First let's cite the relevant passages:
34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.
--1 Corinthians 14:34 (KJV)
Clearly, the apostle Paul did not want women to be leaders in churches or to even speak--or so it appears. But what are we to make of the following verse?
35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
The words 'woman' and 'wife' are the same in the Hebrew language of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New Testament. One has to know the context of the verse and chapter to know which one the writer means. Which one is Paul referring to?
Here's a clue. Paul tells the Corinthian men to tell the women to ask their husbands questions at home if they want to learn anything about the church. So who will the women who are not married ask? Who will widows go to in order to learn about being saved? What about the unmarried daughters?
Or could it be that Paul was referring only to the wives of the men in the Corinthian church?
And if Paul wanted no women to be deacons, what are we to make of these words written by him?
1 I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:
2 That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.
--Romans 16:1-2 (KJV)
The NIV translation renders it this way:
1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae.
2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.
So was Phoebe a deacon or merely a church helper, a servant? And notice that she is to receive help, not give it.
According to Strong's concordance, the Greek word used in the relevant passage is number 1249. Here's the definition:
servant, minister, a person who renders help to others, in some contexts with an implication of lower status; also transliterated as "deacon," a trusted officer of helps and service in the local church
Paul uses the 1249 version translated as 'deacons' or servant in Philipians 1:1, 1Timothy 3:8 and 1Timothy 3:12. That word in the Greek is diakonos. But there is another word which is translated as deacon or servant that Paul uses to describe deacons, even his servant Timothy, and it's almost the same word: diakoneo. So what's the difference?
Was Phoebe "just" a servant or was she a leader to boot? What if Paul made an exception to his rule about suffering women to speak in the church? Could he do that? Was he allowed by his master, The Lord Jesus the Christ to do that?
Let's see by concentrating on what we know to be true and by inferring from that.
Paul was a servant of our Lord Jesus the Christ who was God in the flesh. Did God make exceptions to His prescriptions for His servants? Let's check it out.
In Exodus 13, God says that the eldest child (male) is the anointed one--the heir of a given family. This concept is called primogeniture.
But was Isaac Abraham's eldest? No. Ishmael was.
Was Jacob/Israel Isaac's eldest? No. Esau was.
Was Judah Jacob's eldest? No. Reuben was. (1 Chron. 5:1)
Was David Jesse's eldest? No.
Were either Solomon or Nathan David's eldest? No. David had many other older sons.
And was Jesus the Christ's earthly line from the eldest male child of David? No. He was descended from David's youngest, Nathan.
Let's see if God made exceptions to some of His other rules.
In Deuteronomy 7:1-3, God told the Israelites not to marry the Gentiles in the area.
But what of Rahab the harlot--an Ammonite and David's great grandmother--and of Ruth the Moabitess, David's grandmother who, by the way, is the only Gentile who has a book in the Old Testament named after her?
God does what He wants to do when necessary--and when He wants to demonstrate a principle to humankind (c.f. the marriage of Ruth and Boaz which can be analogized with the relationship between Christ and His Gentile bride: the Church). And because He gave human beings free will, sometimes the human beings who are anointed by Him will fail Him. When that happens, God moves to Plan B--and God always has a Plan B.
With respect to female pastors, I think that most women are not suited to for that role. Most of us are too emotional--the way God made us. And even those of us who are not too emotional to be pastors have higher, God-prescribed callings: to be wives and mothers.
But there are a very few women who are able to keep their emotions in check and who don't have the responsibilities involving their husbands and their children. I think that God sometimes calls those very few to lead.
Here's how you know who they are:
1. They are not beset by the previously-mentioned higher responsibilities, and,
2. Their subject matter is the Word of God and topics related and that only.
That last requirement is a must for male pastors as well, of course.
For the most part, Paul was right about women, in his time, in modern times, and in every time period in between. But Paul wasn't God and the former most certainly knew his limitations. God can do what He wants with whom He wants—this is inherent of the concept of sovereignty. It's up to each follower of Jesus the Christ to see what God's will is and that will can only be determined by talking (prayer) and, most importantly, listening (reading the Bible). Mix that with a huge dose of humility.
Here's a revelation, one that is not so original: God is not a legalist; He is the Law.