Recently a young man approached me with a dilemma. He discovered that the young lady he has been courting attends a church that allows women into the pastoral ministry. He had attended church with her on several occasions but the topic did not come up until a recent visit in which a woman preached in the pastor’s absence. It took him by surprise, and he wondered how he should handle the situation in discussing the issue both graciously and biblically. His conviction is that the Bible affirms only men are called to the pastoral and thus preaching ministry. When mentioning his concern the young lady wondered why he believed that, and if it was a big deal.

This dilemma is quite prevalent. The church today has more female preachers and pastors than it has had in its history. More and more single Christians are having to discuss this issue as they discern God’s will in dating, marriage, and church attendance. Consequently, it is helpful to know how to speak graciously and truthfully on this issue and hopefully convince a dear sister or brother of the biblical position. In doing so, I would counsel the conversation in three ways.

First, assure your friend that the issue belongs in the category of the bene esse and not the esse of the church. In other words, there are issues and beliefs that we understand to belong to the esse, the being or essential nature of church. Without these the church ceases to be the church and the Christian a Christian. For example, the existence of God, the atonement of Christ, Bible as the Word of God, salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone, the resurrection of Christ, etc. Without these core convictions and others, the church and Christianity has no meaning. These are the non-negotiables of the faith.

While the issue of woman preachers does not rise to the level of essential, however, it does belong to the bene esse, the well-being or good of the church. In other words, we don’t assert that a person is lost and outside the faith simply because they believe in woman preachers. Belief in woman preachers does not nullify the work of Christ in salvation or make void faith in the death and resurrection of Christ unto eternal life. Still understanding rightly what the Bible says about leadership in the church (and the home for that matter) is critical for the church to be faithful in unfaithful times, to be strong in times of moral and theological weakness.

Secondly, encourage them that male leadership in the Bible is not based upon worth, as is often the case in the world. Rather, it is based in God’s designed for an ordered world. God created Adam and placed him in the Garden of Eden to rule it (Gen. 2:15). When he created Eve, God did not create her lesser or inferior to Adam (in fact I could argue the her creation surpassed that of Adam, if possible). He made her equal in essence, beauty, and goodness. Yet, God established order in creation for the good of creation — including the order of Adam and Eve themselves. And while sin would corrupt this order and the inherit good in it (Gen. 3:16), the beauty and the blessedness of this creation order is redeemed and re-established in Christ, in the church.

It is not surprising, therefore, when establishing leadership among the redeemed people of God, God grounds that leadership in the order of his creation (1 Tim. 2:13), namely that Adam was created first. God intended for man to lovingly lead before the fall, and he intends for men to lovingly lead in the redeemed community as well.

Lastly, remind them that biblically speaking, male leadership in the church is but an extension of male leadership in the home. It is not surprising that one of the qualifications for elder or pastor is that, “He must manage his own household well…” In fact, so obvious is this qualification that the logical and necessary implication is stated as well: “…for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God’s church?” (1 Tim. 3:4-5). Leadership in the church is to be reflective of God ordained leadership in the home. It should be obvious that what God ordained in the home should not and must not be contradicted or subverted in the church.

Anyone who knows me knows of my love for women in the church. I have written in this space previously about the importance of women in the life and ministry of our Lord (here). Women proved indispensable to ministry of our Lord on this earth, and they continue to be so. Their roles and responsibilities are varied and significant. And simply because God has ordered his house in such a way as to ordain the pastorate for men only, does not any way diminish his ordained roles for women in that house. When we submit to God’s word and follow his will we find our homes and our churches are the better for it.

I often counsel young people who are courting and intending to marry to make sure you pursue someone who is teachable, willing to submit to you and more importantly to Christ (Eph. 5:21). I pray that they will see that agreeing on issues like the roles of men and women in church may not be the esse of their relationship, but it is for the bene esse of their life together.

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Tony Carter

Tony Carter

Anthony Carter (MA, Reformed Theological Seminary) is lead pastor of East Point Church in East Point, Georgia, an organizing member of the Council of Reforming Churches, and a Council member of The Gospel Coalition. He is the author of several books, including Black and Reformed: Seeing God’s Sovereignty in the African-American Christian Experience. Anthony and his wife, Adriane, have five children.


  • Avatar Frantzina says:

    Out of curiosity on your position, why do you include teachability as a criterion for a suitable wife? And do you give the same criterion for a suitable husband? Why/why not?

  • Avatar Tony Carter says:

    Yes, being teachable is a quality all Christians should have. James 1:19 reminds us that everyone should “be quick to hear, [and] slow to speak…” This is reflective of Eph 5:21 as well. Besides, marrying a hard-headed Christian is almost as bad as marrying one who is no Christian at all :). The prayer of the Christian man and woman should be “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me…” (Ps. 25:4-5).

  • Avatar ElevenHerbs Andspices says:

    Today’s modern church will totally ignore your views about women can’t be pastors and teachers in the church. It does not sound that this individual will get to far with her on this issue.

  • Avatar #NACWL says:

    Perhaps you should re-read Gen1:28 God blessed THEM and said “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it.” It take both man and woman to be fruitful and it takes both man and woman to govern. This scripture did not say women be fruitful and men govern. No God said to THEM because he understood that it required both. It was obvious that Adam couldn’t accomplish it alone or God wouldn’t have needed to create Eve in the first place. I would love to send you a copy of our manifesto Created to Lead by @karenzeigler. Send me a message on Twitter @UniteGrowFight and I’ll gladly send you a free copy.

  • Avatar Tony Carter says:

    Hello #NACWL. Thanks for visiting with us on The Porch. We greatly appreciate your comments and welcome them. Because you requested, I did re-read Gen 1:28. I hope you will agree that Gen. 2 helps us to understand who the THEM are in Gen. 1. In fact, in Gen 2 we see that while God created “them” (Adam and Eve), He created “him” (Adam) before He created “them” and “put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15) I understand what you are trying to say, however, I don’t believe Gen. 1, or better yet Gen. 2, is the best place from which to say it.

    Thanks for the suggestion. I will look up Created to Lead and even give you a follow on Twitter. God bless.

  • Avatar #NACWL says:

    I do believe “it was not good” for Adam to be alone. I am confident that it was more than just a sexual partner that was missing. I believe Genesis 1 reflects two key reasons why it was necessary for God to create Eve. Multiply AND govern. I am pretty confident God is NOT offended with with me or any woman leading, teaching or anything as long as it is leading them to him and teaching them to be fully devoted followers of Christ. New testament confirms it many times. For that I am willing to answer on the day of judgement. 🙂 And shall I fail – praise the Lord his grace will cover me even still.

  • Avatar Tony Carter says:

    Amen lady. Thanking God for his grace and that as children our disobedience is not fatal. You are right that God created Eve for more than a sexual partner. Praise God. However, that is not the issue. The issue is leadership in the home and in the church. And again you are right, the New Testament is clear on this issue too: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve” (1Tim. 2:12-13).
    Also, thanks for the reminder, Grace at judgment is what makes the gospel good news! 🙂

  • Avatar #NACWL says:

    While I am not a theologian and will not debate you on the 1 Timothy scripture I will point you to the writings of 3 men – Why Not Women? by Loren Cunningham, Founder of YWAM and David Hamilton who is a Bible scholar/theologian; and J Lee Grady, of Charisma Magazine and author of 10 Lies the Church Tells Women and many others – according to their knowledge of scripture this verse was talking to one specific woman who did not know Christ and the word and was being asked to remain silent and learn the knowledge that she was missing before speaking. In these books they lay much ground work for women as leaders and dissect every scripture that has been used to oppress women from leadership for the last 2 thousand years. As a black man, likely experienced or witness to oppression, I am very surprised that you do not recognize the use of silence as abuse by the enemy to oppress. Why would a God who loves us all want to shut the mouths of half of his creation in the spread of his gospel to the world? I contend he does not. And the time has come that women will no longer allow the enemy to silence them inside the church but will rise up and leave the church (Read The resignation of eve: What If Adam’s Rib Is No Longer Willing to Be the Church’s Backbone? by Jim Henderson) so that the gospel is preached not to a few close minded people sitting in the pews but to spread the gospel throughout the world. And while I may not ever be invited to speak at your church I am humbly grateful to a God and to you for giving me this online platform which has the capacity to reach far more people. And so I close in agreement with the Paul and the Psalmist who wrote in 2 Corinthians “But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” You may stop women from preaching in your church but you will not stop women from preaching. Those that believe will speak. They will not be silenced.

  • Avatar Tony Carter says:

    The Porch is a place for discussion and we are glad you feel free to come on to the Porch and share your opinions. We too thank God for this platform and thank you for joining us.

    While I appreciate you suggesting the writings of men you agree with, it is not really helpful because we all could run a list of people whose writings would validate our opinion. I find it helpful to read not only those I agree with, but also those I don’t. I find it helpful also to read what the church has believed about the Scriptures in generations past. This helps me to pursue humility and not believe that I have an insight and understanding that those who read the bible before me could never have.

    I don’t in this space believe I can convince you to abandon your position. That is not my objective. Nor am I setting out to “stop women from preaching.” (as if that was possible). I simply want to understand what the Word of God says about who God is, what God has done, and what God now requires. If God’s word rails against my sensibilities, it may be difficult but I must seek to submit to it for his glory and my own good. My life is best when ordered by God’s word, and so is the church.

    Thanks again for coming on the porch and discussing this important but not essential issue. I hope you continue to visit the Front Porch and join other discussions as well. No need to be silent :).

  • Avatar Vessel1627 says:

    I’m contacting you in need of some guidance. I was invited to preach at a church where the service will be a commemoration of a certain lady. I don’t know much about this lady except she is my wife’s great, grandmother, nor does my wife know much about her. My wife is fully backing me trusting that GOD will lead me the right way. My confusion is because upon talking to the pastor in trying to get some history about her and the church he revealed to me that she served under another pastor which was his grandmother. And his conversation was in favor of that and remains so to this day. I’m wondering if I should preach at this church knowing that I don’t believe in women fulfilling that role. Should the Gospel message be preached at a place where I differ on this issue. You know brother how this has plagued the African American Church.

  • Avatar violetsilver13 says:

    I go to a church where they allow women to have positions of authority, and I have had a problem with this for quite some time. What should I do?

  • Avatar Tony Carter says:

    I assume when you say authority, you mean pastor and/or elder. If this is the case, the discomfort you experience is probably due to your understanding of God’s ordained prescription for leadership in the home and the church. You should graciously and biblically express your concerns to the pastors and/or elders. If they will not receive what the Word of God clearly teaches, you should probably inform them that you will be looking for another place to fellowship and serve. Express no hard feelings or animosity, but inform them that your conscience will not allow you to be in a place where the bible clearly disallows such a practice as women pastors and/or elders. I hope this is helpful. Thanks for coming on the porch!

The Front Porch

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