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USA News

Most evangelical pastors agree women can hold leadership roles in the Church, study reveals

by Kelly Valencia

A new survey by Lifeway Research asked pastors from different denominations in the US their thoughts on women holding leadership roles in their churches.

A slight majority of pastors said a woman could be the senior pastor at their church, but that varied dramatically among denominational groups. 

For 55 percent of the pastors surveyed, women could hold the position of senior pastor. The figure increased to 64 percent when it referred to the role of deacons in their churches. 

Methodist and Pentecostal pastors are slightly more likely than Baptist and Lutheran pastors to say women could be the senior pastors, with 94 percent and 78 percent respectively. 

Only 14 percent of Baptists and 47 percent of Lutherans said their churches were open to women leading their churches. 

The percentages increase when it comes to other leadership roles. 

Close to nine in ten pastors said women could be ministers to children, 92 percent said they could be committee leaders, 89 percent said they could minister to teenagers and 85 percent said women could be adult Bible study teachers in their churches. 

One percent of those surveyed said none of these roles are open to women while less than one percent said they are not sure.

"Someone without context may think differences of opinion on where women can serve in church are simply fickle or archaic perspectives. But these are not questions of opinion as much as biblical interpretation, "Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research said. 

"This question has been debated for centuries with biblical scholars in different denominations coming to different conclusions about what Scripture means."

The survey has also revealed other factors such as the size of the congregations or the age of pastors also influence their thoughts on female leadership. 

Older pastors at smaller churches are more likely to say women can serve as senior pastors.

Pastors aged 55 to 64 (60 percent) and 65 and older (59 percent), are more likely than pastors aged 18 to 44 (49 percent) to say their churches permit a woman to be the senior pastor. 

For pastors leading churches with fewer than 50 people in attendance (66 percent) and those with 50 to 99 people (59 percent) are more likely to say a woman can be the senior pastor in their congregations compared to those pastors at churches with 100 to 249 (46 percent) and those with 250 or more (41 percent) at worship service.

"While the Apostle Paul mentions differences in a couple of specific church roles, any difference in the standing of women and men in the church ends there," McConnell continued. 

"When discussing a person's relationship with God, he teaches, 'There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus' (Galatians 3:28, CSB)."

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