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Women Ordination

Women ordination is a contemporary issue which the church is discussing. There are
churches which already started to give ordination to the women yet there are not. In this
contemporary context women are coming up in the main stream of the society as well as in
the Church. The contribution of women in the past and in the present is evident. In the ancient
India the role of the women in society , family and in the religious realm are restricted due to
the patriarchal system in the society. They are the oppressed and marginalised one in the
society. However the situation has changed a lot now it is tangible the role and contribution
of women all the areas, perhaps the church is still in a way denying the role and significance
of women in the administration as well as the sacramental functioning . The urgency has
come to rethink and reconstruct the structures and theology of the church which denying the
equality of the women.
Role of women in the Church in the History
The church is much influenced by Judaism which underwent the influences of various
cultures like Babylonian, Assyria, Greece, Rome and other cultures. In all these cultures
women are accorded a paradoxical role. This we can clearly seen in the Old teaatament . The
Jewish prayer Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe who hast not created
me a heathen, a slave or a woman clearly says that they considered women as an
insignificant one1.
In the third century women were not allowed to be ordained, but we find in the Apostolic
Constitutions that women were ordained as deaconesses. Since then the order of deaconesses
has been recognised by the Church. Their main duties have been religious education,
preparing for baptism, bringing the Gospel to heathen women, assisting in the worship and
other works2.
The Order of Creation

1 Vincent Immanuel Hannon, The question of women and the priesthood


( London : Geoffry Chapman, 1967) 59.
2 The various forms of Womens service in the Church, The Deaconess, WCC
Stuies No.4, Geneeva,1966, 12.

One argument for the subordination of women is made by pulling proof texts out of the
second chapter of Genesis. It is far fairer to read the first three chapters of Genesis together.
InGenesis1:27(the Priestly source),we read: God created humankind [no sexual connotation]
in his image...male [zakar] and female [neqebah] he created them. Human nature - not
masculinity - is the image of God; human nature consists of both masculinity and femininity3.
The second chapter of Genesis (the Yahwist source), tells that after the LORD God made
the earth and the heavens ... the LORD God formed man [adam] from the dust of the ground
(vs. 4b, 7a). Then the plants and animals were created. ... but for the man there was not
found a helper as his partner (v. 20b). Then God, the surgeon, took one of his [adam's]
ribs... And the rib that the LORD God had taken ... he made into a woman and brought her to
the man (vs. 21-22). From Adam's sexuality we come to sexual differentiation - man and
woman. Read verses 23-25 to savour their rejoicing4.
The argument for subordination rests exclusively on Genesis 2: The priority of Adam and
the statement that woman was created to be his helper. One might so argue on the basis of
theEnglish translation, but not on the basis of the Hebrew text in which vs. 2:7 reads: ... The
LORD God formed man [adam] from the dust of the ground. In Hebrew the term ground
is adamah - the feminine for adam. So who is prior to whom? The term helper may suggest
lower rank in English, but the term ezer is found 21 times in the Old Testament, twice in this
chapter of Genesis. Of the other 19 usages, it speaks of relative equals three times, and 16
times the helper is God5.
To find support for subordination in 3:16 in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your
desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you - is to overlook the nature of the
text. The first two chapters of Genesis speak of the order of creation, of God's will for
creation.
The relation of subordination narrated in Genesis is only a stage in human development, and
not the final and perfect relation between men and women. According to Gen.1, men and
women, created alike in the Image of God, owe an equal and independent obedience to their
Creator and are possessed of an equal authority over the rest of creation. Nothing is said
3 M.E. Thrall, The Ordination of Women to the Priesthood,(London : SCM Press
Ltd,1958),20-25.
4 Ibid.,26.
5 Ibid.,28.

about the subjection of one sex to the other, so that we cannot assume it to be a general
principle that either should be subordinate6.
Biblical Affirmations
The Biblical stories clearly reveal the powerful vision of the community of women and men,
they challenge us to be engaged in the process of being in the ministry of the Church as
women and men. The humanity is created in the image of God and there is no difference in
the nature of men and women they are same in nature but they differ only with regard to their
gender7. By knowing this Biblical still there are Churches which did not support women
ordination due to the patriarchal social, cultural and religious system of the nation in which a
Church exists. Ordination is an act by which the Church commissions those who have been
called. Some are ordained to preach the Gospel and to administer sacraments on behalf of the
Church. Others are ordained to ministries as elders or deacons. Ordination has no sacramental
character according to the Reformed understanding. It is related to the call from a particular
Christian community...By ordination it is affirmed that those who are ordained have been
duly called, they are not merely hired hands (John 10:13). By this understanding of the
ministry and ordination Church can promote women ordination and there is no biblical
theological evidence which restricts the women ordination8.
Theologies of Exclusion and Inclusion
The patriarchal theology which prevailed in the Christian traditions has strongly barred
women from ministry. Women are restricted to take up the leadership not only within the
churches, but also in the society with similar reasons. On the contrary we can see that the
Christian tradition does not affirm inclusion of women in social leadership roles when it
argues that women should be excluded from ministry considering the special nature of
ministry9.

6 Ibid.,36.
7 Rosenhager, Ursel and Sarah Stephens, Introduction in Walk My Sister The
Ordination of Women : Reformed Perspectives . (World Alliance of Reformed
Churches, WARC),1993,vii-ix.
8 Ibid.,6.

The reasons for the exclusion of women in ministry are that of general theology which
speaks of male headship and subordination of female, which is due to the physiological role
in procreation, continuing in inferiority of mind and soul. Inclusive or counter-cultural
Christianity did not disappear, but it went underground. On the other hand we can see the
phenomenon of independent prophets and prophetesses still continues to exist as part of
popular Christianity. We should be able to accept that the Spirit of God is not a discriminator
of persons based on the gender, but has the power to empower whomever it wants to
empower. Ministry is proven by its gifts, not by its credentials10. In the past history of the
church women were allowed to preach and teach as prophetesses which, later on became
institutionalized and it has become a claim that the gifts of the Spirit are for ordained clergy
which began to exclude the participation of women in ministry of the Church.
Reflection
The humanity is created in the image of God there is no discrimination among them however
there is a gender difference there. The Churches use the gender difference as the tool to deny
ordination to women, which is not justifiable. Indeed the patriarchal society always takes the
passages from the Bible to substantiate their arguments against women ordination. The Bible
is written in a patriarchal society and hence it is a biased one. Jesus did not restrict women
disciples. There are passages in which we can see that the women are doing ministry in Jesus
time. Magdalene Mary proclaims the Good News to the disciples. Even though the disciples
are the one who is always with Jesus. The churches are not giving ordination to the women
in a way denying the image of God.

9 Reuther, Rosemary Radford. Sexism and God-Talk : Toward a Feminist Theology.


( Boston : Beacon Press,1993), 194-195.
10 Reuther, Rosemary Radford. Sexism and God-Talk : Toward a Feminist Theology.
( Boston : Beacon Press,1993), 197.