Sanctifying androgyny: "a woman can do anything a non-ordained man can do"...

Some may be unfamiliar with the saying, "a woman can do anything a non-ordained man can do." Trust me, this is a mantra in PCA and other Reformed leadership circles and it has received precious little critical scrutiny. Here then are several reasons why a woman can't do everything a non-ordained man can do.

First, a woman cannot impregnate her husband. A non-ordained man can impregnate his wife. There. I’ve written it. If this biological fact doesn't seem to have any application to the mantra, we can see how the androgyny of our world has seeped in and permeates the church's thinking.

An unordained man penetrates, but a woman receives. And this isn't simply biology... This reproductive truth is written into the core of our being. A woman carries the child while he or she is formed in her womb. A woman gives birth to a child. A woman nurses a child. And, by God's gracious design, each of these functions are hard-wired into her brain.

A man can do none of these things. By God's gracious design, man's brain is hard-wired to provide for and protect his wife while she carries and gives birth to and nurtures their child(ren).

Biology is destiny. These facts (no sliding scale here, no continuum, no “today I feel a little this way, but tomorrow I may feel a little that way”) shape who we are as male and female. Yes, the world and the flesh and the devil are all working overtime to feminize men and to masculinize women. Yes, there are men who long to nurture and women who long to fight. What else would we expect in a sin-cursed world where we delight to call evil good and good evil? But the more you reflect on these things, the more you are drawn to warm and beautiful, hard facts.

God made them male and female and it is very good.

Second, a woman cannot be the head of her home while her husband is still alive. A non-ordained man is the head of his home. “Headship” is not simply a title or a term, but it actually means authority, having it and using it, wisely and warmly. When God placed his Fatherhood in man rather than woman, He decreed man as the head of the race and the husband as the head of his home. This was no arbitrary decision. Men are the heads of their home because this is how God made them. It is not a matter of personality or gifts; it is a matter of God’s creation of man as father, as male. And women were created differently. 

The greatest predictor about whether or not the children in a family will follow Christ as adults is the faith (or lack thereof) of their father. This is a visible demonstration of the truth of Ephesians chapters five and six. A father will either be a good head or a bad head, but the head of his home he will be.

Third, a woman cannot ever become an elder, pastor or deacon. A non-ordained man could, at some point in his life, become ordained to one of these offices. It is not a question of her not being gifted by the Holy Spirit for these offices and work. It is a question of God’s plan.

In most of the discussions of this topic, gifts trump everything. If the Spirit has gifted a woman (in teaching or leadership or administration), then she must be allowed to exercise those gifts in any and all settings. Not to do so is to run the race with only one leg. Who would be so foolish as to be an advocate for the church to “hop” along, not utilizing (or under-utilizing) the gifts of half of its members?

Fortunately, there are an increasing number of men and women who can see through this faulty reasoning and know what is going on. Younger disciples are telling us old folks that the same Spirit who gives gifts to the body (as He wills) is also the same Spirit who has inspired the writings of the prophets and the apostles and these Scriptures regulate and control and limit the use of these gifts. Let’s thank God for these young people and learn from them.

The pastoral office is for men only. The office of presbyter (elder) is for men only. The office of deacon is for men only. These truths are clear from Scripture and from the church’s polity; at least in the PCA. A woman, regardless of her gifts, can never serve in one of these offices. Some ask, "why would God the Holy Spirit give gifts to women and then tell them only to use them in certain contexts? Wouldn’t we do well to set aside those texts that limit the use of gifts by women or interpret them in such a way as to free women up to do everything in the church that man can do?"

No. But rather, we should live by faith, trusting in the omniscience of the Spirit Who searches all things, even the depths of God.

Fourth, assuming there would be men working under her, a woman cannot serve as a country leader or a team leader on the mission field. A non-ordained man could serve in these capacities. 1 Timothy 2:12 is clear: a woman is not to teach or to exercise authority over men. I’ve often talked with mission leaders on this point and they insist, 1 Timothy was written to regulate things in the church (see 3:15). "The mission field is not the church," they say, "and therefore this verse does not apply."

Oh my. This is scary and I hope you can see why. It serves to cut off work on the mission field from the authority of the Bible. Is that what we want? Where are we going to look for a guide as to how we should do things if we can't really look to the Scriptures? I fear that we will look to the business world and that’s not good. It calls to mind how Dr. Lloyd-Jones spoke of American pastors as reminding him of businessmen. Is that what we want for missionaries?

The question I usually ask mission “executives” (now where did that word come from?) is this: if God wanted to make plain in His word that women should not serve as country leaders or team leaders exercising authority over men on the mission field, how could He have done it more clearly than he did in the second chapter of 1 Timothy? An increasing number find this reasoning to be compelling.

Frequently, however, pragmatism wedded to a sense of holy urgency impels us to disregard the plain teaching of the Bible on the mission field.

But what kind of a model are we setting for our African and Asian brothers and sisters? How does that square with our profession of adherence to sola Scriptura? Thank goodness an increasing number of believers in the majority world are telling us westerners to go back and think again. Thank goodness their thoughts and hearts and wills are captive to God’s inerrant and infallible word.

Shouldn't we learn from their devotion to Christ and His word?

You know, my friends, I could go on. Readers of the Baylyblog could help give points five, six and seven (and I invite you to add them in the comments section), but I’ll stop here.

Women and men are different. God made us that way and it’s good. Sanctification is not an exercise in the pursuit of androgyny. Let’s delight in our differences and not try to kick against God's goads. That hurts and dishonors our Lord. Let’s do everything we can to encourage male leadership and let’s also encourage our women to delight in how God made them, in how He has gifted them, and in the restrictions He has placed on the exercise of their gifts. Won't this be pleasing to our Master?

David Wegener

David is an ordained Teaching Elder (Pastor) in the Central Indiana Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America. He currently lives in Lusaka, Zambia with his wife, Terri, and serves as the dean of the Seminary at the African Christian University. He is a career missionary with Mission to The World in Zambia.


"Some ask, "why would God the Holy Spirit give gifts to women and then tell them only to use them in certain contexts? Wouldn’t we do well to set aside those texts that limit the use of gifts by women or interpret them in such a way as to free women up to do everything in the church that man can do?" "

Of course it makes sense that gifts of the Holy Spirit are limited in the scope of their application. As a husband and father, I may have the gift of leading my family. But why limit my leadership to just my family, if I'm such a great leader? I think that maybe I should bless the whole country with the gift of my leadership, and unilaterally declare myself to be President. The gift of my leadership knows no bounds! It can't be limited to just the context of my family! Because, after all, why would the Holy Spirit give me this wonderful gift, and then restrict its exercise to certain contexts?

If the work of missions is the work of the church, then how can God's standards for the church functioning as a church not apply: e.g. 1 Timothy 2:11-13, that women should not teach or exercise authority over men?  How is it right that a woman should be "bishoping" -- overseeing, acting as a ruling officer to, men who are missionaries? In MTW, individual missionaries have to report to their team leaders, and the team leaders have to report to their country directors and the country directors have to report to the region directors --- very episcopalian --- so that actually these leaders have greater authority than a presbyterian style structure where all are on an equal level.  This is exercise of authority:  the higher-up must approve the lower-down on many policy decisions.  


The first two points will be dismissed by some because they will argue that they are saying "a woman can do anything an unordained man can do..." ... "in the church."  And so your analogies to the home will be dismissed.  It might be good to add that the reason that Paul gives the rule for the church is precisely that he calls the church, "the household of God" and so the authority structures in the home carry over to the church.  Man is head of the home; men are heads of the church.  This passage is not just talking about a worship service but any time the affairs of the church/work of the church is being carried out and any time the church assembles.

Here are some applications:
Some churches do not allow any non-ordained to lead in a worship service... but for those who allow un-ordained to lead (e.g. as the song leader or the worship service leader), only men should be leading the worship service where adult men are present.  
* Only men should be leading church Sunday schools or Bible studies/home fellowship groups where adult men are participants. 

Firstly, we all have gifts given by God. We can exercise them and should whether we have an ordained position or not. If I'm demanding to be ordained for exercising them what is my motive for doing so?

Secondly, It is clear to me that if one can overlook the clear teaching of the Scriptures about only men being ordained to Church office, as well as that being the Universal practice of Christian Churches throughout Church history then it is clear that the scriptures are not ones final authority, but that one is imposing another authority on the Scriptures. The sad thing is that those who advocate wont leave the conservative Church and join one that is more accommodating to their views but will insist on staying in and trying to corrupt the Church they are in. The arguments used by those favoring women's ordination are in character, no different from the arguments put forth by homosexuals on their behalf and are just as specious.

"An unordained man penetrates, but a woman receives."

The man begs to belong once again to the woman's body, and the women guides him into her insides. There, that is the woman's view. 

But in the Hebrew narratives, the women pray, beseech, implore, seduce, deceive, buy and demand conjugal rights. Look at Tamar, Hannah, Leah, Ruth, etc. Leah demanded of Jacob that he have intercourse with her. And she had him. Not he had her. 

"Biology is destiny." "A woman cannot be the head of her home while her husband is still alive."

What you really mean is that circumstances are destiny. A woman can be provider and protector if her husband is dead. She is capable of earning a living and may prefer this to welfare. She can be head of the family. 

But that won't change the fact that she cannot be an elder. So eldership and leadership or totally separate from being "head of the family" which a woman can certainly do. 

>>they will argue that they are saying "a woman can do anything an unordained man can do..." ... "in the church."

But of course, that's not what they say because explicitly stating that qualification would not fit their affect and posture. But yes, if you asked them "What women?" and "Where?", they'd pull in their horns and qualify the statement. Privately.

The thing to note is that such men are on a perpetual quest to diminish male responsibility and leadership. That's the heart of their mantra, hence David titling his piece "Sanctifying androgyny." So, for instance, even outside the church, Tim Keller limits the husband/father's authority in the home to "tie-breaking" authority.

So in Tim's congregation and among his Mission to the World (MTW) fans, women are intentionally and systematically placed in positions of authority over men. It's not an accident; it's a principle.

Of rebellion against God's Order of Creation of Adam first, then Eve; as well as the Apostolic witness of the New Testament and the universal practice of the Reformed church across the centuries.

But you know, no one's going to accuse you of being a culture warrior, religious fanatic, or fundie if you take a bow to the new revolution by placing women in positions of authority over men.

"Hey, he's an old dude, but check out how culturally relevant and sensitive he is! Awesome! I'm not into nasty, legalistic, chauvinist Paul. (The Apostle, that is.) I wanna be like Tim!"


What is your opinion on men with women supervisors at work? Or maybe a man has a male surpervisor who replaced by a woman. Or men working in an seniority environment where female coworkers become his quasi-supervisor during a shift. Should a male avoid working for a woman? Should a woman avoid hiring males?

@Denver Todd:

That would certainly be an effective way of creating woman-only workplaces.

One wonders how long it would take someone on the outside to notice and object.

>>What is your opinion on men with women supervisors at work?

Sex is only one part of such equations. We must consider all parts.


interestingly the news had a story on this morning that most workers (male and female) prefer a male boss. 

Preference for male or female boss...for me it depends on the person. I've had lousy male and female managers and great male and female managers.

The best project manager I've ever worked with, though, is a female. She was often asked to take projects over that were in trouble. She had an extraordinary ability to get people to communicate with each other, work with clients, cut to the chase of problems, and bring out the best in everyone. The failing projects she took over had about 50/50 male/female management before she was put in charge. If she had been a line manager, I would have done anything possible to be under her management. 

On the other hand, my last manager at the University of Wisconsin was male and he was an absolute joy to work with. The job itself, not so hot, but he tried to delegate as much as possible to me to make the work more challenging.

Dear Sue,

Without disagreeing with anything you've written above, I wonder if you would be willing to confess your faith in God's Creation Order of Sexuality by making any statement here in public that is sex-specific, tying strengths or weaknesses to the male or female sex? I've read your writing for many months now and it seems to me your iron-clad habit is to dismiss sex as a factor in anything other than the obvious body parts and their function. And also anywhere other than the private spheres of church and home.

Am I mistaken? For instance, do men do a better job than women, teaching and exercising authority over men in the workplace? Could you say that categorically, here in public? Or would you feel that to do so would encourage the benighted sexism of this blog's readers and writers?

Love you, sister; truly,

Thanks for your comments, Joel. You're probably right that some will dismiss my first two points for the reasons you said. It's like men and women, and husbands and wives stop being men and women, and husbands and wives when they walk into the church building. 

Hi Tim,

I'm not ignoring you. I did respond to your post, but somehow my computer ate it. I will be gone tonight and need to cook some supper before I leave. I will get back to you.


Another way of approaching this would be to see where else Scripture clearly limits the use of gifts. How about 1 Corinthians 13:27–28: "If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret; but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God."

"Two or three"? Why does the Apostle Paul have to be so restrictive? What if I'm the fourth guy, or the sixth, or the twentieth? I wanna use my gift too!

"If there is no interpreter"? Goodness, Paul! If someone has the gift of tongues, just let 'em use it!

But that's not what we get, is it? No, there are always limitations and principles that govern the use of gifts, even (and especially) spiritual ones. As the Apostle Paul says earlier in 1 Corinthians, "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal" (13:1). In other words, if I don't use my gift in love "for the edification of the church" (14:12), the gift itself has become worthless. What does it mean to use a gift "in love"? Well, let's start with the fact that the love of God is to "keep His commandments" (1 John 5:3). Therefore, there is no place for "gifts" to be used in any way that goes against the clear commands of the Word of God.

Good points, Alex. Scripture does this often. I have gifts. The church has affirmed them. But I am limited in how I use them. 

Do men do a better job than women, teaching and exercising authority over men in the workplace?

I had time a couple of days ago to think seriously about this question. I prayed and asked for guidance based on my experiences:

  • as a staff member at a Big Ten university and in the private and nonprofit sectors
  • in careers that ranged from 60%/40% female to 65% male/35% female
  • collaborating with men and a few women in careers that were probably 85% male/15% female
  • seeing both men and women managing men
  • in the work experiences of my family and friends, including my husband

Truthfully, I can't recall a situation where a man had a clear advantage managing men just because he was a man.  There might have been a few cases where a man's management style and personality could have been helpful in a predominately male field. Because he was male? Was he was just a better manager to begin with? In these cases, I don't remember the few women working under these same managers complain about them.

However, there certainly are certainly circumstances where a man managing mostly or exclusively men would be advantageous. For one, first-line military combat units. Another might be a field that has traditionally been male, but where women are now starting to join it. For example, a skilled trade such as plumbing. Here, a male manager can reassure the men that he will hold any woman he hires to the same standard that he holds them to. A female manager may not necessarily have the same credibility.

Are there any strengths or weaknesses specific to the male or female sex?

Yes, there are definitely strengths and weaknesses specific to males and females (general tendencies, but not absolutes). Since I've already written a book already, just ask if you want me to say more.

Dear Mrs. McKeown,

In these evil days when so many men are soft like women and so many women are hard like men it's not shocking that you can offer only tepid support for male leadership by looking around you. But our eyes can only show us what is, not what God calls us to (and our eyes can be blind too).

Do you believe the Scriptures' teaching about what a man *should* be and what a woman *should* be?

God says that His teachings about sex must be lived out "so that the word of God will not be dishonored." (Titus 2:5)

Do you dare to argue against the Word of God that we may ignore God's teachings about sex without dishonoring the Word of God?


Dear Sue,

Maybe I wasn't clear in what I asked, so let me try again: Does God's Word inform your thoughts on the meaning and purpose of sexuality? 

I ask because your response to my prior question is simply "I've seen this" and "I think that." God's Word constantly and everywhere ties sexuality to authority and tells us this ironclad link is rooted in God making Adam first.

But as I read your words above, it seems as if you think the order and nature of the sexes as God created them is immaterial to real life, and consequently each woman describes that which is right in her own eyes.

Does Scripture transform you and your thinking or does your world squeeze you into its mold and cloud your eyes to Scripture?


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