Cultures of hierarchy maintain authority by claiming ontological distinction. The power and dominance inherent in hierarchy, which directly conflict with ontological equality, perpetuates abuse. This session will examine the abuse that results from hierarchical human relationships and the biblical response to dominance.
The church in Africa has not been able to name and shame sexual harassment and abuse in society in general or in Christian families specifically. The silence has led to untold misery for sexual harassment survivors. In order for the church to remain credible in society, it must name and challenge sexual harassment, and must offer safe places for survivors of the same to find healing and wholeness.
Some areas of sexual violence have been perpetuated by cultural practices like wife inheritance (a male relative inheriting his kinsman’s wife after he dies). While on the surface the church seemed to challenge cultural practices, this has not been the case with practices that have been sexual and which largely affect women. Wife inheritance and gender prejudice is a major contributing factor to the spread of HIV and AIDS.
The Bible presents a three-part story of human relationship with God and with each other. This story reveals that both man and woman were created equally in the image of God to fulfill an ideal—a “one flesh,” “naked and not ashamed” relationship. That was the crowning act of creation. The second part of the story recounts our fall from grace and the loss of the fearless love for which God created us. The final chapter of the story finds us redeemed, restored to wholeness with God and with each other, a new man and new woman, restored to new life in Christ.
As a change agent in the community, the body of Christ must come to an understanding of the biblical concept of the image of God. An understanding of humanity as the bearer of that image—regardless of any classification society or culture might impose—is intrinsic to the church’s engagement in seeking justice.
Too often the patriarchy of Bible culture has been confused with the moral teachings of Scripture. This workshop will explore how Christians working to end slavery challenged power, dominance, and self-interest in interpreting Scripture so that the church might become more effective agents of reconciliation in the world. What might egalitarians today learn from the interpretative methods of the abolitionists in their work as agents of gender justice?