The book Two Views on Women in Ministry is a contribution to the sharply debated topics relating to the position and role of women in ministry. The authors adopt two key thematic positions which form the primary focus of the book. These are the egalitarian and the complimentarian perspective on the role of women in church ministry. This review will adopt a thematic approach based on these two outstanding positions that the authors have adopted in the book.
Egalitarian Perspective on the Role of Women in Ministry. The authors deal with the dynamic nature of perceptions on whether or not there exists a hierarchy between male and female relationships in church leadership. The authors also clarify, by focusing the discussion on the equality between men and women in ministry, that men and women share leadership responsibilities in ministry. The authors’ position on gender hierarchy leans to the interpretation of Genesis 1-3. The leadership role of women is understood contextually by considering the position of women before the fall or the consequences of such a fall.
However, the distinction between male and female in leadership in ministry must be understood on account of “God’s deliberate and calculated act of on God’s part”. In this divine plan, there was no distinction between male and female leadership. The egalitarian approach is, thus, not very accurately depicted by the authors. The “one flesh” unity between men and women before the fall of man in the Garden of Eden is expounded by the authors in their final submission to underscore the egalitarian level of interaction between men and women in church leadership. Nonetheless, the authors sideline this reality and instead stress that both men and women have one thing in common “sharing in the image of God”.
This stand is not very accurate since Paul was only restricting women who were susceptible to false teaching, and under certain conditions, those women could only lead positions that are predominantly meant for women. The role of women in ministry was, therefore, influenced by both culture and social setting as the determinant context of women’s leadership role. The authors contend that women can preach and prophesy if they undertake such roles under male authority. If this is the position, then women should also preach all the time as long as they are given the opportunity by the elder or pastor of the church. The arguments of egalitarians are, therefore, not very consistent. This is because if women can teach and preach and exercise spiritual authority over men as enshrined in 1 Tim. 2:12-14, then the argument of the egalitarians is not correct, especially if the male eldership of the church is mandated to determine who ministers.
Complimentarian Perspective on the Role of Women in Ministry. Romans 16 offer a good guideline of complementation as it praises women as co-workers and laborers with the Lord. Complemetarians’ view is that women can serve both as deacons and elder/pastors in the church, a view that is hotly contested by the egalitarians. But I disagree with the observation of the complementarians because Junia in Romans 16:7 was an apostle, but it is not clear whether she served as an authoritative apostle. Bellaville illustrates the egalitarian view of women as leaders of the church in non-persuasive way that is hard to adopt. The fact that the church could occasionally meet and gather in a woman’s house is not an adequate proof that the woman in question was a leader.
The complementarians also claim that Mary, for example, in Acts 12:12 served as a patron. However, when leaders that served in church of Jerusalem are mentioned, there are only male apostles. Mary is not mentioned here. This implies that the position of apostles was reserved for males. There is no other place in the New Testament that suggests the conclusion of the authors and proponents of complementarian perspective.
Bellevile is also not very accurate in her submissions about teaching as a role played by women in ministry. She, for example, concludes that there is nothing like private and public teaching. She can correctly lift up Priscilla as an illustration for this point. However, this has a logical error. A clear distinction must, thus, be made between instruction and mutual teaching where all believers are involved and public formal teaching, which should be treated as the office of teachers. However, her attempt to indicate that authority of the twelve that were sent out to minister did not include preaching is not accurate. This approach does not correctly separate the authority of the twelve to heal from the authority to preach. While the author tries to indicate that submission to leaders is voluntary according to Heb. 13:17, she is certainly not accurate since authority and submission is not to be coerced and the position of an elder does not entail leadership.
In conclusion, the role and position of women in ministry must be objectively evaluated not in the context of culture but based on the initial plan of God and the significance of women in ministry. Presently, the complementary and egalitarian nature of women’s role in leadership cannot be overemphasized.