In 2009, Nicholas D. Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, set off a firestorm with their national bestseller, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. In the book, this power couple lays out "an agenda for the world's women focusing on three particular abuses: sex trafficking and forced prostitution; gender-based violence, including honor killings and mass rape; and maternal mortality, which still needlessly claims one woman a minute." This is an agenda that evangelical women all across the country are grabbing hold of. Kristof and WuDunn write, "Women aren't the problem but the solution. The plight of girls is no more a tragedy than an opportunity."
Through small groups, friendships, writing, speaking, advocating, and generous giving through online networks, churches and nonprofit organizations, evangelical women are taking a stand for justice and covenanting to be part of the solution to turn oppression into opportunity for women and all who are oppressed throughout the world. They are advocating and doing this work of justice with a strong conviction that kingdom building is the work of the church. I was honored to sit with author, pastor, and World Vision advocate Rev. Mae Cannon to discuss the challenges and convictions concerning justice, advocacy, and the work of women in the church.
What is the role of the church?
To consider the church's role from a biblical perspective, we really need to look at the Scriptures in terms of what they say about God's mandate for the church. Too often in our Christian American tradition, we have bifurcations where some churches think that the role of the church is social engagement and responding to the needs of the poor. They look to Matthew 25, which presents our responses to the needs of the least of these. They believe we should respond to those in Jesus' name and that's the role of the church. On the other hand, we have churches that look at passages like Matthew 28 and conclude, "Make disciples of all nations. We are going to evangelize and teach people about Jesus." I believe the church's role, in terms of holistic mission and engagement in justice, is the combination of those two, and we should not bifurcate them. So it's not evangelism apart from justice, but it's evangelism for the sake of God's justice being manifested in the world.
In that regard, as an evangelical leader and pastor, I believe part of what the church needs to reclaim is God's perspective concerning the kingdom of God on earth, which is inclusive of teachings about the person and work of Christ and evangelism. The kingdom of God on earth is also inclusive of responding to the needs of the least of these and being advocates for justice by looking at systemic issues that cause poverty, grief, and suffering in the world.