We do not believe God has accommodated himself and his word to (as evangelical feminists see it) sinful patriarchalism, so that the “truth” of God’s word must be separated from the “sin” of patriarchy. According to this view, the biblical message is no longer sufficient but has been corrupted by a fallen aspect of the ancient biblical language and culture…

Because the Bible is God’s own chosen self-revelation, we must take seriously the language God chose to use to communicate to us what he is like. This revelation, by God’s choice, includes all the masculine God-language of the Bible, and therefore it cannot be dismissed as merely the by-product of a patriarchal cultural. To dismiss the masculine language for God in the Bible is to dismiss how God has spoken of himself, and this is a serious matter…

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Does the Bible refer to a female apostle named Junia? At the end of Romans, nestled amid a series of greetings which Paul extends to various women and men, one finds this salutation, “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was” (Rom 16:7, NRSV). What makes the NRSV translation of this verse noteworthy is the gender of the latter individual, which is feminine. Older translators typically rendered the name in a masculine form, Junias, but the translators of the NRSV have followed a growing number of scholars who see this latter individual to be a woman.

This translation has far-reaching implications. If it is indeed the proper understanding of this obscure verse, egalitarian scholars are provided with one instance in Scripture where a woman is called an apostle — and a prominent apostle no less, who may have planted churches throughout the Roman world and exercised governing authority over them. It challenges the traditional belief in an all-male apostolate, as well as the implication that complementarians have drawn from it, namely, that women should not exercise pastoral authority over men. Complementarians argue that since Jesus chose only men for the apostolic office, the church today should do likewise when appointing leaders. While some egalitarians have responded that Jesus was merely acting within the bounds of his patriarchal culture and was not wanting to offend unnecessarily the Jews of his day, an all-male apostolate remains nevertheless a weighty piece of evidence for the complementarian position and something of an embarrassment for egalitarians. But if the early church had at least one female apostle, as some argue, is there any reason why women should not exercise spiritual authority over men today?

It is the purpose of this paper to evaluate the claim that Rom 16:7 refers to an authoritative female apostle named Junia. In order to evaluate this claim properly, at least three lines of investigation must be pursued: (1) whether the ambiguous Greek name Iounian found in Romans 16:7 is masculine or feminine in gender; (2) whether the construction en tois apostolois should be understood in a locative sense, “among the apostles,” or in an instrumental sense, “by the apostles”; and (3) whether the term “apostle” is used here technically as an authoritative leader in the early church, or in a more general way denoting a “messenger.” I intend to prove that, whether man or woman, the one whom Paul calls Iounian was not an authoritative apostle, but rather, alongside Andronicus, a prominent messenger entrusted to deliver letters to various churches, bringing back to Paul status reports on each of the congregations they visited.

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Before I explore any of the other arguments that have been advanced concerning the selection and ordination of elders in the church, I would like to address one extra-biblical argument that is commonly used to support the selection of women into this office of leadership – the utilitarian argument.

The utilitarian argument basically states that since it is sometimes difficult to find good men in the church who would be willing to serve as its elders, it would make sense for the church to expand its pool of eligible persons to include godly women as well. Allowing women in office would effectively double the pool of persons that are eligible to serve as elders, and thus reduce the strain felt by the few men who would otherwise be constantly called upon to serve in this capacity time after time. If the current model isn’t working, then what would be wrong with switching to a model that would allow for women to take on this role as well as men?

This argument seems to be persuasive to many primarily because it seems to make a lot of sense as a solution to overworked elders, but should it really be used and considered as a legitimate primary apologetic for women in office? It is true that with its post-modern mindset, our society often values the utility of an argument above the degree to which it is true of false, but is utility really a proper basis for Christian judgments and decisions over-against God’s Word? Utility may sometimes, or even often be accompanied by truth, but it can just as often detract from more important and fundamental considerations. Moreover, the immediate benefits of a given solution often prevent the mind from probing into and acknowledging its potential long-term negative effects. A solution that seems to work in the short-term may therefore improperly focus on effects rather than causes, and in the end fail to achieve its intended purpose.

To bring this into perspective, consider what may happen if this proposition of allowing women to serve as elders to lighten the load on men is carried out. What, then, will happen when some of these men, seeing that they may no longer be needed as elders, decide that they would prefer to no longer be called upon for this service? What if at some point neither the men, nor the women are willing to serve? Will this solution have truly fixed the situation? No, if wouldn’t; it may have delayed the outcome for a time, but it would not have solved the problem in the long run. If a church cannot deal with getting men to serve as elders now, what prevents it from having no one who is willing to serve in this capacity in the future? If there is a functional solution to this latter problem, then there must be a correspondingly functional solution to the former problem. But if there is no solution to the former – other than that which has been proposed above – where would this utilitarian argument ultimately lead?


LONDON, November 15, 2007 ( – For the first time, the Church of England reports that more women than men were ordained in 2006. Last year 244 women and 234 men were ordained in the Church of England, but the majority of paid pastoral positions have gone to men with women taking mostly voluntary posts. The total number of ordained ministers in the Church of England is now estimated to be 20,354, including clergy, readers and Church Army officers.

Acceptance of women into the priesthood, which The General Synod approved in 1992, has not halted the decline in Church membership and has likely accelerated the trend…

American Baptist writer Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and board member of Focus on the Family, wrote that the “feminization of the church” is the equivalent of the liberalization of the church. He points to the fact that in the US Episcopal Church, the number of women enrolled in Master of Divinity programs now represents almost a third of total enrolment with the mainline Protestants groups following suit. “In many liberal seminaries, women students now vastly outnumber men.”

Ruth Gledhill, religion correspondent at the London Times wrote, “The feminization of the ministry is one of the most significant trends of this generation. Acceptance of women in the pastoral role reverses centuries of Christian conviction and practice. It also leads to a redefinition of the church and its ministry. Once women begin to fill and represent roles of pastoral leadership men withdraw. This is true, not only in the pulpit, but in the pews. The evacuation of male worshippers from liberal churches is a noticeable phenomenon.”…

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I do not enjoy arguing about women in office, but I do believe that the position given in the Bible is clear on the issue as concerns eldership and certain other forms of church leadership. Given the current situation in our church, however, I do believe it would be pertinent for me to address the issue upfront. Hopefully anyone who decides to read this blog will bless me with their insights and correction where necessary.

As I understand it, the current situation is as follows: Yesterday morning, names for elders and deacons were drawn by lot from a short-list of candidates to determine who would be commissioned to each post. The list for elders was composed entirely of men, so this did not create any problems with regards to their election to office. However, the list of deacons was comprised of three men and three women, two of whom were to be chosen. At the end of the lot casting, one man and one woman were chosen. This would be the first time that a woman has been chosen for the office of deacon in our church, and this might not be a cause for concern otherwise, except for the fact that in our church structure, the deacons hold voting positions in the church council. The issue, then, is not so much about women serving in the office of deacon, but rather, about their exercise of authority in the church as deacons.

I’ll be posting in the next couple of weeks on this subject, and would love to hear anyone’s thoughts concerning this subject. In the meantime, I’d like to provide a few links relevant to a biblical understanding of sexual complementarity (including an understanding of roles in the church) as addressed by John Piper (these are audio MP3s), plus another link, as mentioned in the series:

Sexual Complementarity – Lession 1
Sexual Complementarity – Lession 2a
Sexual Complementarity – Lession 2b
Sexual Complementarity – Lession 3
Sexual Complementarity – Lession 4

See also: The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood