Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Husband and wife co-pastors

There is a growing trend within Christianity today, particularly among churches of a neo-evangelical persuasion, for husband and wife co-pastors. Indeed more than a growing trend, it now seems to have become the preferred model of ministry for many churches. Joel and Victoria Osteen, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Randy and Paula White are examples of high profile couples who have adopted this approach to ministry, yet this is not a purely American phenomenon, nor is it restricted to mega-churches. The same pattern can also now seen in many smaller churches. It is quite likely that the new, vibrant, modern, family friendly church which just recently established itself in your town will have a husband and wife co-pastor team. Vineyard Church, Exchange Church and Life Church are but three local examples of churches in Belfast where both husband and wife are described as pastors or leaders of the church. Yet whilst this may be an increasingly popular approach as to how the leadership of a church is organised it raises many questions when compared with the Word of God. It has long been the traditional and biblical view that the position of pastor is not to be taken by a women (a view which has been abandoned by many denominations), but what of a co-pastor? Is that any different? Is it acceptable for a woman to take this position alongside her husband and to join him in the pulpit in a teaching capacity?

Today's agenda of equality and tolerance teaches us that women should be permitted to have the same role in the church as men. If a man can preach so can a woman. If a man can be a elder or deacon then so can a woman. If a man can be a bishop so can a woman. The bible however teaches that the roles of men and women are not identical, but complementary the one to the other. In considering whether husband and wife co-pastors are acceptable it is necessary that we re-emphasise the biblical teaching on the roles of men and women in the church and look at those verses which speak on this matter.

1st Corinthians 14:34-35 says 'Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.' Although many would like to ignore this verse, it is not hard to understand; the Word of God is very clear on the matter and teaches that a woman is not to have a teaching role in the church.

1st Timothy 2:11-12 likewise says 'Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.' Here it is again prohibited that a woman teach in the church, and on this occasion some indication as to why this is the case is give, for it is a usurping of authority over man. 

Yet why is the woman to be in subjection to man? Is there any justification for this view in a day of equality? The reason for this order of things is given in the next verse of 1st Timothy chapter 2; 'For Adam was first formed, then Eve.' In Genesis 3:16 God said to Eve that 'thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.' The reason why women are not to have authority over men in the church, why they are not to preach and take upon themselves the role of a pastor, is because God has ordained from the Garden of Eden that the man is to have rule over the woman. Where a woman takes upon herself, or is permitted to take, the role of leadership and teaching within the church, she is in rebellion against God's order of things, for 'the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man'. There is no such thing as a great woman preacher, for the very position itself is contrary to the rule of scripture and therefore sinful.

So what then of husband and wife co-pastors; is this any different to a woman being a sole pastor? In short, no, it is no different. As a woman is forbidden to preach and lead in the church, it makes no difference whether she is doing it alone or alongside her husband as a co-pastor. It is to the shame of any man that he permits his wife to become a pastor alongside him, indeed he must take the greater part of the blame for this than his wife, for the man is to lead his wife in spiritual matters. If a pastor cannot lead his own wife on this matter, how can he lead his church. The pastors wife, and indeed all women, do have a vital role within the church, but it is not one of leadership, and no matter how popular this model of husband and wife co-pastors may be, it is not the biblical model, and will not bring God's blessing. If you are in a church with a woman pastor, with husband and wife pastors or with a male pastor who approves of this model of ministry, then it is time you looked for a new church. 'Let all things be done decently and in order'


  1. As a female pastor who is confident in her calling to preach, teach, and disciple, this article saddens me. I highly advise you properly exegete those passages you referenced. Priscilla was an apostolic leader, were you aware of that? A close friend of Paul who did ministry with him, who TAUGHT in the church in her home. His reasoning for urging the women to remain silent during his teaching had nothing to do with women not being permitted to teach or preach. I hope that as the Spirit guides you, your heart is opened to allowing the women who are in your life to use their gifts and follow their callings. The last I checked when the spiritual gifts were outlined there was nothing about them only being given to men.

  2. As you have posted anonymously it would be very easy to question just how confident you are in your calling to teach and preach, but we shall ignore that. What is it that gives you that confidence? Have you an assurance from scripture that what you are doing is right or are you resting in something else as your justification for being a pastor? It is often difficult to know the will of God, yet when God has clearly spoken on something (as I believe he has on this matter) then we can be certain that to do the opposite is not the will of God

    You mention Priscilla being an apostolic leader however I am not sure how just come to such a conclusion. She was certainly a fellow helper of the apostle Paul (Romans 16:3) however that is vastly different from being a leader. In none of the passages where she is mentioned is there any proof of her having any authority or public leadership, nor does she teach in any official manner. Acts 18:26 cannot be cited with any confidence as a support for her teaching in the manner of a pastor but is clearly more informal and done privately for 'they took him unto them'. The issue is not whether women can have any role in the church, but whether they can have authority over men. Many women are spiritually gifted and are indispensible in the work of their church, fulfilling vital roles in children's work and amongst their fellow women etc, but to usurp authority over the man by fulfilling the role of pastor or elder is to go against scripture.

    In 1st Timothy 2 we have the apostle Paul beginning to give various instructions relating to church life which he continues into chapter 3 and part of that instruction is to define to complementary roles of men and women and to give the reason for that (1st Tim 2:13). You say that Paul's reason for urging the women to be silent has nothing to do with them not being permitted to preach, however you have not indicated what you believe it means.

    Paul then goes on in chapter 3 to set out the criteria for those who would fulfil the roles of bishops and deacons within the church. Both are to be the husband of one wife, something which only a man can be! His instruction on this matter is very specific, using the specific terms husband and wife.

    There is a role for every woman in the church, yet that role is not one of leadership and authority.