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Biblical Equality 101

Today marks the final installment in CBE's Women's History Wednesday series. We opened the series by exploring the ways history has tried to erase women. We followed up with three articles on history-making egalitarian women. In this final installment, we'll lay a path for courageous advocacy in the tradition of the bold leaders who walked this path before us.  I’ve been invested in equal rights for women in the church since I could talk. At eight years-old, I made a tape recording of myself preaching the gospel to imaginary people. Like a good Presbyterian, my persuasive sermon tackled original sin: “Adam and Eve became sinners, and we became sinners, too!” My little girl voice rings out on the recording with passionate fury. I was full of hellfire and... Read more
This article was first published with Missio Alliance. Do egalitarians overlook the deeper truths of Scripture to promote social-economic equality? Does our commitment to biblical gender equality render us secular wolves dressed as biblical lambs? In “The Bible Never Says All Men Are Created Equal: How the New Testament Offers A Higher Calling Than the Declaration of Independence,” Andrew Wilson wonders why Galatians 3:28 is so often cited as the biblical basis for gender equality when the Greek term for equality, equity, and fairness (isotes) is strangely missing from this passage. The question of oneness According to Wilson, Scripture does not teach that Jews are equal to Gentiles; that slaves are equal to masters; or that women are equal to men. For Wils... Read more
Recently, a friend asked me an unexpected question. “Do you identify first as a Christian or as a feminist?” I was surprised by but not unprepared for her question. I’d considered it before, and the answer is complicated. Stick with me here. Many Christians believe that Christianity and feminism are incompatible. But this assumption is drawn from biased definitions of both feminism and Christianity. Some Christians have an extremely negative perception of feminism. Feminism conjures up images of angry, man-hating, bra-burning women fighting for unnecessary ends. After all, they argue, what more do women need when they can work outside the home and vote? They believe that women are already equal, but need to accept their different roles. With this skewed definition of f... Read more
We just saw the end of January, the month of fresh starts and new beginnings. For many Christians, it also marks the beginning of an attempt to read the Bible in its entirety, from Genesis to Revelation, in a year. In light of that, I’d like to cover a few basic egalitarian principles that can help us read and understand the Bible. In the past, reading Scripture was difficult for me because I was taught that Genesis established a God-ordained hierarchy between men and women in which men ruled. This complementarian understanding of Genesis led me to believe that the subsequent biblical accounts were evidence of God’s desire for strict gender roles and male leadership.  I couldn’t reconcile why God would create women in his image only to will that they be ruled by me... Read more
In the past few years, numerous people have asked me why I make such a big deal about gender equality. Have I experienced such extreme inequality? What traumatic experience drives my activism? Why am I so passionate and outspoken about this issue? People often assume that a tragic event in my personal life led to this behavior. I am not sure what they have in mind, but I have seen: Women discouraged from and not chosen for church leadership Men and women shamed for not fitting culturally-defined gender roles Exclusion born from semantics and titles Sexual harassment such as groping, leering, and unwanted comments Women shrinking themselves to be more socially acceptable, both inside and outside the church I have witnessed all of the above examples of gender inequality... Read more
In the last few years, it has become popular for people (especially celebrities) to identify as “feminists” on the secular stage. While this may sound like a positive trend, it has effectively rendered the term “feminist” meaningless. Anyone can join the club. You can be a pornographer or hold deeply sexist attitudes toward women while simultaneously self-identifying as a “gender equality advocate” because you supposedly “love women.” But this version of equality doesn’t threaten the status quo, it reinforces it.   Defining feminism as an ambiguous ideology of “equality” may destigmatize the movement and get more people on the bandwagon, but doing so also neutralizes its power. Patriarchy, power, and privilege will c... Read more
I’d like to correct some of the most common false assumptions about egalitarian theology. I hear these a lot, but they’re simply not true. 1. Egalitarians don’t respect Scripture. It’s time to debunk the notion that egalitarians do not uphold the authority of Scripture. That we do not have a wild, reverent love for the Good Book. Egalitarianism is an interpretation of Scripture. So is complementarianism. And when we interpret Scripture, we do it with the millstone of bias around our necks, the same millstone the skewed the interpretations of Augustine, Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, CS Lewis, Óscar Romero, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa, Sojourner Truth, Aimee Semple McPherson, and every Christian who has ever lived. Even these giants of th... Read more
Did you know that there are twice as many women academics in the secular academy as in the Christian academy? Worse, women comprise only about six percent of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS). And despite a recent study exposing the shaming experiences of ETS women, some members of ETS passed a resolution that identified gender as the basis of personal identity for Christians. Without actually defining "manhood" or "womanhood," the resolution asserts that the essential or fundamental characteristics of gender are more formative and definitive for Christian identity than our spiritual renewal in Christ. It is not our newness of life in Christ, our journey as Christian disciples, or our corporate service that form Christian identity but the "dist... Read more
This is the second in a series of posts on the concept of headship in the Christian church and community. The articles will offer a clear outline and critique of the headship practice and system and will further explore the consequences of headship on men, women, relationships, the church, and the broader world. Catch up with Part 1, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5 of the Headship Madness series. “Headship” in large sectors of American evangelicalism functions as a theo-political tool. It is the means by which competition in relationships—at home, work, school, and church—is quickly and effectively eliminated. It is also a flexible tool, conveniently subjective according to the one who wields it. Headship therefore takes on a number of faces, manifestat... Read more
This is the first in a series of posts on the concept of headship in the Christian church and community. The articles will offer a clear outline and critique of the headship practice and system and will further explore the consequences of headship on men, women, relationships, the church, and the broader world. Catch up with Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.  “Headship” in American evangelical Christianity is probably most popularly known as an amalgam of ideas and attitudes related to male authority, control, and power, especially in the context of marriage. Although there are various paradigms surrounding the concept, the “complementarian” or “traditional” model(s) might very well stand out as the most influential and common—though this... Read more

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