Practicing Biblical Equality in the Church
So, you find yourself in a church that is ready to cross the threshold for greater biblical equality, the threshold that emboldens women and empowers women to exercise the gifts God has given to them. What to do?
Graham Hill, in his wonderful new book Holding Up Half the Sky, offers four big practices but the fourth has 15 concrete steps and this post will focus on those 15.
I am aware how difficult this is for many women who have waited, prayed, cried, seen small opportunities develop only to be shut down, talked and talked with other women, talked with those supporting women in ministries, met with pastors to see what can be done, been promised by pastors that changes will occur only to learn nothing changes, cried and prayed and prayed and cried, met some more, moved on to other churches… and it wearies the soul and it grieves the Spirit alive and well in that woman’s bones.
I am aware too that the way forward is not a war or even a battle but taking small steps and not backing up. It is about finding nearly always male advocates who will stand in the gap. It is about pastors who have the courage of their already (more egalitarian) convictions. It is about acting on those convictions.
It is about studying (as I say in Blue Parakeet) What Did Women Do in the Bible, it is about finding the stories of women in the Bible to see what they did, and it is about encouraging churches to do as the Bible did.
Before I get to Graham Hill’s big points, I want to mention a few new books on this topic, and call your attention especially to a new academic book coming by William Witt that will deconstruct the so-called complementarian position (it is hierarchical, as Russell Moore and others have admitted, and it is patriarchal) as something not so historic and not at all historical when it comes to the Bible. Witt’s book is called Icons of Christ: A Biblical and Systematic Theology for Women’s Ordination.
The others I want to mention are:
Alice Mathews, a true saint and irenical warrior for women’s ministry: Woman of Strength
John Mark Hicks, Women Serving God
Now back to Graham Hill’s new book. His four big points.
First, male leaders have to deal courageously with issues of gender, justice and power.
Second, male leaders need to reframe ministry as what Graham calls “servantship.”
Third, male leaders must learn to embolden Junia’s sisters.
Fourth, male leaders should amplify the voices of women and honor their gifts.
His fourth point is broken out into these 15 habits and practices:
Get real about empowering female leaders Enable women to sit at the table Help women see women at the table Transform male-dominated cultures Model and esteem real professional and personal partnerships Build cultures where women and men can equally succeed Stop talking and start listening Honor all women Examine your beliefs and practices Embrace reciprocal mentoring Get proactive about women speakers Ask what you’re willing to give up (and gain) Profile female Christian leaders Pray with women Make honoring women and girls a lifestyle and an institutional value
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