disagree with each other (I love this one: The necessary and biblical step is for every church, pastor, and Christian – is to do their best to rightly divide the word of truth. And not all Christians and churches land at the same interpretation. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need to land at an interpretation. And in the process, you show grace to views different than your own. By God’s grace and with His help, I try to do that.

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