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Can a woman be a pastor? “40 Questions About Women in Ministry” offers many answers

January 17, 2023 -

A woman holds a Bible open while looking straight ahead. © By pixelheadphoto/

A woman holds a Bible open while looking straight ahead. © By pixelheadphoto/

A woman holds a Bible open while looking straight ahead. © By pixelheadphoto/

Can a woman be a pastor? Or an elder? Or a deacon?

Must women be silent in the church?

Must a woman always have the “covering” of a male leader when engaging in public ministry?

In the just-released 40 Questions About Women in Ministry, Sue Edwards and Kelley Mathews answer these questions and more.

Well, to be more specific, Edwards and Mathews don’t offer their answers.

Rather, they’ve gathered extensive, biblical research to present various viewpoints on each of the forty challenging questions.

40 Questions About Women in MinistrySue Edwards, DMin, is associate professor of educational ministry and leadership at Dallas Theological Seminary and the author of multiple books, many of which were cowritten with Kelley Mathews, ThM, a freelance writer and editor (and former editor of Christian Parenting, a brand of Denison Ministries, to which Denison Forum also belongs.)

We asked Mathews to provide further insight into writing such a perennially hot-topic book, including what she hopes this book will accomplish.

What was the catalyst for writing 40 Questions About Women in Ministry?

Usually authors propose book ideas to publishers, but in this case it was the other way around. Kregel Academic approached us about writing a book on the topic of women in ministry leadership as a new addition to their (now 21-book) 40 Questions series.

What did you find appealing about the Q&A approach?

The question-and-answer approach allowed us to canvas our friends, students, colleagues, and social media contacts for their burning questions about the topic. We did not create our own list of questions but sent out a Facebook post asking for people’s input. We received over eighty responses. So the forty questions we ended up with were formed out of the ones people are asking every day.

Your endorsements use words like evenhanded, nuance, and respectful. How did you strike that tone for a topic that can sometimes be contentious?

We approached each question by citing the opposing arguments and explaining how scholars on both sides came to their conclusions. Most of the time we successfully avoided offering our own opinions, which I suspect gives readers that sense of fairness and even-handedness.

Our goal wasn’t to tell people what to think on any given question, but rather how to think through the issues involved in each one. If we had an agenda, it wasn’t to persuade readers to one view or the other. We wanted to show readers that they could work through the issues themselves.

Who should read this book?

We wrote in a style that addresses complex biblical texts and interpretations in everyday language, understandable for nonacademic readers. It’s very readable for the average churchgoer who’s interested in the topic, as well as for Bible college and seminary students.

We hope pastors and ministry leaders across the spectrum will use it as a resource, that women still wondering what God desires for them will be encouraged by it, and that students will find it helpful in their studies.

What is your hope for what this book can accomplish?

One of our deepest desires for the book is that it will foster goodwill communication between believers on opposite sides of the debate. That they will see that people who respect the Bible, love God, and are committed to truth can come to different conclusions as they interpret Scripture. While Scripture is inspired, our interpretations are not, which is why we can understand various passages differently. We hope to encourage unity in the body of Christ around what has been a very divisive topic.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about the book?

Sue and I co-wrote thirty-six out of the forty chapters, and we invited two colleagues to contribute chapters as well. Dr. Cynthia Hester shared her expertise in Christian history in three well-researched chapters chronicling the historical records of women in church leadership over the centuries. Misty Hedrick, a Dallas Seminary graduate, explored the question of what churches today can do to become safe places for women. Because seeking God’s perspective of women’s place in the church should always lead to a safe and healthy community of faith.

40 Questions About Women in Ministry was published by Kregel Academic and is available wherever books are sold.

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