The CBE Scroll presents “Learning to Thrive”, a five-part series that will feature stories from members of CBE’s “Thrive” Chapter at Biola University in Southern California. We hope this will serve as an encouragement to all of you and deepen your understanding of the true meaning of the Gospel! Today we will hear from Ronald Pierce, a member of the chapter, longtime CBE member, and editor of Discovering Biblical Equality.
I grew up in a traditional Christian family in the 1950s. My father was expected to be the leader and provider, while my mother was to be the homemaker who reared the children (six of us). And, we generally assumed that men should take the lead in the small Church of the Brethren we attended in rural Pennsylvania.
Years later, when my wife Pat and I married in 1969, there was an unspoken assumption that I would give leadership to our relationship and accept the responsibilities that came with “the man’s role.” It was the only model we had witnessed in our respective homes. The arrangement seemed to work fairly well. More importantly, we thought it was biblical, although neither of us had really studied the issue.
I did not begin to study the Scriptures in earnest regarding this topic until my ﬁrst year of teaching Bible and theology at Biola University in Southern California in the mid-1970s. It was a tumultuous era in the wake of the secular movement for racial and gender equality that had reached a boiling point in the 1960s.
The topic of gender “roles” came up naturally in a class I taught at that time on the biblical idea of “church.” Soon it became an area of special interest that I have chosen to address regularly and more seriously ever since. I teamed up recently with twenty-ﬁve other biblical and theological scholars to publish a full-length academic text on the subject, called Discovering Biblical Equality (InterVarsity, 2005). Shortly after, I wrote a short paperback of my own for a more general audience titled Partners in Marriage & Ministry (Christians for Biblical Equality, 2011).
I’ve spoken at schools, churches, conferences, debates, and dialogues for over twenty-ﬁve years. Gender equality remains a major emphasis in my thinking, research, writing, and personal life.
This study eventually led me down a road that has not always been predictable. Both my background and the era in which I lived forced me to search the Scriptures afresh like the ancient Bereans (Acts 17:11), to rethink the position I had taken for granted for so long. In the end, I discovered that the Bible teaches a shared relationship of mutuality, an equal though diverse partnership between women and men in marriage, singleness and ministry.
Yes, God created humanity as male and female in the divine image. And, as such, we have beneﬁcial—though widely varying—differences from one individual to another. But, I can ﬁnd no evidence in Scripture that God intended for only men to lead and women to follow. Rather, the unity and diversity shared by both should be characterized by mutual submission in the body of Christ, in both the church and the home.