Tag Archives: male headship

Can women be leaders in the church? Titus 1:5-9, Part 3

19 Jun
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Can women be leaders in the church? What is your church’s position on this? After establishing blamelessness as the baseline requirement for church leaders, Paul goes on to describe how blameless church leaders handle their lives in Titus 1:6-7. Blameless leaders will have demonstrated four things:

  1. Be a husband
  2. Of one wife
  3. Have faithful children who also cannot be accused of rebellion.
  4. See themselves as God’s stewards.

In parts 3 and 4 of this week’s posts, we’re going to look at each of these four statements.

First he says that blameless leaders are husbands.  The emphasis here is on the male aspect, not so much on the married part.  Paul himself was single, and it is okay for single people to be leaders.  But what about that male emphasis?  So many people through the ages have said, “See, only men can be leaders of the church, as Paul is only talking to the husbands.”  At Faith Church we understand this principle a bit differently.

We believe that Paul was speaking to the cultural situation of his day.  The surrounding culture of the Roman Empire was so thoroughly patriarchal, that Paul argues for male leadership in the church.  Paul also taught that men and women are totally equal in God’s eyes, so he could be accused of being contradictory. I don’t think he is.  Here’s why.

I think the question we should be asking is why he had to bring this issue up so much.  Did you ever think about that?  Paul mentions gender roles in the church repeatedly.  It comes up in 1 Corinthians 11, Ephesians 5, 1 Timothy 2, and here in Titus.  In such a deeply patriarchal culture you wouldn’t think this should be an issue that Paul would need to talk about.  Why? Everyone in the Roman Empire assumed that men would be leaders.  It’s just the way it was in a patriarchal culture.  Why then does Paul bring it up so often with these Christians?

He has to refer to gender roles so often because of what he already taught them.  Paul was bringing a new radical teaching to their society, that there is new life in Christ, that Jesus had ushered God’s Kingdom into the world, a kingdom where men and women were equal in God’s eyes.  In fact, read Galatians 3, and Paul concludes that in Christ Jesus there is no male or female, but all are one.  In God’s Kingdom there is no patriarchy.  That was earth-shattering stuff for those Greeks and Romans.  The women, of course, embraced it.  It was empowering for them, as it should have been.  There are indications in Paul’s writing that the women were grabbing hold of this new teaching and owning it, to the point of breaking cultural norms like cutting their hair, speaking in public, and so on.  And why not?  God’s Kingdom had come to town and it was a new day. 

Except for one really important matter. The rest of the culture wasn’t buying this new message. Paul knew, to preserve what was being built and being taught, to preserve the church, that these Cretan Christians had to be careful to not lose the main goal and point, which was the mission of God’s Kingdom.  His heart was to establish the church so deeply, that in time it could be an influencer of culture, viably creating a society that reflected Kingdom values of oneness and equality between gender. At this early stage, though, the church was far from ready for that. To preserve that mission, then, Paul taught them that it was going to have to male leadership only. 

But what about a different culture, one that didn’t have patriarchy, a culture where men and women are equal?  Can you think of any cultures trying to be like that?  Any cultures where men and women have equal access and opportunity?  Any culture where the women’s national soccer team, for example, scored more goals in one World Cup game than then men’s soccer team scored in all their games in the previous four World Cups combined?  I think I know a place like that.  In a place like that, we believe that Paul would have taught equality in gender roles in the church.  Because we live in one of those cultures where men and women are equal, we believe it is most faithful have gender equality on our leadership team.

I have great respect for Christians who disagree with our approach. Some of them are pastors in my own denomination. Many biblical scholars and theologians have undertaken projects to provide a rationale for male headship in the church and family. Those scholars have done due diligence, and I understand from Scripture why they disagree with the approach I describe above. I hope we can graciously agree to disagree. I will admit that I do not know for certain if my viewpoint is correct. Of course I think it is correct, but I could very well be wrong.