On Ordaining Women to the Pastorate

The SBC has officially excommunicated disassociated Saddleback Church from its fellowship as a result of Saddleback’s ordination of women to the office of pastor. I am not a member of the SBC and have little understanding of its internal workings, so there is no commentary from me on that subject. But as a pastor, and one who tries to do it biblically, the issue of women being ordained to the office of bishop/elder/pastor is of significance and importance.

 While I also have no personal experience with Saddleback Church, they – along with their founding pastor Rick Warren – have a very public ministry. The Purpose Driven Church  was, sadly, a textbook in my Ecclesiology class in Bible College (just writing that sentence hurts my heart). The follow up book, The Purpose Driven Life, became a best-seller. So the ministry philosophy of Saddleback Church has been intentionally packaged and sold as a template for others to follow. In a tweet responding to getting the boot from the SBC, Warren notes just how influential Saddleback is (as if to say “Who needs the SBC?”) by stating their newsletter reaches 600,000 church leaders, one million alumni pastors list, and 11 million social media followers.

I’m going to limit some observations to the issue of women being ordained to the office of pastor, but its worth questioning at the outset whether the foundational philosophy of ministry didn’t orient this church to this outcome a long time ago. In other words, I don’t think you can say, “Well, we can follow the ministry philosophy of Saddleback and just NOT ordain women to the pastorate and all will be well.” As surely as Bird and Magic were destined to meet in the post season, so the ministry of Saddleback was destined to cave on this issue.

I think it’s fair to say that many see Rick Warren as a pastor to pattern themselves afterSuccess – or what appears to be success – has that effect. Warren has been influential in shaping the idea of what a good pastor is like, how he should conduct himself, etc… In fact, he might represent the product that many Bible Colleges and Seminaries wish to produce in a pastor, and its clear by his response that he thinks others should follow in his footsteps. Just as Teddy Roosevelt in many ways reshaped and then defined the role of President, Rick Warren has reshaped and then defined the role of Pastor.

So what is that shape? What mark has Warren left on the role of Pastor? My argument is that we can best answer that question by looking at those who are going to fill it. What kind of person fits in that space the best? In other words, if Rick Warren has shaped the pastorate and is now retiring, what shaped puzzle piece is going to fit in that void he will leave? We don’t have to wonder because it is happening in the present. The person who fills that space the best (or at least equally best) is a woman.

This issue is larger than one church, but because of its public ministry it is easy to see at Saddleback. The point I’m trying to make (probably very poorly) is endemic to Evangelicalism. We are treating the issue of whether or not women should be ordained to the office of Pastor as a standalone issue, when in fact it is simply the concluding chapter to a long story we have been writing. And it’s the kind of story that would fit in real well with the Amish Romance novels and Joyce Meyer Bible studies down at your local Christian bookstore

You see, the die is already cast. We have destined this outcome by creating a pastoral paradigm that actually best fits a woman, not a man. And if we have shaped the office of Pastor with curves in all the right places, what right do we have to tell a woman who happens to have just such curves that she can’t occupy that office? How can we tell women they cannot be pastors when we have spent the better part of the last half century creating just such a role? In a way, it would be unjust to deny ordination to a woman at Saddleback after Warren spent so much time making sure that a women would succeed best in that role.

So if Evangelical-types really want to hold the line on the issue of ordaining women to the pastorate, we are going to have to dig deeper to uproot the effeminate pastoral paradigm that we have been cultivating in our churches. If we want our pulpits to be filled only by men, then we must demand that our pulpits be masculine. The longer we encourage or even tolerate effeminate pulpits, the more likely (and in reality fitting) it will be when that pulpit will belong to a woman.  

One thought on “On Ordaining Women to the Pastorate

  1. You need to define what a masculine pulpit is. In the 60.s  a masculine pulpit was short hair, KJV only, railed on any one or any group opposed to conservative political views. didn’t do anything considered effeminate i.e. cook, and the list goes on. And in the process they alienated an entire generation to the house of God. However, they did ” stand for something “. much of which was ignorance, lack of love, poor expository preaching ( if any at all. )   The requirements for a pastor are listed in the Bible . God forbids women pastors so enough said.  I’m not against your article. I’ve often said that if Christ had healed Peters mother in our current society she might have gotten up but extremely doubtful she would have waited on him. Norms, opinions, society, and circumstances  change but Gods Word never changes. Stay true to the interpretation of Gods Word, its application, and to borrow from Kipling : ” and which is more, you will be a man my son. ”  —Harold p.s. I’m not being harsh or mean in this text, though its probably sounds like it.


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