Why the RCA supports women in church leadership
The Reformed Church in America believes women are called to use their gifts at every level of church leadership. We are working to become a place where all women are equipped and empowered to fully exercise their gifts in the life, ministry, mission, and offices of the church.
The creation story tells us that women and men were made in God’s image to care for the world as partners. Losing the equal partnership God intended us to have obscures God’s will for both women and men.
Throughout the Old Testament, the stories of women’s leadership and service testify that both women and men should be laboring with God in creation. These stories thread the faithful actions of women like Esther, Ruth, and Rahab into the greater story of God’s plan for Israel and the world.
All the Old Testament stories lead up to the arrival of Jesus Christ. Born of a woman, Jesus was the perfect image and likeness of the almighty Creator whose divinity he shared. In Jesus, God’s intent for the human race was reasserted and finally sealed. Jesus came to serve and to call women and men to God's service.
At a time when the participation of Jewish women in religious life was largely restricted to domestic roles, when few women were instructed in the Torah and even fewer were allowed to teach it, when women were frequently cut off from temple services because they were ritually unclean—Jesus offered women new roles.
The women who followed Jesus followed him all the way to the cross. After his death, these women came to his tomb to fill the traditional role of anointing his body. But instead, they were the very first to bear witness to Christ’s resurrection. In following Jesus, these women discovered their calling to be his disciples. In bearing witness to Christ’s resurrection, they discovered the full freedom that comes with being saved by Christ, and they began to claim their responsibility as priests and rulers with Christ forever.
Jesus invites both women and men into full freedom as his disciples. For Jesus, the question of who can teach or preach or heal is simply a question of who can be a faithful follower. Who can be a reliable witness to the resurrection? Who can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, embody the servant ministry of Jesus Christ?
Want to go deeper? You might find these resources helpful:
- RCA Women's Transformation and Leadership has just become a member of Christians for Biblical Equality. Membership includes access to their considerable resources. Please contact Rev. Liz Testa (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
- "The Role and Authority of Women in Ministry", 1991 Commission on Theology study
- General Synod statements on women in ministry
- Reports of the Committee on the Ordination of Women to the General Synods of 1957 and 1958, Old Testament Analysis, New Testament Analysis
- Commission for Women
- Loyalty and Loss: The Reformed Church in America, 1945-1994, by Lynn Japinga
- “Men, Women, and Biblical Equality,” statement from Christians for Biblical Equality
- Called & Gifted, by Sharon Cairnes Mann
- “How Change Happens: Reflections on Gender-Inclusive Churches,” by Kenneth L. Cukrowski
- How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership, edited by Alan Johnson
- Letters to Hazel: Ministry within the Women’s Board of Foreign Missions of the Reformed Church in America, by Mary L. Kansfield
- All God’s People: An Exploration of the Call of Women to Pastoral Ministry, by John E. Phelan Jr.
- Well Chosen Words, a guide to inclusive and expansive language created by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)
- Hearts, Hands, and Voices: Women Who Followed God’s Call, by Una Ratmeyer
- “Full Participation—A Long Time in Coming!” by Ed Mulder