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Published Date: June 5, 2015

Published Date: June 5, 2015

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Cover of "Created to Thrive".

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Editor’s Note: Becoming New

I stood with a coworker, staffing a booth at a convention of evangelical scholars. A booth advocating the shared leadership of men and women is not the most popular at this event, so most people just smile politely as they pass by. When a middle-aged man with an impressive mustache meandered over to our table, a glance at his nametag revealed an unfamiliar name, but I recognized the name of his predominantly complementarian school. I prepared to graciously explain our mission and presence at the conference.

He looked thoughtfully at our table for a few moments, and then spoke. “My daughters always ask me if I’m complementarian or egalitarian. I tell them I don’t know, but that what I do know is what happens when men and women work together side by side.”

He proceeded to explain that years ago, he and his wife felt like their lives were in a rut. They felt unfulfilled. One day, his wife said “I think God is calling us to move.” So they did, and their move opened up opportunities that have allowed them to serve in new ways that bring depth and fulfillment to their lives. He asked me, “What if I had dismissed what God spoke to her because she is a woman?” Answering his own question, he exclaimed, “We wouldn’t have obeyed God!”

I nodded in earnest agreement, but he wasn’t done. He had one more story. “I teach a philosophy class,” he said. “A few years ago, I began to co-teach it with a female colleague. I’d always gotten good student evaluations before, but since we started co-teaching, we get the highest ratings across the board, every semester.” I was impressed, but he still wasn’t done.

“Some students tell us when my colleague teaches, the material resonates with them in ways that it doesn’t when I teach. Other students connect better when I present. And that isn’t all,” he continued excitedly. “Students have told us that their lives have been changed. Three women have told us that through our class, they were delivered from eating disorders! And this isn’t a psychology class or a Bible class. It’s a philosophy class! I don’t know if I’m egalitarian or not, but I know this class didn’t transform lives until I co-taught with a woman.”

I was simultaneously stunned and thrilled. This professor’s story reminded me of the big picture. Advocating for the shared leadership of women and men isn’t about being right; it’s about enabling people everywhere to flourish as God intended. It’s about building a church that embodies newness and deliverance from sin and sorrow and pain.

Jesus came to make the world new, allowing us to overcome the sin that oppresses God’s beloved humanity. We are no longer slaves to patriarchy; rather, Jesus allows us to serve and lead according to our gifts. When we do, we become agents of God’s kingdom.

This issue is devoted to those stories that remind us not just that egalitarian leadership is biblical and right, but that God is using it to make the world new. Natasha Sistrunk Robinson recounts the spiritual leadership by which her mother transformed those around her. Pastor Brian Wiele argues that the leadership of women is critical to the flourishing of the church, pastor and blogger April Fiet tells how she and her husband came to be co-pastors, and Valerie Geer shares about discovering herself and her own experiences in the Bible’s narrative of redemption and newness. Then, Rev. Dr. Marilyn Bennett shares her reluctant journey toward ordination. And be sure to visit us online, where Jenny Baker imagines what a post-patriarchy world might look like.

If you’ve been following CBE’s activities for the last year or more, you’ll know that “Becoming New” is not only a Mutuality topic, but is the focus of CBE’s 2015 conference, to be held in Los Angeles. I hope to see you there so that together, we can explore deeply the implications of our being made new through Jesus Christ. I hope this issue of Mutuality is just the beginning of the conversations we’ll share.