Question: Should women be allowed to pastor over men?
One of the major scriptural passages in favor of the view that women are not allowed to take the role of the pastoral office is found in the first letter of Paul to Timothy. In 1 Timothy 2:11-12, Paul said,
(v.11), Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. (v.12), But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
The word “silence” in verse 11 is connected with the prohibition stated in verse 12 in which Paul is clearly saying that women are not “to teach nor to usurp authority over the man.” However, it must be noted at the outset that the woman’s silence mentions in this verse does not devalues her worth nor pressures her rights as unique being created in the image of God. Rather, it must be carefully observed that her “silence” here is driven by a Spirit-motivated attitude and character, as Paul implies in previous verses, 9 and 10, which is out of her obedience to God’s law (1 Corinthians 14:34). Thus, the woman’s silence in the Church is not to make her inferior, for Paul also said,
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
So when Paul said to Pastor Timothy (1 Timothy 2:11-12) that the women should be silent in the Church, it is not to dishonor their dignity as co-equal with men in standing before God; that’s not the point of Paul here. The woman possesses and enjoys the same spiritual privileges before God, just like the man. Her silence is not an expression of inferiority but an expression of submission and obedience to God. In other words, she’s doing her silence not because she can’t learn or that she is incapable to teach, that her mind/brain is second-rate compared to man. No, experience and common sense show us that women are good teachers; they are intelligent educators of the society, more than men. But in the context of the local Church, Paul by divine inspiration does not permit women to take the office of Pastoral ministry because by virtue of God’s design and order in the Church, the office of Pastoral ministry is ordained by God exclusively to men. Thus, the submissive-silence of the woman in the Church is an ecclesiastical order – saying that she is not allowed to “teach nor to usurp authority over the man” in the context of Pastoral ministry and leadership. That’s what it means, and it is the order of the Church; an order not made by man, but by God Himself as part and form of worship to Him in the Church.
Therefore, the simple yet major answer why women are not permitted to take the office of Pastoral ministry is simply because God – by design –does not call them to this role. It is a role exclusively given to the men in the Church (1 Timothy 3:1). Just like the headship of the family is given to the husband and not the wife, (1 Corinthians 11:3), likewise, the pastoral office and leadership is only given to men. And again, this is not to say or to imply the men are more spiritual than women. Far from it, this is not about spiritual maturity and privileges; rather it simply has to do with God’s order.
Now, the major objection thrown at Paul’s statement in 1 Timothy 2: 11-12 is to presuppose that Paul was addressing and accommodating to a culture where women were always expected to submit. Now, historically and culturally speaking, the subordination of women has been proven to be universally true, not in only one culture but in other cultures as well. It seems that because of the so-called machismo principle that dominated the cultures of the past civilizations, women had suffered inferiority complex contrived by the manipulative principles of men. Even in the time of Paul, the Roman law prohibited important social rights and privileges to women, just like the freedom of expressing one’s opinion in public. In Israel, the Rabbis had shown higher regard for men than women. And in the family, more value and privilege were given to sons, than to daughters. These are just little samples of the historical gender discrimination that penetrated the culture of the past civilizations and might be still happening till now in some cultures. And so, it is not surprising that even Paul’s statement here in 1 Timothy 2:12 will be also put to question, if it has not been tainted by a sad and undignified ideology of gender-discrimination.
To clearly answer the objection, the argument of Paul’s statement in 1 Timothy 2:12 must be thought out carefully. As already mentioned, the “silence” of women stated in verse 11, which is of course connected to and described by the Apostolic prohibition of “not to teach nor to usurp authority over the man” – the context does not say that the woman is naturally inferior to man, that she is physically weak compared to man, nor because at this time, she’s not privileged to educational pursuits, that because of that she must be silent in the Church. No, that’s the not the issue, not even hinted in the verse and context. Rather, the prohibition that Paul stated is simply because of God’s order in the Church. But, lest we and the Christians of that time misinterpret that this ecclesiastical order was influenced by man-centered and man-ruled culture of that time, Paul by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit made it clear that the pattern of this order is not the culture that they were in, but from divine creation itself. Observe very carefully of what he said in the following verses,
For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. (1 Timothy 2:13-14)
Take note of the word “for” in verse 13. By this preposition, Paul is giving here about his proposition and prohibition in verse 12. Accordingly, in light of this reason, it is not true that Paul is appealing to culture, on the contrary he’s appealing to creation, and since creation is universal and not particular, the application of Paul’s proposition here is not bounded by particular culture and time. Rather, it is a universal design and pattern for all people of all cultures and time, especially the Church of God.
And so, to answer the question, “should women be allowed to pastor over men?” St. Paul answers, no. Why? Because by virtue of God’s design and order in the Church, patterned in His original design in Creation (of Adam and Eve), the pastoral office is only given to men, in which the women must accept and support with humility and obedience to God’s order.