While great strides have been made towards gender equality in church leadership, a staggering segment of churches still subscribe to a narrow view that permits females only certain opportunities to exercise the call of God on their life. Women may exercise authority over children and other females in the Western church context. Women are also commissioned as missionaries and sent to the furthest reaches of the world that the borders of God’s kingdom may expand. In this role they certainly teach, have authority, and pastor congregations of believers. Yet, women are excluded from teaching/pastoring roles where males are present in the same churches that commissioned them to the mission field. As a scholar of theology, I find this position inconsistent with scripture and harmful to the global church.
Not only is this position inconsistently applied within churches that do not affirm female leadership, it is damaging to women theologically, vocationally, and personally. When taken to its logical conclusion this position is also harmful to congregations in other countries that have been planted by female missionaries. Essentially, this position views male members of these churches who have been led to Christ and growth in spiritual maturity by a woman as less valuable than Western males, or less worthy of “proper” teaching, since they would not be permitted to receive instruction from a woman should they live in the United States.
For too long, the wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been destroying millions of lives. It is the deadliest conflict since World War Two, fuelled by conflict minerals used in our electronics and cars. Rape is a weapon of war; eastern Congo is one of the most dangerous places on earth to be a woman.
In the midst of this chaos, darkness and death, a bright light is shining. That light will now receive a Nobel Peace Prize.
Genesis 2:25Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
Genesis 3:8-13Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” 12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
I’ve been listening to that anxious dialogue in our world right now about sexual assault, abuse, rape and I have been at the same time thinking about Genesis chapters 2 and 3.Genesis 2 tells us of a wonderful garden within which human beings walk with God in the cool of the evening and men and women flourish in safety and trust—not only in God but in one another.Genesis 2:25 makes the astounding claim that the first couple is naked and not ashamed.
They are the representative humans representing all of humanity in relation with God and one another.There is no assault, there is no taking of what is not given, there is no fear and there is no shame.Human beings are free from the brokenness and suffering that will later come through sin and the sin system.
In Genesis 1:26-28 they were called to image God and reign in the Earth, filling it—creating families, who would create communities who would create nations.As agents of God, the first humans were to act in union with the one who is completely good and just and holy.And God’s people were naked and not ashamed.Continue reading Rape, Assault, Abuse and the Fall→
The Acts community gives us a wonderful picture of women being actively part of the community of the Lord in the last days. In Biblical times, the idea of female speakers was acceptable due to God’s use of prophetesses like Sarah, Deborah, Miriam, and Huldah. Luke, the evangelist who wrote the two-volume corpus, Luke-Acts, even began his Gospel with a series of prophecies uttered by the most unlikely women: the barren, the widowed, and the pregnant-before-marriage. Amid societal taboos, God displayed a unique reversal of norms, when he spoke through the barren Elizabeth, the widowed Anna, and the virgin, Mary. Clearly, the Bible demonstrates that God uses women as agents of his revelation.
Unfortunately today, some churches, who stand by a traditional male hierarchy view, do not permit women to speak as pastor-teachers or preachers. In my opinion, these groups miss out on the fullness of what God wants do in their assemblies. Deborah was a judge in the Old Testament, who prophesied, taught, counseled, and even led the community to victory (Judges 4). What can they say about Deborah’s role? What can they say about the role of Philipp’s prophesying daughters in Acts? Could it be that people who do not permit women to speak in the assembly do not recognize the eschatological reversal that God initiated when Jesus triumphed over sin and death? Continue reading Let Women Speak in the Assembly: Towards the Inclusion of Women in Verbal Ministries→
Shortly after the #MeToo movement, another movement surfaced, #ChurchToo.#ChurchToo is about sexual harassment and abuse within the body of Christ.I am so grieved about the #ChurchToo movement as it hit’s at the vision for beloved community in Christ.And I have begun to ask the question, how do we live out the beloved community in Christ between men and women working together for the sake of the Kingdom of God?I have a couple of thoughts but first I want to lay out some Biblical support.
Ezekiel 34 tells the story of evil shepherds and good shepherds.Essentially, the evil shepherds have been feeding on the sheep instead of feeding the sheep.While the sheep are bleeding, hungry and suffering on the mountains, the evil shepherds are getting fat.And the Prophet asks the question, who will care for and bind up the wounds of the sheep?The answer is, the good shepherd.The good shepherd is, of course Jesus, the coming one who will bind up the wounds of the sheep, and tend to them in the sheepfold where they will flourish.
The prophet is helping God’s people to understand that the task of leaders and shepherds is the task of tending and caring for the sheep.I think the #ChurchToo movement is surfacing this issue in the church today so that we might become more whole as leaders and so that our communities might flourish.As those who long for the beloved community, we must be aware of the human lust for power, ego issues and self-gratification when in ministry.I want to lay out some principles that could help us move closer toward a healthy and safe community within which men and women are respected, and the sheep are fed. Continue reading #ChurchToo, Good Shepherds and Beloved Community→
Heidi Baker, founder and CEO of Iris Global – a missionary organization based in Mozambique – has inspired thousands of Christian women to aspire for leadership positions and reach their full potential. In this video from God TV, she explains some of the reasons we should embrace gender equality in the church. Who honestly thinks their daughter cannot change the world, or that a donkey would be more worthy of sharing God’s word than a woman?
What is the best argument for gender equality according to you?
One of my favourite Pentecostal saintsof all times is Pandita Ramabai (1858-1922), Indian activist, evangelist and holy roller. Over a hundred years before Malala she campaigned for women’s right to education, and she was extremely active in helping the poor and discriminated.
Born in a Brahmite family in what is now the state of Karnataka, she started to study at an early age and learned Sanskrit along with sacred Hinduist texts, astronomy, physiology and more. This was controversial since she lacked a penis, but her father encouraged her as she learned more and more about society, religion and activism.
In 1883 she went to England and taught Sanskrit at an Anglican monastery in Wantage. There she was saved. “I realized,” she later wrote, “after reading the fourth chapter of St. John’s Gospel, that Christ was truly the Divine Saviour he claimed to be, and no one but He could transform and uplift the downtrodden women of India.”