Ordination of women in Protestant churches

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Ordination is the process by which individuals are consecrated, that is, set apart as clergy to perform various religious rites and ceremonies. The process and ceremonies of ordination varies by religion and denomination. One who is in preparation for, or who is undergoing the process of ordination is sometimes called an ordinand. The liturgy used at an ordination is sometimes referred to as an ordinal.

Ordination of women has been taking place in an increasing number of Protestant churches during the 20th century.

Elders, pastors and ministers[edit]

Most (although not all) Protestant denominations ordain church leaders who have the task of equipping all believers in their Christian service (Ephesians 4:11-13). These leaders (variously styled elders, pastors or ministers) are seen to have a distinct role in teaching, pastoral leadership.

Traditionally these roles were male preserves, but over the last century, an increasing number of denominations have begun ordaining women. The notion of a priesthood is really alien to Protestants in general, for all believer are for them priests. Since, however, no women appear in the New Testament as ordained ministers, many Protestant churches continue to restrict ordination to males. However, there is evidence of female deacons in the early church such as Phoebe who was a "deaconess" in Cenchreae, which probably implies an officially designated role (Romans 16:1 RSV), though the term literally means "servant," and "helps" is a spiritual gift.

Relevant biblical passages[edit]

The debate over women's eligibility for such offices normally centers around interpretation of certain Biblical passages relating to teaching and leadership roles. This is because Protestant churches historically viewed the Bible as the ultimate authority in church debates (the doctrine of sola scriptura). The main passages in this debate include 1 Cor. 11:2-16, 1 Cor. 14:34-35 and 1 Tim. 2:11-14, 1 Tim. 3:1-7, Tit. 1:5-9

Views taken in the New Testament[edit]

Increasingly, supporters of women in ministry also make appeals to evidence from the New Testament that is taken to suggest that women did exercise certain ministries in the apostolic Church (e.g., Acts 21:9, Acts 18:18, Romans 16:1-4, Romans 16:7; 1 Cor. 16:19, and Philippians 4:2–3) and that the Biblical passages used to argue against women's ordination might be read differently when a clear understanding of the unique historical context of each passage is available.[1] Opponents argue that while women in the early church exercised spiritual gifts such as deacon and prophet there is no scriptural authorization for women to hold the pastoral office with the responsibility for preaching to the congregation.

Examples within specific churches[edit]

  • The Apostolic Johannite Church has offered ordination to women as deacons, priests and bishops since its foundation.
  • The Very Diverse Organizations Which Employ the Term Baptist in Self-designation:

The General Association of Baptists (some would call these General Baptists, or Arminian Baptists) ordain women.

  • Women were commissioned as deacons from 1935, and allowed to preach from 1949.
  • In 1963 Mary Levison petitioned the General Assembly for ordination.
  • Woman elders were introduced in 1966 and women ministers in 1968.
  • The first female Moderator of the General Assembly was Dr Alison Elliot in 2004.

The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) aka Friends churches have had women in leadership roles since they first started in 1652.

  • The Salvation Army ordains women and has done since its inception. Catherine Booth was co-founder, with her husband William.
  • The Seventh-day Adventist Church officially does not ordain women in most of the world, but in regions of the United States, the Netherlands, parts of Germany, and all of China now ordains without regard for gender. The issue is being hotly debated and studied with action expected at the 2015 General Conference in San Antonio. In some parts of the world the Adventist Church, commissions women instead of ordaining. They can perform almot the same duties as an ordained minister but do not hold the title of ordained. This is because recent votes at the worldwide General Conference Sessions turned down a proposal to allow ordination of women. There was a strong polarization between nations, with Western countries and North Asia Pacific generally voting in support and other countries generally voting against. A further proposal to allow local choice was also turned down. In practice, there are numerous women working as ministers and in leadership positions. The most influential co-founder of the church, Ellen G. White, was a woman, but never ordained.
  • The United Church of Canada. Divided during the 1930s by this issue inherited from the churches it brought together, the United Church ordained its first woman minister, Reverend Lydia Emelie Gruchy, of Saskatchewan Conference in 1936. In 1953, Reverend Lydia Emelie Gruchy was the first Canadian woman to receive an honorary Doctor of Divinity.[19]
  • The United Church of Christ. Antoinette Brown was ordained as a minister by a Congregationalist Church in 1853, though this was not recognized by her denomination.[20] She later became a Unitarian. Women's ordination is now non-controversial in the United Church of Christ.
  • The United Methodist Church does ordain women. In 1880, Anna Howard Shaw was ordained by the Methodist Protestant Church; Ella Niswonger was ordained in 1889 by the United Brethren Church. Both denominations later merged into the United Methodist Church. In 1956, the Methodist Church in America granted ordination and full clergy rights to women. Since that time, women have been ordained full elders (pastors) in the denomination, and 21 have been elevated to the episcopacy. Noemi Diaz is the first Hispanic woman ordained by an Annual Conference. The New York Annual Conference did the honors.[21][22][23] The first woman elected and consecrated Bishop within the United Methodist Church (and, indeed, the first woman elected bishop of any mainline Christian church) was Marjorie Matthews in 1980. Leontine T. Kelly, in 1984, was the first African-American woman elevated to the episcopacy in any mainline denomination. In Germany Rosemarie Wenner is since 2005 leading bishop in the United Methodist Church.
  • The United Reformed Church in the United Kingdom ordains women.
  • The Uniting Church in Australia has ordained women since it formed in 1977. The three member denominations, the Congregational Union of Australia, the Methodist Church of Australasia and the Presbyterian Church of Australia had all ordained women prior to Union. The Congregational Union of Australia ordained the first woman in Christian ministry in Australia, Rev Winifred Kiek in 1927. The Methodist Church of Australasia first ordained women (Rev Margaret Sanders and Rev Coralie Ling) in 1969, while the Presbyterian Church of Australia ordained its first woman minister in 1974. After formation of the Uniting Church in Australia the continuing Presbyterian Church of Australia reversed the decision to ordain women in 1991.
  • The Okinawa Baptist Convention,[24] Japan ordains women to be Pastors of the church.

Women as Anglican and Protestant bishops[edit]

Some Anglican and Protestant churches have allowed women to become bishops:[20]

Women as archbishops[edit]


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