Women’s Ordination as Pastors: A Middle Eastern Perspective by Anne Zaki

CBE Conference LA 2015
Plenary 5: Professor Anne Zaki, “Women’s Ordination as Pastors: A Middle Eastern Perspective”

ZakiProfessor Zaki currently teaches at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Egypt and has been petitioning the Presbyterian Church in Egypt to ordain her as a minister. Up until now, no woman has ever been ordained in North Africa and the Middle East. In her message on the last day of the conference, we were inspired by her perseverance and God’s faithfulness as she chronicled her journey for us.

She began her story by sharing how she has always loved the church and felt called to serve in the church. However, she translated this calling into a destiny of being a pastor’s wife. And God did lead her to marry a pastor.

However, one day after she had done some preaching, her husband asked her, “Are you sure you are not called to be a pastor?” As she denied the truth in this, he asked her a question that stopped her in her tracks, “Are you letting your culture shape your calling rather than letting your calling re-shape your culture?”

Her husband’s question brought to the surface a dissonance that had been silenced over the years because of culture.

She began to wonder: Is it the tyranny of tradition that is keeping women from being ordained?

She decided to study both sides of the argument, examining all the relevant Scripture related to the topic. And after a year of study, Professor Zaki concluded that there is no imperative to ordain or not to ordain women. However, she found that the passages of Scripture against women’s ordination was less compelling than Scripture that supported women’s ordination.

Professor Zaki then identified different arguments against women’s ordination and demonstrated the illogic of those arguments with both wit and wisdom.

Here are a few:

Argument: To ordain a woman in the church would cause an uproar in the culture.
Logic: There’s a rise of the view of the place of women in society. It doesn’t make sense that women are not also rising in leadership in the church.

Argument: We have so many more important problems to solve in the church, we need to focus on those first.
Logic: Women in ministry is not a problem but should be seen as partners in helping to solve other problems in the church.

Argument: Ordaining women is a western idea.
Logic: It is not a western idea. Indonesia has been ordaining women since 1961. Kenya ordaining women since the 80s. India ordained a woman as a bishop. These are not western countries.

Furthermore, Jesus never ordained any men. He didn’t ordain any women. There are no examples of priests in the New Testament… only Jesus the High Priest. And we are all called to be priests.

If you teach that there is a priesthood of all believers, then you need to ‘walk the talk.’

Argument: We welcome all women to ministry. We just won’t ordain you (or pay you) for it.
Logic: How can you tell a woman to go ahead and get educated at seminary, not help her pay her way at all, and then after she receives her degree, tell her she must get a different job during the day…and then demand her to be present, committed to ministry during the evenings and weekends? This is what it means to not ordain a woman. You would never make a similar demand of a man.

Many churches will tell women they are welcome to minister in any capacity but unfortunately they will not ordain these same women to be pastors. But there is no accountability when you do this. There is no covenant that is signed. Isn’t this more dangerous? You would never tell someone who wants to practice medicine to go ahead and open an office but we won’t give you a license.

Professor Zaki’s arguments to the objections given for women’s ordination demonstrated — with precision — the absurdity of such objections. We are both inspired and encouraged by her message

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