Genesis 1 perfectly illustrates God’s mutual design for men and women:
Then God said, "Let us make people in our image, to be like ourselves. They will be master over all life—the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the livestock, wild animals, and small animals” (NLT).
We were meant to reign together and yet, the world subjugates women of all colors to men, stripping them of their authority, power, and influence. And it can all be traced back to a misinterpretation of God’s good vision for humanity after the fall.
God's original design was mutual; it gave male and female shared dominion over the earth, not over each other. God commanded the first humans to co-exercise their power—to responsibly rule and care for creation. The consequences were severe when humanity, tempted by Satan, did not implement God’s holy plan for dominion in the garden.
Post-fall, women have been marginalized, oppressed, and exploited on a global scale. Many women are taught to see themselves as weaker vessels—by the very body God designed for their good. The church regularly excludes women from decision-making tables and dismisses their God-given authority.
We must widen the reach of egalitarian theology in the church until all women are affirmed as co-heirs and their God-given authority for dominion recognized. We must image not the fall in our churches, but God’s original vision for shared leadership and responsibility. Here are eight ways we can promote that good plan.
1. Actively support women who are called and gifted for leadership, and intentionally place them in authority.
Women who exhibit leadership abilities and women who exercise spiritual authority are often shunned by men and sometimes even mocked by other women in the church. Since Genesis, we have witnessed the destructive consequences for both women and men when we do not exercise mutual biblical authority on earth. To realize God’s vision for mutuality, we must recognize and celebrate women’s spiritual authority by appointing them to lead.
Nominate women to be chairs of church boards, pastors of churches, leaders in communities, and speakers at Christian conferences. Deliberately create and open spaces for women to lead. Financially support them, especially because there’s still an enormous disparity in how the church compensates women for their work compared to men.
2. Provide visuals of women in authority for young leaders.
Women often lack faith that they’re capable of stepping out of a patriarchal paradigm because of the absence of female role models, mentors, and leaders in the church. Positive visuals of women leading challenge that false perception. It’s important that young girls see women declaring God’s Word and carrying out gospel work. We can also illustrate women’s spiritual authority at home—for our children, our teens, our college-age students, and our spouses.
3. Make racial reconciliation a priority.
Women of color have suffered excruciating pain due to racial and gender divides in the church. The sin of racism persists globally. It has devastating consequences for the body of Christ, especially for women of color called to be pastors.
We must address racial discrimination in addition to gender discrimination, because both inhibit women of color from exercising authority and leading in the church. Racial justice will widen our message and our reach. Racial reconciliation is a vital step toward a healthier and fuller image of mutuality in the church, one that includes and empowers brothers and sisters of color.
4. Lovingly challenge a patriarchal system that encourages women’s silence.
Women are often expected to simply accept their marginalization in the church and in society. They can become trapped in a hopeless cycle of passivity if they aren’t encourage to actively reject patriarchal theology.
Modeling courage is very important. We must boldly correct and challenge injustice against women when we see it. However, biblical authority doesn't need to scream, demand, or get in people's faces. We can be firm and uncompromising in battling oppression while modeling our words and actions after Jesus.
5. Include the voices and stories of women of all colors, races, and cultural contexts.
When we tell a fuller story, all can see God’s gospel vision for mutuality and shared dominion. Visuals of mutual, multi-colored biblical authority prove there’s better way of life—for Christians of all backgrounds.
We should celebrate the humanity of women of all races and ethnicities who are called to positions of authority as pastors and leaders. The inclusion of diverse voices will not only increase the relevance of egalitarian theology, it will also widen our reach in a multi-cultural, multi-colored world.
6. Give women the resources they need to succeed.
God calls both men and women to serve the church. We only obey the call of God. However, women who are called and gifted by God for leadership often lack adequate resources to thrive. Words of affirmation are not enough. We must become active advocates in word and deed for women at every level of leadership in the church. We need to think outside the box as we work, practically, to empower women leaders.
7. Challenge the women around us to step into their callings.
Faith overcomes fear. Encourage women to be front and center—to be bold and very courageous. Let them know they can step into the light without fear because we are advocating for them and walking alongside them.
8. Pray for women leaders.
Finally, we need prayer warriors who will intercede for women leaders as we face the challenges ahead.
Together, we can widen our reach and our message by asking God to open minds and hearts to egalitarian theology.
Gricel will further address this topic in her workshop: "In It Together: Widening Our Reach and Our Message" at CBE's 2017 conference, "Mutual by Design." Gricel Medina will also offer a plenary lecture on "Reframing: An Architectural Design Thinking Process of 1 Corinthians 11:11-12." Gricel is just one of our many excellent speakers. For more information, visit our conference website. To register, click here.