What is the EFCA’s position on women in ministry and credentialing?
The brief answer to the question is that the EFCA does not ordain women, which is a Conference decision (1988) based on our understanding of the biblical text (cf. Gen. 3; 1 Cor. 11:3-16; 14:33b-36; Gal. 3:28; Eph. 5:22-33; Col. 3:18-19; 1 Tim. 2:11-15; 1 Pet. 3:1-7). This is stated explicitly in our “Ministerial Credentialing in the Evangelical Free Church of America” booklet under the Certificate of Ordination (p. 5, V.C.): “This credential is designed for qualified males who serve in pastoral ministry in the local church whose primary ministry responsibility is preaching and teaching the Word.”
Women can and do, however, serve in vocational ministry, and the EFCA recognizes and celebrates this by offering a Certificate of Christian Ministry (cf. “Ministerial Credentialing in the Evangelical Free Church of America,” p. 4, V.B) to those engaged in vocational ministry. (This Certificate is not just for women but also available for men who are in a qualifying ministry and are not ordained.) These are the only official statements regarding women in ministry made by the Conference of the EFCA.
Regarding the question about women in leadership in the local church, it is not the norm to have a woman serve as an elder in a local EFC church, as most churches in the EFCA recognize that the biblical qualifications for the pastor (serving vocationally in this capacity) are the same qualifications for all the other elders as well (serving in a non-vocational capacity). Thus, our official EFCA policy for those ordained also becomes the policy of many/most EFC churches, even though these is no official EFCA policy for local churches. However, it must also be stated that because of our congregational form of church government, the local church is free to make its own decision on this matter.