In the so-called “conservative resurgence” currently seeking to divide Baptist loyalties, the initial “line in the sand” was the inerrancy slogan, which was dropped when it proved too ambiguous to define and enforce. In its place as a litmus test of loyalty was put the subordination of women, first in the home and then in the church, in the form of a 1998 family amendment and 2000 revision of the Baptist Faith & Message.
Dismayed and confused by constant concerns about safety for girls and exclusion of women from church leadership, Faith Martin began a journey searching for theological developments regarding such demeaning views of women. Other studies of women in the church, such as Ruth Tucker and Walter Liefeld’s Daughters of the Church, reveal a consistent disparagement of women since the third century. Interpretations of NT household codes favoring male authority have often been cited to support such practices. These interpretations bear two kinds of illusions. One implies that church membership is predominantly male. The more serious concern is that presumptions of superiority and inferiority contradict the gospel message of love and grace, the good news of setting the oppressed free. Therefore, a proper theological hermeneutic of the NT household codes demands the inclusion of cultural dimensions.
In the article, “Sharing in the Divine Nature: Transformation, Koinonia and the Doctrine of God,” LeRon Shults notes three important late-modern developments in the doctrine of God: the retrieval of divine Infinity, the revival of Trinitarian doctrine, and a renewed conceptualization of God as primal Futurity.These developments were facilitated in part by a shift in ontology from a substance metaphysic to a metaphysic of relationality.
Female leadership in the CIMC is one of the fruits of the new growing Church in Mainland China. As the Church in Mainland China grows and becomes stronger in its unique cultural soil and environment, the new church system and theology will not only be shaped with its life and truth from the Bible, but also with a different beauty and a stronger power than those of the traditional church in the world.
In my life journey as an Asian American woman who has lived in two cultures—in the post-colonial milieu of a country in the developing world and in the post-modern setting of cities like Boston, I have gradually begun to embrace the meaning of that recurrent dream. It resonates with the universal search for identity, with the promise and peril of leaving home, and, finally, with the understanding that even the unsorted pieces of every life are ultimately part of God’s gift.
As a scholar of rhetoric and as a Pentecostal Christian, I notice that, although rhetoric and religion embody quite different theoretical perspectives, rhetoric, religion, and gender collide when we examine who is given the authority to speak and who is believed within the church.