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John Piper says women shouldn’t lead parachurch organizations

John Piper at Sing! 2022 Conference
John Piper at Sing! 2022 Conference | Screengrab: Sing! 2022 Conference

Notable theologian, author and Bible teacher John Piper argued this week that women should not hold spiritually authoritative positions in parachurch organizations, believing that this runs afoul of "God-ordained differences" between men and women. 

In an episode of the "Ask Pastor John" podcast posted on Desiring God's website on Monday, a listener sent a message asking about female leadership in a parachurch ministry.

"I work for a global parachurch organization which is well-known. Recently our leadership decided that all positions of leadership within the organization will be opened to women. This includes campus leadership, regional leadership, and national leadership," the listener inquired.

"Previously, these positions of spiritual authority over men were reserved for men alone. The reason given for this change is that a parachurch organization is not the church. Therefore, the commands addressed to churches about the role of men and women in relationship to one another do not apply in this case. How do you see it?"

Piper said he felt that it was "sad to hear" of the ministry's decision and considered the move to be an example of rejecting "God-ordained differences" between men and women because of "cultural, societal pressures."

"The culture as a whole is in a free fall of denial. Nobody in this free fall has on a parachute. It's all going to end tragically, the evidences of which are all around us," said Piper, the chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

"A person who stands up and draws attention to God's word or the teaching of nature and questions the wisdom of undifferentiated sex roles will not only be thought a fool, but also unjust and, very likely, soft on abuse, even though all the while the sex-leveling egalitarian impulses wreak havoc at every level of our culture."

Piper referenced 1 Timothy 2:12-14, which reads, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner."

"Paul saw in the Genesis account of God's word that built into creation from the beginning, before the fall, was a peculiar responsibility of men to bear the burden of leadership and care," Piper continued.

"So, the fact that Paul gave instructions for how this original design relates to the church in no way implies that it is limited to the church or the home. That was one application of many."

In the parachurch context, Piper believes Paul would say: "I have taught, Moses has taught, nature teaches that it goes against man's and woman's truest, God-given nature to place a woman in a role of regular, direct, personal leadership over men."

Piper's remarks come after the Southern Baptist Convention garnered national attention for removing churches from membership that allowed women to hold the office of pastor.

At the SBC Annual Meeting held in New Orleans, Louisiana, earlier this month, messengers voted overwhelmingly to reaffirm the dismissals of the Rick Warren-founded Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, and Fern Creek Baptist Church of Louisville, Kentucky.

Messengers also voted to advance a proposed measure to prevent women from serving as a "pastor of any kind" as the denomination is one step closer to solidifying the rule as a constitutional amendment.

While some theologically conservative denominations like the SBC prohibit female pastors, others, like the Assemblies of God, USA, allow for women to serve as pastor.

In a 2010 position paper titled "The Role of Women in Ministry," the Assemblies of God argued that the 1 Timothy passage Piper cited only applied specifically to the church Paul was writing to.

"A reading of the entire passage of 1 Timothy 2:9–15 strongly suggests that Paul was giving Timothy advice about dealing with some heretical teachings and practices specifically involving women in the church at Ephesus," stated the paper.

"The heresy may have been so serious that he had to say about the Ephesian women, 'I am not allowing women to teach or have authority over a man.' Other passages show that such exclusion was not normative in Paul's ministry."  

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