Women in Church Leadership: Yes!

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David and I stopped in for a haircut at Champions Salon & Barber on Friday, and my stylist mentioned women in church leadership. She apologized for bringing up something that is divisive, so we talked about wearing masks instead.

Molly and I have been married for seventeen years, and even before we begun dating I had moved from complementarianism to egalitarianism regarding women in church leadership. In no way did I look past biblical texts which appear to prohibit women in leadership roles. Rather, I simply found complementarian interpretations of these texts to be less persuasive and the overall redemptive arc of the Bible’s narrative toward women in leadership to be more compelling.

I continue to read on this topic, and have only deepened in my conviction that men and women uniquely and together best serve the church when each, irrespective of gender, is honored in light of both calling and giftings. Experientially, I have continue to benefit greatly from the leadership and ministry of women, as I have done in the past, not only in children’s Sunday school, but in various other aspects of congregational life.

I suspect that over the course of my lifetime these questions will continue to be debated. The hermeunitcal questions are challenging. But among evangelical Christians, it appears that attitudes may be changing. Based on his research findings, Ryan Burge reports: “The results of a recent survey once again indicate that most evangelical Protestants are in favor of seeing women take on more prominent positions in the church.”

Burge and colleagues found:

In a survey I fielded along with political scientists Paul Djupe and Hannah Smothers back in March, 8 in 10 self-identified evangelicals said they agree with women teaching Sunday school, leading worship at church services, and preaching during women’s conferences or retreats.

Slightly fewer endorsed women preaching during church services, but 7 in 10 were in favor, according to the research, conducted by a team of political scientists in March 2020.

One detail that surprised me in Burge’s findings: support for women pastors was significant among Southern Baptist respondents.

It’s no surprise most evangelical Christians were most comfortable with women leading in Sunday school classes and when women are speaking to women. Yet despite a slight drop in favorability, there was still strong support for women preachers on Sundays, in congregational worship.

Burge’s group also uncovered interesting data pertaining to age demographics and theology. Evangelicals 65 and older are more likely to disagree with women preaching, while respondents 55 to 64 are more open. Younger evangelicals between 18 and 35 are more likely to align with the oldest demographic. The most surprisingly theological correlation: “When the sample is restricted to just those who believe that the Bible is literally true, three-quarters of those who attend services multiple times a week agree with women preaching during weekend services.” Those attending church most often also demonstrated the highest levels of support for women in the pulpit.

Just because something is popular does not make it true, and vice versa. Convictions should always be held on the basis of sound biblical hermeneutics and reason. Otherwise, sentiments will only be based on the direction of the wind.

Nevertheless, I take this as an encouraging sign. When women are given the space to lead according to calling and gifts, the church is blessed.