Ranking the “Authority” and “Influence” of Ministries
Wayne Grudem is an evangelical theologian and hierarchical complementarian who is well-known in some church circles in North America. 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; List 3 includes ministries that involve public visibility and recognition. (His lists remind me of Isaiah 28:10 NIV.)
I have several 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.
There 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 arbitrary line. Grudem himself is 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 believe women are equal to men. In list 2, for instance, 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.
Grudem has ranked Bible teaching to a women’s Sunday school class rather low at number 17. This low ranking is significant when compared with Bible teaching to an adult Sunday school class (both men and women members) which is ranked at number 8, and compared to the following: Bible teaching at a home Bible study (both men and women members), ranked at number 9, Bible teaching to a college age Sunday school class, number 10SD; Bible teaching to a high school Sunday school class, 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) 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.
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 the Bible.
Moreover, despite their protestations to the contrary, I believe 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.
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. The board of directors of this organisation are seven white men (last checked May 2021).
Bible Women with Spiritual Authority
25 Biblical Roles for Biblical Women
Partnering Together: Paul’s Female Coworkers
A Biblical Case for Women Pastors
Paul’s Qualifications for Church Leaders (1 Timothy 3)
The Complementarian Concept of the Created Order
Is Complementarianism a Traditional Belief of the Church?
All my articles on 1 Timothy 2:12 are here.