Few evangelical churches led by a woman

A woman raises her hand in prayer during a Joel Osteen ministry event at Yankee Stadium in New York.Reuters

White men still dominate leadership of evangelical ministries, according to a survey by Religion News Service.

Just one of 33 ministries contacted was led by a woman and just three by non-white men.

Reporter Steve Rabey, who carried out the survey with support from the Fund for Investigative Journalism, found that more than half of the ministries contacted declined to answer questions about women and minorities in leadership positions.

Although St Paul taught in 1 Corinthians that the head of woman is man, there were women in positions of leadership in the early church. The issue of women's ordination led to decades of controversy in the Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church led the way in advocating diversity in this and other areas, leading to divisions around the world.

Many conservative Christians still oppose women in leadership in churches, based on St Paul's teachings and also on the precedent set by Jesus who chose all men as his 12 disciples. 

A Wheaton College and Gordon College study by Amy Reynolds and Janel Curry found that evangelical not-for-profit organisations are behind secular equivalents in having women in leadership positions.

In 2012, women served as senior or solo pastoral leaders in 11 per cent of congregations in the US, with these congregations containing just 6 per cent of the people who attend religious services, according to the religious congregatons survey.