As a daily churchgoer, it is quite evident that women outnumber the men during the Holy Eucharist of the mass. But why is it that women do not hold important positions in the church’s hierarchy?
In Jesus’ day, religious rules regarding women were already written down in the Mishna and the Talmud: women were to be shunned in public social contact, women did not have the right to be public witnesses in court cases, women were restricted from orally communicating the Torah to others, even to children, women were not allowed to be educated in the same schools as men. However, these religious limitations were not always found in the Old Testament. This is why Jesus reacted so strongly against the teachings of the elders because they were not Biblical.
Jesus’ attitude toward women became a liberating factor against these types of religious practices that were accepted in His day. He did the forbidden by ministering to both women and men. He conversed with the Samaritan woman at a well. In the house of Mary and Martha, he commended Mary for a better ministry. He gave the women, who were neglected by the teachers, a place of assurance and hope. Women who were ostracized from society because of immoral practices were restored to righteous living, finding a new devotion to God.
During the hours of Jesus’ Passion, the women were the ones who followed Him to the cross except for John. The women were brave enough to stay there in the open while the men stayed away hidden. Women were not only the last ones at the Cross, they were also the first ones at the tomb during the Resurrection.
Ever since Eve, God has used women in some important roles. A woman was the first to sin. A faithful woman was chosen for Christ’s birth to reverse the sin. Holy women were the last persons to see Jesus on the cross, the first to be at the gravesite, and the first to see the risen Lord and to tell the story to others. They were among the first Christian converts. They received spiritual gifts along with the men and served in them faithfully.
The New Testament does teach that both men and women received the gifts of the Holy Spirit without any distinction to their sex of male or female. God expects women to do ministry as men do ministry. However, it is a matter of in what capacity they serve. There are many Christian churches that forbid women in ministering in any capacity. Then there are many Christian churches that have allowed women in the office of pastors and elders in the church. But Jesus did not select any female apostle. “And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits.” (Mark 6:7) Paul’s instruction of the leading and teaching ministry in the church also gives the responsibility to men. (Titus 1:5-9)
The Scripture is following the creation order of God from the Genesis account. A pastor has authority over the church as a husband has authority in the home. Women are forbidden to exercise such authority over a man in the Church or home because a reversal of the creation order would take place. Eve was not to watch over Adam but Adam was to watch over Eve. However, both men and women can work harmoniously together in ministry and apostolate. “There is neither Jew or Greek, there is neither slave nor free. There is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)