Possible reasons why we could answer yes to that question, not necessarily in order of importance.
- We encourage separate men’s and women’s meetings, rallies, conferences etc.
- We encourage separate men’s and women’s study Bibles and Bible helps.
- We encourage specialist speakers to separate male and female audiences.
- We encourage the genre of exclusive male to male and female to female authors.
- We encourage male supremacy and primacy within marriage and family.
- We encourage marital role separateness when we promote hierarchy as a marriage model.
- We encourage the language of biological differentiation when we talk of his needs, her needs.
- We encourage difference between the sexes through accepting the thesis of books like, “Men are from Mars – Women are from Venus.”
- We encourage segregation and individualism by all of the above which leads to dissatisfaction and the breakdown of balanced gender relationships, including marriage and family.
By contrast, instead of difference, or exclusiveness, the language of the New Testament is that of inclusiveness. There is no theology of pink and blue in the NT. The NT scriptures are addressed to believers generally, not to genders specifically. While instructions are given to husbands, wives, children, slaves and slave owners these instructions are to be culturally considered. Most often they are in the form of encouragements or admonitions to specific people groups or situations that contain spiritual principles as opposed to being seen, or taken on board, as direct commands from God.
This is not to say that women’s and men’s meetings or gender specific study Bibles do not have their place or are not, by and large, extremely helpful, given the context. They all have and do fulfill a purpose – but it would be far better to have this information shared across the gender divide so that men and women do not become so mutually exclusive as so often happens. We could be seen, albeit unintentionally, to be creating a church of gender division.
Perhaps instead of accentuating difference we should be celebrating our similarities. I’m sure we can agree that there is far more we can celebrate than the things which divide. While some may disagree, it is my belief that many of our differences are culturally adapted rather than biblically mandated. In that respect we should be celebrating our common aims for love, understanding, forgiveness, acceptance etc. For relationships and marriages to survive we need the support of inclusiveness. It is only in this way that we can develop helpful consideration and cooperation between the sexes that more accurately portrays the biblical model of mutuality.
Can we expect that our churches will undergo this kind of transformational culture shift in our generation?