The most glaring difference between the theological quest of white women and black women is the fact that black women are dealing with three levels of oppression (racism, sexism, and classism) while the white women’s struggle with oppression can be one dimensional: fighting the Victorian model of the weak (even pampered) woman who can’t do anything for herself.
The battle over women leaders and the church continues to rage unabated in evangelical circles. At the center of the tempest sits 1 Tim. 2:11-15. Despite a broad spectrum of biblical and extra-biblical texts that highlight female leaders, 1 Tim. 2:11-15 continues to be perceived and treated as the great divide in the debate. Indeed for some, how one interprets this passage has become a litmus test for the label “evangelical” and even for salvation.
Within the Episcopal, PCUSA, and other mainline churches, there has been for years a diversity of views of the Christian faith. For most of this century, the leadership, seminaries, and many members have held to liberal views of Christianity, including a Bible which is not inerrant (i.e., without errors), as well as views of God, Jesus, salvation, etc. which are significantly different from the historic orthodox position.
Amid the patriarchy of the ancient world, early Christianity had a particularly liberating and redemptive place for women, one significant enough to be mentioned by Christianity’s first major critic, the second-century philosopher Celsus.
The struggles of Christian women with sexuality, food, and their bodies reflect the Church’s historic ambivalence towards the body—particularly the female body. The embodiment of God in the Incarnation, Jesus’ embrace of lepers, prostitutes, and women, and Jesus’ bodily resurrection establish a radical foundation of body affirmation. Yet the history of the Church demonstrates a decidedly negative view of the body and sexuality.