The role of women in the church, has become blurred over the past centuries, and has continued to cause division amongst denominations, and doctrines. Within the bible, there are various positions of leadership, and hierarchy, that God has called to lead His people, consisting of bishops, elders, priests, deacons, pastors, shepards, overseers, etc. These are all to be people who are beyond reproach, stewards of the things of God, not accused of rebellion, and one who maintains and manages a family, and home, in good order and discipline. Two positions are spoken of frequently, the deacon, and the elder.
The deacon is an ordained servant of the church. A deacon “must be dignified, not double tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.” They must prove themselves to be blameless. “Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober minded, faithful in all things” Deacons, also, must have only one wife, and manage their household well (1 Tim 3:8-13). An elder is someone who is older in years, wise, and has been ordained, usually with the ability to teach and preach the Word of God. The elder must be “above reproach, the husband of one wife” and have children who are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. “He must not be arrogant or quick tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:6-9).
Women do have the opportunity, and biblical backing to obtain the office of deacon. Paul, in Romans 16:1 commends Phoebe, who was a servant of the church at Cenchrea. Or a better translation of servant here is, “deaconess”. He goes on to charge the romans with receiving “her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints…” because of her selfless servitude toward the church. Eldership, I believe, is another situation altogether. Women are instructed to be submissive to their husbands within the home, with Christ like submission, and likewise are to be submissive to men within the church, and therefore under the teaching of men, not in the ordained position of teaching men.
Complementarianism, exalts the equality of men and women, while understanding that the roles of each are, and should be different. This contrasts the concept of equalitarianism, where, being totally “equal”, involves the opportunity to have the same function in all things. Galatians 3:28 is often used to defend the equalitarianism position. While there are now, “neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, no male and female” because we “are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28), and this is true, this does not, however, address the particular roles, and godly gifts, and skills given to men and women, but merely our standing with the Father. Within the church at Corinth, the women must have been the common offenders of disrupting the preaching of the Word, (1 Cor 14: 33-36) and therefore Paul commands the women, in that location, to “keep silent”. He goes on to say that they are to learn from their husbands at home. While this was directed primarily to the women in Corinth, since Gods word is all inspired by Him, and is good for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness, this principal, must, in some way still apply to women today, otherwise God’s word would cease being living and active.
Many will disagree, and esteem the equalitarianism view point. However, God has done a wonderful work within the role of men and women, and in the creation of Eve, God called her Adam’s helper. Furthermore, one “suitable for him”. These terms coorolate to only one logical conclusion, that she was the complement, to his lacking. She helped, not where God had failed to create him (God did no such thing) but where God had originally intended for the female to complete him, to showcase an example of the glory, that is God, in trinity. It seems to me, that those who argue, and fight for complete equality beyond, value, purpose, and worth, miss the bigger picture, and allow for satan to cause schism, amongst the church of Christ.
Within the life of a Christian, we are told to be completely submissive to all authority (Rom 13:1, 1 Peter 2:13) and put on Christ as clothes, which entails being humble, and becoming a servant to all men. This mandate is equally bestowed to women, and men alike. The practices and obediences within the church ought to create a godly lifestyle for both the man and woman, and that submission ought to carry over to the work place. Even the preacher man, is under the authority of God almight, and submits to Him. So the woman who is submissive within the church, and yet holds a position of power outside the church, ought to delegate justly, lead humbly, and deal mercifully with her subordinates. Christ has placed her in that position so that her sphere of influence could be great for the sake of Jesus Christ.
Ultimately women have always played a significant role within the bible, the life of Christ, and the church. Jesus was born of a woman, He openly spoke to (unclean) women, admitted to women as His followers in spite of the objections and suspicions that might arise. Women were central figures in many of His parables, He safeguarded the rights on women with His instructions of marriage. Jesus first appeared to women after His resurrection, and made them the bearers of His good news. The importance of women can never be snuffed out, because God has made it that way, and their contribution to theology is paramount. From hosting the first churches in homes, to the creation of the salvation army, women have carried out the “Great Commission” as good as any man has, and have done this with vigor, because of their earnest love for Jesus Christ.
Matthew Henry puts it best saying: women are “not made out of his (Adam) head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled by him, but from under his arm to be protected and near his heart to be beloved”.