I once had a conversation with a friend, Susan (name has been changed), who had done an experiment in a meeting with several colleagues. They were all on the same level in the hierarchy of their organization, but Susan had observed something about gender dynamics in their meetings. Despite men making up less than 50 percent of the members of the meetings, they were taking up far more than 50 percent of the time given to people voicing ideas.
The most prominent indicator of whether a female will be trafficked, killed as a fetus, abused in her family, or denied food, healthcare, legal support, or an education is not her gender but the value a society attributes to females compared to males. Known as the girl effect, researchers show that when communities esteem both males and females and invest in their potential equally, these communities are less likely to encounter suffering and are more likely to enjoy flourishing.
In 1989, the government of India issued a stamp finally acknowledging a woman that Hindu India did not want to recognize. Her name was Pandita Ramabai (1858–1922), and this stamp was issued on the one hundredth anniversary of the founding of the Mukti Mission, a place of refuge she founded in 1889 for low-caste and outcaste girls who were trafficked and abused. I would like to introduce some thoughts on Ramabai’s work during the great bubonic plague pandemic which struck the world, and especially India, between 1896 and 1918.
Over the years I have heard many stories like Susie’s, where a church’s response to abuse was wholly inadequate, where some misunderstood the serious nature of domestic abuse, and where they were paralyzed to act. When Restored, a Christian charity working to end domestic abuse, raised awareness with churches on the prevalence of domestic abuse in the UK, some responded with disbelief.
My professional career as a lawyer has influenced the way that I read the Bible. Lawyers investigate human behavior like scientists investigate the natural world, looking for the explanation that best fits all the available data. What happens when we apply that approach to the puzzle of 1 Corinthians 14:34–35? These verses say, “The women should be silent in the assemblies. For it is not permitted to them to speak but they should be put in subjection as also the Law says.
The local church is a present outpost of the future, coming kingdom of God. This kingdom is unlike any the earth has known; it is led by Christ, and all are living in harmony with his will and his ways. The church is composed of living examples of God’s holy plan for human life and relationships. When Christian men and women work together to plant churches, their cooperation becomes a compelling witness to God’s goodness and grace.
In this article, we will explore the story of Tamar from Genesis 38 as a transforming woman from the Old Testament. After her husband dies, Tamar appears to be a helpless woman, but she knows that she has a right to have a son and does not easily give up on the idea despite the intentional oppression she receives from her father-in-law. Tamar’s appearance in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus demonstrates the importance of this woman in the story of salvation (Matt. 1:3).
What Christians believe about men and women matters to the literal survival of the church. That’s not just an interesting hypothesis. At Open Doors International, it’s our job (our being Helene and Elizabeth) to answer the how, why, and what-can-we-do-about-it questions about gender and religious persecution. By investigating the gender-specific aspects of religious persecution, we’ve uncovered the complex and detrimental impact that gender stereotypes and inequalities have on the stability of the Christian church under pressure for their faith.
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.
Editor's Note: This is one of the Top 15 CBE Writing Contest winners. Enjoy!