The History of Female Pastors and Women's Ordination in the Church
As we continue our discussion with Dr. John Reeves at Andrews University seminary, we learn that there is a host of evidence of female leadership in the church in the first century, as well as some factors that led to a significant shift in the third century.
Not only is there evidence of female leadership in scripture with the commendation of Phoebe, but even female apostles.
Phoebe is called a “diakonos of the church in Cenchreae.” Diakonos is the masculine Greek word for servant, a term Paul uses to describe himself in His work of serving the churches. We also see Junia, who Paul and early church fathers recognized as an Apostle.
So when did the church become gender exclusive in who they allowed to pastor churches? This shift occurred when the biblical concept of “laying on of hands” was transformed into a mystical term called “ordination.” Originally, the church would “lay hands” on someone as a sign that they supported the mission to which that person was called. This sign of support was for a specific task and for a time. However, this act morphed into a more sacramental concept when the church shifted their focus from the “priesthood of all believers” to a hierarchical church structure that needed to re-institute a priesthood for the administration of the eucharist.
The eucharist, which was once administered for the remembrance of sin, began to be offered as an offering for sin. This “sacrifice” necessitated a priesthood and soon the church attempted to replicated the Old Testament system of priesthood. Yet, oddly, this priesthood did not require the participants to adhere to any of the other requirements of the Old Testament priesthood other than being male.
On this episode, Dr. Reeves describes this history of women and ordination in detail.