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But What About Women Deacons & Elders ?

That is my question to the blogosphere today. But first let me share my thoughts on this as a Bible teacher.

Not many are called specifically by God to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, or teachers. Keep in mind that apostles today are likened to missionaries. Prophets are often prophetical preachers. Pastors should be shepherding but too often are more like business executives and administrators, who are still expected to be busy teaching and preaching, as well as doing the works peculiar to evangelists. And there are many who are called teachers who have not been called by God to be teachers but are good talkers and have read lot about what scholars say on this or that subject. Many who are called teachers today can only teach on one subject and know nothing about how to properly study the Holy Scriptures within context, grammar, history, etc. All of these issues are another subject and are important ones, even including where women should be fitting into these areas.

But, what about women elders and deacons? Not all men are called to the “five fold ministries”, and neither are all women. In general fewer women than men are called and appointed by God to the above ministries in the Body of Christ. This is often due to the simple fact that women in their younger years become more involved in raising children than men do. And the five fold ministries are more life consuming than other ministries. So, what about women becoming elders and deacons?

Biblically, in 1st Timothy 3 ANYONE may desire the work of overseeing. Is anyone really anyone? Or does Paul change his mind immediately and say BUT that anyone must be a man, who is married, married only once, have only one wife and not two, never divorced, and have children who behave well? The phrase in Greek mias gunaikos andra (footnote A) literally means “of one woman man”. What on earth that means has been disputed for centuries. All over the world believers have debated whether or not it means an overseer: must be a man, or a man who is married, or a man married only once, or a man who only has one wife and not two, or a man who has never divorced, or an idiom for faithfulness in marriage. Add in verses 4-5 and it must then be a married man who has children who behave well. So first we have Paul being dyslexic in a really extreme way and then Paul is being really extremist toward single believers and those who cannot produce children. So which is it? Does this sound like sane thinking?

In my opinion the problem arises from trying to read everything from a literal point of view and not being able to differentiate metaphors, idioms and such from clear statements. One easy clue that there is a problem is when an initial statement of ‘anyone may desire’ is canceled out by a subsequent unclear description of “one woman man”. The first description of the qualities of a potential ‘overseer’ are “anyone who desires the work is desiring a good thing’. This ‘anyone who desires’ must then fulfill certain moral characteristics in verses 2-3. These moral characteristics are: blameless, faithful in marital relations (“one woman man”), showing self restraint, clear thinking, showing good behavior, hospitable, able to instruct, not a drunkard, not violent, not greedy for money, instead gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous. Then this ‘anyone’ must also be one whose activities fit 3 additional qualifications: they manage their personal home lives well, they have been a believer long enough to be mature, they must have a good reputation in the community. Are there any of those qualities and activities that a woman could not fulfill?

The personal interpretation of this phrase, “one woman man”, has been used by many to exclude women from service in local churches. One question that helps clear the air a bit is that if there are women shown to be apostles (Junia - Romans 16), women prophets (Miriam, Huldah, Deborah, Anna, the four daughters, and several more), women evangelists (the Samaritan woman at the well), women teachers (Priscilla – Rom. 16:3, 1 Cor. 16:19) why wouldn’t there be a place for women to serve in ministries less expansive and responsible such as elder (overseers) and deacons? We do know that Phoebe is named a diakonos (deacon) of the church at Cenchrea. So if the ministry considered the least responsible and the least expansive in responsibility has a woman named as serving in it why not a woman serving as an elder when the qualifications are very close to the same, the primary difference being one of maturity?  As well, if a woman is named as serving in the most responsible and expansive ministries such as an apostle, prophet and teacher, why not those services with the lessor responsibilities?

When we add into the equation that in the Greek the word specifically referring to women elders in overseeing churches includes women (1 Tim. 5), then what is the problem? Presbu is a word in Greek meaning those who are older. Older men are presbutes. Older women are presbutis. A presbuter is an elderly man or woman in service. A council of elders in service including both men and women is presbuterion. It calls to mind our transliteration of the word presbuter into the English presbytery, which means a body of church elders and ministers. Also, consider the Presbyterian churches built upon the concept of elder run churches.

So, again, what about women elders and deacons? How can we get the message across that women overseeing a church’s organization or women serving in the smaller ministries of a church is acceptable?

Footnote: A. A. www.scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/NTpdf/1ti3.pdf


  1. Comment #104939 posted September 5, 2013 at 7:03 am

    Doesn’t 1 Tim 3:11 summarize Paul’s view that all the above applies to
    “the women likewise”?

  2. A. Amos Love
    Comment #104940 posted September 5, 2013 at 8:12 am


    Since leaving “The Abusive Religious System,”
    and the Pastor/Elder/Oveerseers who caused most of the Abuse,
    I have a little different view on Elder/Overseers and “IF” they Qualify today.

    Have you ever wondered? Why? – Paul gives such tough qualifications in 1 Tim 3:1-6, and Titus 1:5-9, for Elder/Overseer if NOT important? For something? For some purpose? Can we dismiss them all? How many are NOT important? Which ones are NOT important?

    You see, I’ve noticed, most, male and female, who desire to be an Elder/Overseer “Ignore” or “Twist” the “Qualifications” in 1 Tim 3:1-6, and Titus 1:5-9, so they could obtain for themselves this “Position” of – Power – Profit – Prestige.

    When I was in “leadership” I “Ignored” many of these Qualifications. – I’m guilty as charged.
    Here are just three for now – 1 – Must Be Blameless. 2 – Just. 3 – Holy.

    Titus 1:5-8 KJV
    5 …ordain elders in every city…
    6 If any be *blameless,* the husband of one wife,
    having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.
    7 For a bishop “must be” *blameless,* as the steward of God; not self willed,
    not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;
    8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, *just,* *holy,* temperate;

    1 – For a bishop (overseer) “must be” *blameless.*

    That *must be* is the same Greek word as: …You *must be* born again. John 3:7.
    *Must Be* – Strongs #1163, die. – It is necessary (as binding).
    *Must Be* – Thayer’s – necessity established by the counsel and decree of God.
    Seems to be a small word – but very important. Yes? Is – Blameless – important?

    1 – Blameless – Strongs #410 anegkletos – unaccused, irreproachable, blameless.
    Blameless – Thayers – that cannot be called into account, unreproveable, unaccused.
    Blameless – Dictionary – Without fault, innocent, guiltless, not meriting censure.

    How many “Elder/Overseers,” who honestly examine themselves,
    seriously considering this one **qualification,** (*Must Be* **Blameless,**)
    can see themselves as **Blameless,** without fault, above reproach,
    and thus qualify to be an “elder/overseer?”

    And if you can see yourself as **blameless:** Is that pride?
    And no longer without fault? Oy Vey! ;-)

    But – Will these Elder/Overseers, who are – NOT Blameless – NOT Innocent…
    Who do NOT Qualify – Remove themselves – and be a good example to the flock?

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall “hear My voice; “
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Voice – One Fold – One Shepherd

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  3. Comment #104941 posted September 5, 2013 at 9:38 am

    From the perspective of over a half-century of observation, it is my opinion that to many their concept of church leadership was heavy on the overseer (command, control, authority, etc.) not the concept of servant/leader.

  4. Comment #104942 posted September 5, 2013 at 10:36 am

    Actually, I quite agree with you jmoss. In Christ a true leader, one whom others look to for examples, is to be a servant, and a servant for life. Matt. 20:26-28. Nowhere in Scripture does it say that leaders are to lead by authority, but rather by example with wisdom and instruction.

    It is sad, indeed jmoss, that there are so many leaders who are such poor examples of Christ’s ways, that those who see this, wish they would remove themselves. It is my belief that if women were acknowledged as ones whom God also calls and equips to be worthy of being given the responsibilities of an overseer or leader, that it would bring some balance. As it is, because so many men think they are qualified by their maleness and women disqualified by their femaleness, that pride stands tall and brings in other sins.

    J9, thank you for the reminder about 1 Tim. 3:11.

  5. A. Amos Love
    Comment #104944 posted September 7, 2013 at 10:27 am


    Here’s two more qualifications from Titus for “pastor/elder/overseer”
    that most who want to be a “pastor/elder/overseer” today tend to *Ignore* and “Twist.”

    Titus 1:6-8 KJV
    6 If any be *blameless,* the husband of one wife,
    having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.
    7 For *a bishop must be blameless,* as the steward of God; not selfwilled,
    not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;
    8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, *just,* *holy,* temperate;

    2 – Just
    Strongs #1342 – dikaios {dik’-ah-yos} from 1349;
    Thayers – 1) righteous, observing divine laws
    1a) in a wide sense, upright, righteous, virtuous, keeping the commands of God
    1a1) of those who seem to themselves to be righteous,
    who pride themselves to be righteous, whether real or imagined
    1a2) innocent, faultless, guiltless
    1a3) used of him whose way of thinking, feeling, and acting
    is wholly conformed to the will of God,
    and who therefore needs no rectification in the heart or life

    3 – Holy
    Strongs #3741 – hosios {hos’-ee-os}
    Thayers – 1) undefiled by sin, free from wickedness,
    religiously observing every moral obligation, pure holy, pious.

    Now that’s three tough qualifications for “pastor/elder/overseers.”
    1 – Must Be Blameless. 2 – Just. 3 – Holy. — Yes?

    Makes an interesting study – checking out ALL these tough qualifications for “pastor/elder/overseers.” – Then checking out those who say they are “pastor/elder/overseers,” compared to the qualifications. :-)

    I was ordained. I was in “Leadership.” Folks told me I had this so-called “Gift of Leadership.” :-(
    And I “Ignored” these qualifications for elder/overseer. :-(

    Pro 29:5 KJV
    A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet.

    Pro 20:17 KJV
    Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel.

    I believed the flattery – I was special – I was needed – I was called…
    To build the body of Christ. – I deceived myself and wound up eating a lot of gravel. :-(

    Could this be the reason for so much “Spiritual Abuse” in todays “Local” 501 (c) 3, Non-profit, Tax Dedictible, Religious Corporations, the IRS calls church?

    Elder/Overseers who do NOT Qualify?

    When you believe the lie you start to die…

  6. Comment #104945 posted September 7, 2013 at 11:31 am

    Being just and seeking to be Holy as Christ is holy is certainly important. I think if more sought those qualities we would have less ‘spiritual abuse’ in the churches and in homes.

  7. A. Amos Love
    Comment #104946 posted September 7, 2013 at 12:13 pm


    If an elder/overseer, male or female, Does NOT Qualify…
    What should they do?

    If someone in the congregation knows that an elder/overseer, Does NOT Qualify…
    What should they do?

  8. Comment #104948 posted September 7, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    Amos, it all depends upon how the church they serve in appoints their elders, overseers and deacons. There should be no charge brought against an elder/overseer without proof and witnesses. In whatever manner a leader is appointed, there would be guidelines in the churches leadership organization to handle such matters.

    If a person knows they no longer qualify, it would be wise of that person to go to the leadership of that church and resign their position of service.

    • Liz Liz
      Comment #104950 posted September 7, 2013 at 4:59 pm

      And…if a person is a member of a church where the elder/overseer are not godly as described in the bible, that person should go to the leadership and politely make their case. if the leadership do not listen, then the person would be advised to look for another fellowship.

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