Membership, Community, Diversity

What gender-related issues are important for Christians?

According to the New Testament, women played important roles in the life of the early church, including that of deaconess, dedicated especially to ministering to women. Women in the categories of “virgins and widows” also occupied a special place in church society. The ordained office of deaconess was revived by the Church of England, and slightly later in Methodism, during the nineteenth century. Nowadays, opportunities for women to exercise leadership varies a great deal among Christian communities. Catholicism is well known for its refusal even to discuss the possibility that women might be ordained to the priesthood. But the Catholic Church is not alone in its stance on gender-exclusiveness for positions of official service and authority. Though many churches have never issued formal statements on the matter, the dominant social culture of the groups is such that an exclusively male officialdom is simply presumed. At the other end of the spectrum, Anglican churches in the United States have recently ordained women to the priesthood. Some Pentecostal and Holiness churches are entirely comfortable with women ministers and preachers, and in some cases have women as bishops.


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