Many people say that women can be deacons but not elders. There is clear scriptural precedent for women as deacons. For example, in Romans 16:1 the word used to describe Phoebe is diakonon (sometimes translated servant).
One of the arguments used to say that women cannot be elders is that the qualifications for being an elder includes being the husband of one wife (1 Timothy 3:1). A woman cannot have a wife–therefore she cannot be an elder.
However, one of the qualifications for deacons is that they, too, are to be the husband of one wife (1 Timothy 3:12).
Follow the logic. Deacons have to be the husband of one wife, and we know that there are female deacons. Elders also have to the be the husband of one wife. Why should there not be female elders too?
First Timothy 3:11 says, “let the wives (women) also be temperate… faithful.” This verse is often applied to female deacons. Why not to female elders too.
(Thank you Neil Cole for this idea)
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19 replies on “Women as elders and deacons?”
I never thought about it like that! Hmmmmm..,
It is undeniable and very clear that God continues to reveal His plan for inclusiveness.
Exclusion From the Assembly Deuteronomy 23:1 No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the LORD.
Acts 8:27 NIV
So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship,
The Ethiopian eunuch had gone to Jersusalem to worship but was kept from the assembly. What does God do?
Acts 8:29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” 30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. 31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.” 34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. 36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.
2 Corinthians 3:6 NIV
He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant–not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Henry, this is fascinating. I’d never seen it before. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for the encouragement, I will share more Spirit taught lessons in my soon to be published book.
In our church they have “deaconesses” who are not ordained as the male deacons and women who serve on the elders council but are not ordained elders. Does this feel crazy to anyone else but me?
It’s so typical of what women face.
The reason women being elders can be logically deduced is because it is supported by 1 Timothy 3:1-2 in the original Greek. It reads, “This is a faithful saying. If any person (non-gender specific) aspires to be a Guardian, they are desiring a fine work. So then it is necessary that they are blameless and faithful to their partner . . .” (The Source New Testament with Extensive Notes on Greek Word Meaning by Dr. Ann Nyland). The term “faithful to one’s partner” was written in biblical times on both male and female epitaphs. This term is non-gender specific, applying equally to husbands and wives. Galatians 5:1 promises “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” This follows Galatians 3:28 that equates all believers “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Interpretations that subject or enslave a believer need to be reevaluated in light of oneness in Christ.
Thank you Jeffrey. Someone recommended Nyland’s book to me last week and I just ordered it. I’m looking forward to checking out this and other passages from it.
I think you meant “a woman cannot have a wife”
Yep! Whoops! Tony found that one too so I changed it.
What is the difference between an elder and a deacon? Scripturally, I mean.
Neil Cole has written a fascinating chapter on this subject for our upcoming book on women. Scripturally the difference is that elders can teach. Neil suggests that deacons may actually have an apostolic or prophetic role that is regional where elders are local. All backed by Scripture.
So now our church is now studying the Book True Women 101 by Mary Kassian and Nancy Leigh Demoss. I browsed the topics and it discusses the importance of understanding our function and design based on gender. I have been struggling with this idea/theology for a while now and I get more confused by the second… Have someone studied the book? Felicity, Have you seen it? Any thoughts?
I haven’t seen it. What kind of topics does it include?
Why oh why do so many teachers insist on misquoting 1Tim3v1, when the word “elder” does not even appear in the verse.
We are so imbibed with the way of the world that we find ourselves obliged to import the world’s carnal way of hierarchical management straight into the living body of Christ. Doing such immediately cripple the body.
The word “elder” has nothing to do with an appointment. This is clearly shown in 1Tim5v1, where “elder”, as a male, is juxtaposed against an elder, female, and both words juxtaposed against young men and young women. Read it, it means age, and maturity, and that is all!
If only we could get clear revelation of the fact that elders were simply mature believers, and not appointees, then we would see the ministry of the whole church explode. The very fact that people are appointed to eldership creates the great divide between those who minister and those who watch. Appointing a few favoured people to eldership demotes the rest of the body into non-functioning positions.
Titus is the stronghold which is falsely used to justify appointing elders. Although Titus in 1v5 is clearly called to “appoint elders”, a simple look at the text will show he is merely appointing from the existing elders (mature believers), some to become bishops or overseers. Nowhere does it indicate he is appointing anyone to become an elder.
To illustrate my point.-
A denomination sends a circular letter to its several congregations.
“It has been decided to relaunch our children’s ministry. Therefore could all congregations appoint at least two women to take on this role.”
The question here is, are they calling for the appointment of anyone to become a woman? Or are they calling for some, who are already women, to a yet further role? Obviously the second is correct, and the first is nonsense.
Why do we read it different with Titus. Paul is calling for the appointment of mature people, elders, to take the role of overseership. He is not appointing anyone to become an elder.
Frances, I totally agree with this view and 1 Tim 5:1 is a fascinating verse. I just looked it up in the Greek and it’s presbuteros (older men) and presbuteras (older women).
Yes Felicity, It was those very Greek words in 1Tim5v1 which God used to ignite my understandings of eldership 30 years ago.
The interesting thing is that 5 verses before that, Paul tells Timothy, “Let no man despise your youth, but be an example of the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”
In other words, “Timothy, even though you are young, act like an elder should, be an example for others to aspire to!”
That this gave him no authority over others is revealed in 1Tim5v1.
Thank you for this logical explanation! Thank you Lord for Romans 16:1 and Phoebe 🙂
but really — why are the Timothy translations sooo gender focused? Just because culturally who he was writing to… men were the leaders so it was just writing in generalities, not to be a rule or to constrict anybody??