“Biblical Priesthood and Women in Ministry” (Ch 16) by Stanley J. Grenz -- By: Justin Taylor

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 10:1 (Spring 2005)
Article: “Biblical Priesthood and Women in Ministry” (Ch 16) by Stanley J. Grenz
Author: Justin Taylor

“Biblical Priesthood and Women in Ministry”
(Ch 16) by Stanley J. Grenz

Justin Taylor

Director of Theology
Executive Editor
Desiring God Ministries
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Before offering any form of summary or critique of this chapter, I would first like to express my deepest condolences to the family of Stanley Grenz at the event of his unexpected, untimely death. Our prayer for his family and friends is that the God of all comfort would minister to and fellowship with them as they mourn the loss of a son, a brother, a father, a grandfather, and a friend. May we all learn to number our days as we ponder afresh that our earthly lives are but a vapor and that we will soon meet our Maker.


The main goal of Grenz’s essay— which is adapted from his larger work, Women in the Church, co-authored with Denise Muir Kjesbo1 —is to refute those who argue that the priestly character of the pastoral office entails that only men may exercise pastoral leadership. Some complementarians—mainly from within the liturgical traditions—argue that the pastoral office (or function) is to be seen as the instantiation of a general biblical principle of male priesthood. Their argument is roughly as follows: clergy constitute a priesthood; women could not be priests; therefore women cannot be clergy.

The error, according to Grenz, rests in the first premise. The new covenant counterpart to old covenant priesthood is not found in the pastorate, but rather in the priesthood of all believers. Furthermore, the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers entails that “the status of priest is exactly what forms the basic qualification for all church officers” (276). The pastoral role is to be filled by people gifted for the pastorate serving among the gifted people of God. Since priesthood is the basic qualification for the pastorate and the charismata are distributed without distinction, both men and women are thereby qualified and gifted to serve as elders and pastors.


In some ways it is difficult to know how to respond to Grenz’s essay, for I—along with most complementarians2join Grenz in rejecting the faulty premise that the pastoral office (or function) is an instantiation of the priesthood. The priesthood was a shadow pointing forward to the substance, Jesus Christ, our great High Priest. All believers are united in our Priest, and via union with him we comprise a “royal priesthood” (2 Pet 2:5,

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