Women Clergy and Evangelism

4 comments Written on June 30th, 2014     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories
Jean Cheng Gorman currently serves as the Vice-President of Advocates for Covenant Clergy Women and as Associate Pastor at Covenant Grove Church in Modesto.  She is married to a wonderfully supportive physician and is a mother to three active children and a divinely-guided dog.


While doing research for a seminary paper on the ordination of women, I read an article written in 2009 by a professor who is devoted to God and passionate about truth.  Along with other points made against the ordination of women, he also argued that it was harmful to evangelism:

Getting men involved in church is particularly difficult. Why should we think that men who typically live in tension with their wives in marriage are going to subject themselves to the oversight of women ministers? To put the matter bluntly: in many marriages, wives try to control or at least change their husbands, and men refuse to be bossed. Unchurched men in particular are not apt to look favorably on ecclesial practice that puts women in the same position over the household of faith that they chafe against in their everyday home lives. They will simply avoid the church even more than is already and tragically the case. This may be a factor in the dramatic shrinkage of mainline denominations that has been underway for several decades.[1]

There is, unfortunately, some truth to the author’s message.  Issues of control and disengagement are common in many struggling marriages.  People outside the church (and within the church) consider authority and power (rather than servitude) as defining characteristics for the “head of the household” and for clergy.   It is hard to get men involved in church, and church attendance has declined significantly over the past 4 decades.  These facts are discouraging, but not as disheartening as the author’s conclusion that the ordination of women is bad for evangelism.

The truth is, women clergy are good for evangelism.

Evangelism is about sharing the gospel.  The gospel is much more than the fact that Christ died for our sins and extends the gift of eternal life.  In the words of Christ, the heart of the gospel is that “the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15).  So what does the Kingdom of God look like?  Revelation 21 promises God’s intimate presence with His people, the absence of pain and suffering, AND the passing away of “the old order of things” (Rev 21:4).  This is good news.  In the old order of things, people are judged and constrained by their backgrounds, their ethnicity, their social status…and their gender.  In the Kingdom of God, the societal, demographic and even biological factors that have historically defined and divided people no longer hold rule.  Rather, as Galatians 3:28 reminds us, there is unity and equality in Christ in the Kingdom of God:

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

In the ordination of women, we see that the Kingdom of God is at hand – a partial fulfillment of the eschatological reality where the mutual indwelling of God and His people means that there is a new order to life and relationships.   Because of the presence of God in our lives and in our world, men can be who their Creator made them to be, and women can fully be who their Creator made them to be.  This is good news for a world full of strife, discrimination, and hopelessness.

Yet as much as I champion the ordination of women, the fact is this.  I did not seek to be a pastor.  I was perfectly content in my career as a psychologist.  But I received a divine summons, and I responded in faith and obedience.   I loved being a psychologist but have found deeper joy as a pastor.  Over the last four years, there have been a few who visited our church and left because I am a pastor in our church.  And others have come to our church and have stayed – and have grown closer to Christ – because I am a pastor in our church.

Advocating for women in ministry is not about advancing a political or societal agenda.  It is about advancing the Kingdom of God.  The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  As men and women of faith, let us do everything we can to raise up more workers for the harvest – including devoted women servants who can give hope, lead and usher God’s Kingdom into hearts that might otherwise not be impacted.  And may the Lord of the Harvest rejoice to see His Kingdom grow here on earth.


[1] Yarbrough, Robert W. “Women and ministry: Fidelity to scripture in the unity of faith.” Presbyterion, 35 no 2 Fall 2009, p 65-81.

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4 comments “Women Clergy and Evangelism”

Jean, thank you for this well articulated reflection. Much of my decision to be ordained has been driven from the call and firm conviction that as a woman and a pastor I can proclaim and expand the kingdom of God. Preaching the good news and leading the church is a great responsibility but also the most exhilarating thing I’ve ever experienced. If even one more joins the family of God because of my service, then this is a life well lived and pleasing to God.

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Jean – Saying yes to God’s call to pastoral leadership means that our journey can no longer defined by others. Thank you for sharing the heart struggle of women who are called as pastor. Most women have prepared themselves for other professional positions only to have our plans interrupted by the higher calling of being a pastor. The struggle continues within the church but the giftedness is strong. Women pastors are leading communities of faith where the witness of people being transformed by the Holy Spirit is without question. As a professional woman, who is submitted to God’s call, you give voice to the sacrificial choice that many women who love the Lord are making. May God continue to be glorified in our ministries.

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In his book “Let My People Go: A Call to End the Oppression of Women in the Church, Revised and Expanded” Bob Edwards speaks of the history of blaming women when things go wrong. Blaming women for the decline in church attendance and male avoidance of church is just one more example. Thanks, Jean, for your thoughtful words and for responding to God’s call in your life. Edwards speaks of “seeing is believing” and of “believing is seeing.” Brought up to believe women cannot be pastors we see that God does not call them to be pastors. However, seeing women blessing others as they use their God-given gifts in their Spirit ordained calls must make of others believers. We encounter them throughout the Covenant!

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Jean, thank you for your insightful thoughts and your affirmation of the ordination of women as a beautiful sign of the advancement of the Kingdom of God. I agree the opening quote is disheartening, not only because it suggests ordained women are harmful to evangelism but also because, as you and Liz mention, it asserts women alone are to blame for unhealthy marriages. Yes, many marriages are struggling in our society today, but these problems can not be blamed on one gender alone. As you said, both men and women struggle with issues of control and disengagement in our broken society. Instead of seeing female pastors as contributing to unhealthy battles for control, I hope the professor you quoted and others will come to see the wonderful opportunity that exists when ordained men and women work together to model faithful, healthy, Christ-centered relationships that reveal “a new order to life and relationships”, truly spreading the counter-cultural Good News of Jesus Christ together! 

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