Our theme for the summer issue of Mutuality intersects with our 2020 international conference in London, “Men, Women, and God: Theology and Its Impact,” which we have rescheduled for August 11–14, 2021. The timing of this issue may now feel strange, but we are excited to expand on these ideas with you. Our goal is to gather theologians, humanitarians, pastors, and social justice advocates to explore the connection between what we believe about women’s calling and gifting for leadership and how that impacts the way we work with and empower women around the world. We want this issue of Mutuality to introduce you to some of our speakers and the ideas we will address at the conference when it takes place.
As I edited these articles while sheltering in place, I have struggled with how a magazine can connect with the lives we’re currently leading—let alone articles for a deferred conference, a meeting intended to gather lots of people. I have wondered to myself whether we even still live in the same world where these articles were written. Some days, I am overcome with the disconnection I feel from the city where I live, friends and family, and even our mission as egalitarians. People are sick and dying, losing their jobs and livelihoods, and we are all grieving and in pain. Yet, I am reminded constantly of the ways that women are and will continue to bear the brunt of this pandemic, and I feel resolved to continue with the work of empowering women and men “to promote the biblical message that God calls women and men of all cultures, races, and classes to share authority equally in service and leadership in the home, church, and the world.” We need to work together now more than ever.
These articles were written explicitly to show you how everything is connected. What we believe, our theology, is not separate, not something we can compartmentalize away from how Christians minister to the problems of our world. In this issue, you will encounter articles that focus on interpreting the Bible with clarity to uplift women. Andrew Bartlett draws on his investigative skills as a lawyer to examine the puzzles we find in 1 Corinthians 14:34–35. His insightful study of the evidence for how this odd passage may have made it in our Bibles today gives us much to ponder. Grace Al-Zoughbi interprets Genesis 38, walking us through Tamar’s world and experiences to show us how Tamar subverted the patriarchal expectations of her community so that she could find justice for herself.
Other articles show us how our theology plays out in the lives of real women and men around the world. Helene Fisher and Elizabeth Lane Miller of Open Doors International introduce their research on gender-based religious persecution around the world. They illuminate the ways men and women are persecuted based on gender inequalities endorsed by their theology and culture. Jenn Williamson casts a vision for how to build equitable church-planting teams that include both women and men in leadership and evangelism. Mandy Marshall lays bare the truth of domestic violence in churches and shows us how our overly simple and glib responses about divorce hurt women with abusive husbands even more.
Finally, Boaz Johnson introduces us to Pandita Ramabai, an Indian Christian who founded Mukti Mission for low-caste and outcaste girls in India near the turn of the twentieth century. Ramabai’s life and work clearly demonstrates how our theology directly impacts the lives of girls and women. Her work was jumpstarted during the bubonic plague in India, and Ramabai has much to teach us about our present circumstances amid pandemic today. Ramabai is an outstanding model of how correct theology has the power to spiritually, socially, and physically liberate women and girls from danger and mistreatment.
I hope that as you read this issue, you and your loved ones are safe and well. But all is not safe and well in this world, and one of our sicknesses is a theology that keeps girls and women from realizing their full potential as beloved children of God. So, I also hope that these articles bring you some holy discomfort and show you the connection between dismantling theological patriarchy and the lived realities of women and girls and men and boys around the world.