Common objections to women in ministry – authority of the husband

Common objections to women in ministry – authority of the husband

husband-authority on Women in Ministry by Cheryl Schatz

In our continuing topic of common objections to women in ministry, the objection is raised that women cannot have authority in the church since wives are under their husband’s authority. The concern is that if women had leadership roles in the church, then their leadership role would be in submission to their own husbands. So instead of women making individual decisions, their husbands would be the ones making the decisions for them and the wives would be obligated to obey.

The objection comes from the theory that the husband is the ruler of the wife so that any decision she would make in a leadership role outside the home would come under his control. In essence, it is believed that women’s leadership in the church would result in their own husbands leading through their wives and how would that look if he was an unbeliever? 

This common objection is easily countered with the fact that women can biblically make their own spiritual judgments without consulting their husbands. In fact God Himself went around a betrothed husband in order to bring a very important arrangement solely to the attention of his betrothed wife. The husband was never even consulted concerning his wife’s agreement.

God set a precedent by sending an angel to Mary to tell her of His plan for the birth of the Messiah.

Luke 1:30–31 (NASB)

30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.

31 “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.

Mary’s agreement with God’s plan did not involve her asking for Joseph’s permission even though the pregnancy and birth would affect him too.

Luke 1:38 (NASB)

38 And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

In those days a betrothal was a marriage arrangement except for the final step of living together.  However, it was just as strong a covenant of marriage as any marriage because to break the covenant would require a divorce. When Joseph was advised that Mary was pregnant, he contemplated divorce.

Matthew 1:18–21 (NET)

1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ happened this way. While his mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 1:19 Because Joseph, her husband to be, was a righteous man, and because he did not want to disgrace her, he intended to divorce her privately. 1:20 When he had contemplated this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 1:21 She will give birth to a son and you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Notice that Joseph was not divinely contacted about God’s arrangement with Mary until after Jesus was conceived and not until Joseph had already come to the decision to divorce her.  Only then was Joseph made aware of God’s plan.  Notice also that it was only Mary who was contacted before the conception.
God’s work can be accomplished through a woman just like it can be accomplished through a man and there is no authority from a husband to overrule her spiritual service. God confirmed Mary’s ability to make her own decision independent of her husband and so there is no reason at all to think that a wife cannot have leadership in the church. However one sees submission in marriage, it is not a giving up of one’s right and duty to make godly spiritual decisions.


14 thoughts on “Common objections to women in ministry – authority of the husband

  1. Interestingly, I still hear words about the husband being the spiritual leader of the home in churches that believe in women in ministry, preaching and teaching. Sometimes, I wonder if it is tied to some sort of fear of women or fear of failure on the man’s part.

    Where is everyone??

  2. Good question, TL. But as my anti-spam word “grace” is a reminder, the churches still have a lot of progress to make toward full egalitarianism. We need to extend a lot of grace to those churches as they heal from the ravages of badly done patriarchal theology, and be patient with them. Your question is an example of grace; wondering what’s at root in the whole “man is the leader in the home” is a great move, since you don’t write off such churches as hopelessly backward or “not getting it”, as is the temptation. Thanks for your question.

  3. “By a girl, by a young woman, or even by an aged one, nothing must be done independantly, even in her own house.
    In childhood a female must be subject to her father, in youth to her husband, when her lord is dead to her sons; a woman must never be independant.
    Though destitute of virtue, or seeking pleasure (elswhere), or devoid of good qualities, (yet) a husband must be constantly worshiped as a god by a faithful wife.
    No sacrifice, no vow, no fast must be performed by a woman apart from her husband; if a wife obeys her husband, she will for that reason alone be exalted in heaven.
    A faithful wife who desires to dwell after death with her husband, must never do anything that might displeas him who took her hand, whether he be alive or dead.” -The Code of Manu

    This quote is from one of Hinduism’s texts. Eerily similar to what many hierarchists teach, isn’t it? I don’t normally have the stomach for reading Eastern religious texts, but this was included in some Christian mission literature.

  4. TL,
    Amazing is right! I have another quote from a popular Hindu tract about wife beating that is equally as disturbing…I’m not sure it belongs on this thread – but maybe on the post concerning Piper’s advice for abused wives.
    You know, TL, one thing that just really irritates me about comps/hierarchists is that they act like the rest of the world has gone viral feminist and that they alone are upholding the sacred teaching of male “headship.” When the truth is that it is alive and well to the utmost degree in Eastern religions!

    Check this out:

  5. Would you be willing to go here:

    and post the other quote as well. We are interested in these things.

    It is not all that surprising that the Hindu’s would use any calamity in the world as yet another excuse to control their women to do what they want them to. But it is incredibly sad that the women have been brainwashed from childhood to believe these lies.

  6. It is indeed astonishing to what lengths male hierarchalists will go in order to restrain and chain their women. On another website, a male teacher has done some good research to show that John 14:14 is accurate according to different manuscripts. But this same person declines to do equally honest research about 1 Cor. 14:34-35 which has been found in several manuscripts on the side and not in the text itself. And one would assume that such an individual would know this. Instead, he wants to proclaim these words as Paul’s and not Paul quoting Judaizers in the epistle from them as is widely believed today.

  7. yes, I added the first quote, but not the second one. Thought I’d let you do that if you wanted. You may have more info that we’d be interested in also. 🙂

  8. TL,
    I think my pc is allergic to tracking cookies…so I must remain a Guest. But feel free, if you’d like.

  9. I have to preach on 1 Tim 2:8-15 for my church as part of a final before ordination. I have seen a lot of the research from CBMW and scoff at the poor hermeneutics. However, I’m still very nervous about preaching this sermon. I can’t authoritatively state that there’s any proof here that women CAN have authority over a man, but I can provide enough evidence that the standard answer by many complementarians can not hold much water. Is this the best approach to take in your opinion? I know that there are some in the congregation who will really have a problem with the message I deliver because I want to show that I hold the Bible in full esteem and regard it as the canonized word of God. However, it’s silly to read into this passage justification that women can’t serve in positions of authority within the church.

  10. Quote from the blog: “In our continuing topic of common objections to women in ministry, the objection is raised that women cannot have authority in the church since wives are under their husband’s authority.”

    What if you’re a single woman? Kind of puts those complementarians in a bind, doesn’t it?

    I’m in my early forties and have never married, so I have no husband who can have authority over me. (Not that I believe in that headship malarky anyway, but if you go by their logic, nothing should impede me from teaching and preaching to men since I am a never married woman.)

  11. @Heidi. Why would simply teaching or delivering a sermon or lecture be construed as “having authority over?”

    I see authority and teaching as different topics. Teaching is simply imparting knowledge, it’s not forcing anyone to do anything.

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