Egalitarians believe the Bible promotes two senses of equality: equality of nature and equality of opportunity. Neither requires or even hints that women and men are or should be identical. Egalitarians don’t deny difference, we deny that difference is destiny.
Tragically, Bible-readers throughout most of church history haven't seen Jesus' call to give up power as essential to or even included in Christian faith. Nowhere has that omission been more costly than in the treatment of gender.
Recently, a friend asked me an unexpected question. “Do you identify first as a Christian or as a feminist?” I was surprised by but not unprepared for her question. I’d considered it before, and the answer is complicated. Stick with me here.
There were some spaces in the medieval Western church where women were free to write theology and have spiritual influence. Yes, patriarchy and misogyny barred women from the priesthood and the great universities that produced scholastic theology. But many women became well-known, admired, and influential in monastic life and through mystic theology.
We should acknowledge that patriarchy and the oppression of women have played large roles in both culture and the church for centuries. In fact, far from being countercultural, many complementarian claims about men and women are echoed outside the church.
We are caught in tension between thanks for progress towards gender equality and dismay at the misogyny we see around us. Gratitude for progress does little to ease the pain of sexism by Christian men who tell women in ministry to “go home.”
I offer here a history of preaching rhetoric with the hope of encouraging women whose calling is the pulpit. We will explore how women have proven their preaching authority and constructed their sermons across time.