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“So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples (Matt. 28:8 NIV).”

An Essay on the Ministry Roles of Women In The Church Today


Egalitarianism and complementarianism is a topic of debate facing women today. Whether actively engaged in ministry or considering ministry this topic has been an issue for the theologians for centuries, Christian Egalitarianism can be defined as one Christian liberties, rights, or standings in the church. Complementarianism is a belief that excludes women from religious in a natural theistic setting (Primarily used in Judo- Christian or Islamic Society. However, this term can be used wherever women are restricted from taking part in any sort of religious activity in any society.) . This essay will exam some of the biblical requirements of deaconship, elders and ministry and the impacts and restriction women face in this role today.

Elders and Deacons


The New Testament origin of deaconship can be traced to the Book of Acts Chapter six to a select group of seven who were ordained as servant for the disciples (Elwell 1984,2001, 320) . The word itself is a derivative of the Greek word for waiter and literally means “waiting on the table” or to serve communion. However , the deacons more than likely performed various roles and functions within the churches daily life and administration Deaconship originated in the Church of Jerusalem but spread to the Gentile Churches as well ( Rom. 12:6-8;1 Cor. 12:28, 1 Thess. 5:12; Eph. 4:11).” The description of elder in 1 Tim. 3:8-13 parallels that of a deacon many scholars speculate the role of a deacon and elder may have been the same at one time (Elwell 1984,2001, 320). The Catholic Church limited the number to seven until the fifth. The Apostle Paul allowed women to serve as deaconess as mentioned in Romans 16 where he commends Cenchreae for her loyal service to the Church: “commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. 2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me ( Rom. 16: 1-2).”


Elders are the leaders of the church and are concerned with the governing and administration. The elders also, are called upon to settle disputes and to counsel, and rebuke. Commonly called presbyters, Bishops, or by other formal names in some Churches where an ecclesiastical government exist they are made up of  the most mature member of the church body. Some are chosen by congregational election, others by appointment. Their secular counterpart would be the senate of Rome in the past or the U.S. senate of today.  1 Tim. 5:15 lists teaching as a desired trait and first appear in the New Testament in the Book of Acts (Acts 15:2, 6, 23; 16:4). The book of Matthew accounts elders as Scribes and in 2 John 3 John the author refers to some one of high esteem (Elwell 1984,2001, 369).

Can Women Serve as Elders or Deacons?

It is the Authors belief the bible supports the role of women as deaconess and elder.

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (Gal. 3:28-29).” At the time, Paul wrote this passage women were serving in the church. Christ instructed the disciples: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you ( Matt. 28:19-20).” This command extends to all man and women Jew and Gentile. Paul, further describes all Christians as ministers by our spiritual gifts: “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:11-13).” Another major premise would be that first record of Christian ministry and evangelism come from women. God had Chosen two women to reveal the resurrection of Christ to the disciples the first act of evangelism:

“The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you. ”So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me (Matt. 28: 5-10).”  A misinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 14: 34-35 which is taking to mean women should remain silent in church but actual means not to speak excessively, engage in false talk, quarrels or the like. The historical context dates to two points the frequent nature of dissention and because of gossip among the Christian community and the rise of the Gnostic religion, which was often headed by priestess. The latter being used as a warning not to follow false teachings. A similar reference can found to the Church of Ephesus 1 Tim 11-15: A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.  But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”


Contributions of Women to Theology and the Church

One should not underestimate the role women have played on society, theology and church of the past and today. Women can serve beneficially in a one on one relationship role in counseling of other women: Especially in abuse related issues, issues related to children or issues where another female may feel uncomfortable speaking with a male. Many great female evangelists have reshaped history not only of the church but also of the secular world. In America, female evangelist played a huge role in advancing women rights and suffrage in America. Others like Argula Von Grumbach helped in the fight against oppression during the Reformation Movement increasing Christian Civil liberties.

For or against the concept women have been present in ministry and as elders since the beginning of the Church in the upper room during Pentecost. It is humankind’s own misunderstanding and will be our own misguided prejudices that enthrall women in Complementarianism and restrict Christian Egalitarianism.


In God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit,

Trenton Clark Rindoks

Word count: # 1255


Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1984,2001.



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