Leadership is male: Women as trustees over Christian colleges...

Error message

With the collapse of Evangelical theology and the consequent unfaithfulness of Evangelical churches and institutions, many churches and fellowships of churches are starting their own colleges and seminaries. Readers of this blog will be familiar with New St. Andrews College, Bethlehem College and Seminary,  Clearnote Pastors College (site down just now for redesign), Reformed Evangelical Pastors College, and Athanasius College. There are many, many more. 

One question these new institutions must address as they set up their governance structures is the same question older colleges and seminaries have had to wrestle with: Should we have women serving on our school's top governing board?

As I have corresponded with a number of leaders of these colleges...

most have responded (or I've found the information on their web sites) that their boards are all male. This includes the schools listed aboive as well as Reformed Theological Seminary - Jackson and Westminster Theological Seminary - Philadelphia.

A few wrote back and said they have both men and women on their board or that they are in the process of adding women to their board. These schools claim that, while male leadership in the church is clearly required, they can find no Scriptural basis for excluding women from the board of a Christian college.

My response to that is: Really?

Given that these men believe Scripture requires men to bear the responsibility for church governance, forbidding women to undertake this work, I'm left to conclude the following. These men have read their Bibles with diligence and care. They’ve read 1Timothy 3:2: “An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife …” and drawn the conclusion that elders (=bishops, overseers) must be men. They’ve read that women are to be silent in church (1Timothy 2:11, 1Corinthians 14:34-37). They know that our Lord’s choice of 12 male apostles was significant. They’ve been willing to take tough stands on these issues that go against the grain of cultures around the world. They really deserve our applause.

Sometimes they will point to 1Timothy 2:12, “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet,” and claim this as another proof that pastors and elders must be male. Yes, it certainly does teach that, but does it really have that narrow a focus? Since Paul grounds his command (=the Holy Spirit’s command) in the pre-fall, transcultural creation narrative (2:13), I must say that to narrow the focus of this verse to just the eldership in the church is not warranted. We should have no hesitation to apply this verse to our schools.

What these men have also, undoubtedly, noticed is that the grounding for many of the limitations placed on women is Genesis 1-2 (and, occasionally, chapter 3). This teaching in the first book of the Bible sets the course for the rest of Scripture: Leadership is male. It is demonstrated time and again, and writers on this blog have furnished convincing evidence for this (as those who will read in the archives or have read the blog for years can testify).

You might say, “Okay, what’s your point, David?” My point is that the burden of proof lies with those who want women to serve on college and seminary boards. It does not lie with our church fathers who never considered putting women in such positions, nor with those of us today who believe women should not be put in such positions of authority. In other words, with such clear statements of God's Created Order in Genesis 1-2, with that Order exposited so clearly by Paul in 1Timothy 2, and with 2,000 years of uniform practice by Christians calling men to govern and rule, it is the duty of those wanting to leave the Order of Creation behind to demonstrate where and how the Church has been wrong in Her understanding of Scripture.

Let me ask a few questions. 

If women serve on the board of a Christian college, and there are male college administrators and professors/ lecturers, does this not mean that women have authority over these men? Is this not a violation of Scripture?

Where are the examples of schools in the Bible? Was the lecture hall of Tyrannus such a school? How about the school of the prophets in the OT? Where is the evidence that women oversaw the work of the school of the prophets? To ask that question is to answer it. Did not prophets like Elijah and Elisha oversee the training of the younger prophets? If you say, well, women were not well-educated in those days or that their place in Israelite culture would not have permitted their overseeing of schools, I would ask you, do you really want to go down that trail?

Those of us who have had to leave liberal churches and denominations have been dealing with this response for years and we know where it leads. Either Scripture will transform culture or culture will transform Scripture. Which is to say, either the Church will obey Scripture and transform the culture or the culture will transform the Church and the Church will disobey Scripture. Take your pick. Didn’t we learn anything from the gender-neutral Bible translation controversy? Today’s culture has so pressed the Church that many of Her leaders making the translations we read every day have gone so far as to change the words inspired by the Holy Spirit so they no longer have the meaning intended by the Spirit of God. 

Wait. I’m not nearly done. Even if you don’t accept the Church's historic reading of 1Timothy 2:12 and Genesis 1-2, are not the schools we are establishing today the ministries of a church, a group of churches, or a denomination? If so, why do we refuse to let the passages that govern the church serve to govern the school? How do we let the Bible function as the authority over such schools? Are we not guilty of bracketing off these schools from the Bible’s authority? 

If that is the case, why don’t we have a female President of the college, an all female board and an all female faculty? If you say, “Get real, David,” I respond, “I’m trying to follow the logic through.” Help me here. Why shouldn’t we do this? 

And if we take an intermediate step and have a 2/3 majority of the board be male, with the rest female, why do we do this? Is this evidence of a bad conscience? At some level, don’t we know that we’re going against the Bible (where leadership is male), so we pull back just a little? Or do we do it to appease the conservatives in the denomination as we wait until the old geezers die off?

Let me focus just a bit on seminaries. Does it make sense for women to serve on the board of a school that trains men for the pastorate, when the teaching of that school is that women are not allowed to serve as pastors or elders? Does it make sense for women to serve on the faculty of such a school? I speak as if out of my mind, but I did come across one such seminary. 

So this post is really a plea. Let’s stop this craziness. If you believe that leadership is male in the home and in the church, then leadership must be male in her schools. Full stop.

And just as the ministry of your wife is vital in your home, and the ministry of women is vital in the church, so is the ministry of women in the school. Women and men can and should serve as consultants to the governing board of a Christian college. Be careful that they don’t become a rival board or a shadow board, but it can be done and is being done. I offer the example of Covenant College, the PCA’s university. They have an all male Board of Trustees and then a mixed (containing men and women) group of Trustee Advisers

Just as wives are called to give intelligent, willing, and submissive help and counsel to their husbands and Titus 2 women are called to give intelligent, willing, and submissive help and counsel to the officers of the Church, so women can and should give intelligent, willing, and submissive help and counsel to the board of the Christian college.

Let’s pray for places like Covenant College, that they don’t give in to the world’s pressure and put women on the governing board of their school. 

David Wegener

David is an ordained Teaching Elder (Pastor) in the Central Indiana Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America. Formerly serving in theological education in Africa with Mission to the World, he and his wife currently live in their hometown of Bloomington, IN.