The Arguments For Male Only and For Women’s Ordination

I’ve been discussing with some friends the best arguments for male only ordination and for women’s ordination. I think the best, most common arguments made for the two positions are summarized as follows.

For male-only ordination,

  1. The witness of scripture is clear that only men are to exercise spiritual authority and teaching in the church.
  2. The examples of liturgical and political leadership in the Bible are overwhelmingly of men, and the exceptions are either intended to highlight the failure of men to do their duty or are peripheral cases that are not pertinent to this larger point.
  3. The universal practice and belief of the church for the overwhelming majority of its history is that the pastoral office is reserved for men.
  4. Scripture reveals and nature confirms that only men are fit to be pastors, just as only men are fit to be fathers and husbands and only women are fit to be wives and mothers. The pastoral office is inherently masculine.

For both men and women’s ordination,

  1. The scriptural passages that allegedly ban women from the pastoral office don’t actually prohibit that practice, and the overall scope of scriptural teaching points towards the full inclusion of women in the ministry of the church.
  2. There are a number of biblical examples of women teaching and exercising authority, and while a minority of cases, their presence should be taken as exemplars for church practice.
  3. The Holy Spirit has gifted women to spiritually teach and exercise authority, and the Holy Spirit does not provide these gifts without the intention of using them in the ministry of the church.

There are other, less common and weaker arguments for both positions (e.g. priests as icons of Christ), but these are the arguments most commonly deployed. I tried to frame these as positive arguments, rather than rebuttals or critiques of each other. What that means is that I won’t be evaluating these on here any time soon.