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There are many verses in the New Testament that outline the role of women in the church.

1 Corinthians 14:34: Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. (NIV, 1 Timothy 2:11-12)

And 1 Peter 3.

These verses seem crystal clear, yet many denominations, if not most, now allow women to participate equally in all areas of church government including leadership. Some of those same denominations use the Bible to justify not allowing homosexuals to participate equally in all areas of church government.

The following New Testament passages deal with homosexual actions:

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error (Rom. 1:26–27).

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9–10).

Now we know that the law is good, if any one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, immoral persons, sodomites, kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine (1 Tim. 1:8–10).

So, my question is, how can those churches follow some scriptures and not others? How do they explain it?

  • 1
    Welcome to Christianity.SE. For a quick overview, please take the Site Tour. It might help if you named some specific Christian denominations that ordain women but not homosexuals. As it is, it's a fairly open-ended question, and might get closed as "too broad." See: What topics can I ask about here? and: Types of questions that are within community guidelines. – Lee Woofenden Sep 3 '16 at 2:13
  • @Seeker, b'se to be a woman is a direct creation of God and isn't sinful, and since many women down the ages have been used by the Holy Spirit without man's permission from the time that Paul said those words, so these were precedents set by God Himself that women could also be useful in these matters just as men are, whereas for the case of a 'confessed' homosexual who holds onto it and prides in it contrary to how God sees it, that would be to despise His word that says He is Holy; Leviticus 20:13 – Witness Sep 4 '16 at 14:03
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There's really nothing comparable between the two issues: no one thinks that being a woman is sinful, but many Christian denominations think that all sex outside of heterosexual marriage is sinful.

When we look the passages which give the criteria for church leaders such as 1 Timothy 3 we see several distinct criteria:

  1. being above reproach
  2. a husband of one wife
  3. self controlled and not a drunk
  4. hospitable
  5. able to teach
  6. not violent or greedy
  7. takes care of his own house
  8. not a recent convert
  9. well regarded in the community

Some of these are inherently vague - an elder is not to be a recent convert, but Paul doesn't specify what "recent" means. Some people might think that five years is still too young a Christian, others think that only one or two is acceptable. Others would take the principle more generally, and say that the time a person has been a Christian doesn't matter, but how spiritually mature they are does.

Similarly, the requirement that they're the husband of one wife is contentious. Does it just prohibit polygamous husbands? What about divorced husbands? What about single men?

It's clear that Paul assumes the elders will be men. But is that an assumption we can do away with, or is that an essential part of the role description? Christians disagree greatly over that question. Some churches will not appoint women to be elders/ministers/priests, others will. Both sides have good arguments.

But what is indisputable is that the candidate's moral character cannot be ignored. I only listed some of the prohibitions in 1 Timothy 3, Paul gives more! No one who is in unrepentant sin is qualified to lead a church. If a church thinks that homosexual sex is sinful then they can refuse to ordain people in homosexual relationships while ordaining women without being inconsistent in the slightest.

  • I'll get specific here and say that the Presbyterians do this. They have been struggling with the "gay" issue for years if not decades. The latest decision is to leave it up to the local churches. I have served as a deacon with people were unmarried and living together, who were ordained and installed while "living in sin." A denomination can disregard or interpret passages like the one from 1 Timothy 3 which allows half of the congregation (the women) to participate, but can't take that extra step to allow the remaining 4% to share in leadership. – Seeker Sep 3 '16 at 6:03
  • @Seeker Well sure, some churches disregard all of it, but then you can hardly expect any consistent policy. My answer discusses only those who are trying to be biblically faithful. – curiousdannii Sep 3 '16 at 9:58
  • @Seeker Please edit your question to include your asking about the Presbyterian PoV, and add the tag. – KorvinStarmast Sep 19 '16 at 19:23
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The Free Methodist Church has a long history of ordaining women; in fact women were pastoring Free Methodist churches before they had the right to vote in the United States. The head pastor of my own congregation from 1915-1916 was one Rev. Laura Lamb.

In 1891 B.T. Roberts, one of the denomination's founders, wrote an exhaustive analysis in which he discussed the verse you cite along with many others which are relevant to the question of whether women may, or may not, be ordained. His conclusion is that taking the scripture as a whole -- and not a verse or two out of context -- there is no prohibition whatsoever that forbids women to be ordained. The closing paragraphs read,

IN the preceding pages the following propositions have been clearly proved.

  1. Man and woman were created equal, each possessing the same rights and privileges as the other.
  2. At the fall, woman, because she was first in the transgression, was, as a punishment, made subject to her husband.
  3. Christ re-enacted the primitive law and restored the original relation of equality of the sexes.
  4. The objections to the equality of man and woman in the Christian Church, based upon the Bible, rest upon a wrong translation of some passages and a misinterpretation of others. The objections drawn from woman’s nature are fully overthrown by undisputed facts.
  5. In the New Testament church, woman, as well as man, filled the office of Apostle, Prophet, Deacon or preacher, and Pastor. There is not the slightest evidence that the functions of any of these offices, when filled by a woman, were different from what they were when filled by a man.
  6. Woman took a part in governing the Apostolic church. We come, then, to this final CONCLUSION: THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST, IN THE PROVISIONS WHICH IT MAKES, AND IN THE AGENCIES WHICH IT EMPLOYS, FOR THE SALVATION OF MANKIND, KNOWS NO DISTINCTION OF RACE, CONDITION, OR SEX, THEREFORE NO PERSON EVIDENTLY CALLED OF GOD TO THE GOSPEL MINISTRY, AND DULY QUALIFIED FOR IT, SHOULD BE REFUSED ORDINATION ON ACCOUNT OF RACE, CONDITION, OR SEX.

If you Google the title "Ordaining Women" you'll find both a free PDF of the book, as well as a reasonably-priced paperback.

That said, the FMC remains firmly biblical in its understanding of sexual sin. A contemporary discussion on the issues surrounding homosexuality reads in part,

We will give clear biblical teaching on human sexuality and God’s intended role for sex in the human experience. In this area, homosexual behavior cannot be seen as part of God’s intended role for human sexual expression, regardless of a person’s attraction. Pastors must be thoroughly informed and equipped to teach on sexuality and should seek guidance for materials and instruction from their superintendent and denominational leaders that assist them in teaching Biblical wisdom on these matters.

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