Ranking the “Authority” and “Influence” of Ministries

Wayne Grudem is a fairly well known Christian theologian and hierarchical complementarian. In an article entitled “But What Should Women Do in the Church?” (his emphasis in italics), Grudem has gone to the trouble of painstakingly listing 83 church ministries in, according to him, decreasing order of the “authority” and “influence” needed to minister and participate in these ministries. He has categorised these 83 ministries into three lists. List 1 includes ministries that involve “governing authority”; List 2 includes ministries that involve Bible teaching; and List 3 includes ministries that involve public visibility and recognition. (Cf. Isaiah 28:10 NIV.)

I have many problems with Grudem’s criteria for ranking these ministries. For example, Grudem ranks evangelistic ministries rather low. He ranks paid ministry positions higher than unpaid ministry positions. He ranks ministries that occur on Sunday mornings more highly than ministries that occur mid–week. The rationale behind the rankings of these ministries, and others in the lists, seems to be based on the prevailing culture of American evangelical churches and has no scriptural basis whatsoever.

Wayne Grudem on What Women Should Do in the ChurchThere is no doubt that the lists were compiled so that a line could be drawn somewhere, and that women be excluded from the ministries ranking above this somewhat arbitrary line. Grudem himself is very vague about where exactly this line is to be drawn. The position of this line, in fact, varies from denomination to denomination, and congregation to congregation. Few congregations, however, do not have any line, either explicitly stated or implicitly understood, that excludes women from the “top ranked” roles and positions.

Women and Men: Equal but Different?

Grudem believes that men and women have different roles and functions in the church and in the home. According to Grudem, and other hierarchical complementarians, it is only men, and not women, who can have the position or function of spiritual authority and leadership in both the church and home. While this certainly sounds very unequal, hierarchical complementarians assure us that men and women are still essentially equal in being.

Grudem’s lists, however, reveal that he does not really believe that women are equal to men. For instance in list 2, Grudem lists  the ministry of  Writing or editing a study Bible [for general use] as number 13. Writing or editing a study Bible intended primarily for women, however, is ranked lower at number 16. In Grudem’s opinion, less “responsibility” and less “influence” (his terms) are needed to write and edit a study Bible for women than a study Bible for general use.

Amazingly, Grudem has ranked Bible teaching to a women’s Sunday school class rather low at number 17. This low ranking is considerable when compared with Bible teaching to an adult Sunday school class (both men and women members), ranked at number 8, Bible teaching at a home Bible study (both men and women members), number 9, Bible teaching to a college age Sunday school class, number 10; and Bible teaching to a high school Sunday school class, coming in at number 11.

Why does Grudem believe that different levels of responsibility and influence are needed for Bible studies with different groups of people? In particular, why does Grudem believe that women require (or should put up with) less responsible ministry than that given to men or high school age students, etc?

It certainly seems that Grudem regards women as not as important as men (or as important as high school age students for that matter) as he implies that a second rate Study Bible and second rate Sunday School ministry are adequate for women.

Wayne Grudem’s Wide Open Doors

In the same article, after making his lists, Grudem writes:

I know I speak for the entire membership of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood when I say that it is our sincere desire to “open the doors wide” to all the areas of ministry in the church that God intends for women to have.

Wayne Grudem on What Women Should Do in the Church

Too many doors, however, are tightly shut because of the premise held by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and others, that certain ministries and roles are not God’s intention for women. I, for one, do not agree with their premise. Nor do I believe that the members of this council correctly understand, teach, or portray a genuine kind of “biblical manhood or womanhood“. I believe that many of their strongly-held beliefs on gender roles in the church and in the home are based on culture rather than Scripture.

Moreover, despite their protestations to the contrary, I believe that many hierarchical complementarians do view men as more important, higher-ranked beings and women as less important, lesser-ranked beings. This is shown in Grudem’s belief that men require a more responsible, higher quality of Bible education than women.


Endnote

Wayne Grudem’s article “But What Should Women Do In The Church?” was first published in the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Volume 1 No.2 (Fall 1995). It was also published by CBMW in a newsletter here. Screenshots of the article can be viewed here.

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) was started in 1987 by Wayne Grudem, John Piper and others in response to their concern over biblical egalitarianism and the demise of patriarchy.


Related Articles

Bible Women with Spiritual Authority
25 Biblical Roles for Biblical Women
The Complementarian Concept of the Created Order
New Testament Women Church Leaders
Paul’s Personal Greetings to Women Ministers
Paul’s (Gender-inclusive) Qualifications for Church Leaders
The ESV Bible’s Men-only Club
Complementarianism: A Traditional Belief of the Church?

A critique of Wayne Grudem’s essay The Myth of Mutual Submission is here.