There is no doubt we live in a day and age where simply discussing doctrinal matters of leadership; one can quickly be charged with being misogynistic. Unfortunately, that term misogyny is tossed around quickly distracting from fair doctrinal discourse with the issue at hand, can women serve as elders [or pastors]?

The answer is straightforward, no. Some will be offended by this, but that is the answer.  Many denominations in Canada, such as the Anglican Church, the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, the Presbyterian Church, and the Canadian Baptist of Ontario and Quebec, have ordained women into pastoral ministry or serve as laity elders. Alarming trends show other ministries are leaning heavily towards an egalitarian leadership style. Evidence of this is found in the Christian and Missionary Alliance (and some other Baptist groups), who are permitting women to become pastors in various capacities aside from the lead pastor position (for now). One of the larger Baptist movements, The Fellowship of Evangelical Baptists in Canada, in their central region have permitted churches to follow this trend (here). So, with the significant acceptance [or agreement] of women in church pastoral leadership – it would appear those who are against it [such as The Mill] must be behind the times or have some hatred or disliking for women – not so fast.

For a pastor to preach and teach the word, he must be able to exegete and then exposit the truth of the text to the congregation. Sadly, the very verses that are gender specific are often blindly ignored or handled with negligence. In other words, Titus 1, 1 Timothy 3, and other complementing verses make the matter pretty clear. For those calling the Mill home, or for those looking for a church – here is why at the Mill, we do not permit women to serve as elders [pastor].

1 Timothy 3:1

It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do[1]

( πιστὸς ὁ λόγος  Εἴ τις ἐπισκοπῆς ὀρέγεται, καλοῦ ἔργου ἐπιθυμεῖ.[2])

The word that needs our attention is τις which is bolded in the above Greek. in the NASB 77, 95, and the LSB, they attached man to the neut use of τις. Many translations have moved towards the neutral translation of anyone, but by carrying through the text, the context of the verse becomes clear of who this anyone or someone is. In fact, though the term is neutral, it cannot mean both women and men since anyone (3:1, τιs) is generic as Craig Keener’s commentary suggests.[3] The remainder of the passage disqualifies the either or statement; it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife[4]

After the reference of the overseer – where we get our term Episcopal (Episcopalian), the Scripture is clear – this someone – is to be the husband of one wife.

δεῖ οὖν τὸν ἐπίσκοπον ἀνεπίλημπτον εἶναι, μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα, νηφάλιον σώφρονα κόσμιον φιλόξενον διδακτικόν,[5]

The terminology of the household was common for the Apostle Paul. Mark Harding in his work The Pastoral Epistles  states, “the household was the basic social unit of Greco-Roman society. It compromised the extended family of the head together with servants and tenants[6].” Harding goes further to outline there was a hierarchy of order and that the head was obligated to fulfill their duties[7]. It would be odd to assume that the role in 1 Timothy 3 could fall to neutral application for a female – as she cannot be a husband. If it applied to woman, the end of that reasoning means women can be heads of the home and the structure in GR society, would have looked vastly different. Previous to the instruction of who is qualified for elder, Paul makes an important lead up in chapter two 1 Timothy 2:11-13).

A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.[8]

So to silence the argument that Paul was cultural and this reasoning is no longer relevant, Paul backs his argument with created order – not social customs. Also, going back to the household of God example of headship, it was proper and suitable for the husband to give instructions and orders. In 1 Timothy 2:11, the word in its root αὐθεντέω (authenteo) is used. It means to control over.[9] Elders are not to domineer, and are to show Christ like character which is a primary qualification – above reproach but it shows church leadership and households are closely linked. Now, is this position misogynistic? Of course not. It follows the parameters of Scripture. Men have sinned in this role. There are those who have disqualified themselves, but it does not negate the authority structure or qualifications of elder. The instruction has been laid out – connected to the husband – showing the masculine role of headship and the requirement to teach.

John Calvin, in his commentary of the Epistles, stated,

Having forbidden women to teach, he now takes occasion to speak of the office of a bishop. First, that it may be more clearly seen that it was not without reason that he refused to allow women to undertake so arduous a work[10]

It is not just women who are excluded from leadership [elders] here in 1 Timothy. Already establishing the husband role, one must be temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable and able to teach. A connection of this teaching to another overview of eldership is found in Titus 1:5-9.

For this reason, I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.[11]

A quick breakdown shows that elders were to be appointed as directed, then the term any, τις is above reproach. Can we take this to gender-neutral only? No, as the statement is connected once again to the husband of one wife. Secondly, in Titus, the instruction to hold fast the faithful word is in accordance with the teaching so that he will be able to both exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict (Titus 1:9 NASB).

Calvin calls this role of elder, the chief gift and that the Church cannot be governed in any other way than by the word[12]. Again, in all languages of either elder, overseer, or bishop, the masculine makeup and usage all point to male headship/leadership.

Many feel called, and many women feel they should be pastors. However, Scripture does not permit a moving away from instruction based upon feeling. Instead, Scripture restricts certain roles to specific genders. It is not a matter of chauvinistic chest pounding or discrimination but a clear, visible honouring of the holy script by keeping the leadership of the church male. Some will cherry-pick verses to settle an emotional need to justify a position. However, in doing so, all that is happening in the text is being taken out of context. For example Galatians 3:28,

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus[13]

Here the argument will be that since we are all the same, there is no prohibition of eldership. However, the text is about our common salvation in Jesus Christ, who saves all without distinction. As the proceeding verses illustrate, we are all (without distinction) sons of God through faith in Jesus. We are all (without distinction) baptized and clothed in Christ.

Another objection is the interaction and time between Apollos with Priscilla and Aquila. Some will draw upon this time and highlight that Priscilla was female and that she instructed Apollos in the ways of the Gospel. Yes, she did. However, if one reads the text and future letters, there is no mention of her becoming an elder of a church. To claim she was is Eisegesis (reading into the text what one wants to find as opposed to what’s there).

It is clear from the text and Church history that the position of eldership is a male calling. The calling is for men whom God calls to pick up their cross and live a life of service and sacrifice for the flock of Christ. But, like the restriction of gender-specific roles, there are also specific qualifications and character that must be met in order to fill such an office. Therefore it is not just females who are excluded; men too are excluded if they fail to exhibit sanctification and excel in such qualities.

Here at The Mill, we take this seriously and are committed to following the Scriptures faithfully. We encourage our sisters to serve, and we honour them in their God glorifying roles but choose not to compromise over such serious matters.

In His Grace,



[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 1 Ti 3:1.

[2] Deutsche Bibel Geselischaft – NA28 1 Timothy 3 – accessed

[3] Aída Besançon Spencer, 1 Timothy: A New Covenant Commentary, ed. Michael F. Bird and Craig Keener, New Covenant Commentary Series (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2013), 78.

[4] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 1 Ti 3:1–2.

[5] NA28 1 Tim 3:2

[6] Harding, Mark The Patoral Epistles (Mahwah, NJ, Paulist Press 2001). 47

[7] Harding, 48

[8] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 1 Ti 2:11–13.

[9] Alexander Souter, A Pocket Lexicon to the Greek New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1917), 42.

[10] John Calvin and William Pringle, Commentaries on the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 73.

[11] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Tt 1:5–9.

[12] John Calvin and William Pringle, Commentaries on the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 295.

[13] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ga 3:28.

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