When the curtain on male headship is pulled back, it shrinks from the light of logic and truth. Consider the most recent defense of male headship by John Piper. He offers three reasons why he believes it will endure, but in pulling the curtain back, we find each deeply flawed.
One of the key issues faced by women in the church is the lack of provision for ongoing leadership development. Even in churches that espouse gender equality, women woefully lack leadership opportunities, especially on the platform.
We can follow these examples of radical acts of loving by making small choices each day: recognizing someone else’s pain before yelling at them for being too needy; giving someone the benefit of the doubt before jumping to conclusions; forgiving someone who has disappointed us.
(Adapted from a paper given at the 2007 annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society)
My interest in women and missions of the 1800s is reinvigorated, of late, by a number of experiences I’ve had lecturing at Christian colleges and seminaries around the county. When invited to speak for chapel services, I make an effort to learn something about the school, particularly the achievements of the founders and their graduates. In doing so, I have discovered the vast number of women alumni, who were also leaders on the mission field in the United States and abroad. And, they had the full support of the school’s founders. As I include these findings when I lecture, I am often surprised at the responses I receive… some of these Christian colleges appear almost embarrassed to learn of the number of women who held positions of significant leadership and who were trained in this capacity by their institution.
At its yearly convention, the largest Protestant denomination in America passed a statement opposing abortion, pornography, homosexuality — and female pastors. For Southern Baptist leaders, these issues hang together. They assume that on their side of the culture war, Christians must oppose these practices as a piece.
To understand 1 Timothy 2, we need to overcome our blindness to women. We need to see Priscilla, a wise and strong leader and teacher; Artemis, the goddess whose female-centered religion would have normalized female religious dominance; the unqualified women usurping authority and spreading false teachings; and those being deceived by those teachings.
Throughout history, charismatic men and women of God have risen up, almost out of nowhere, to lead spiritual movements and shape theological discourse. These leaders often build churches and large followings before the institutional church pulls them in for a chat. The air is tense, awkward. At some point in the conversation someone asks a deceptively simple question: “Who gives you the authority to do the work you are doing?”
That woman was taken out of man is a recognition that she stands on equal footing with him. This was a beautiful, creative act of God that communicated that man’s suitable helper, the one actually fit for him, would come from him.