The views regarding women in authority in the church can be generalized into 3 basic positions: hard complementarian (most restrictive), soft complementarian (less restrictive), and egalitarian (least restrictive).
This is a general summary of the hard complementarian position. Individuals who hold this view may vary in their understanding.
- Men and women are created equal, but with different, complementary roles, especially in marriage and church leadership.
- Men are uniquely assigned the biblical responsibility of leadership at church and in the home.
- Because of sin, the different roles that God intended have been disrupted. In particular, sin causes men to dominate in their role as leader and women to attempt to usurp the role of leader from men.
- Redemption through Christ offers the opportunity for men and women to properly fulfill their designated roles.
- Churches following this position restrict most leadership positions to men.
- Women are usually not allowed to teach or preach in a mixed adult setting.
- Women are usually allowed to teach other women and children.
- Women are sometimes given title of pastor to children or other women; more often, women have “Director of -” title.
Reading of Scripture
- Hard complementarians understand the complementary nature of men and women to exist at time of creation. Supporting arguments include the order of creation, Adam’s reception of instructions from God (Genesis 2:16-17), Eve created as “helper” to Adam, and Adam’s naming of Eve, implying authority.
- Hard complementarians understand male leadership as a universal pattern in Scripture: Israel’s tribes were led by men; Israel only had male monarchs; Jesus was male; apostles were all male.
- Biblical passages that include prohibitions for women (1 Timothy 2:12, 1 Corinthians 14:34) are understood to teach trans-cultural, universal restrictions for women in church leadership.
- New Testament restrictions on women refer to creation for support (1 Timothy 2:13-14; 1 Corinthians 11:8-9), indicating the trans-cultural nature of command.
For more information on this view: Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. A hard complementarian organization with the following motto: “Proclaiming God’s glorious Design for Men and Women”
Piper, John & Grudem Wayne editors. Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood: A Response to Biblical Feminism. Crossways Books, 1991. (The standard and comprehensive defense of the hard complementarian position.)
Keep in mind
- Both complementarians and egalitarians defend the essential equality of men and women.
- Believers who hold to biblical inerrancy and seriously seek to follow the Bibleas the source of truth also hold complementarian or egalitarian positions.
- Everyone agrees that certain commands are culturally specific. The question is not whether culture influences instructions in Scripture, but how it influences.