Why I Support Women in Church Leadership – in 30 Seconds

Kate Wallace Nunneley


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Why I Support Women in Church Leadership

I was recently asked to summarize why I support women in church leadership in thirty seconds or less. This was my response…

Perhaps we should allow women today to do as many things as the women of the Bible did.


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  • “However what do people in this thread have to say about 1 Timothy 2:11-12 & 1 Corinthians 14:34. (explain in 3-4 sentences why you don’t think this means a women shouldn’t teach.)”

    1) God gave women voices, minds and His Spirit, and gave them to have dominion over all the earth when he made them equal with men in the beginning.
    2) All the notable women in the Bible teach us, whenever we read the Bible, by both instruction and example(i.e. Hannah’s sermon) so how can two or three sentences undo the whole Bible?
    3) Who else is going to teach men from a perspective that they will never understand unless they hear from women directly, half of the human race.
    4) One should hardly take 3,4 verses from the Bible to make a doctrine that flies in the face of a whole body of teachings that contradict them. The nature of God rages against such a teaching that keeps women’s voices and ideas in bondage and oppression and, by the way, silence the voice of the Holy Spirit in women

    That’s a start, ladies.

  • I don’t think there is biblical evidence for women not to be able to lead, women can totally lead in many different ways.

    However what do people in this thread have to say about 1 Timothy 2:11-12 & 1 Corinthians 14:34. (explain in 3-4 sentences why you don’t think this means a women shouldn’t teach.)

    • Matt, as you may know, this site is not a forum for debating egalitarianism in general and the purpose of comments is to interact with the specific content expressed by a specific post. The two “clobber” passages you mention are addressed elsewhere on the site. If you search 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians you’ll be able to read at least a half dozen posts that deal with those verses. Looking at Paul’s actual practice of partnering with women is also helpful (Acts, Romans). Hope that is helpful to you.

  • Kate W. Nunnelly said :”Deborah was Israel’s judge (Judges 4:4) so I’m not sure how this author can claim that she wasn’t taking a leadership role.” It does make one wonder. However, God clearly states that Deborah was a judge and the people came to her for judgment so it is hard to understand why that other author needs to go over and above what God said and add his own cultural preconceptions in an attempt to clarify (dare I say, correct the impression of) God’s Word. But, I think I know how this author, and a plethora of others, can claim that Deborah wasn’t taking a leadership role.

    Here is the recipe he must have followed: First take a cup of the cultural view of women that says women must be in subjection to men (that is supposed to be based on a partial reading of Ephesians 5, omitting 5:21 ) and add that cultural preference to the Bible. Then mix in a Tablespoon of the almost universal cultural assumption that God always and only uses men to lead and pour that that very human view on the Bible. Add a pinch of the view that when the (sovereign!) God can’t be sovereign, if that is actually possible, He has to take second best, and that is women, while stretching both definitions and facts beyond reason. Add a quart of the belief that women are inherently inferior, incapable and less acceptable to God as workers in His Kingdom, than men. And finally add a measure of doubt that Jesus succeeded when he “broke down the walls of partition” between Jew and Greek, bond and free, male and female…and only “attempted” to make them one in Christ. Simmer this for a lifetime in the assumption that Jesus did not either intend to, or succeed in, breaking down the walls (cultural) that separate men and women making them one with men, but rather re-erected high walls to keep women out, contrary to the words of Paul, and there you have it: The resultant belief is that”Deborah wasn’t taking a leadership role”. Talk about cooking The Book!

    Finally one has the option to add a sprinkle of belief that Equality means sameness, that men and women would be required to be the same if they are equal (hence the erroneous inference of so-called Gender Neutrality). This inaccurate view of Equality forgets that men and women are both different “and” equal. To be different does not remove equality from the equation…it only requires a little thought.

    Equality actually is another term for righteousness and balance. Equality of responsibility (“To whom much is given much is required”) and equality of importance, mean that there is an equality in the distribution of different gifts as a package deal from God, according to His will, and there is a necessity of carrying out each individual’s varied work fully, in accord with the warp and woof of the tapestry that is God’s secret work on Earth. God repeats often that He does not have favourites: The one talent or the ten talents in no way infer inequality and neither does gender. Each application of gifts is a bundle, so to speak, given to the individual for specific work and reasons, and God deals with individuals as equals despite giving them varying degrees of talent and responsibility. Each is equally responsible for the work given them. I believe the Bible fully and undeniably teaches this equality “and” difference in every example of work God has given each Bible character, male or female and that God’s Way is both Equal and Right.

  • About Erin’s quotation: “The world is not amazed by the church becoming like them and championing their causes (Feminism or Gender neutrality.) They are going to be amazed when they see Christians, in an uncompromising way, follow what God says…”

    1) The implication that the world is going to be amazed when they see Christians behaving in the ‘role-playing way’ that they claim ‘God says’…The world is entirely bored by our silliness in pretending women have nothing to commend themselves under God and by the arrogance of men who prefer to keep women believing thus. How could it be amazed by women being muzzled, stifled and oppressed in the name of God? Wake up women and claim your liberty in Christ, and don’t wait another second!
    2) Feminism is not a worldly cause…it is a reaction to the poverty of patriarchy..Biblical feminism is a Godly rejection of bondage and has no part with rabid secular feminism….the two parties are entire opposites.
    3) Gender neutrality is a false concept, a trumped up charge by Complementarianism that cannot hold water. There is no such thing, and may God spare us from this foolish droning that implies that Egalitarians require gender to be suppressed…Egalitarian women are every bit as female, perhaps more so, than women who reject all they “are” in order to fit themselves into a tiny man-made box of limited opportunity, limited use of gifts and limited life in general and blame all this on God, who came ‘That they might have life and have it more abundantly”…you have no idea how hard it is not to put that last quotation in capitals….particularly ‘abundantly’…

    Abundant life is entirely the opposite of Complementarianism and I can’t for the life of me understand why men accept this limitation on themselves either! How dare we insult God by claiming that He wants our lives to be meager and inadequate?

  • It may shock some people, but I see Deborah and Barak as a mirror image of Moses and Joshua…just the prophet of God and the military leader working together…because that is essentially what the Bible teaches, no? The prophetess Huldah and King Josiah are another pair of God’s people working together as are the prophetess Abigail and King David. Why is it so shocking to see Deborah as another Moses? The only reason can be a low view of women…not from the Bible but from cultural myopia.

  • Here is a great article in response to this article:

    “I am not against women being used in their gifting’s in many ways, or even women in leadership roles outside the church…but if we are going to be men and women of God we must first obey what he has laid out in his word. The world is not amazed by the church becoming like them and championing their causes (Feminism or Gender neutrality.) They are going to be amazed when they see Christians, in an uncompromising way, follow what God says…”


    • Hi Erin,
      Thanks for your comment. That is an interesting blog. People often try to explain away the women of the Bible who don’t fit what they believe women should be or do. This author seems to be taking a lot of liberties with scripture. Deborah was Israel’s judge (Judges 4:4) so I’m not sure how this author can claim that she wasn’t taking a leadership role. No where in scripture does it say that she didn’t want the position or that she wasn’t leading- so I’m not sure where he’s getting that. Judges weren’t military leaders, they were spiritual leaders who guided the nation in the way God wanted. Deborah gave the word of the Lord to Barak and told him how to win the military battle – because he was the leader of the military. Scripture never judges Barak for asking Deborah to come with the troops. In fact, Barak is listed in the “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11 for his faith. So to claim that scripture places judgement on him for a “lack of faith” is contrary to scripture.
      This author is adding quite a bit to scripture to claim that Deborah herself didn’t believe in women leading! Scripture never says that Deborah being the spiritual leader of the nation was a bad thing, or contrary to God’s plan. It simply says “Deborah was judging Israel” – with no qualification. This author might feel comfortable claiming those things, but I’m not comfortable being so liberal with the scriptures.

    • Whether we like it or not, God calls women to positions of leadership, including leading men, every day and has done so for thousands of years. I don’t understand why we would take a handful of verses written to specific churches to address specific situations and say they are meant for all time. Every time Paul writes about women he also writes about slaves, yet we don’t uphold slavery. But we miss this when we use proof texts to try and make a point. It’s frustrating to be accused of not following God’s word just because we have a different interpretation of what the word says. For me, following God in an uncompromising way means pushing back against any kind of hierarchy that places one group under the permanent authority of another.

    • Just wanted to add that the author of the article insinuates that Deborah asked Barak to lead for her. This is misleading and inaccurate. Deborah ruled for some time over Israel, Barak was a military leader under her leadership. He was never asked to lead Israel outside of the context of battle. Deborah’s role included much more than leading troops into battle – governance and spiritual leadership, for example – and she fulfilled these roles on her own, with God’s guidance. I honestly don’t see how one can read the text and think Deborah did not fully embrace her role.

      • Erin’s comment deeply troubles me as it reflects the great error out of which God has led me, away from teaching that played ‘fast and loose’ with scripture and twisted everything subjectively, in order to make a case for male power over women. (consider over 100 hostile Biblical references to various forms of the word to ‘oppress’) God is essentially a ‘freedom fighter’…Exodus defines God; seeking for all his people a life of liberty, joy and abundant life, not bondage. Patriarchy is found in every foul pagan institution in the world. Hardly then of God it can only be of the devil. It flies in the face of Jesus’ words: “All things ye would that others would do to you, do ye even so to them”….This is the definition and the foundation of Equality. From the beginning God made them equal…and yet tragically so many women accept these ‘bouquets of bondage’ that are handed to them from men…fake elements of ‘honour’ and ‘higher callings’ that are nothing but paper roses to deceive women into refusing God’s best and taking man’s adulation instead for ‘conforming to roles’ that are nowhere to be found in scripture! I challenge Erin to find the plethora of Biblical women to whom God related directly without any male intervention, Huldah and Deborah among those at the apex of this Biblical monument to God’s perfect character of righteousness, balance, equality for all…and see that God expects His women to deal with Him alone, unadulterated by human intervention, and only through Christ. No wonder so many pastors attack Deborah’s direct relationship with God.It is they who will not submit to the word of God. God makes it clear in Ezekiel chapters 18 and 33 that His way IS equal while our way in unequal…this pattern is embedded throughout scripture in the Magnificat, in Hannah’s sermon, and in the words of John the Baptist…every mountain shall be made low, the valleys exalted…God is leveling all the ground beneath our feet and we just need to accept this and go on in faith, rejecting the cultural quagmire that drags us under.

        • It troubles me, too, Judy, for reasons you’ve stated very well!

  • Not leaders in a traditional sense, but the subversiveness of Shiprah and Puah, the midwives who feared God more than Pharaoh, and defied Pharaoh’s orders to kill Hebrew baby boys showed some of the most courageous leadership in Israel at the time. I’m working on a post about women in the Bible that I’d like to see included in a children’s bible or at least child-oriented versions of after seeing too many women excluded from children’s versions.

    This is a great list to work from! Great answer, Kate!

    • I love Shiprah & Puah! Great women who followed their convictions! Great additions 🙂

  • I like saying, “If God intended women to be silent in the church, then nowhere in Scripture would we see women exercising leadership, right?”

  • Not to mention Phillip’s four daughters or the others who preached and taught and led until the male dominated Roman society told them to shut up. Little did they know…the Holy Spirit was not done moving…

    • Just think what could have happened if they’d given her a minute! Jael, Abigail, Shallum’s daughters, and one of my favorites, the Wise Woman of Abel Beth Maacah…

  • Bravo! How good is that! Might be worth memorizing in some fashion for a quick rebuttal at a later date. I think I will.
    Thanks Kate.

    • That’s a great idea, Judy! The men on the platform knew they were in trouble as soon as she started…haha! It was very fun to watch.

      • Where did this occur? Is there audio or video?

        • It was at a local church but they have not uploaded the video yet.

        • There will be – they are working on it 🙂

      • I don’t know where this speech occurred but this comment is interesting “The men on the platform knew they were in trouble as soon as she started..”

        How strange that ‘the men on the platform’ hadn’t ever reached the same conclusions from the very same Bible! Do you realize how astonishing this comment should be?….That in itself is a number one reason we all need a regular female perspective on the Gospel… one can only wonder how much of the Bible we have missed for centuries when only one perspective has been preached.

  • This succinct post is a reminder that the Junia Project is a phenomenal resource for so many women and men in church leadership. I continue to pray for churches to rise up where women can thrive as leaders while leading side-by-side with men for a wholistic participation in God’s Mission. May it be so, Lord!

    • Thanks for those kind words, Donna! Trust that your introduction to the world of church governance has gone well 🙂

  • Succinct, pithy and a model of brevity, Kate. And completely unanswerable for those who say the Bible teaches that women are not to do the things these Bible women did.

  • Good summary. Pope Francis is saying something about considering women deacons in the Catholic Church. Perhaps it is just another commission, hope this is a new “gentle breeze” (as in 1 Kings 19:12).

  • It’s sobering to think what would have happened if any of these women would have been in faith communities that didn’t affirm their God-given calling and gifts 🙁 Having been at the event where this was asked let me add that the audience response to your 30 second close was very positive!

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