Women and the Pulpit

The provisions herein apply to the pulpit proper as well as extensions thereof, e.g., pews set aside for special seating in the assembly.

Females are not to occupy the pulpit; this includes those who are licensed to minister in some capacity.  Exceptions are given later.

In considering women in the pulpit, let us remember that the Bible does not seem to prescribe a commandment as to how to employ a pulpit. Therefore, its form, usage and method of usage is best viewed as up to assembly authorities within the constraints of biblical principles. The key is within the constraints of biblical principles.

The pulpit (physical or virtual, raised or floor level, called a platform or not) is a symbol of spiritual authority in the assembly of believers.

The Holy Bible establishes that females are not to have spiritual authority over males in the home and church assembly (Gen 2:18-25; 1 Peter 3:1-11; Ephesians 5:1-10, 21-33; 1 Timothy 2:9-15; 1 Cor 11:1-16); yet, they are given the very important role of ministering to women concerning family matters (Titus 2:3-5).

Therefore, any female who regularly occupies the pulpit is out of biblical order, whether her husband is present in the pulpit or not. Female presence in the pulpit will undoubtedly sometimes give such females and congregations (present one and/or other congregations) the notion that it is biblically proper for females to head local churches and other spiritual assemblies.

Females have the God assigned important role of being godly wives and teaching other females to be the same (Titus 2:3-5).

None of the above prevents a female from being a witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ in other biblically prescribed/permitted capacities. None of the above applies to a business activity whose focus is not preaching/teaching spiritual matters (e.g., Proverbs 31:10-31) though such activities like all activities at times involve the application of spiritual principles.

Any male who supports a violation of this male headship principle is out of biblical order.

Women speakers should give regular attention to the provisions of Titus 2:3-4; 2 Tim 1:5; 2 Tim 3:15 with respect to other women and to children. However, it is expected that their presentation would include the gospel and that is great.

The question arises, what about prophetess, and other women who prophesy and other women who speak such as Titus 2 based older women teaching the younger women how to be godly wives and mothers?

So then how are they to be treated in the assembly especially concerning the pulpit?

Well given the male headship principle and the importance of symbolism projecting it, it is best for females not to be in the pulpit.  For not only does that presence project a level of spiritual authority that violates biblical order, such a presence encourages the idea not only in the female’s mind but also in the mind of other preachers, deacons, and members of the congregation that females can one day move to the position of senior minister or elder or bishop; it is human nature for such desire to arise and be promoted by females and others.

In modern churches, the designated set aside pulpit area/platform whether raised or unraised is generally considered the place of spiritual authority in the assembly. So then in modern days the pulpit serves at least somewhat to satisfy the head covering symbolism of 1 Cor 11. Yet, the pulpit existed prior to the head covering provision of 1 Cor 11 and may not qualify as a complete replacement symbolism (or symbolic custom) for the head covering symbolism but may qualify as a sufficient one in the absence of employing the actual head covering mechanism of 1 Cor 11 given that the 1 Cor 11 type of head covering does not carry the same everyday meaning and effect as it did in bible days.

Generally, those speaking from the floor outside of the designated pulpit area/platform is not considered to be speaking from a position of spiritual authority unless they represent some specific office exemplified in Ephesians 4:11.

So then women and men speaking from the floor may use the same movable lectern when speaking.

In those extremely rare occasions where speaking from the pulpit is necessary to be sufficiently heard by those the furthest from the speaker, the female speaker may walk to the pulpit at the time to speak but not sit in the pulpit and return from the pulpit after speaking.

Now in those rare cases where speaking from the pulpit is necessary to be sufficiently heard by all, such as in a sanctuary so large and filled and there is no working microphone system available such that those in the back have difficulty hearing the speaker then the female speaker may use the pulpit area while speaking but not sit in the pulpit area for then common sense tells all that she is there only for auditory purposes. A movable pulpit podium lectern separate from the regular pulpit podium should be positioned at the side of the pulpit platform for use by the female speaker in such a case.

But now if she insists on sitting in the pulpit even when not scheduled to speak, the officiating elder need not invite her to speak.  Yet, if she does such as walk unto the stand to speak, the officiating elder should later correct her first privately and then depending on the degree of her voiced participation after such private conversation, consider public rebuke of her the next time it happens.  Of course, this process applies to a certain extent to male and female. For each standing congregation should have already been taught as to the policy concerning the pulpit and concerning all speakers, male and female.

Reference: Of Male Headship and Women in Ministry

Church Organization and Worship

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