Can women be church elders?

There are two passages in the New Testament that discuss the requirements of elders in the church. These include 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. A close look at these two passages helps provide an answer to this question.

In 1 Timothy 3:1, we read, "If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task." The pronouns used throughout this passage are male, clearly noting that men are under discussion. Verses 4-7 reveal eight additional times a male pronoun is used in reference to an elder: "He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil."

Second, the elder must be "the husband of one wife" (v. 2). This is clearly an issue of integrity directed specifically toward men. Titus 1:6 includes this same requirement.

Third, all of the elders mentioned in the New Testament are male. There is not an example of a female elder found in the Bible or the earliest years of church history.

Based on this information, these passages support only men as elders in the local church. This does not in any way indicate women are inferior or less gifted. However, Scripture clearly indicates men have been selected for this role rather than women.

All believers are one in Christ: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). There is equality in the body of Christ, yet different roles. Women can be gifted in a wide variety of areas, including teaching, yet are not called to serve as the elder of a local church in the New Testament.

Some have argued that this requirement was only for New Testament times but should not apply for today. However, those who make this claim do so by using Scripture to show the equality of men and women in Christ without showing that the Bible allows for female elders. Yes, women and men are equal in Christ. Yes, men and women are equally gifted in Christ. However, the role of elder is reserved for godly men who are to oversee local churches. This role has not changed from the New Testament and continues to apply today.

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