A Southern Pastor: Does God Call Women To Preach?

John Wesley, founder of the religious movement known as Methodism, was a very spiritual man. He woke every morning at 4am to read from his Bible and pray for three hours. He was well educated, and he had a heart for service, visiting prisons and orphanages every day. He believed in the power of the Bible and in the teachings of Jesus Christ, and it is Wesley’s interpretation of the gospel which shapes my own theology.

Lately, there have been a number of posts on my articles quoting 1 Timothy 2:12-13

1I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve;

Posters have used this verse to argue that I should not be allowed to be a pastor or even speak publicly about Biblical matters. There are many approaches I could take to explain why I do in fact believe that women can be preachers, teachers, prophets, and warriors. For one thing, strong women leaders have been all of those things, even in the Bible.

John Wesley believed there were four sources from which Christians should gather information to make spiritually sound decisions: Scripture, Reason, Experience, and Tradition. As with all approaches to a Christian life, the first place to look for truth is within the the scriptures themselves, but Wesley believed that it was important to use all the gifts God gave us to interpret those scriptures, and that includes our own intelligence.

For example, many scriptures in the Bible speak of slavery. Even Abraham, the father of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, had slaves. Paul himself spoke of slaves and their need to submit to their masters. Does this mean that slavery is spiritually sound? It certainly is human tradition to use slavery as a means to control and oppress, and Christians used the Bible to support slavery as late as the 1800s here in the United States. But our experience has shown us that slavery is morally wrong. To treat other human beings as property is cruel and inhumane, and scientific reason has taught us that there is no such thing as race: no group of people is inherently weaker than, or inferior to, another. So even though Paul is accepting of slavery, and we can find that in the Bible, our experience and reason have shown us that Christians can’t condone slavery, and even more importantly, are called to fight against it.

There is historical proof that while Paul may have uttered that sentence about women being quiet, he also worked with, respected, and even ordained women to be leaders in the church. Phoebe was a church deacon, Ammia was a prophet, and since 1 Corinthians 11:5, states “but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled disgraces her head,” it would seem to indicate that women could be prophets as long as they followed the head covering rule. 

The Wesleyan Quadrilateral, as it is called, allows for looking at scripture through the perspective of historical context, language translation, contemporary cultural experience, and just plain common sense. For me, it allows the Bible to be seen as a theological road map, a doctrinal guidebook, rather than a cold weapon, whose main use is for judgment and condemnation. The Wesleyan Quadrilateral is the application of grace to our sacred text, which while being divinely inspired by God, was written down and interpreted by flawed human hands.

So while it is true that a single verse in 1 Timothy seems to indicate that women should not be pastors, it is also true that in the rest of the Bible women are respected leaders and teachers, and early church histories point out the importance of women in leadership positions for the foundation of the early Christian church.

I have been called by God to preach the Gospel, and I am pretty sure God knew I was a woman when he called me.

Melanie Tubbs is a professor, pastor, mother, Mimi, and true Arkansas woman. She lives with nine cats and one dog on a quiet hill in a rural county where she pastors a church and teaches history at the local university. Her slightly addictive personality comes out in shameful Netflix binges and a massive collection of books. Vegetarian cooking, reading mountains of books for her seminary classes, and crocheting for the churches prayer shawl ministry take up most of her free time, and sharing the love of Christ forms the direction of her life. May the Peace of Christ be with You.