Ordination of women in Protestant churches

Ordination of women in Protestant churches
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Female disciples of Jesus
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Jesus' interactions with women
List of women in the Bible
Paul of Tarsus and women
Women as theological figures
Women in the Bible

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Church and society

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Christians for Biblical Equality
Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Evangelical and Ecumenical Women's Caucus

Theologians and authors
Letha Dawson Scanzoni · Anne Eggebroten · Virginia Ramey Mollenkott
William J. Webb · Kenneth E. Hagin · Gordon Fee · Frank Stagg · Paul Jewett · Stanley Grenz · Roger Nicole
Don Carson · John Frame · Wayne Grudem · Douglas Moo · Paige Patterson · Vern Poythress
Doug Phillips · R. C. Sproul, Jr. · Douglas Wilson
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The ordination of women in Protestant churches has often been carried out in light of the theological doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, which might include women if the expression is taken in a very literal sense.


Elders, pastors and ministers

However, most (although not all) Protestant denominations still ordain church leaders who have the task of equipping all believers in their Christian service (Ephesians 4:11-13). These leaders (variously styled elders, pastors or ministers) are seen to have a distinct role in teaching, pastoral leadership and the administration of sacraments.

Traditionally these roles were male preserves, but over the last century, an increasing number of denominations have begun ordaining women. The notion of a priesthood reserved to a select few is seen as an Old Testament concept, inappropriate for Christians. Since, however, no women appear in the New Testament as ordained ministers, (deacons, presbyters, and bishops) many Protestant churches continue to restrict ordination to males.

Relevant Biblical passages

The debate over women's eligibility for such offices normally centers around interpretation of certain Biblical passages relating to teaching and leadership roles. This is because Protestant churches usually view the Bible as the ultimate authority in church debates (the doctrine of sola scriptura). Thus the Church is free to change her stance, if the change is deemed in accordance with the Bible. The main passages in this debate include 1 Cor. 11:2-16, 1 Cor. 14:34-35 and 1 Tim. 2:11-14, 1 Tim. 3:1-7, Tit. 1:5-9

Views taken in the New Testament

Increasingly, supporters of women in ministry also make appeals to evidence from the New Testament that is taken to suggest that women did exercise certain ministries in the apostolic Church (e.g., Acts 21:9, Acts 18:18, Romans 16:1-4, Romans 16:7; 1 Cor. 16:19, and Philippians 4:2–3) and that the Biblical passages used to argue against women's ordination might be read differently when a clear understanding of the unique historical context of each passage is available.[1] Opponents argue that while women in the early church occupied positions of "leadership," such as deaconesses, prophetesses, and organizers of congregations, there is no scriptural authorization for women to hold the pastoral office with the responsibility for preaching to the congregation and administering the sacraments.

Examples within specific churches

  • The Apostolic Johannite Church has offered ordination to women as deacons, priests and bishops since its foundation.
  • Baptist Churches
  • Women were commissioned as deacons from 1935, and allowed to preach from 1949.
  • In 1963 Mary Levison petitioned the General Assembly for ordination.
  • Woman elders were introduced in 1966 and women ministers in 1968.
  • The first female Moderator of the General Assembly was Dr Alison Elliot in 2004.
  • Neither the Free Church of Scotland, nor the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) ordains women.
  • The Free Reformed Churches of North America ordain men only.
  • The Cumberland Presbyterian Church. In 1888 Louisa Woosley was licensed to preach. She was ordained in 1889. She wrote Shall Woman Preach.
  • Community of Christ. A revelation was approved at the church's 1984 World Conference which called for the ordination of women, and granted women access to all the offices of the priesthood. Although this caused many congregations to break off from the main body of the church, forming dissident congregations and in some cases new denominations, women have been ordained in many nations since then. Currently the Council of Twelve Apostles has four female members. In addition, in 2007, Becky L. Savage became the first female member of the church's First Presidency. Following the legislative action of the 1984 World Conference, the church changed the name of one of its priesthood offices from evangelist-patriarch to evangelist, and its associated sacrament, the patriarchal blessing, to the evangelist's blessing.
  • The Evangelical Church in Germany in (EKD) ordains women and have women as bishops.
  • The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America ELCA is the largest Lutheran body in the USA. The church bodies that formed the ELCA in 1988 began ordaining women in 1970 when the Lutheran Church in America ordained the Rev Elizabeth Platz. The ordination of women is now non-controversial within the ELCA.
  • The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia reversed its earlier (1975) decision to ordain women as pastors. Since 1993, under the leadership of Archbishop Janis Vanags, it no longer does so.
  • The Independent Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Germany does not ordain women.
  • The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), which is the second largest Lutheran body in the United States, does not ordain women.
  • The Lutheran state churches in Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Iceland ordain women and these Lutheran churches in Europe have women as bishops already. While the Church of Sweden was the first Lutheran church to ordain female pastors in 1958, there was a considerable debate in this church of the ordination of women, which lead to marginalization of a vocal high-church minority, which successively subdivided into loyalist high-church adherents on one hand and the splinter group Missionsprovinsen which was formed in 2003 but in 2005 was separated as a church body from the Church of Sweden.
  • The Lutheran Evangelical Protestant Church (GCEPC) has ordained women since its inception in the year 2000. Ordination of women is not a controversial issue in the LEPC/GCEPC. Women are ordained/consecrated at all levels including deacon,priest, and bishop in the LEPC/GCEPC.
  • The Moravian Church ordains women. [6]
  • The Pentecostal church in Germany allows ordination of women.[7]
  • The Pentecostal Mission does not ordain women pastors.
  • The Presbyterian Church (USA). In 1893, Edith Livingston Peake was appointed Presbyterian Evangelist by First United Presbyterian of San Francisco.[8] Between 1907 and 1920 five more women became ministers.[9] The Presbyterian Church (USA) began ordaining women as elders in 1930, and as ministers of Word and sacrament in 1956. By 2001, the numbers of men and women holding office were almost equal.[10]
  • The Presbyterian Church in America does not ordain women.[11] In 1997, the PCA even broke its fraternal relationship with The Christian Reformed Church over this issue.[12]
  • The Orthodox Presbyterian Church does not ordain women.[13]
  • The Presbyterian Church of Australia ceased ordaining women to the ministry in 1991, but the rights of women ordained prior to this time were not affected.[14]
  • The Reformed Churches in Switzerland and in the Netherlands ordain women.
  • The Salvation Army ordains women.
  • The Seventh-day Adventist Church officially does not ordain women. In North America the Adventist Church, however, commissions women instead of ordaining. They can perform all the same duties as an ordained minister but do not hold the title of ordained. This is because recent votes at the worldwide General Conference Sessions turned down a proposal to allow ordination of women. There was a strong polarization between nations, with Western countries generally voting in support and other countries generally voting against. A further proposal to allow local choice was also turned down. In practice, there are numerous women working as ministers and in leadership positions. The most influential co-founder of the church, Ellen G. White, was a woman.
  • The United Church of Canada. Divided during the 1930s by this issue inherited from the churches it brought together, the United Church ordained its first woman minister, Reverend Lydia Emelie Gruchy, of Saskatchewan Conference in 1936. In 1953, Reverend Lydia Emelie Gruchy was the first Canadian woman to receive an honourary Doctor of Divinity. [15]
  • The United Church of Christ. Antoinette Brown was ordained as a minister by a Congregationalist Church in 1853, though this was not recognized by her denomination.[16] She later became a Unitarian. Women's ordination is now non-controversial in the United Church of Christ.
  • The United Methodist Church does ordain women. In 1880, Anna Howard Shaw was ordained by the Methodist Protestant Church; Ella Niswonger was ordained in 1889 by the United Brethren Church. Both denominations later merged into the United Methodist Church. In 1956, the Methodist Church in America granted ordination and full clergy rights to women. Since that time, women have been ordained full elders (pastors) in the denomination, and 21 have been elevated to the episcopacy. Noemi Diaz is the first Hispanic women ordained by an Annual Conference. New York Annual Conference did the honors. [17] [18] [19] The first woman elected and consecrated Bishop within the United Methodist Church (and, indeed, the first woman elected bishop of any mainline Christian church) was Marjorie Matthews in 1980. Leontine T. Kelly, in 1984, was the first African-American woman elevated to the episcopacy in any mainline denomination. In Germany Rosemarie Wenner is since 2005 leading bishop in the United Methodist Church.
  • The United Reformed Church in the United Kingdom ordains women.

Women as bishops

Some Protestant and Anglican churches have allowed women to become their bishops:[20]


  1. ^ http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Women_Service_Church.htm
  2. ^ Bund Evangelisch-Freikirchlicher Gemeinden in Deutschland K.d.ö.R
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ [2],
  5. ^ [3]
  6. ^ Women in ordained ministry
  7. ^ "Dienst der Frau-Frauenordination eingeführt," 2004 http://www.bfp.de/index.php?id=165&no_cache=1&sword_list
  8. ^ "Women's Ordination Time Line". http://www.pcusa.org/women/ordination/ordination-timeline.htm. Retrieved 2007–03–20. 
  9. ^ "Women's Ordination Time Line (page 2)". http://www.pcusa.org/women/ordination/ordination-timeline2.htm. Retrieved 2007–03–20. 
  10. ^ What Presbyterians Believe Holper, J. Frederick, 2001 "What Presbyterians Believe about Ordination," Presbyterians Today, May 2001, retrieved from on August 21, 2006
  11. ^ [4]
  12. ^ PCA: Press Release
  13. ^ What Is the OPC?
  14. ^ Scheme of Union of the Presbyterian Church of Australia.
  15. ^ Pound, Richard W. (2005). 'Fitzhenry and Whiteside Book of Canadian Facts and Dates'. Fitzhenry and Whiteside. 
  16. ^ When churches started to ordain women
  17. ^ Timeline from the General Commission on Archives and History of the United Methodist Church
  18. ^ [www.dexterumc.org%2F175%2520Anniversary%2FDUMC%2520Timeline%2C%25201960-1969.pdf ]
  19. ^ 2010 New York Annual Conference Newsletter
  20. ^ When churches started to ordain women

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