Could it be that the complementarian notion of “biblical womanhood” (especially the claim that women’s distinct personhood makes no room for women as teachers and leaders of men) is a recent, Western perspective?
Cicero said: “Who knows only their own generation remains always a child.”  We gain extraordinary vitality from the stories of Christian women and men who came before us. In fact, our advocacy for women in ministry leans heavily on their stories. Few are better suited to bring this history to life than Dr. Paul Chilcote, author of more than twenty books and publications on the subject. For thirty-five years, he has amplified the history of women’s leadership in the church with his work.
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.
Maria Woodworth Etter, known both as the Trance Evangelist and the Mother of the Pentecostal movement, lived and preached in an era when women were required to be silent in church and submit to their husbands.
Please know that each issue of Priscilla Papers is a team effort. In addition to CBE staff both female and male, our team of peer reviewers consists of six women and five men. Women influence every item we publish.
This issue of Priscilla Papers opens with a sermon by Tracey Stringer, Pastor of Spiritual Formation at New City Church of Los Angeles. It is a Mother’s Day sermon, and we have printed it here so it will be available in time for Mother’s Day.
This issue of Priscilla Papers includes an article by Abigail Dolan titled, “Imagining a Feminine God.” Abby’s article was among the winners of CBE International’s 2017 student paper competition. The other winners, also published here, are Haley Gabrielle and Nikki Holland. In this issue you will also read articles on 1 Peter 3 by John Nugent and on wealthy women of the NT era by Margaret Mowczko.
In this article, Margaret Mowczko looks at the social dynamic of class, a dynamic that typically trumped gender. She also looks at what the NT says about particular women who were wealthy. Her hope is that this discussion will present a broader, more authentic view, beyond limited stereotypes, of the place and participation of certain women in the first-century church.
Someone ought to count the women of the Bible. More to the point, someone ought to count them accurately. I mention this because a quick Internet search reveals significant disparity in the various numbers people give for the women in the Bible. I should not criticize, however, for several difficulties make such counting an impossible task.