By Jordan Burgen
"What is Flatiron's view on women in leadership? Do you have any female pastors?"
Thanks for reaching out with your question. Yes, we have numerous women on staff in leadership and pastoral roles. We strive to evaluate our practices through biblical principles constantly, and we've devoted much prayer, conversation, and counsel to the topic of women in these roles.
We hold onto a complementary view of the roles of men and women in the church, family, marriage, etc.—one that values the worth and personhood of both men and women, and we believe Scripture gives us guidance on the separate but equally as important roles of men and women.
Our leadership interprets the word "pastor" in Scripture as different from "elder." While commonly assumed that they could be interchangeable when it comes to authority, this is a mistake. The Bible was written in Greek, and the Greek word "poimen" is used 18 times in the New Testament. 17 of these 18 uses are translated as "shepherd" and one time as "pastor." In some versions of the Bible, this one translation isn't used. The role of "shepherds (meaning the same as pastors and teachers) was to do just that…shepherd and care for the flock, the members of the church.
In the English language, and much of the history of the North American Church, because pastors typically also teach the church, it is assumed that they carry the same authority as an elder. Still, again, this is a perception, not a Biblical principle. While Jim is an elder of the church, he teaches the church under the authority of the elders, not his own.
The best way to be faithful to Scripture might be not to use the word "pastor" for anyone but, more accurately, use the term "shepherd." However, that word wouldn't be culturally understood, which is why we stick with the word "pastor" and opt to teach well around what that does and doesn't mean. The untrue assumptions about what "pastor" and "elder" are defined as shows a need for better teaching and explanation around the subject. However, a lack of understanding should not exclude a whole group of people (women) that Scripture does not exclude from the role of pastor. So, in being true to the text, application, and examples found in the New Testament, shepherding/teaching under the authority of the elders is open to anyone in the church who is prepared, gifted, and qualified to serve in this manner. To have women serve in the role of pastor/shepherd yet withhold the title that we would give to a man in the same position would be nothing short of hypocritical and biased, especially if the reason given would be "optics" or "tradition" or "people wouldn't understand."
In a one-sentence summary, "elders" (overseers, authority) can "pastor" (shepherd and teach), but not all "pastors" can "elder."