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 Very Diverse Organizations Which Employ the Term Baptist in Self-designation:


Presbyterian or Reformed[edit]

  • 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.

Latter Day Saint movement[edit]



Unitarian Universalist[edit]

The Unitarian Universalist Association was formed by the merger in 1961 of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America. Each organization had ordained women ministers in the 19th century. The Universalists were the first national organization to do so.

Other Protestant[edit]

  • The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) do not ordain anyone but have had women in leadership roles such as Recorded Minister 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.
  • Christian Connection Church. An early relative of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, this body ordained women as early as 1810. Among them were Nancy Gove Cram, who worked as a missionary with the Oneida Indians by 1812, and Abigail Roberts (a lay preacher and missionary), who helped establish many churches in New Jersey. Others included Ann Rexford, Sarah Hedges and Sally Thompson.
  • The Christian and Missionary Alliance in the USA does not ordain women, but it does in other nations. A female minister in Philippines, Ruth Tablada, has recently been ordained. The Christian and Missionary Alliance Church in Canada also ordains women.[25][26][27]
  • The Moravian Church ordains women.[28]
  • 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 almost 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.

Women as Anglican and Protestant bishops[edit]

Some Anglican and other Protestant churches have allowed women to become bishops:[16]

Women as archbishops or heads[edit]


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  2. ^ Bund Evangelisch-Freikirchlicher Gemeinden in Deutschland K.d.ö.R
  3. ^ "沖縄バプテスト連盟". 沖縄バプテスト連盟. Retrieved 14 March 2015. 
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ "Women in Ecclesiastical Office"http://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/position-statements/women-ecclesiastical-office (accessed June 14th, 2013)
  6. ^ "NAPARC Votes, 6-1, to Suspend the Christian Reformed Church" http://www.presbyteriannews.org/volumes/v4/1/n-crc.htm (accessed June 14th, 2013)
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  8. ^ "Women's Ordination Time Line (page 2)". Retrieved 2007-03-20. 
  9. ^ What Presbyterians Believe Holper, J. Frederick, 2001 "What Presbyterians Believe about Ordination," Presbyterians Today, May 2001, retrieved from on August 21, 2006
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  11. ^ PCA: Press Release
  12. ^ "Orthodox Presbyterian Church". Retrieved 14 March 2015. 
  13. ^ Scheme of Union of the Presbyterian Church of Australia.
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  16. ^ a b "When churches started to ordain women". Retrieved 14 March 2015. 
  17. ^ Rev. Patricia J. thompson, Courageous Past—Bold Future ISBN 0-938162-99-3
  18. ^ Timeline from the General Commission on Archives and History of the United Methodist Church
  19. ^ 2010 New York Annual Conference Newsletter
  20. ^ Eroakirkosta.fi - Naispappeuskiista tuplannut kirkosta eroamisen
  21. ^ http://www.elct.org/social.html
  22. ^ http://archive.wfn.org/2000/06/msg00149.html
  23. ^ "5.05 Naised vaimulikus ametis - Eesti Kirik". www.eestikirik.ee. Retrieved 2016-09-18. 
  24. ^ "Dienst der Frau-Frauenordination eingeführt," 2004 http://www.bfp.de/index.php?id=165&no_cache=1&sword_list
  25. ^ [3],
  26. ^ [4]
  27. ^ <http://www.cmaccd.com/cmaccd_com/bank/pageimages/ordination_policy_manual_of_the_christian_and_missionary_alliance_in_canada_2012_-_august-3.pdf>
  28. ^ Women in ordained ministry
  29. ^ [5]
  30. ^ "allAfrica.com: South Africa: Church Elects Woman Bishop". allAfrica.com. Retrieved 14 March 2015. 
  31. ^ "interchurch.dk: Third woman bishop elected on Funen". interchurch.dk. Retrieved 14 March 2015. 
  32. ^ "Marianne Christiansen bispeviet i Haderslev". folkekirken.dk. 4 March 2015. Retrieved 14 March 2015. 
  33. ^ Central Communications Board of the General Synod). "Church of Ireland - A province of the Anglican Communion". Retrieved 14 March 2015. 
  34. ^ a b "Presiding Bishop". ELCA.org. Retrieved 14 March 2015.