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.
It matters that Mary and Jesus are often inaccurately imaged with light skin in the West. It matters that pastors preach on Jacob, David, and Peter but not Rahab, Tamar, and Priscilla. And it matters that, Sunday after Sunday, women don’t see preachers who look like us in the pulpit.
This is the story of the Samaritan woman's conversion. It is also the story of her empowerment. She is transformed from a woman who sees merely a thirsty man before her to one who knows that man as Messiah of the world. It is the testimony of a Samaritan woman, a spectator on the outside looking in, that bears witness to an entire village.
The integral inclusion of women in the life of the church continued after the death of the apostles. Preferring rejection, torture, and even death to renouncing their faith, women served Christ as missionaries, scholars, and pilgrims. Women were also noted among the martyrs of the early church, and their astounding courage and faith changed the world.
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.
Although there may have been many female prophets in Old Testament times, five receive specific mention. Two of these, the prophetess who bears the son named Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz (Is. 8:3) and the prophetess Noadiah who is associated with opponents of Nehemiah (Neh. 6:14), receive brief mention and do not perform the tradition roles of prophecy. The remaining woman prophets, Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah, proclaim God’s Word at critical times in the history of the Old Testament people of God.
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?”
When Minneapolis-based calligrapher and graphic designer Diane von Arx Anderson was invited to work on The Saint John’s Bible, the first handwritten illuminated Bible in 500 years, it did not ever cross her mind to refuse.