We all knew the last question in the course. The whole course was preparing us to answer it. I answered no; women should not have authority in the church. Now before pitchforks are sharpened for another misogynist monster stuck in the Middle Ages, realize my next claim was neither should men.
Before explaining my answer let me provide some context. The course was about women in ministry. It looked at the arguments for and against women in pastoral leadership. Could women be spiritual leaders? Between the 1960s, 1990s, and today, many Christians pointing fingers at various Bible verses were fiercely debating this issue. They generally landed within two groups: complementarians versus egalitarians. Complementarians thought God made a role for each of the genders, with men running the family and the church. Egalitarians looking at Galatians 3:28 argued that in Christ all were one and equal. The battle came down to some passages in the Bible, each side taking their position.
If the Bible was written in English, then the complementarians would have won the day easily. St. Paul clearly states in 1 Timothy 2:12 that women should not have authority over men. But Paul wrote in Koine Greek and in the original language it is not so clear-cut; in fact it more undermining the argument rather than supporting it. St Paul, when talking about authority in other places, uses another word than the one he uses in 1 Tim 2:12. Jesus, in the Great Commandment, uses another word as well. In 1 Tim 2.12, Paul uses a word that he uses nowhere else in all of his letters. When we look at the word "authority" as his contemporaries used it we find it was rare and meant something more akin to oppression or browbeating. So when coming to the last question of the course, we were to go through this debate and show we understood it. I knew the arguments and knew that in the Bible there were women who taught men.
So why did I say no? I do believe women who are called to be pastors can be pastors. There was a deeper issue for me however, the one of power, Jesus and God. When Jesus says that all authority was granted to him, as his followers we should take this seriously. All of our authority in the church is not ours, but is borrowed from Jesus. My conclusion was that no one but Jesus should have authority in his church. Both sides, when I bring this up, brush it aside and say that is not what they mean when talking about women in ministry. But the reality of the truth of Jesus holding the authority is more than either side wants to admit. The job of a pastor should be to point to Jesus, or to quote the old adage, “Being beggars telling other beggars where to find food.”
We live in a time of the “Me, me, me" ministries. You know the kind — where the star is the pastor and Jesus is the sidekick — stuck backstage while the superstar pastor dressed in cool clothes commands his flock in church and on YouTube. This of course is to be expected in a culture that makes the individual an idol. This me, myself, and I ministry does not fit in this idea of a pastor being a hungry beggar showing other hungry beggars where there is food. I realized that for many, the argument over who could be pastor was really one of who could hold the power and glory in the church. This negates the Christian position that the Lord Jesus holds the power and glory. Since Christians find spiritual food of forgiveness and love with Jesus, all of us can point to the Lord. As such, all the authority we can ever have in the church comes from pointing to Jesus. The priesthood of all believers means all who have been found by Jesus can share with others where to look for forgiveness.
It is true that pastor preach and teach. Yet the only worth of their words is in how much they point back to Jesus. Point to Jesus, and a Christian practices the only authority a Christian can have, lent by by the only one with authority — Jesus. One then becomes a pastor, with or without a title and regardless of gender, race or class. Anything else is the practice of wanting the power of God without God. Many seeking their own glory have forgotten this most basic truth.