Bible believers back women in church leadership

US survey says majority support women preaching

It’s one of the most highly contentious issues in some Christian circles, yet a large majority of US evangelical Protestants support women taking on more prominent positions in the Church, according to a new survey.

The research reveals eight out of 10 self-identified evangelical Christians said they agree with women teaching Sunday school, leading worship at church services, and preaching during women’s conferences or retreats.

“Three quarters of the most devout evangelicals believe that women should have a place behind the pulpit.” – Ryan Burge

Support for women preaching during church services was slightly lower, with seven in 10, according to the research conducted by a team of political scientists in March (who are linked with Religion in Public, a collective of scholars researching the intersection of religion with public life).

The survey by Ryan P. Burge, Paul Djupe and Hannah Smothers was designed to allow respondents to indicate what kinds of leadership roles they are comfortable with women taking on.

Reporting the research in Christianity Today, Burge did not specify the sample size of the survey. But he said it found men and women alike supported women’s involvement in each of the roles proposed, with women slightly more in favour in each case.

The level of support ranged from 72.8 per cent for women preaching on Sunday morning, to 86.9 per cent in favour of women teaching Sunday school.

He said the most surprising finding was how little the level of support for women in leadership differed according to someone’s church attendance.

“A natural assumption is that more frequent attendance at an evangelical church that only permits male pastors is a sign of support for the doctrine of that faith tradition, but that’s not the case,” Burge wrote.

“In fact, in each of the four scenarios that were offered in the survey there was no statistical difference in support for women leaders between evangelicals who never attend services and those who indicate that they go to church multiple times a week.

“Three quarters of the most devout evangelicals believe that women should have a place behind the pulpit.”

Differences in theology did not affect levels of support for women in leadership either.

“When the sample is restricted to just those who believe that the Bible is literally true, three-quarters of those who attend services multiple times a week agree with women preaching during weekend services,” Burge wrote.

Another interesting feature was the lack of a clear relationship between the age of the evangelicals and attitudes to women preaching. Those who are between 18 and 35 are just as likely to oppose women preaching as those in the oldest age group. On the other hand, only 10 per cent of those between the ages of 55 and 64 were opposed to women in the pulpit.