Grace Ji-Sun Kim’s, in her Foreword to Graham Joseph Hill’s wonderful new book, Holding Up Half the Sky (a quotation from Mao Zedong!), asks the big question and sketches an answer:
How did the church come to discourage women from leadership? Historically, Latin patriarchy was mediated and perpetuated through Christianity, and its presence in Christianity has been conserved. Furthermore, parts of the Bible have mediated patriarchal submission and proclaimed God and Christ in patriarchal terms. This patriarchy has defined Christianity and Christian practices throughout Christian history. The Aristotelian-biblical construct of the inferior human “nature” of slaves and freeborn women has been woven into the fabric of Christian theology.’ This framework has long prevented women from holding positions of governance in our churches,continuing to keep women subordinated. In many Christian denominations patriarchy, and the false notion of a nobility of suffering, allows abuse towards women to occur not only in our churches, but within our homes and places of work.
And Graham opens his book with this very important reminder, something most women would say needs no reminder!
By some estimates, over two-thirds of the world's missionaries are women. Fifty-three percent of the world’s Christians are women. Christian women are much more likely than Christian men to participate in worship. Most available sources estimate that women do most of the mission in the church worldwide, and probably most of the ministry too. Women pray more than men, and are more likely to say that their faith and religion is important to them. When we consider the ministry women have among children, other women, and men, it’s easy to see how women probably do most of the discipling of others in the church worldwide. Mao Zedong once famously said that “women hold up half the sky.” Women make up more than half of the church, and most likely do the bulk of the mission, ministry, prayer, worship, and discipleship in the life of the church.
So, even if one wanted to appeal to what is “fair” or “balanced,” one would have more than an uphill challenge to form patriarchal cultures in a church. The issue, however, is not about what is fair but what is biblically right, and Graham Hill’s book offers a concise, readable sketch of the pros and cons of women in ministry in our churches.
And if one wanted to appeal simply to the quality of leadership one could cite study after study (Hill cites some) that shows women are more effective leaders. (Perhaps less inclined toward narcissism?) But even that won’t convince the complementarians. The only thing that can is a fresh biblical examination, and that’s what we get in this slender book.
Can godly men be quiet?, Hill asks using the words of Philippa Lowe. When they are they will listen more and hear more. Which is what men need to do in this issue.
Quiet is not silence. Quiet is listening so what one says is intelligent. And biblical.
Some have casual, uninformed, but politically influential pushbacks, none of which are true:
Support for women in ministry is not a result of feminism and an assault on traditional values.
Support for women in ministry is not a result of a low view of the authority of the Bible.
Support for women in ministry is not linked with a support for LGBTI issues.