I’ve been involved in a couple of conversations about women in church leadership recently, which has reminded me not everyone agrees with things I take as basic. So I’ve set some of these basic points out in the hope others will find them useful.
1. Men and women are together made in God’s image (Genesis 1v27). Male is not more like God than female. The creation mandate which follows is to both women and men.
2. Difference between male and female does not presume hierarchy. When we read about God helping us in Psalm 121 we don’t think hierarchy, so why do we read it into Genesis 2?
3. God intended positive dynamic relationships between women and men, between humanity and God, and between both and wider creation; summed up in the description of the garden of Eden.
4. The fall ruptures relationships. The relationship between humanity and creation becomes more difficult, between humanity and God is dislocated and the relationship between men and women becomes patriarchal.
5. God gives Israel the law in order to limit some of the effects of sin and show his people how to live in the light of God’s grace. This includes laws of marriage and treatment of women (eg: Deuteronomy ch 21-25). In addition God uses women in the Old Testament as examples of faithfulness, courage and piety in contrast to the general patriarchy of the time.
6. Jesus models God’s value of women as well as men in the way he includes women in parables, in his teaching (encouraging them to learn as well as addressing their situation) and in choosing to appear first to women at the tomb (at a time when many would not accept the testimony of a woman).
7. Jesus came to bring good news to the oppressed and marginalised; in his death he came alongside them bringing release, justice and restoration. His being tempted in every way includes the negative impact of patriarchy.
8. Jesus comes as one who serves, suggesting that those who want to be great should be servants. Jesus comes to bring full, abundant and flourishing life. Through his death and resurrection, God is actively reconciling the whole world to himself. Gender stereotypes, hierarchy or distinct roles receive no mention.
9. In Christ (and therefore in the church) there is no longer male and female, all are one. We are all baptised by the Spirit into one body and the spirit is poured out on all flesh. Our temperament, gender, ethnicity etc are not relevant to our becoming heirs with Christ.
10. As Christians our primary identity is in Christ, we are citizens of heaven who seek to be faithful disciples. Yet we are also examples of how God loves diversity and desires a church made of many peoples, languages and customs. Gender is part of who we are, but it is only one part. God desires both women and men to grow into the people he calls them to be; the church needs to pay attention to the place gender has in our human make up but also needs to remember that it is only one part of who we are.
There is of course much more to be said on the topic so there may well be a part 2 in a couple of weeks.