jQuery Slider

You are here


An examination of Biblical Texts and Arguments Commonly Used to Promote Women's Ordination
By Jeff Williams
JuniaPressLLC 300pg $19.95

Reviewed by David W. Virtue, DD
May 16, 2023

Should women be ordained? For 1800 years the issue has never really been challenged, but in recent times it has exploded into a story that has split denominations and congregations, with denominational leaders and theologians alike, divided over the issue.

The Roman Catholic Church forbids it. Anglo-Catholics oppose it; Affirming Catholics applaud it along with the ordination of practicing homosexuals up to and including the episcopacy. Evangelicals in Anglican orders are divided. Some evangelical episcopal bishops like Greg Brewer of Central Florida approve it, but Julian Dobbs Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of the Living Word forbids it based on his understanding of complementarianism. ACNA Archbishop Foley Bishop, an evangelical in the Reform tradition opposes it; with the issue getting mixed reviews from among the 30 odd dioceses that make up the ACNA. Some bishops allow it, some do not. The Southern Baptist convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the US opposes it, but now finds one of its leading evangelical lights, Rick Warren saying he is for it and has ordained three women to his Saddleback churches. The jury is still out how all this will play out.

ACNA Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic dioceses live uneasily with the dual arrangement. An ordinand will often choose a diocese based on whether the bishop approves the ordination of women. I personally know a woman deacon who wanted to become a priest but her bishop did not allow it so she moved to a diocese where she could be ordained.

To date it has not become a schismatic issue, and it would be fair to say that it will not divide the ACNA unless a bishop or two push the nuclear button at a meeting of the House of Bishops and it explodes the whole denomination. For the moment that seems unlikely.

Roughly half (22) of the provinces and jurisdictions of the Anglican Communion, constituting about two-thirds of the Communion's membership, welcome women to all traditional orders of the priesthood--deacon, priest, and bishop. Another sixteen welcome women to the deaconate and presbyterate (but not the bishopric), and two to the deaconate only, leaving seven provinces (constituting only about three percent of the Communion's membership) with a strict male-only ordination policy.

Most thoughtful scholars oppose the ordination of women, and among my favorite is Alice Linsley, a former TEC priest who renounced her orders after serious study of the issue. You can read her thoughts here: "Why Women Were Never Priests which you can read here": https://virtueonline.org/why-women-were-never-priests-alice-c-linsley and "Ten Objections to Women Priests" can be found here: https://virtueonline.org/ten-objections-women-priests

Enter Jeff Williams a practicing attorney (with distinction) and pastor with experience in both church-planting and established churches.

His book, "Should Women be Ordained" focuses on evangelical egalitarian groups and denominations, since they claim to believe that Scripture is the divinely inspired word of God and that it defines and regulates doctrine and practice. Consequently, egalitarians and feminists who do not share this view of scriptural authority will not agree with most of the conclusions of this study.

Williams maintains that the acceptance of women's ordination parallels the rise and spread of the suffragette movement and then the feminist movement. Evangelical egalitarianism did not have an independent Biblical origin, but developed from, and was a result of, the rising tide of feminism.

Williams ranges across both testaments in his mammoth study. He does not shy away from Old and New Testament "prophetesses" who he claims did not rule over men authoritatively; whatever their prophesying consisted of; it was not in any way analogous to New Testament pastoral authority. "The prophetic must be subordinated to the Apostolic."

Williams digs deep into the ministries of women like Phoebe, Nympha, Lydia, Mary, Chloe, Euodia and Syntyche and concludes that they did not domineer or rule over men authoritatively; whatever their prophesying consisted of, it was in any event not analogous to New Testament pastoral authority.

Perhaps the Scripture passage most taken out of context as a foundation of much egalitarian scholarship is Galatians 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek...." Here Williams argues that the egalitarian interpretation of this passage is not found throughout church history, but only since 1958 through the writings of Krister Stendhal, a Harvard professor who was also a bishop in the Church of Sweden. Stendhal's new theory took root and spread rapidly in egalitarian circles, but got pushback from Harold O.J. Brown who mused, "Did God suddenly permit 'more light to break forth from his holy Word'"?

Many egalitarian writers now say that Gal 3:28 does away with all gender distinction in the ministry, erasing all gender distinctions in relations to husbands and wives; with some claiming that this opens the door to gay and lesbian lifestyles.

The basic logical error of mainstream egalitarians and feminists lies in selectively equating equality with interchangeability. William's notes that that prominent fathers and scholars of the church in ages past either did not discuss it or if they did, did not read into it any rejection of economic differences between man and woman in God's plan. Williams Cites Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Gregory of Nyssa, Chrysostom even Augustine of Hippo, all only deal briefly with the text and briefly allude to it. Williams further cites Luther and Calvin along with all competent scholars who saw no merit in such permutations.

Williams concludes that this one false interpretation is a pillar on which egalitarianism depends; and since it is part of a faulty foundation, the entire egalitarian edifice is therefore unsound.

Williams digs deeply into every NT passage analyzing "household codes," "mutual submission," "justice and equality" and the meaning of kephale -- headship. He shies away from nothing. "Given the plethora of lexicons and articles carefully refuting their position over the years, it would appear that the answer to that question could conceivably be "extreme myopic exegetical carelessness," "selective scholarship," or (at worst) "deliberate obfuscation."

Williams examines pivotal passages in I Tim. and 1 Cor. and concludes that "not one undeniable egalitarian proof could be deduced from all the voluminous egalitarian writings and scholarship consulted. It does not comport with sound doctrine from proper hermeneutics and exegesis."

The book is heavily annotated with a 20-page bibliography and 25 pages of footnotes. Williams cannot be faulted in doing his homework. He has consulted the Early Church Fathers up to present day scholarship. It is probably one of the best researched and analyzed books on the subject to date. Readers will get to read both sides of the argument but will be hard pressed not to conclude that egalitarianism has no biblical bases and must be rejected.


Get a bi-weekly summary of Anglican news from around the world.
comments powered by Disqus
Trinity School for Ministry
Go To Top