Pastor Sean on the Role of Men and Women in the Church

One person asked “How would you describe women’s roles, as unique from men’s roles, in marriage and in the church?” Another person asked “What are your views of women in the church?”

Thanks for this question. In order to put down the right words on this topic, I referenced the 2018 PCA Study Committee on the Role of Women in the Church (online at https://www.pcaac.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Women-Serving-in-Min.-of-Ch.-Study-Committee-Report-with-admended-recommendations.pdf). The report is a  statement on where our denomination stands on the role of women in the church. I copied some of the words as they they articulate my own beliefs.

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I am, together with other pastors within the PCA, joyfully and confessionally committed to the Bible’s teaching on the complementarity of men and women. In His inexhaustible creativity and unfailing purposes, God created man as male and female in His image and after His likeness (Gen. 1:26). As image bearers, humanity has the great privilege and high honor to glorify God by ruling over creation, being fruitful, filling the earth, and cultivating its potential (WSC Q/A 1; Gen. 1:28).

Although sin has marred the image of God in man (Gen. 5:3), the Lord continues to uphold the dual gendered roles that He marvelously made: male and female. This creation order enables humanity to employ its complementary gifts that could not be obeyed by a single gender. After all, why else would God say, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him”? (Gen. 2:18)

While the fall has touched and twisted all of creation, God has never revoked His blessings on men and women working together to glorify Him with their obedience, creativity, productivity, and union. In fact, as part of His redemption, God has poured out His Spirit on “both men and women” (Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17) and has given gifts meant for the flourishing of the body of Christ and the spread of the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Together with these gifts, God has given roles and divine instruction in how those gifts are to be exercised.

As for the roles God has given, I humbly and happily embrace Scripture’s clear teaching that the elders are to be chosen from qualified men within the church (1 Tim. 2:12; 3:1-7; 5:17). To these elders God has entrusted with the ministry of the authoritative teaching and ruling of the church for the building up of the whole body (Eph. 4:11-13). Likewise, I believe that the Scripture teaches that deacons are to be chosen from qualified men within the church (1 Tim. 3:8-13).

In marriage, this mutually-edifying complementarity is displayed when a Christian husband expresses his responsibility of headship in sacrificial love to his wife (Eph. 5:23-31) and when a Christian wife welcomes her husband’s headship with respect (Eph. 5:22-24, 33).

While gifts must always be used appropriately within the roles to which men and women have been called, our church has actively sought out ways to identify and use all the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given within our midst. The Bible calls the church to equip every person to fully employ their gifts within biblical parameters. Using gifts outside those parameters wounds the body of Christ and causes outsiders to question the church’s devotion to the Scripture as the only rule of faith and practice.

In my own ministry, my hope is that every man and woman in our church will experience affirmation of their gifts and encouragement to serve the church with those gifts. For our women, I praise God for our Women’s Ministry Committee that helps women, the session, and our whole church focus on what women are called to do. At New Life in Christ Church our women have a very active ministry.

The role of the elders of the church is to provide shepherding to the flock. Our elders are called to authoritative and instructive “shepherding care” of each member of the congregation (preaching, teaching, counseling, knowing each member of the body, church discipline, outlining doctrine, warning about heresies providing an example, organizing the worship services, determining God’s mission and vision for us, etc). The deacons address many of the practical matters necessary for this shepherding care to take place (primarily in mercy ministry and in stewardship of our resources). The elders and deacons work closely together for the care of the church, even praying together at the beginning of each of our meetings.
I describe all of this because women are involved with both the elders and deacons in critical ways. Our Women’s Ministry Committee (currently directed by Jennifer Worman) does an enormous amount of work ensuring the discipleship, teaching, and connection of women. The Women’s Connection (started under the leadership of Jill Shigley) provides opportunities for biblical counseling to take place. Our Abundant Ministry (for adoption and foster care needs, led by Canaan Miller and Lisa Capitano) recently helped with a significant mercy ministry need. Women are involved in leading discipleship ministries to children as well. I could go on and on about ways that women lead that make a massive difference to building the kingdom through training leaders. The Women’s Ministry Committee has regular input to our session through a monthly report and I meet regularly with the Chair. The foundational documents for the Women’s Ministry Committee describe their mission to support the session in the discipleship of women.

Truly, as a church, we could not shepherd each member well without the ministry, initiative, and influence of trained and active women. In working together with the session, our Women’s ministries play a critical role in pointing each of us to the Chief Shepherd Jesus Christ.