Why Women Can Be Protestant Ministers

My post on why women cannot be priests has received plenty of interesting comments, but most of those who objected to my post were not Catholics.

I think what they heard me say is that women should not be ordained at all. This is not my point. I’m quite happy for an Anglican Bishop to ordain women. If a Methodist Bishop ordains women ministers in his or her church I’m good. I really don’t mind at all if a Mennonite Bishop or a Bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church or the Lutheran Church ordain women ministers. If the Praise Cathedral Holiness and Happiness Church ordains women–you go for it! It’s fine by me if a Mormon Bishop chooses to ordain women or if the Bishop of the Church of the Foursquare Gospel of the 1928 Revision ordains women ministers. May the women ministers of the Apostolic Tabernacle of Light enjoy a full and fruitful ministry. It the Temple Television Worldwide Church of God wants to have a lady preacher, let her proclaim the word of the Lord!  If a Bishop of the Anglican Orthodox Episcopal Church of North America wants to ordain women, let them live long and prosper.

A Protestant minister is not a Catholic priest. My post really had nothing at all to say about Protestant Churches choosing to ordain women as ministers. They can do as they like.

Furthermore, I’m quite happy to accept that there are good sentimental, utilitarian and even Biblical or theological arguments for women to be ordained to the Protestant ministry.  So let us examine what the Protestant ministry actually is. The majority of Protestants are ordained to a ministry of the Word and a pastoral ministry, and why shouldn’t a woman exercise these ministries if their governing bodies decide so? Let them go for it. Good for them, and I’m sure plenty of sincere, and prayerful women do a good job in such ministries.

Then there are the more liturgical “high church” Protestants like some Methodists, Lutherans and Episcopalians. They too have women clergy, but do any of them profess to be Catholic priests? I don’t think so. Even if they speak of “sacraments” and “the Eucharist” and “the real presence” they don’t really believe in a sacrificing priesthood and transubstantiation. Quite rightly, they’re not Catholic priests and don’t claim to be. So let the women be ordained in their denominations if that is what they wish.

My post was simply stating the Catholic position, and that is that women can’t be Catholic priests. If other religious groups want to ordain women we Catholics don’t really have anything to say about it at all except, “That presents a serious obstacle to unity between us and your church. ” Other than that (which is just us being honest) why the fuss?

This is one of the things I find most curious about dialogue with non Catholic Christians. So often they say to us Catholics, “We’re just the same you know. No difference between us.” Then when I say, “If there’s no difference between us, why not just become a Catholic?” they get all huffy and say, “But I could never worship Mary and kiss the Pope’s toe and believe that the bread and wine is really the Body and Blood of Jesus!!”

“Right then.” I reply, “So you really do think there is a big difference between us. So don’t pretend there isn’t.”

This illogical double think extends to all sorts of aspects of our shared faith. When we Catholics say, “Your Eucharist is not a valid Catholic Eucharist” the non Catholics get all offended, “What do you mean it is not valid?” What we mean is that it is not a Catholic Eucharist. But you knew that already, so why are you upset?”

Same with ordination. Ordain women if you like. We don’t mind. But don’t be offended when we point out that (in case there is any doubt in your mind) it is not a valid Catholic ordination. Why does this upset non Catholics? They knew it wasn’t a Catholic ordination to start with. What it actually is, and what those ordinations consist of and what they mean we don’t presume to say. It’s up to the non-Catholics to say what they mean. All we are saying is that they’re not Catholic.

So be at peace my dear non Catholic brothers and sisters. Go ahead and ordain whoever you like and may these ministers have a fruitful and wonderful ministry. May they prosper and do the Lord’s work.

Just don’t imagine that they’re Catholic priests.

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  • John

    Amen, amen, a thousand times, AMEN.

  • Simply Sadie

    Pure awesomeness

  • Andrew

    There are, of course, also non-sacramental arguments against the ordination of women. Paul’s teaching on headship comes to mind. There is also that bit about having women keep silent in church. The point is Father, there are plenty of strictly biblical arguments on this general topic that have been in force for generations, even (especially!) among low church reformed protestants.

    I don’t see the Dutch reformed Calvinists buying into your line of reasoning. Catholics can also do better than this; I think your arguments give too much away.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Thank you for your comment. I realize all this, but the Protestants who are ordaining women have already, long ago, explained away these Biblical texts. Best then, to let them get on with it. There’s not point arguing.

  • Susan Peterson

    Don’t you think that we might find some commonalities with the Protestants who don’t ordain (in their sense of ordain) women? Is it impossible that there might be some connecting threat between their reasons for that and our reasons? I mentioned some on your personal blog, just now.

  • Susan Peterson

    Or, rather, on your FB.

  • http://bioethike.com Robert

    Yet, isn’t intentional misrepresentation a culpable act? Impersonating a police officer will land you in jail, as will performing surgery without a valid medical license.

    Some acts are invalid and illicit.

  • Warren

    Yep. Right on Father L!

    Note to separated brethren: do as you please, but don’t expect us to bless your actions. We’re Catholics, not protestants or mormons or whatever. You worship God you’re way and we’ll worship Him His way :-)

  • veritas

    I totally agree. There are profound Biblical reasons why a woman cannot be ordained, even if it is just to some non sacramental leadership teaching role.

    However, I can see Fr Longenecker’s point that we have got beyond the days of arguing with the Protestants about all those reasons, they abandoned them years ago. The main issue is that God’s Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church has maintained for 2000 years, and has recently restated it, that only a male can be ordained.

    Since most Protestants totally reject the Catholic understanding of the ordained ministry and the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, why on earth are they getting upset about what Catholics say about who can be ordained?

    If they don’t accept the teaching of the Church then fine, let them pretend to ordain who or what they like.

  • http://fireoftheirlove.blogspot.co.uk/ shadowlands

    Had I been a Protestant woman, I would have liked to have been a Minister. Or a Minister’s wife. Or both. With a vicarage like the Vicar of Dibley’s and a talent for baking and summer fete-ish type of organizational skills.

    However, as I am neither nor either, I shall make the best of who I am and share it with the rest of you, regardless of labels, titles etc…….

    We’re only seeing each other through a dimly lit mirror anyway, so our definition of each other from a worldly stance is temporary.

    Catholic Priests, on the other hand, are priests forever!
    Are ordained Protestant Ministers eternal posts?

  • Steve Brown

    Bravo, Father!

  • Gail Finke

    So true. I always think the same when someone gets upset about not being allowed Communion because it is “exclusive.” If you ask if the person believes that Mass transforms the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ — REALLY, and not symbolically — the person of course says no. But if you then say, well, if you don’t believe that you aren’t in communion with us and that’s part of what Communion IS, it falls on deaf ears. As you said, it’s an odd situation. They don’t want to be Catholic, but feel slighted and criticized when we acknowledge that they are not Catholic. They don’t mind saying that our 1 billion members are wrong, but woe to anyone who says they are wrong!

  • Steve

    Great audio by Dr Peter Kreeft on this as well http://peterkreeft.com/audio/09_priestesses.htm

  • Evelyn

    I cannot speak for all Protestants, of course, but at least some of them clearly view ordination and the pastorate as an occupation and not an ontological change. Locally, a Protestant pastor recently left (amicably) his church community to head up a local non-profit. I’m a convert, so this didn’t faze me at all, but some of my Catholic friends were really taken aback. I know a number of Protestants who have been ordained but really just carry the card in their wallet; there is no position necessarily associated with ordination. Some denominations, though, will give the man a seminary degree but not actually ordain him until he has been called by a congregation. I’m sure every possible variation is out there somewhere.

  • Canon Charles King, ssc

    Not so fast, Father.
    As a Priest of the Episcopal Church who belongs to the Society of the Holy Cross, I can tell you that there are plenty of us who believe ourselves to be Catholic Priests (wait let me read my ordination certificate…yup! That’s what it says). None of us, of course, believe ourselves to be in Communion with the Roman Catholic Church.
    So why don’t we join the Ordinariate and become Roman Catholics? Well, some have, but for the rest, the main reason seems to be that, believing ourselves to be validly ordained Catholic Priests, we are not ready to undergo yet another ordination. (And yes, we do know what Leo XII said; we differ.)

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    I used to think that too. I was deluded.

  • Evelyn lajot

    Amen,amen, a thousand times Amen. Tell the truth, nothing but the truth.

  • Angela Petrash

    Amen, Fr. Dwight! Amen!

  • lethargic

    Indeed this is an important aspect of protestant culture and mindset. My uncle is an ordained minister, yet spent his entire career doing financial planning. Did the seminary education help him to help people who needed financial guidance? I don’t doubt it. But was it ministry in the sense of ontological priesthood? Noper. Did the concept ever cross his mind? I doubt it. Wonderful man doing good work to help people, but not at all the same thing.

  • Martin

    So because you believe it and you have a certificate that says it, it must be true? Believing something does not cause that thing to be true. It would be wise for you to follow the voice of the original authority from which you claim valid orders (that is, the Catholic Church, whose head is the Bishop of Rome and successor to St. Peter).

  • Bruce

    What a wonderful post Father!
    Of course the best/easiest argument against ordaining women to the preisthood is the OT. It was GOD himself who established the preisthood for Isreal. They wer to be the first born MALES from the tribe of Levi. You can’t argue that societies were patriarchal back them and women were considered property and nothing more. There were many false religions with preistesses, yet GOD established a male only preisthood. Are you willing to tell GOD he’s a sexist? GOD had a reason for a male only preisthood, but we can not comprehend GOD’s reasons.

  • Mark G.

    One part of me wonders why those women who are convinced they are called to the priesthood don’t just head for a denomination that would gladly embrace them.

    However, the other part of me knows that that’s what evil does. It is never content to just live & let live. As long as the Church stands up for the truths of the Gospel, there will be those who seek to either change her or destroy her.

  • Howard

    I can’t really agree, because I didn’t agree with that view when I was a Baptist. It really comes down to this: Are you even making an *effort* to follow Scripture? Having only male pastors may be, for a Protestant denomination, only a little thing, but it’s also an easy thing, and there’s something to be said for being faithful in little (Luke 16:10).

    The same thing can be said of churches that allow for remarriage after divorce (when the spouse is still living).

  • Romualdus

    Canon King,

    Do you mean Pope Leo XIII?



  • Michael

    Just to be clear here, where do you stand on non-Catholic women being ordained?? Just kidding :) Once again, an excellent artile and well written. People just want to live their lives their way, no the Lords. Just like the Pharisees during the life of Christ. Have we “evolved” intelligently to the point that we think we are wise than God? Blows my mind and reminds me whay my Grandfather would say, “keep it simple” and everything comes into focus.

  • Mico Razon

    I will add, though, that the issue of ordaining women was one of the issues driving Anglican priests to consider converting to Catholicism.

  • Will

    There is also a Roman Catholic rule, with a few exceptions, that men must be celibate to be priests.

  • Howard

    To clarify that last point, a church that allows remarriage while a living spouse remains is not even trying.

    Before someone objects, an annulment is a finding that no proper marriage existed in the first place. And yes, it is scandalous how readily those are granted.

  • Parson Snootch

    I am not sure what this post by Dwight is supposed to accomplish. It makes no sense that someone who wants nothing to do with a Roman Church ordination would be offended when someone points out that their ordination is not officially of the Roman Church.

    Who are these people that “gett offended?” If someone of the European Church in Rome told me that my ordination was not “Catholic” or universally acceptable, then I’d be more fortified in my view of this rather than be offended. It would be important for Roman Church-goers to know that I rejected that church’s ordination procedure in order to fulfill the role that God had for me.

    So who are these people getting offended, I wonder? Are we to believe that people feel bad they are not considered “Catholic” by the Roman Church? That makes no sense. It seems like a make-believe Protestant imagined by Dwight here. After all, someone convicted in their beliefs would never be offended by those opposed to them. In other words, my beliefs do not require the Roman Church’s approval, only God’s. The distinction between that body and our God might offend so-called “Catholics” of the Roman Church, but I can’t imagine walking the life God set for me and being offended when someone would label it on their own terms.

    This seems make-believe, Dwight. I am not offended that my ordination is not validated by the Church in Rome. God has validated me, which is why I walk.

  • flyingvic

    “I think what they heard me say is that women should not be ordained at all. ”

    Perhaps the confusion arose from the title of the piece: “Why women cannot be priests”? The omission of the word “Catholic” – or, even better, the phrase “Roman Catholic” – from the title of the piece invites precisely this kind of misunderstanding. It also betrays, of course, the Roman Catholic mindset: not simply that “we believe we are right”, (which is, in fairness, what everybody thinks) but rather that “we know that you are wrong, and therefore what you do doesn’t really matter.” It is the same mindset that translates “when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16.13) into “the Spirit has already guided us into all the truth and we know what that whole truth is.” It is a mindset, therefore, that is as exclusive as any of the extremist Protestant sects – and THAT is why so many people object to the Roman Catholic position on this and other matters.

  • Bruce

    John Henry Newman already destroyed this argument over a century ago. Perhaps not in your lifetime, sir, but rather soon, there will be no Anglican/Episcopal church. The orders are not valid – really nothing is. It is a paper religion at best, and pure protestantism at worst.

    Newman was correct – there are only two paths: Atheism or Catholicism (the “Roman” kind, as you say).

  • Bruce

    Scripture? Oh, you mean our book? Of course. We wrote it.

  • Bruce

    Discipline vs. Doctrine. (i.e., celibacy vs. male priesthood). One is changeable, the other is not. :)

  • Howard

    Not exactly. The Catholic Church defined and preserved the canon of Scripture and is the only sure interpreter of it, but it requires a special meaning to claim that the Catholic Church wrote the Books of Moses.

    If you’re Catholic, as I am, it strictly delimits your claim that “we wrote it” claim. That is, the Holy Spirit, working entirely through other people who are now a part of the Church Triumphant, wrote it. In point of solid fact, neither you nor I had anything to do with it, which makes your attempted boast about as hollow as any I have ever heard.

  • tz

    So if Protestant clergy “marrys” a homosexual couple, younwould equally have no objection – no more than remarriage after divorce – since Catholic ideas aboit validity are irrelevant in the protestant, or secular sphere?

    (To clarify my own position, government has neither the competence nor the authority to define marriage, so rendering what is God’s to Caesar is casting pearls before swine, where they will be trampled and you attacked as the church’s duty to the sick turned into the HHS mandate – those who want a huge and micromanaging goverment cannot preserve a well formed conscience, but the don’t have it if they are advocating for the state over the church)

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    I understand that it looks that way from the outside Vic, but in fact the Catholic Church does not believe that the truth they teach is either ossified nor totally complete in its expression.

    I’m sure you have read and understood Newman’s Essay on the Development of Doctrine. That’s the Catholic view–and the fact that doctrine develops means that we do not think that we have the whole, complete and finished product. We’re still learning.

    That’s why, for instance, the Holy Father did not pronounce on the impossibility of women’s ordination before years of study, consideration , consultation thought and prayer.

    However, we do admit to a certain level of certainty or completion.

    “Rome has spoken that settles it” is still a vital truth for those who hold to the divine mandate given to Peter and his successors.

  • Patrick

    To my understanding, Luther posited that the baptismal priesthood was all the ordination necessary. As such, being a minister is simply addressing an organizational reality in this life. Thus, so long as they can sufficiently circumnavigate the Epistles of Paul, they can have female ministers.

  • savvy

    The dispute started on the other blog, when certain Protestants began turning this into a social justice kind of thing.


    There was an Anglican woman minister who was deeply offended.

  • savvy


    To be honest, there’s a lot of confusion about sacramental theology, that we have clarify.

    A priest is someone who offers sacrifice, so if this view is not shared by other churches, then why on earth would we hold them to it?

    Or why should they hold their views on ministry to us?

  • savvy


    The animal to be sacrificed was also always male. In the liturgy, priest represents Christ as priest and Christ as victim.

  • honeybee

    FIY: The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod does not ordain women priests.

  • Andreas Kjernald

    @Howard-hands down, you won that argument.

  • Bruce

    Once protestants based religion solely in sentiment, feelings, and emotions – things like “being offended at reasonable explanations” (such as the Catholic view of the male priesthood) was only a matter of time.

  • Bruce

    “Me Me Me, I I I” “Romans” etc…these are all the tired and worn-out trappings of dying protestantism.

  • Bruce

    *So long as they continue to follow a heretic, they shall remain in error*

  • Bruce

    Not really. Christ established a Church – the Catholic Church – not a book. The book sprang forth in its present (unaltered) form from the Church. :)

  • Bruce

    Not really. People reject Catholicism either because they A.) do not understand what the Church actually is and what she teaches or B.) they reject truth and want to be their own pope. Those are the only options. Which one are you?

  • Bruce

    FYI: Not yet.

    Key word: “yet”

    In truth, because Lutheranism is a heresy (Luther being the heretic, not modern day followers who are in error), there is nothing stopping it from becoming even more heretical than it already is.

    It is a dead end.

  • Julie

    I like this!

  • Kurt

    This is one of the things I find most curious about dialogue with non Catholic Christians. So often they say to us Catholics…

    Well, Father, you suprise me. I’m amazed that you have ecumenical dialogues with non-Catholic Christians. Tell us more about your experiences in these friendly exchanges.

  • Howard

    Think back to the Creed. *Which* Person of the Holy Trinity “has spoken through the prophets”?

  • http://anorthodoxcatholic.blogspot.com deMOAOC

    Re: Parson Snootch; Canon Charles King, ssc; flyingvic; etc.: “Roman Church; Roman Catholic Church, Roman Catholics; Roman Catholic”

    There is no church whose name is the “Roman Catholic Church.” There is, however, one whose name is the “Catholic Church” which is why the book of its beliefs and teachings is called the “Catechism of the Catholic Church.”

    The term “Roman”:
    – is a term used by Catholics to refer to the Roman rite (as opposed to, say, the Antiochian rite) of the Catholic Church (e.g., the Roman Catholic Separate School Board);
    – is sometimes used to mean the Catholic Church in Rome (as opposed to, say, the Catholic Church in Toledo);
    – is a derogatory term used by anti-Catholics;
    – is a term used by some because they hear or see it and, misunderstanding, think it is the name of a church.

    So when using the term “Roman” if what you are referring to is the Catholic Church, (i.e., all the churches who are in communion with the Pope) then please use her correct name (i.e., don’t use “Roman”). If what you are referring to is the Roman rite within the Catholic Church or the Catholic Church in a particular city, it would be clarifying to state so. If you are intending to be uncharitable, you might want to pause and reconsider, especially if you consider yourself a Christian. This will help end the confusion.

    Member, Tiber swim team

  • Bruce

    Oh, you mean OUR creed?

  • John Woolley

    I almost always say “Roman Catholic” where you would say “Catholic”, but I certainly don’t mean anything at all derogatory by it. I’m Orthodox; we Orthodox consider the Orthodox Church to BE the Catholic Church, in much the same way that you consider “the churches who are in communion with the Pope” to be the Catholic Church. (Actually, I think we consider it in even a stronger way — we’d never say, in the manner of Vatican II, that the Catholic Church “subsists in” the Orthodox Church. We say we ARE the Catholic Church, full stop.) We disagree with you on which body in the modern world is the historical ancient Catholic Church. No disparagement, just disagreement.

    And there are lots of official Roman Catholic documents that use “Roman Catholic” as the name of the Church.

    Course, we could call you Romanists, or Papists, or “Western schismatics”. That would make everyone happy, right? :-)

  • Bruce

    It is laughable that the Orthodox would consider themselves “Catholic” (i.e., universal) when they have no unity among themselves and constantly bicker. National churches, whether Greek or Russian, does not a “Catholic” Church make.

    And its filioque. Deal with it.

  • John Woolley

    Right. *That’s* derogatory. Thank you for providing an example.

  • Bruce

    Always glad to provide the Truth. I pray that you cease your schism from the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

  • savvy

    Dear Bruce,

    Please preach the truth in love. Don’t be a repellant. Everybody is trying to understand and follow Christ in these confusing times. Be patient with others, just as God is patient with you.

  • Bruce

    I’m not sure of that anymore. Drastic times call for drastic measures. The world loves to dance around the truth, keep religion private, and never, EVER, offend anyone, even if their eternal salvation is at stake.

    I say to hell with that. Eternity is too important to worry about feelings. Feelings and emotions are what protestants get all fussy about. Truth is not feelings nor emotions…especially flawed and fallen ones like we have here. No, to hell with worrying about offense.

    If I truly love my brothers and sisters, and I do, it means having to say the hard things when their salvation is at stake. To continue to follow a schismatic church or a heresy, when you know better, is an error I cannot ignore. Let us stop walking on eggshells. Truth is Truth. The Catholic Church is THE Church.

  • http://www.journeythoughts.blogspot.com Joni

    That’s a great statement!

  • http://www.journeythoughts.blogspot.com Joni

    As a convert to Catholicism from a denomination that freely ordains women, I can only say, “Right on the mark, Father.”

  • Nick

    Good observation. In fact, ordination of women minister may not even present an obstacle to eventual unification as long as those women acknowledge and agree to the difference and alternate functions of the Priest and those of a minister. There is much overlap between the two. However, certain functions, rights and powers are explicitly reserved for the priest. I will leave it up to the cannon lawyers and theologians to expand on the above.

  • http://wwwmej.com PFO

    RC Brothers & Sisters,

    Why do you think they call themselves Protest ants?

    STOP calling them “Prodi stants”. That pronunciation has no meaning!

    START calling them what they are and let em be.


  • Pattie, RN

    …sums it up!

  • MaryW

    You may add my amen to that!