Can A Woman Be A Pastor-Teacher? -- By: Harold W. Hoehner

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 50:4 (Dec 2007)
Article: Can A Woman Be A Pastor-Teacher?
Author: Harold W. Hoehner


Can A Woman Be A Pastor-Teacher?

Harold W. Hoehner

Harold W. Hoehner is distinguished professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, 3909 Swiss Ave., Dallas, TX 75204.

The role of a woman as pastor-teacher has been an ongoing topic of discussion. While in the past many have frowned on this concept, there has been a gradual change of mind in more recent times. What has caused this change? Is this change in line with Scriptures or have present cultural mores dictated this change of attitude?

I. Historical Development

First, it is helpful to become acquainted with the historical development of the leadership of women in the church. I am indebted to many people, especially to Paul K. Jewett,1 E. Margret Howe,2 Ruth B. Edwards,3 and Gary L. Ward4 for their discussion on this issue.

In early church history the bishops and the priests were always men.5 This continued through the medieval and Reformation periods, although some Reformers allowed for the possibility of deaconesses. It was not until the last two centuries that women gradually became full-fledged members of the clergy. It began in the latter part of the eighteenth century when some women started preaching in open air ministries or informal gatherings but not within the churches.6 The first woman to preach in a church (or, more correctly, a chapel) was William Booth’s wife, Catherine, who continued to preach after her husband had finished, stating that the Holy Spirit had called her to share the gospel. In fact, in the regulations for the officers of the Salvation Army, William Booth thought that women should be treated as equals inside and outside the church and that women could hold the same positions as men in the church.7 As Ward writes, “In 1869, Margaret

Newton Van Cott became the first female licensed preacher in the Methodist Episcopal Church (in that same year, the two major women’s suffrage associations began). In 1871 the Unitarians ordained their first female minister, Celia Burleigh, in Brooklyn, Connecticut.”8

It was not until after World War I that women gradually began to gain access into the work force and during that same time more Protestant churches began t...

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