Not many people realize that the Salvation Army is a denomination as well as a charity. From its small start, the Salvation Army has grown to a membership of 1.7 million people and counting. It could be called one of history’s most successful egalitarian church plants.
While some Christians rationalize sexism and patriarchy by appealing to the “plain reading” of Scripture, others instinctively question whether what they see on the pages of Scripture is a faithful and consistent translation of the original text. At stake is something much more costly than a statue; we risk living our lives based on distortions of Scripture, which, in turn, justify a Christianity centered not on Christ but on male rule.
Two Bible translations from the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were the solo efforts of women scholars. Let me introduce you to Julia Evelina Smith (1792–1886) and Helen Barrett Montgomery (1861–1934).
Today, the Church persecutes some Christians simply for believing God equally gifts men and women. These persecuted Christians believe so earnestly in the truth of biblical equality that they are willing to stand firm and accept loss rather than turn their backs on that belief.
A believing coworker recently commented on her intellectual agreement with biblical equality. But she went on to explain that she would not personally want a woman as pastor, simply because that is not what she is accustomed to seeing.
Greater awareness of Mary Magdalene’s exceptional role in the events surrounding Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection and her leadership in the early church should not only help us do justice to her memory but also inspire us in our struggle for gender equality.