CLAIM: Paul says that an elder should be “the husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3:2). How can a woman possibly be an elder, if this is the requirement?
RESPONSE: The purpose of this qualification is to select elders who are not running around sexually. This qualification is not compelling elders to be married. Paul didn’t teach that Christians should be compelled to be married (1 Cor. 7:8). In fact, Paul himself was not married, and yet, this didn’t disqualify him from the office of apostleship.
It is common for the Bible to use gender neutral language. For instance, “God desires all men to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4). Of course, no one would think that Paul had just men in mind, when reading this verse.
On the other hand, it’s certainly possible that Paul didn’t envision women elders. In his culture, it probably wasn’t strategic to have women leaders, because they were looked down upon. However, this is different than saying that Paul was prohibiting women elders. There is nothing in this passage that would preclude a female elder.