“Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image…So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27)
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
In the beginning, before sin entered the world and the world was exactly how God created it to be, there was equality within humankind. Male and female were equal, they were both a part of God’s original design for humankind and they were both created in his image. As Genesis recounts in chapter 2, male may have been created first, but female was not an after thought, she was part of the original design. Eve was created as Adam’s helper, as a way to complete him, as his equal. The word helper that is used in Genesis 2 is the same word that is used to describe God in various passages in the Old Testament. Helper was not a subordinate role, it was a term of honor and prestige. It wasn’t until sin entered the world in chapter 3 that a subordination among genders took place. Subordination and grasping after power are a result of the fall.
In Galatians Paul points us toward a new reality, a Kingdom reality. In the Kingdom everyone is equal and has access to God. Economic boundaries, racial boundaries, and even gender boundaries are torn down. In the Kingdom we are all equal. And while the Kingdom has not fully come, as Christians we have the opportunity to witness to the coming Kingdom and live a Kingdom reality now. We have the opportunity to tear down barriers that have been erected by sin and confusion and misunderstandings. And we have the chance to right wrongs.
One particular wrong that has gone on in my own heritage (church of Christ) has centered around the role of women in worship and leadership. Traditionally the understanding of scripture has been that women are not allowed to participate publicly in worship or take any position of formal leadership. This has not been malicious in any way, but was a misunderstanding of scripture. As studies have advanced it is becoming clearer that women played a much more important and formal role in the early church than has traditionally been understood. Add to these new understandings the desire for Christians to live into the Kingdom reality and it should be clear that the tradition needs to change. However, while studies and understandings have advanced, practice has not.
For the most part churches of Christ do not practice gender equality. Because churches of Christ have no governing body change can only take place on a local level. Some congregations have moved towards gender equality, however, these examples are few and far between. Too many congregations are lagging behind. Often the lag is because of tradition. Many leaders are proud of their collective heritage and tradition and don’t want to change too quickly. This would be fine if gender equality and women’s role was a tradition issue. However, it is not, it is a justice issue. Women in our churches are being treated as second class citizens. Women, who have been given gifts from God to edify and encourage the church are not being allowed to use their gifts. There is no equality, and it is not a matter of tradition, it is a matter of justice. It is time for men to stand up for our sisters and ask for and lead towards change.
Enter the 1 Voice 4 Change movement. This is a movement that is trying to find a non-violent way to press the issue. They are calling on churches to address gender equality, to not wait another two or four years, but to address it now. Yes, change happens slowly, but it will not change without conversations beginning. It is time to raise our voice. Since there is no governing body in churches of Christ the movement is asking for regional lectureships to begin the process by allowing women to be keynote speakers in the hopes that this will begin conversations that are needed for change. This is not an effort to divide, it is an effort to unite behind a Kingdom mentality that recognizes and utilizes the gifts of all. To find out more information about the movement go to http://www.1voice4change.com
I will admit that for too long I have remained quite. I’ve believed in gender equality and have spoken for it in safe circles, but have been afraid to speak too loudly. I confess this as sin and ask for forgiveness. I am lending my voice to the movement in the hopes that we can non-violently push for change and allow our sisters to find justice. My hope is that as more of us find the courage to speak up conversations can begin and change can take place. And may we all live into the reality in which there are neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, Male or Female, but all are one in Christ Jesus.