At its yearly convention, the largest Protestant denomination in America passed a statement opposing abortion, pornography, homosexuality — and female pastors. For Southern Baptist leaders, these issues hang together. They assume that on their side of the culture war, Christians must oppose these practices as a piece. It is only the liberal, secular, or religiously compromised people on the other side who think differently.
If you’re looking for a beautiful model of an egalitarian relationship in the midst of a decidedly non-egalitarian culture, the love story of Angelina Emily Grimké (1805–1879) and Theodore Dwight Weld (1803–1895) is especially inspiring.
How do we explain persistent and stubborn structural inequality, a generation or more after laws supposedly guaranteeing equality were put in place? I discovered a great many theological arguments and answers given by various people, some of whom I agree with and some of whom I don’t.
Throughout history, movements have arisen to challenge the status quo of society and the institutional church. In the history of the United States and into the present, many have spoken out against the way women are perceived and treated. These voices have fought to open to women spaces and leadership positions in the church and society that have traditionally been exclusively for men. These movements, known collectively as feminism, have requested—sometimes demanded—a transformation in the ways evangelicals conceive of women’s roles.
For evangelicals, the Bible is the ultimate, infallible and inerrant authority, which serves as the arbiter of acceptable views, and theological liberalism exists as a looming menace to biblical authority. Unfortunately, evangelicals are often confused over who is challenging their biblical and cultural perceptions. They generally do not understand the critiques of liberal feminists or of their own evangelical sisters and brothers, nor do they recognize that they are dealing with separate movements in important and foundational ways. For many, feminism is a recent phenomenon, a threatening force, liberal in origin, which in the end rejects the authority of Scripture in order to conform to modern culture. Evangelicals commonly known as biblical egalitarians are quickly tied to liberal forms of feminism because it is commonly supposed that “liberalism and the approval of women’s ordination go hand in hand,” and inevitably lead the church down the slippery slope into the abandonment of scriptural authority.2
This paper seeks to begin to correct the equation of biblical egalitarianism with liberal feminism by considering them on a foundational level—looking at where each locates its authority and how each understands the Bible’s authority.
I am reminded that many things, large and small, have contributed to CBE’s history without my knowing it. In fact, it’s easy for those of us who have not lived through CBE’s history to be completely unaware of it.
Mutuality joins author, missionary, and longtime CBE member Lorry Lutz and her granddaughter, sociologist Hollie Baker-Lutz, for a conversation about culture, equality, and building an egalitarian legacy.
Join me in thanking God for the hands and feet of Christ, dismantling patriarchy as a biblical ideal in global communities. In 2016, we fanned an awareness of biblical gender equality around the world, including at the Evangelical Theological Society annual meeting.
Last week, we told the inspiring story of Shannon Lucid, a woman who persevered against the prevailing biases of her day in order to become part of the first class of NASA astronauts that included women. This week, we will focus on the life and achievements of Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, the first female general superintendent of the Wesleyan Church.