Equality and mutual submission between men and women is God’s ideal for humanity. But, some ask, do these work in a world ruled by power-hungry leaders, inequality and hierarchy? Do we not need strong leadership for a nation to prosper?
When I was five, my grandfather gave me a fishing rod. I practiced casting my line for hours in our long, skinny back yard using a rubber practice sinker. When a friend offered to take me fishing, I caught my first fish: a round, orange and yellow sunfish called a pumpkinseed. I admired its beautiful colors, then carefully smoothed down the spiny dorsal fin and removed the hook. As the pumpkinseed swam away, I wondered if it knew a few moments earlier I’d held its life in my hands.
When we read an obituary in the newspaper, we see the visible side of a person’s life — his or her church or organization memberships and accomplishments in life. What we don’t read, however, is how the person touched others in some special way. I’d like to share how Mom spiritually touched the lives of my sister Wendy and me.
When the news of my mom’s death spread throughout my congregation and the naval base in Port Hueneme, Calif., I began to learn about the kindred spirit that exists among women who have lost their mothers. These women cried with me and told me, “There is something deep that happens in our souls when a woman loses her mother.” All of these women talked of mothers who loved them and modeled that every woman can be all that God wants her to be.
I grew up in fundamentalist churches where women were taught to know their “place” and stay there. My parents accepted these ideas in theory, but not so much in practice, and at the same time they questioned many of the other things these churches taught. During my freshman year of college, my parents ended their lifelong affiliation with this denomination and began attending a new church.
Karen and Mark are both pastors with vibrant ministries, but their marriage is at a crossroads. Karen has been offered a large church in a growing area that sounds like a perfect fit. Mark has no desire to leave his flourishing ministry. They love the Lord and each other, but they can‘t agree. How can they decide?
The introduction of the word “submission” into a Christian conversation about adult human relations immediately strikes different responses. For some Christians, submission is a happy word describing the proper biblical relation of a wife to her husband or of a woman, whether married or single, to the males in the church congregation.
The ups and downs of being a woman in ministry continue. Not many people want a woman to teach homiletics, despite the fact that my students love my classes. I am beginning to do more teaching and writing on the equality of women and men in Asia.
If God’s design for male-female relationships was unity and interdependence, and if hierarchy in relationships came as a result of sin, perhaps we need to reevaluate teachings on male “headship” in marriage today.