Recently, John Piper, chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary, responded on his weekly podcast, desiringGod, to a question submitted by a listener: “Should women be hired as seminary professors?” Piper, a complementarian, holds that males and females complement each other in their different roles and duties in both the home and the church. In the church, he asserts that only men can be pastors, leaders and teachers, especially of men. Given this position, Piper answered the question negatively. Piper believes that “the Bible teaches that churches should be led by a team of spiritual, humble, biblically qualified men.” Therefore, Piper concluded, “If it is unbiblical to have woman as pastors, how can it be biblical to have women who function in formal teaching and mentoring capacities to train and fit pastors for the very calling from which the mentors themselves are excluded?”
The Wesleyan Covenant Association disagrees with Piper on this matter. Our Statement of Moral Principles declares, “Scripture teaches that men and women are of equal value in the eyes of God. Accordingly, the church should treat women and men equally. We believe that both women and men are called to and gifted for ordained and licensed ministry, and both genders are able to hold any role of leadership within the WCA.”
We celebrate the strong leadership provided by women who are members of our governing Council: Rev. Carolyn Moore (Vice Chair, and Church Planter and Lead Pastor of Mosaic Church), Rev. Madeline Carrasco-Henners (Secretary and Associate Pastor of LaGrange First United Methodist Church), Cara Nicklas (attorney and chair of our Governance Committee), Jennifer Cowart (Executive Pastor, Harvest Church), Rev. Jessica LaGrone (Dean of Chapel, Asbury Theological Seminary) and Michelle DeRouen (financial advisor).
We affirm the observations of Dr. Sandra Richter, Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies at Westmont College, “Deborah was not a mistake. Huldah was Prophet. Junia was not a man. Romans 16 is not an anomaly. Priscilla was a preacher. And the women prophesying in 1 Corinthians 11 were exercising the most treasured and authoritative gift of their known covenant. This all in a culture where dowries and bride prices were the norm, women were still required to cover their heads, children belonged to their fathers, and the legal and economic systems rarely recognized a woman’s right to any voice or influence. If she is called and gifted, Church, it is your job to recognize that gift, develop that gift, and deploy that gift. This isn’t your Kingdom, it is His.”
In a lecture delivered at Asbury Theological Seminary in 2007, Richter developed her analysis of the relevant biblical passages related to this issue. We agree that it is the Holy Spirit who decides who receives which spiritual gifts. Furthermore, the Bible teaches us that it is the function of the body of Christ to honor the gifting bestowed, and to support and facilitate the use of such spiritual gifts by biblically qualified individuals in the mission of the church without regard to gender.
It is a tragedy to see those who have been gifted and called of God hindered in leading, preaching and teaching in the church and the institutions that prepare them for ministry because they are women. As Dr. Gordon Fee, Professor Emeritus of New Testament at Regent College, wrote, “The New Testament evidence is that the Holy Spirit is gender inclusive, gifting both men and women, and thus potentially setting the whole body free for all the parts to minister and in various ways to give leadership to others.”
The Wesleyan Covenant Association is fully committed to and celebrates women serving as leaders, preachers and teachers in life of the church and beyond.
There are numerous resources online to explore this topic in greater depth. Here are links to a few:
by Keith Boyette
Keith Boyette is an elder in the Virginia Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church and the President of the Wesleyan Covenant Association.