The church in China is different from that anywhere else in the world. But then, China itself is also quite different from other countries. China, more perhaps than in any other place and time since of beginning of USA, is a nation trying to forge its destiny in new ways that are not really copied from anywhere else. It has made many mistakes, as its current leaders readily admit. That in itself makes it quite different from most other nations!
People sometimes write us to ask where they can find evidence that actual women held official positions of church officership. Professor Greg Horsley of Macquarie University, Australia, has kindly supplied us with the following partial list of references to women in church leadership.
Junia, the female companion of Andronicus, has the unique distinction (for one of her sex) of being referred to by St. Paul as an apostle (Romans 16:7). Although she was one of Paul’s relatives, coming to faith ahead of her more famous kinsman, we know but little about her ministry.
We have a tradition of spiritual revolutionaries – women of intense reconstructionistic convictions who were devout in their inner lives. The pages of history bear records of female champions of the faith who were called to transform their society – who knew how to balance social activity with inner solitude.
The God presented by the biblical authors and worshipped in the Church today cannot be regarded as having gender, any more than God can be regarded as having race or color. In recognizing this truth, we will be more free to use inclusive metaphors for God.
Are people sick of reading novels that portray women as either victims or villains? Are Christians fed up with fiction that stereotypes believers as simply helplessly innocent or hopelessly immoral? Is the major, moral, middle-class reader in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain growing weary of nearly exclusively seeing endless images of the sinister minister, churlish "church lady", and the dishonest deacon?
The one hundred and ninety-seventh letter of Gregory of Nazianzus, addressed to Gregory of Nyssa, contains a message of consolation over the death of Theosebeia, who has apparently been his colleague in the Gospel ministry. “Theosebeia, actually the priestess and colleague of a priest and equally honored and equally worthy of the Great Sacraments.”
I flushed with embarrassment. Desire for a soul-mate was something I felt all too keenly, but something I talked about with only a few close friends. Although I looked for him, the man of my dreams had not ridden – on a horse or in a sports car – over the horizon. For my emotional survival, desire was, then and for several years, something to repress.