Editor’s Note: Jon and Carol Trott are members of Jesus People USA (JPUSA) in Chicago, a group of believers practicing gender-equal relationships while living in community and working in ministry. Living with 500 other people gives the Trotts a unique perspective on gender roles in relationships and in the church.
Q: What is unique about male/female relationships within the JPUSA community?
Carol: Many of the men do laundry. Wasn’t that supposed to be a woman’s job? Men in our community certainly share the raising of children — changing diapers, babysitting, anything that’s needed. Also, we all focus on treating each other with respect, dignity and godliness and don’t raise questions based solely on gender.
Jon: Our ideas about male/female relationships are rooted in the Scriptures emphasized by most evangelicals, along with the stories of Sarah and Abraham, Ruth and Boaz, and the Shulammite and the shepherd. Those examples show us that men and women were meant to be equal partners, but sin caused a male-dominant hierarchy to take shape. Christ overcame the domination of sin so we are now, as believers, free to submit one to the other, seeking the other’s good — not just our own. Perhaps the great gift of community is to realize how needy each of us is.
Q: What is your personal experience with gender equality in leadership and marriage?
Jon: I experienced Dawn Mortimer’s leadership as she edited Cornerstone Magazine until 2001. Her strong leadership and philosophy of “people first, task second” showed me the potential quality of female leadership. However, as strong as my belief is, the flesh dies hard. The human inclination to dominate or avoid being dominated gets in the way of loving one another.
Carol: I originally thought that women were always supposed to submit to men, as long as the man wasn’t leading the woman into sin. I thought that since someone had to make final decisions, it should be the man’s job. Jon and I are growing into a different understanding. We are learning to submit and listen to each other, but it is a constant, life-long lesson.
Q: What advice can you share with those on a journey to understanding how God might use women and men?
Jon: It is important to remember that focusing on titles and job descriptions is a huge destructive force in allowing true leadership to emerge. At JPUSA most leadership makes itself known before any title is conferred. People step out and start leading, in big things and in very small things. True leadership ought to come out of love for God, love for one’s sisters and brothers, and affirmed ability in the particular field of ministry. I think the church should encourage members to be proactive, to come up with creative ministry opportunities on their own.
Carol: All people are equal in the eyes of God. He loves each one of us dearly. God has the ability to do this because he is God. It is all a matter of submitting to him, and receiving his love and grace. We are called to seek him wholeheartedly, surrender to him, and use our gifts and talents for him, individually and in community.