Women in the Priesthood TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION……………………..……………………………
……………….3
CHURCH IN THE
PAST………………..………….……………………………
….4
CHURCH IN THE 20TH CENTURY AND
PRESENT…………………………….5
WOMEN LEADERSHIP
ROLES………………………………………………….7
ISSUES WOMEN FACE WHEN ORDAINED TO LEADERSHIP ROLES……9
INEQUALITY……………………………………………………
……………….11
CONCLUSION……………………………………………………
……………..13
REFERENCES……………………………………………………
………………14
Women have different roles that they can perform in the church. Just
like in the early church, where women took key roles in the church, the
same case should happen in the church today. Women can play the role of
a church elder, deacon, reverend, pastor, preacher and priest among
other roles. The role that they play is considered almost the same as
that of men as Christian teachings consider men and women as equal
beings. However, there are emerging issues that tend to argue that the
role of women in the church should not be equal to that of men that is,
there should be no equality in carrying out responsibilities in the
church. For instance, due to gender difference between men and women,
there are some church responsibilities that are argued not to befit a
woman (Cleave, 2002). This point of view has been challenged by the
women leaders in the church and has spurred debate as to whether there
are church roles that a man should do, and woman be restricted from
carrying out the role just because of her gender. Different churches
have varied views regarding, which church roles should be carried out by
women and the ones that women should keep off. This is something that
has been criticized by women in leadership, terming it as gender
discrimination in the church. According to the women leaders, they are
capable of carrying out any church responsibility just like their male
counterparts, and any resistance should be viewed as discrimination in
the church. Just like in the early Christianity, where women occupied a
unique place in the church, they should still hold that position in the
church today. However, the argument concerning whether women in the
early church received sacramental ordination is still at large. This
argument connects with the debate whether women are fit for spiritual
roles due to childbearing and menstruation that make them unclean. In
this assignment, women`s leadership roles in the church will be
explored, issues that women may face when being ordained to leadership
roles, and inequality within the church will be discussed.
Church in the Past
In the early church, there was no inequality when it came to matters
pertaining to serving. In fact, Jesus offered an example that showed
Gospel equality, which led to the ordination of women as bishops,
priests and deacons in the early church. In the early church, Jesus
appointed the 12 disciples and chose others to aid in spreading of the
word. He treated men and women in a similar manner that depicted that
they were equal and should act as partners. For example, Jesus chose the
Samaritan woman to proclaim the good news to the entire village, which
the Samaritans accept Jesus as their messiah just because of her
testimony. In another instance, the first witness to Jesus’
resurrection, Mary Magdalene became commissioned by Jesus as an apostle
to the apostles as indicated in John 20: 1-18. Women were viewed as
witnesses, which show that women had an active role in the early church.
In the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, women were portrayed as
the major witnesses. During the early church, women served as deacons as
seen in the case of Phoebe in Romans 16:1-2. Besides, they also served
as elders and priests. By the 3rd Century, the church hierarchy had
developed into the familiar pattern present in the church today it was
comprised of bishop at the top, followed by priests, then deacons. The
deacons became ordained with an obligation of hands, cared for the needy
and helped in the celebration of baptism and the Eucharist. Some
circumstances created a need for women serving as deacons for example,
because people were unclothed during baptism, having men administer to
women could have been improper. Another circumstance involved men paying
visits to sick women in their homes. Such circumstances made women
become appointed to the position of deacons. However, by the conclusion
of the 6th century, the position for women deacon was declined. One of
the reasons for the restriction of women from the position was the
notion of cultic purity it was deemed that childbirth and menstruation
made women ritually impure (Byrne, 1994). The other reason for the
removal of the position of women deacons was the move from adult to
child baptism. This implied that nudity could now not act as a reason
for women appointments into the position. In the case of visiting the
sick women in their homes, the role became assigned to the nuns in the
community. It was exceedingly rare to see a woman deacon anywhere by the
12th century. On the other hand, the permanent position of male
Diaconate started to disappear (Daigler, 2012). Tensions were rising
over the understanding and practicing of the ministry of the priest and
deacon. Most of the services of the deacon became gradually absorbed
into the priesthood while others were taken up by acolytes, subdeacons
and doorkeepers. This made the Diaconate position to change from a
permanent office to paving the way for priesthood.
Church in the 20th Century and Present
In the 20th century, the issue of women being ordained as priests was a
major concern and most churches were against the ordaining of women as
priests. Various women in leadership positions campaigned for the
consideration of women to become ordained as priests, but to no relief
such women leaders include Maude Royden and Edith Picton-Turbervill.
These campaigned endlessly for women priesthood, but women were not
allowed to become priests. However, this changed in the last years of
the century, when the ordination of women as priests and bishops became
allowed. In the church today, the ordination of women as priests is a
controversial issue since some churches allow the ordination while some
churches do not support the ordination of women as priests and bishops.
Recently, various Eastern Orthodox Church symposiums have called for the
women`s ordination as deacons. The Armenian Apostolic Church has always
had women serve as deacons, although only a low number of them serve
today. Their chief role is serving at the Eucharist. The Diaconate was
returned to a permanent order by the Second Vatican Council today,
approximately 40,000 males throughout the globe serve as deacons.
Although women served as deacons in the early church, it is not clear as
to whether they received sacramental ordination. This has made it
difficult for the inclusion of women to serve as deacons in the Roman
Catholic. However, this is not the stand of some Protestant churches as
they ordinate women into the position of a deacon. Hence, the ordination
of women to the position of a deacon still remains an open question
since the issue has not been well settled.
As the issue of women priesthood emerges as a controversial issue,
different reasons and arguments have been brought forward to restrict
women from being ordained as priests or bishops. One of the arguments is
that priests should be ordained based on the New Testament priesthood,
where the priesthood is of Christ himself. Those that participate in the
priesthood should all be men that participate in priesthood via the
sacrament of holy orders. This implies that it is only men, and not
women that should be ordained as priests and bishops. Another argument
raised against women`s priesthood concerns that Christ was a man.
According to this argument, men and women are suited to different and
complementary functions and roles by their nature. Therefore, women
should not play the role of a bishop or priest. Another argument against
the ordination of women as priests stems from the tradition developed by
Christ Himself. According to the Christian tradition, appointment of
apostles is unbroken tradition that applied to the Christ Himself.
According to the Catholic Catechism, only a baptized man should validly
receive a sacred ordination. Besides, it is argued that Jesus chose only
men in forming the group of the 12 apostles. In addition, it is argued
that the priesthood is an indelible spiritual character and not a
function. Ordination imparts an indelible spiritual character to a
person that makes him a priest, but does not give an individual the
permission to carry out the functions of a priest. Since Christ only
chose men to become priests, it is only men that can validly become
ordained as priests.
On the other hand, there are various arguments that have been put
forward to indicate that can and should become ordained as priests. One
of the arguments claims that there is oneness in priesthood in Christ.
When men and women become baptized, they are open to holy orders this
implies that they are equal and either can become ordained as priests.
Another argument for women priesthood is that both women and men are
empowered to preside over church roles. During the last supper, Jesus
empowered women and men which imply that either has been given powers to
become ordained into the priesthood. Prejudice against women has also
been argued as a reason that should not restrict women`s ordination into
the priesthood. It is deemed that, social and cultural prejudices have
contaminated the practice and doctrine of ordaining women into the
priesthood. According to the prejudices, women are regarded as unclean
due to menstruation, sinful because they made humankind fall short of
God’s grace, and inferior. This is not the actual case and people need
not justify restriction of women priesthood on this basis (Blohm, 2005).
Besides, there is an argument that women have received the ordination as
deacons since the ninth century. This is sufficient proof that women can
become ordained. In addition, women should become ordained into the
priesthood since serving in the priesthood is a Holy Spirit calling that
should not be denied.
Women Leadership Roles
In the church today, women are taking different leadership roles,
despite the controversies that emerge in varied churches concerning the
role of women in the church. One of the leadership roles that women take
in the church is that of priests. It is estimated that there are
approximately 145 women worldwide, who serve as women priests. In the
United States, different churches have different arguments concerning
whether to consider ordaining women into the priesthood. For example,
the Catholic Church still holds its argument that women should not be
ordained as priests because it is only a baptized male who can validly
receive the ordination as a priest. However, the Roman Catholic
Womenpriests (RCWP) have termed the canon law as unjust and have
challenged the law, which has led them to supporting the ordination of
women as priests. Another leadership position that women are taking in
the church entails that of a senior pastor. According to the research
conducted by Barna Group in 2009, one of ten churches in the United
States employs a woman to take the position of a senior pastor. The
percentage has doubled in the past one decade. Most of the women working
as senior pastors (approximately 58%) are in the mainline protestant
churches like the evangelical Lutheran Church, Episcopal, and united
Methodist Church. The Episcopal Church has been ordaining women since
1976 while Evangelical Lutheran has been ordaining women for almost 40
years. On the other hand, for 5 decades, the United Methodist Church has
been ordaining women.
A woman acting as deacons, in the church, is also an issue that most
theologians are debating today. In the early church, it is apparent that
women had a position in the church as deacons. This raises the question,
why should women be restricted into the ordination of this position? In
the United States, there are different opinions regarding the position
of a woman serving as a deacon in the church. The role of a woman as a
deacon is viewed totally different from that of a priest theologians
claim that it is up to the bishops and Episcopal conferences to decide
whether they want male or female deacons. Ordination of women into the
position of a deacon therefore, has little criticism as opposed to that
of a priest. Diaconal positions for women in the church would make it
possible for women to hold ecclesiastical offices, which are limited to
women in sacred orders. Besides, women also serve in the church as
pastoral associates, administrators, and directors of religious
teaching. These positions are not restricted for women as they do not
attract a history or a tradition of the early church. In addition, women
also serve as reverends in the church. In most Protestant churches such
as the Anglican, the position of a woman as a reverend has no
opposition. Therefore, in the United States, there are numerous women
that serve as reverends in the church. In addition, women also serve in
the church as bishops. However, the ordination of women as bishops is
still a controversial issue in different churches. The Roman Catholic
Church does not support the ordination of women into the position of a
bishop as it believes it is only baptized men, who can be validly
ordained into that position (Butler, 2007). On the other hand, the
Protestant churches hold a different opinion regarding the appointment
although not all Protestant churches support the ordination of women as
bishops. Furthermore, the role of women as evangelists in the church
does not face a lot of criticism in the United States today.
Issues women Face When Ordained to Leadership Roles
One of the issues that women face, when being ordained to leadership
roles, in the church, entails opposition. Women usually face opposition
from people, who feel that women should not be ordained into the
leadership roles. It is not outright that everyone will be in support of
a woman being ordained into a leadership position those that do not
support oppose the move even when a woman is being ordained into the
leadership role. Such people do not view ordination of a woman as a
result of the Holy Spirit calling, but view it as a qualification and
authority. Another form of opposition may exist to the woman being
ordained if she does not have adequate education. Instead of people
viewing the ordination as a capacity, they view it as a qualification.
Those who are not literate are likely to face tough time and opposition
during ordination as people opposing them will be looking at their
educational level.
Another issue that women may face, when being ordained into the
leadership roles, concerns the outward pressure to quit. Different
churches have varied opinions regarding the ordination of women into the
leadership positions. This implies that a church from one area or region
may support the ordination of women, but an associate church in another
region opposes the same. In instances like this, women being ordained
into leadership positions will face pressure from the outward
congregation, which can force women quit from leadership positions. As
human beings, anything that is taken differently by others has a
probability of affecting the person involved. Because of the argument
that women should not be ordained, women being ordained may feel obliged
to quit from the leadership positions.
Criticism and lack of support constitutes another issue that women being
ordained into leadership roles face. Women leadership is usually under
criticism because most men feel that women cannot fit in the leadership
positions on the basis that they are inferior to them. Therefore,
ordination of women into leadership roles is likely to cause criticism
from the unsupportive men. No one loves criticism emanating from an
appointment because as humans, individuals deserve praise and
appreciation, when appointed into a leadership position. Therefore,
criticism and lack of support to women being ordained into leadership
roles are likely to make women develop negative perceptions towards
leadership in the church. This may make women quit from the positions or
may affect their operations in the leadership roles.
Inequality
There is inequality in the issue of priesthood there is an enormous
group of men that are of the opinion that women should not participate
in carrying out church leadership roles because they are inferior to
them. Although God created both men and women, which shows that they are
equal, and they were given equal powers to become ministers and
prophets, men still feel that they are not the same as females and
therefore, females should not be involved in the priesthood (Raab,
2000). This causes an inequality in the church ministry since only males
can become ordained into the church leadership positions. The priesthood
has become male-dominated because of the argument that even in the early
church Jesus only used men as priests and ministers. Most churches claim
that all the 12 disciples that ministered together with Jesus were all
men, and Jesus Himself was a man. This argument leaves women out of the
consideration of holding a priesthood position in the church, which
makes priesthood male-dominated. Because women are restricted from being
ordained into priests, on the basis of their gender, there is gender
inequality in the priesthood. The inequality gap in the priesthood is
however, narrowing after some churches have permitted women to
participate in the ordination into priesthood. Nevertheless, the
inequality is not going to end because of the canon law, which argues
that only baptized men have the capacity to receive a valid ordination
into the priesthood.
Most Protestant denominations have permitted the ordination of women
into leadership positions in the church. Despite the acceptance, women
in leadership roles in the church have faced subordination in most
Protestant denominations. Because of their nature of equality, the
female and male clergy should have equal representation while in the
leadership roles in the church this implies that, the rankings in the
church should not be based on the gender of a person. However, this is
not the case because, in most Protestant denominations that allow formal
acceptance of women`s participation in leadership roles, the female
clergy are usually overrepresented in the subordinate positions and
those that have lower status. This represents an inequality that is
constant throughout a clergy’s career. Therefore, there is career
gender inequality in the priesthood.
Besides, there is an inequality based on the gender roles that the male
and female clergy perform in the church. According to the Christianity
teachings, the males and females are both equal. This implies that, when
serving in the leadership positions in the church, both female and male
have the capacity to perform roles without laying emphasis on the gender
(Wright & Perkins, 2003). However, this is not the case in performing
leadership roles in the church today. The roles that are deemed as
commanding a lot of respect and authority are usually reserved for the
male clergy while the female clergy perform roles that command little or
no authority. This is a representation of an inequality based on gender
roles reserved for the female and male clergy. For example, the position
of a bishop is a high ranking role, which depicts authority. It is
remarkably rare to have a female occupying the position of a bishop, but
most males occupy the position and perform the roles associated with
this position.
Apart from gender inequality, women in leadership roles in the church
also face racial disparities. When being ordained into leadership
positions in the church, women should not become ordained on the basis
of their race. Different races have varied ways in which they argue in
regard to women`s ordination into leadership roles. This creates
disparities among races for example, the Anglican Church has for a long
time held a common stand regarding the issue of ordaining women into a
position of a bishop regardless of the race however, the recent
ordaining of the only two women into the position of a bishop depicts
racial disparity. Therefore, there is a need of generalizing a common
view in order to avoid racial disparities in women`s leadership.
Conclusion
Women leadership in the church is still an issue that has not been well
settled by theologians and church councils that deal with matters
pertaining to church ministry. Emerging from the early church, it is
apparent that women had high positions in the church for instance, they
served as deacons. This indicates that during the early church, there
was equality in the leadership roles since males as well as females
could serve in different ministries. However, the appointment of women
to the position of deacons became restricted on the basis that women
were unclean ritually to serve in the ministry. This was because they
are usually involved in childbearing and menstruation that make them
unclean (Torrance, 1993). This reasoning has been held by the Roman
Catholic, but some Protestant churches ordain women to the position
although the number of women deacons is exceedingly small in the entire
globe. Women priesthood is a controversial issue according to the
Catholic Catechism, only a baptized man should validly receive a sacred
ordination. Besides, it is argued that Jesus chose only men in forming
the group of the 12 apostles. In addition, it is argued that the
priesthood is an indelible spiritual character and not a function.
Ordination imparts an indelible spiritual character to a person that
makes him a priest, but does not give an individual the permission to
carry out the functions of a priest. Inequality in the priesthood has
emerged since only men are allowed to take the role. Although some
churches allow women priesthood, the males still dominate the
priesthood. Apart from male domination, women priests also have an
overrepresentation in the subordinate positions in the church.
Therefore, the church needs to seek clarification as to whether women
should serve as priests and deacons in order to close the inequality gap
that exists in church leadership.
References
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working as priests, ministers, and rabbis. Frankfurt am Main: Peter
Lang.
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Cleave, J. (2002). The Roman Catholic tradition: Christian lifestyle and
behaviour. Oxford: Heinemann Educational.
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Thorne, H., & Centre for Comparative Studies in Religion and Gender.
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Torjesen, K. J. (2005). When women were priests: Women`s leadership in
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Torrance, T. F. (1993). Royal priesthood: A theology of ordained
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WOMEN IN THE PRIESTHOOD

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