The role of women in church is shrouded with questions. They range from simple ones like: “Can women preach?” “Does she need a man to “oversee” her ministry activities?” “Should women always cover their head in church/congregation?” to out rightly flabbergasting ones like
“Can women wear men’s clothing’s?” And if you think that’s weird, hold on its gets better! “Can a woman who covers her head, wear men’s clothing’s?” Yeah! You read it right! And then there are questions with the classic spiritual flavor “Do women who exhibit strong leadership qualities have a “Spirit of Jezebel?” “Are women more easily deceived than men?” I mean, seriously?
So where do we start? I’ll attempt to address the important questions and of course the best place to look for answers is the word of God itself.
- Can women preach/lead?
Yes. The bible is full of examples of women leaders. In order to set the context right let us look at a few women in leadership positions in the bible and pretty much cover the fivefold ministries. There are many more examples, however in the interest of article length I’ll restrict to a few.
- Deborah: The prophetess and judge (Judges. 4:4). As a prophetess, God used her to deliver His messages to His people. As a judge, God gave her the authority to render civil court decisions
- Huldah: The prophetess who unveiled the future of a nation 2 Kings 22:14-20; 2 Chronicles 34:22-33. She was clearly an important leader to be approached by the king and high priest of Israel
- Miriam: The prophet Micah identifies Miriam as one of the three leaders sent by God to bring Israel out of Egypt (Micah 6:4).Wow!
- Mary Magdelene: On the day of resurrection Jesus told Mary Magdelene “Go to my brothers and tell them…” John 20:17.
- That clearly fits the job description of an evangelist and it does not look like Jesus was interested in the gender of the messenger!
- Phoebe: In Romans 16:1-2, Paul writes, “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon in the church in Cenchreae…” Phoebe is identified as a deacon, which in the New Testament is a teacher and leader in the church. In Paul’s letters, deacons are connected to ministry and service of the word (1 Corinthians 3:5-9)
- Junia: explicitly recognized as an “apostle” by Paul in Roman 16:7
- Does a man need to “cover” a woman in her ministry activities?
Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11:3, “the head of woman is man”. These words reinforce the idea that women cannot approach God without a male authority figure in their lives. Dan and me have tried to balance this scripture with Ephesians 5: 21. “Submit to one another”. While I personally believe in accountability to my husband and believe that he is the head of the family, I know that I am not inferior. Dan always consults me in all important decision and heeds to my counsel, he treats me like a partner with an equal stake. Gal 3: 28 “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” A woman can pray, worship, study the Bible or minister independently. Man, because of his gender cannot add credibility to prayer or Spirit-empowered ministry!
- Should women always cover their head in church/congregation?
“But a woman dishonors her head if she prays or prophesies without a covering on her head, for this is the same as shaving her head. A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man”. 1 Corinthians 11:5-6. Most Bible scholars believe that Paul is addressing specific cultural concerns in first-century Corinth and that he is calling for propriety and order in a society where immorality and paganism had blurred gender distinctions.
I was saved in a church where women cover their heads. I did the same. And then I came to Bangalore and attended English speaking services where women did not cover their heads…. And I did not cover my head too.. Did the presence or absence of a piece of cloth on my head affect my walk with God? Absolutely not! I felt the same presence and love in both cases. I know that God is far more interested in my heart and my life than whether I am wearing a scarf or not 🙂 . Having said that I respect ladies who cover their heads as a sign of honor to God… it is their conviction and that is their way of saying “God I love and honor you” amazing! Nobody should have a problem with that but I won’t judge a lady who is not covering her head too!
So what is the purpose of this article? In the end I can only conclude with Jeremiah 17:10 “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind….” God is interested in the heart… he is interested in relationship not religion. He values genuiness of heart and sincerity of motive above rituals and protocols. But there is a spirit of religion lurking in our churches trying to choke us with manmade boundaries and prevent us from being 100% fruitful for the kingdom. Let us not be deceived. Let us see beyond the veil of religion into the purpose of God.
Hope you are blessed!