Ordination of women in Protestant denominations


Ordination is the process by which individuals are consecrated, that is, set apart as clergy to perform various religious rites and ceremonies such as celebrating the sacraments. The process and ceremonies of ordination varies by 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.

While ordination of women has been approved in many denominations over the past half century, it is still a very controversial and divisive topic.

Overview of the theological debate


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.

Protestant churches have historically viewed the Bible as the ultimate authority in church debates (the doctrine of sola scriptura); as such, the debate over women's eligibility for such offices normally centers around the interpretation of certain Biblical passages relating to teaching and leadership roles. 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

Increasingly however, supporters of women in ministry argue that the Biblical passages used to argue against women's ordination might be read differently when more understanding of the unique historical context of each passage is available.[1] They further argue that the New Testament shows 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, Philippians 4:2–3, and John 20:1–18. Often quoting Galatians 3:28,they argue that the good news brought by Jesus has broken down all barriers and that female ordination is an equality issue that Jesus would have approved of. They also quote John 20:17–18, and argue that in talking to Mary, Jesus is calling for women to evangelize

In turn, those who argue for a male only ministry will say that the claims to contexts that change the apparent meaning of the texts at hand to one supporting female ordination are in fact spurious, that the passages that appear to show women in positions of authority do not in fact do so and the idea that the good news of Jesus brings equality before God only relates to salvation and not to roles for ministry.[citation needed]

By tradition


Anabaptist

Brethren

Mennonite

Anglican

The ordination of women in the Anglican Communion has been increasingly common in certain provinces since the 1970s. However, several provinces (such as the Church of Pakistan—a united Protestant Church created as a result of a union between Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists and Presbyterians) and certain dioceses within otherwise ordaining provinces (such as the Diocese of Sydney in the Anglican Church of Australia), continue to ordain only men.[5][6] Disputes over the ordination of women have contributed to the establishment and growth of conservative separatist tendencies, such the Anglican realignment and Continuing Anglican movements.

Some provinces within the Anglican Communion, such as the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, ordain women to the three traditional holy orders of bishop, priest and deacon. Other provinces ordain women as deacons and priests but not as bishops; others still as deacons only; and seven provinces do not approve the ordination of women to any order of ministry.[7]

Baptist

The very diverse organizations which employ the term Baptist in self-designation:

Lutheran

Europe
United States
Africa

Methodist

Pentecostal

  • The Pentecostal church in Germany allows ordination of women.[33]
  • The Pentecostal church in Sweden allows ordination of women.
  • The Pentecostal Mission does not ordain women pastors.
  • The occurrence of women pastors, often as co-pastors along with their husbands, is frequent in the Pentecostal movement especially in churches not affiliated with a denomination; they may or may not be ordained. Notable women pastors include Paula White and Victoria Osteen.
  • The Assemblies of God USA do ordain women and have women in leadership throughout the Church.
  • Church of God in Christ (COGIC) does not ordain women as elder or bishop

Presbyterian, United or Reformed

Scotland
  • 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.
England/Wales
Ireland
Netherlands
Belgium
Luxembourg
France

The United Protestant Church of France ordains women.

Switzerland
Germany
Eastern Europe
North America
Australia
Pakistan

Other Protestant

  • 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. See Elizabeth Hooton and Mary Fisher[49][50] though it was longer before they held positions as clerk of a yearly meeting (e.g., Mary Jane Godlee as first female clerk of the London Yearly Meeting in 1921) though they were clerks of the then separate women's meetings which did wield authority.[51]
  • '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.[citation needed]
  • 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.[52][53][54]
  • The Moravian Church ordains women.[55]
  • The Czechoslovak Hussite Church ordains women.
  • 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 China may occasionally ordain women. These ordinations are considered irregular and are not officially recognized in the church yearbook. 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.[citation needed]
  • Churches of Christ, because of their conservative stance, generally do not ordain women.[citation needed]
  • The Christian Leaders Alliance allows women to serve as deacon ministers.[56]

Women as Protestant bishops


Some Protestant Churches, including those of the Lutheran, Hussite, Anglican, Methodist and Moravian traditions, have allowed women to become bishops:[46]

Women as archbishops or denominational heads

References


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