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If a woman believes that she has been called by God to a leadership position in the Church (e.g. teacher, pastor, evangelist, prophet, apostle, etc.), what would be the process for her to have her divine calling acknowledged, accepted and respected by the members of her congregation?

Since the answer to this question undoubtedly depends on the denomination, what would be an overview of denominational guidelines for women who believe they have received a call from God to a leadership position in the Church and want the approval of their congregation to operate in their calling in a responsible manner?


Appendix - Relevant NT passages on divine calling

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, (Ephesians 4:11-12 ESV)

11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. (1 Corinthians 12:11 ESV)

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. (1 Corinthians 12:27-31 ESV)

2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:2-3 ESV)​


Related questions

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    Half the churches would say that's just not an option. Many of the rest would say that God's calling on people goes through the Church, and so any personal sense of calling can't be trusted, and it's not really very appropriate for someone to have an attitude of trying to convince the Church of what they feel or believe. I don't think this is a subject matter that the overview question format really works for.
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 25 at 4:22
  • Probably just direct it to a denomination that has female ordination. But for those there's no reason to distinguish men and women.
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 25 at 5:07
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    Why specifically ask about women in that case?
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 25 at 5:33
  • @curiousdannii From purely empirical observations, it seems that most churches that don't allow women to preach from the pulpit still allow them to hold "leadership" position as a children's minister. Is it true? How about women as an elder (not just deacon), do the same churches allow that? Is it the preaching from pulpit, or being the senior pastor that is the issue? Apr 30 at 15:35
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    @GratefulDisciple A children's minister isn't usually considered an office. And I think it would be very rare to allow a woman to be an elder but not preach. The reverse is more common.
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 30 at 22:09

3 Answers 3

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With respect to women, it is strange that you have not included in your list of relevant verses 1 Timothy 2:11-14

"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."

Having said that women with gifts of teaching should be given ample opportunity to teach children and to teach other women. Famously in Spurgeon's fellowship in the nineteenth century a woman, Mrs Lavinia Bartlett, preached/taught the Gospel to up to a thousand I think pretty much every week... the congregation was women. See https://www.9marks.org/article/charles-spurgeon-womens-ministry-and-female-preachers/

And outside the official organisational structure of the fellowship it is not so rigid as with official roles within fellowship. All women and all believers are called to evangelise to children, women and men, and use their gifts and knowledge to instruct others (Luke 2:36-38, Acts 18:26).

In general, in evangelical circles if you do the role of a preacher, teacher without the calling (or the salary) then if you are impressive, or people start being converted through your efforts it should not be too long before you are called into a ministry.

The views regarding women in the ministry would be, I expect, the views of most reformed evangelical churches such as Reformed Baptist churches, for a start. Probably Evangelical "Church of England Continuing", and many churches associated with the Church of England evangelical periodical "Church Society".

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    What denominations are represented by this answer? Apr 28 at 21:20
  • Reformed evangelical such as Reformed Baptist churches, for a start. Probably Evangelical "Church of England Continuing", churches associated with the Church of England evangelical periodical "Church Society" Apr 28 at 21:40
  • Thanks for the clarification, although I think this should be included in the answer itself. Apr 28 at 21:45
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    "And outside the official organizational structure of the fellowship it is not so rigid as with official roles within fellowship. All women and all believers are called to evangelize." A critical distinction for what is, in some places, a very contentious topic. +1 Apr 29 at 12:26
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To answer the question, there are only two cases.

For denominations that believe women can take leadership positions: the process is identical to the process for men.

For denominations that do not believe women can take leadership positions: there is no process. Since women cannot take leadership positions there is no point in deciding if this particular woman is called to a leadership position.

Challenges to the doctrine of excluding women from leadership is not done by trying to get a women accepted as a leader by formal process.

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+50

One of the Articles of Faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints addresses this question:

We believe that a *man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof. (Articles of Faith 1:5)

*As evidence that "man" here refers to humanity generally and not just males specifically, consider that the church's missionary force--set apart by the laying on of hands to preach the Gospel--includes thousands of women.

Callings in the Church

It is not at all unheard of in my faith for people to be given advanced notice by the Holy Ghost about an upcoming calling to serve in a particular capacity in the church, but God's house is a house of order. To serve with God's authority, it is necessary to be called to that position by the person holding the requisite priesthood keys. It is not inappropriate for someone to inform their Bishop (or other priesthood leader) that they feel impressed that they are to prepare to serve in a particular calling, but the calling must still come through the leader holding the keys.

We also publicly sustain people when they are called to a given capacity--the Doctrine & Covenants explains the importance of it being publicly known who has been called to what position:

Again I say unto you, that it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church. (D&C 42:11)

This helps us support one another in our callings, and serves as a preventative measure for usurpers who may wish to lead people astray.

For more information, see Callings in the Church

Gender

The process described above is the same for men and women. We also believe that God has given different roles & responsibilities to men & women. See, for example, The Family: A Proclamation to the World. Some callings are given to both men & women; some callings are given only to men; some callings are given only to women. Both men & women preach & pray in public services.

Both men & women have access to priesthood power in their callings; only men are ordained to priesthood offices (e.g. deacon, bishop, apostle, etc.)

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