Navigating the debate on Women Preachers

By Valerie Halim

Southern Baptist preacher and founder of Living Proof Ministries Beth Moore reignites the on-going debate on whether or not women should be allowed to preach.

Her latest controversy involves conservative evangelical pastor John Macarthur in October. In his 50th anniversary of pulpit ministry conference, the senior pastor responded “go home” to the word “Beth Moore.” Despite receiving a round of applause from its attendees, Macarthur immediately became a media sensation. Critiques came from various church leaders, such as Southern Baptist megachurch pastor Micah Fries.

Responses to the Beth Moore-John Macarthur Controversy

In his Twitter account, Fries wrote that the problem in this issue is the “derisive, divisive manner” of John Macarthur. Furthermore, he saw Macarthur as “devastatingly dismissive” of women’s dignity, value and self-worth.

SBC president JD Greer also joined in the Twitter conversation, saying that Beth Moore is “welcome in our home any time.”

Just about a month after the incident, John Macarthur gave his clarification on his comment through a sermon on Sunday. As reported by The Christian Post in November, Macarthur quoted 1 Corinthians 14:34, which reads: “Women should remain silent in the churches” and argued that the verse is very obvious and should be easy to understand.

“Women are to maintain submission to men in all churches in all times,” MacArthur argued. In stating his argument, he also called women pastors and preachers a “disgrace” and the “most obvious evidence of churches rebelling against the Bible.”

As a response, Beth Moore wrote a series of tweets to defend her position as a woman pastor. In one of her tweets, Beth Moore argued that she was merely fulfilling God’s calling for her.

“I did not surrender to a calling of man when I was 18 years old. I surrendered to a calling of God. It never occurs to me for a second to not fulfill it. I will follow Jesus – and Jesus alone – all the way home. And I will see His beautiful face and proclaim, Worthy is the Lamb!” Moore wrote.

The heart of the debate

The Beth Moore controversy eventually pointed back to the long-debated conversation of egalitarianism vs. complementarianism. If the complementarian view beliefs that men and women have different but complementary roles, the egalitarian view believes that men and women have equal values and gifts.

As a preacher affiliated with the conservative Southern Baptist church, Moore’s position contradicts the affirmed belief of her denomination. In 1984, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) published “Resolution On Ordination And The Role Of Women In Ministry”, which supports the idea of complementarianism. To justify its claims and beliefs, the resolution quoted bible quotes such as 1 Cor. 14:33-36 which instructs women to stay quiet in church.

Why women should not preach

In 1998, New Testament scholar and writer Richard R. Melick, Jr. wrote an article where he acknowledges that God has used women wonderfully in the past. However, he said that none of the women were called to do pastoral works.

He argued that Paul’s reason to forbid women to preach in church was solely based on the creation hierarchy. Since man was created first and was appointed as the head, women were supposed to “submit” to them. In saying this, Melick noted that the word “submit” (greek: hypotasso) in Scripture does not suggest inferiority but voluntary submission.

Why the church needs women preachers

Egalitarians, also have a say in this matter. Christian theologians Stanley Grenz and Denise Kjesbo fleshed out their arguments in “Women in the Church.” In chapter seven, Grenz and Kjesbo refuted theologian John Piper who believed that men bear the sole responsibility for the “overall pattern of life”.

By acknowledging the differences between sexes, the authors argued that limiting leadership to men would “truncate the understanding of the church mandate.” According to them, having a male exclusive role may cause the church to only represent the view of one gender. Moreover, they argued that Jesus himself gave the example of “servant leadership.” Because church leaders have to selflessly serve their people, the church has to start adopting the egalitarian way.

How should we respond?

Although the debate on women’s ordination has caused churches to split, it is interesting that they have fundamental similarities. Despite having opposing views, it is clear that both sides claim to have their reasons rooted in the Bible and respect women as humans.

Seeing the similarities shared by both sides, it could be said that both parties wanted to obey God’s will and do their best for their community. But should an issue rooted from difference in Scripture interpretation cause even more hatred and division within the body of Christ?

No matter where you stand in this issue, we could agree with Moore that “slandering” the opposition party on social media “doesn’t honor God.”