Why Women Are Not Pastors
Pt. II

I recently branched out to a new social platform to gain traffic and hopefully encounter more discussions about my blog posts. The new platform I signed up for is called, Reddit. I was immediately impressed with the amount of traffic and interaction I received. Within a few hours, I had over 100 new views and over 100 comments on a couple of trial Reddit posts. This put my current favorite platform (Twitter) to shame.

The first linked post I used on Reddit was one of my most controversial blog posts—Why Women Are Not Pastors. I probably should have eased my way into the new platform.. Oh well.

Before continuing in this part-two post, I recommend reading the first post on the matter.

I expected to get a quick yay or nay from Reddit users, or maybe some up-votes or down-votes. But they came with questions. Seeing all the questions flood in got me so excited! I thought, “Wow, some people really do care! They are curious!” I became inspired after conversing with many people on the first post that I decided to compose this part-two post on the subject.

What about head coverings?

Expectantly, I got all kinds of pushback from the first Why Women Are Not Pastors post. It was pretty incredible how personal people attack online. I mean, they don’t even know me or my church but made all kinds of wild claims..

The few good conversations I did have were strictly about the Bible texts (which is my goal, by the way). One of the common objections to the conclusion that women are not to take on pastoral positions dealt with Paul’s teaching on head coverings..

Yep… head coverings. Not pastoral positions. Head coverings. But I rolled with it.

1 Corinthians 11:2-16 (ESV) states:

Head Coverings
[2] Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. [3] But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. [4] Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, [5] but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. [6] For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. [7] For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. [8] For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. [9] Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. [10] That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. [11] Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; [12] for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. [13] Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? [14] Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, [15] but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. [16] If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.

Now, interestingly enough, this text was brought to me to say, “Don’t you ignore this today? Isn’t it outdated? You probably ignore this teaching, so why hold to his other teaching about women? It’s outdated too.” To which I respond, “I like what it says… Yep, this passage is good too. I don’t ignore it. I’ll take both please, and an ice-cold Dr. Pepper.”

They brought this up, assuming that I disregard it, so they can lead me to disregard what Paul said about women pastors too. But I don’t disregard either text. I hold them as true and relevant.

I agree… We don’t get to pick and choose.

People came to me with this text to convince me that I somehow pick and choose which Bible passages to follow after I told them women at our church may have short hair or dress without head coverings. I think it’s all true. But when we learn more about the Bible, we must also learn how to obey the Bible.

If you miss the context, history, and purpose you will likely misapply and abuse the passage.

This is a rich, difficult, and complex chapter. Someone brought the text before me to prove that women can be pastors by trying to convince me that we tend to disagree with Paul on things. Since we disagree, it’s okay to forget some things he said because they’re outdated, or because Paul is wrong in his view.

When you find yourself disagreeing with the Bible, that doesn’t mean we get to dismiss what it says. We need to keep the Bible over us, not us over the Bible.

It’s the Word of God. What it says is what God would say if he were in the room (see more about this here). We probably have a simple misunderstanding about what it says, or don’t understand how to properly apply it.

Verse 16 was brought up over and over and over and over again… “If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.” (Go re-read the passage above.)

The reason this verse was brought up so much is that it states there’s no leeway with his view. The Apostle Paul’s stance is one that can’t be tampered with. You either agree with him on this or hit the highway, buddy. All the churches even agree with his view. We all like the sound of this, by the way. We all agree. That’s how we see the whole Bible. So how do we apply this? What did Paul mean? What is he saying? What are we not allowed to contend against Paul about?

Head coverings were a symbol, not a law for the church.

Paul said, “That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head.” Paul is not mandating a law for the New Testament church here. He is teaching in this entire section what verse three says—”But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” This universal truth is evidenced through the exercise of women wearing head coverings. This symbol points to the creation order, and it’s a beautiful thing.

Verse three’s teaching can be seen all over the New Testament. Head coverings, though, not so much. We don’t have tons of history on this subject, but I enjoy reading whatever I can find. In short, for the Corinthian church it was culturally normal for women to wear coverings to display their submission and authority given to their husband. When a woman would rebel, they would pray and prophecy with their head uncovered and their hair cut short. Removing their coverings showed a lack of submissiveness.

This act would notify the church that a woman was displaying herself as equal with the men, as it regards her role in the church. Paul teaches that women do not have equal roles. They are equal in importance and equally valued by God and the church, but men and women have distinct roles. (See part one blog post.)

Today, it is perfectly suitable and reasonable within the confines of Scripture to not wear head coverings, nor have long hair, while remaining submissive to church authority. I do not feel threatened by any women in our church, at CrossPoint Lindsborg, who do not wear head coverings or have short hair. Why? Because of our culture and the times. In Paul’s day, this act would’ve made a pastor-elder feel threatened.

The symbol may change from culture to culture, but the theology it points to does not. The way women show their submissiveness to men may vary from tribe to tribe. Symbols change, but the creation order does not. So we still obey Paul’s teaching today.

How does this relate back to women pastors?

“So doesn’t this mean you’re ignoring verse 16?” No.

After learning how head coverings were used in the Corinthian church, look what Paul said at the end—”If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.” 

Redditors screamed, “Either obey all of what Paul said and make the women wear head coverings, or dismiss his teachings about women! Let women preach and teach if you’re going to dismiss them of using head coverings…”

However, what Paul is saying in verse 16 is NOT, “If anyone is contentious, always make them wear head coverings.”
What he’s saying IS, “If anyone is contentious, the men always lead the women.” Do you see what he’s really getting at here?

It’s not about the head coverings. It’s about submissiveness. And about this, Paul is saying it’s his way or the highway, buddy. And I agree. Paul isn’t saying our custom is about head coverings. Our custom is “that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.”

This is the New Testament standard. Men lead the women. The coverings are merely a symbol of this (cf. v.10). Women are not forced to wear coverings or keep their hair long today because that’s not a New Testament law. The symbols of submissiveness come in other shapes and forms depending on what culture you’re in.

Show reasonable, respectful submissiveness out of reverence for Christ. Both men and women are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, not just the women. And when this gets tampered with, church discipline is necessary. Paul is not contending for universal head coverings, but universal submissiveness in the church.

Nice try…

So this passage doesn’t really relate to women eldership, but it’s used by many to try to get there. We aren’t throwing this Scripture out. We are not going to dismiss anything! We’re going to learn how to rightly apply all his instruction.

This topic of head coverings is a separate issue for the whole church, not just church leadership like pastors. Pastors are held to a different standard. And it remains, the pastoral position in the local church is for men, not women.

In summary, this doesn’t give any support to dismissing Paul’s instruction about pastor-elder positions. This is another passage that gels nicely with it actually. These Bible passages are not given to us for divisiveness or discrimination. They are given to us to instruct us how to bear witness of Christ to the world.

When we learn and rightly apply the Bible’s instruction, our witness to the world increases. I pray these posts do not divide the church, but unify it in the truth for the glory of God.

“Let’s seek the truth. Let’s share in Christ.” 


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24 thoughts on “Why Women Are Not Pastors Pt. II

  1. I admire your courage in being faithful to the role of Pastor. So many are backing down from God’s true word these days. But to maybe bring a little different angle on this, just for thought, we don’t talk much about the lust of the eyes in our current culture. It’s pretty much completely out of control. And then we men face the same thing even in church. It’s as if women don’t realize the power they have. I think Paul realized the dangers involved. Our modern church over looks a lot, it seems. I’m not sure we’ll ever get all the toothpaste back in the tube, but it is an issue. My opinion any way. A woman may be very gifted, but if she’s not modest while in the limelight, concentration may be conflicted. It’s not a struggle a godly man really wants to have in church. To me, we have other issues of dress code before we even worry about a head covering. How far have we slid? Or am I barking up a wrong tree? To me, it relates.

    1. Modesty and purity are definitely important. Head coverings, however were not for the purpose of modesty. They were a symbol of submission—a symbol of authority from women given to the men. Seems archaic to many of us today, so the symbol may change, but not the principal or pastoral position.

  2. A related question – what of women whose husbands are not fellow believers? They are left in a very vulnerable position in leading their household spiritually while remaining submissive. What thoughts/scripture come to mind when you consider the plight of these women?

    1. Thank you for reading! A few passages come to mind. 1 Corinthians 7 gives us instruction on matters related to those—particularly 1 Corinthians 7:13-15. The men, however, are still accountable for leading their families. If the husband is an unbeliever, the wife must lead a godly life alone, and their children if they have them. This is why we are told “not to be unequally yoked” (2 Cor. 6:14). That is one of the sad effects of having an unbelieving husband. It’s going to be harder. They are left to lead alone. Furthermore, single moms—without a spouse at all—are still called to lead their children/house as the Lord calls us to. But this is a separate matter than the pastoral position at a local church even though it’s related. Is this what you’re getting at?

      1. I guess the more subtle element that if women are to be silent in church and consult their husbands, that leaves unequally yoked women in a place of tension. Remaining submissive to the male authority while having to take a seat at the table (so to speak) to be able to learn and teach her family. Representation, I guess. Not that I am arguing women should be pastors, but that some of these passages have gray elements. And then of course the additional expectation that the wife must negotiate a godly submission to the unbelieving spouse.