What should the role of women in the church be? There are some churches that have pastors or deacons that are women, but why don't all churches allow women in those roles? There are women leaders within different programs such as youth group, worship or growth groups, but not in authority roles. So in this I try to explain what the Scripture provides when talking about elders or deacons in the church and what the Biblical requirements are for each, can a woman be a deacon or elder in the church, if there are limitations on the women in the church and if that should apply outside of the church, and what contribution do women bring to the church.
The term “elder” is derived from the Greek word “presbuteros” which in Christian terms is used interchangeably with “bishop, elders, and presbyters.”1 Often the bishops, elders, and presbyters hold a leadership role in the church, while having authority of the congregation of the church. Some of the requirements of a elder are listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and this says that they must be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, and it goes on to give many other requirements. There are many references to the men being the head of the household as they should be in the church. Many today debate whether a woman should be a elder or pastor in the church. 1 Timothy 2:12 states that “And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man...” Paul writes many letters to the Elders of the church, which means they had some type of authority. The word elder is completely different from the word deacon.
A deacon is derived from the word “diakonos” which refers to servants. The term “deacon” meaning servant is different from the leadership role of a elder. While Scripture supports women servants in the church such as Phoebe in Romans 16:1 or Priscilla in Acts, there is a piece of Scripture that seems to support women deacons. In 1 Timothy 3, while describing requirements of deacons, it says that deacons must be “worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain.” It also goes on to say in verse 11, “In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.” Paul says this while describing the role of deacons, so it is safe to assume he was describing women deacons. While there are limitations to the woman’s role in the church, they do not apply outside of the church. Paul was writing directly to the elders of the church, who assumed authority, that women were not to have authority roles. The Lord was giving requirements for the church, the elders and the deacons; not the blacksmiths, jewelers and farmers.
Many people may view this belief on women being deacons as preposterous and use 1 Timothy 8:12 as a defense when it says that a deacon “must be faithful to his wife.” Study the Scripture around that verse. The conclusion is Paul was mentioning one requirement to the “men” deacons. It seems that Paul was making a requirement for a woman deacon right before this verse. If deacons are supposed to be servants to the church, why cant women be servants? Deacons are not supposed to have any position of authority within the church, that is why we have the elders or bishops.
Women bring a strong servant contribution to the church. According to George Elwell, Scripture “...provides for women a place of unusual dignity and significance.”2 Women are built for compassion. While men can have compassion, it often is composed for Harley Davidson's, the most recent Call of Duty game or their favorite sports team. Women have compassion towards individuals that sometimes the man cannot compose. Women need other women to lean on and help tend to each other.
My wife, Amanda, says that she needs other women in the church “there are some things that women can only relate to other women.” Examples of this is like being a mom, or being a good wife. Men cannot be a good wife or a good mom, so women need to step in as the deacon or servant in this example and be there for the church. When I say the church, I don't mean a building or a gathering place, I mean the people. I believe that without the women in the church, we would lose an important piece of compassion and commitment that just men cannot compose.
Outside of the main paper:
While these are my personal beliefs, they were taken straight from scripture. I am trying to interpret the Scripture the best that I can. Some may say that this was a different time, and that women were not as respected as they are now. Well, I disagree. Women played a major part of many pieces of scripture. The most important to me is Phoebe, whom Paul in Romans 16:1 mentioned to give her whatever she needs for her ministry. Women were the first to see Jesus upon His rising from the dead. Priscilla was among some of the greatest church planters in the church history. I believe the Jewish Sanhedrin didn't have as much respect for women, but I do believe Jesus, Paul and the church age Christians did.
There is also one verse that seemed to confuse me a bit so I will try to explain it. 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 says that a woman should remain silent in church. While it does say this in our modern day Bible, the translation of the word "silent" here means that they should not babble. I make the assumption that the Corinth church was having a problem with women gossipping or babbling during church services.
1 Thayer and Smith. "Greek Lexicon entry for Presbuteros". "The New Testament Greek Lexicon". http://www.studylight.org/lex/grk/view.cgi?number=4245.
2Elwell, George. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology: Second Edition. Baker Book House Company. 2001. 1285