Monday, June 04, 2012

How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership

This week's posts join in the theme of Rachel Held Evans' blog this week:  One in Christ:  A Week of Mutuality.

I'm currently reading How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership, edited by Alan F. Johnson.  Instead of my usual speed-reading through books, I'm taking in the words slowly, savoring the stories that these evangelical women and men tell about the experiences that helped to change their minds from believing that women should not be leaders to believing that women should be leaders.  Although I have always believed it was fine for women to be leaders, there was a time when I had some doubt because I attended a church for a while in which it was not fine.  I wrote a little bit about it here, and there will be more to come about it this week.

While at the time of writing this post I have only read about one-third of the stories in the book, they offer hope to my heart that people will continue to change their minds and recognize and affirm that the gifts God bestows on people are not based on gender.  For many of these authors, it was a long journey fraught with soul-searching, prayer, and a deep desire to be faithful to both scripture and to God.

In the foreword of the book, Dallas Willard writes "those gifted by God for any ministry should serve in the capacities enabled by their gift, and human arrangements should facilitate their service and provide them the opportunities to serve.  There is no suggestion whatsoever in Scripture or the history of Christ's people that the gifts of the Spirit are distributed along gender lines...You have to put the fact that, in discussing the distribution and ministry of gifts by the Spirit, nothing is said about gender, alongside the fact that many men who manifestly are not supernaturally gifted are allowed to serve in official roles.  Then you realize that official leadership roles, as widely understood now, are as much human artifacts as they are a divine arrangement."  (pages 10-11).

The stories in this book express the struggles people had with scripture.  How could women not be leaders, and yet belong to a priesthood of all believers?  How could it be acknowledged that the verses about slavery were cultural, yet the verses about women leaders were not?  How could Christ be a liberator, but not when it comes to women?  What is headship and submission all about?  What is the big picture?

In Stanley N. Gundry's story, he writes that many hierarchicalists cannot actually decide on what women can and cannot do and under what circumstances.  He says "the only thing that hierarchicalists agree on is that it is the men who get to tell women what they can do"  (page 100).  He also writes that before the fall, Adam and Eve were full partners, and it is only after the fall that "it morphed from one of equality and complementarity to one of male dominination and patriarchy."  (page 102).  Imagine that.  The way that many would have us structure our lives is a way that is affected by sin.

I appreciate that the men and women who tell their stories in this book do so with honesty about their struggles with the issue.  Often, when we take a position, it is easy to just say what we think without explaining how we got there or to take a position on an issue before we have truly struggled with it.  But it is in the progression of our journeys that our lives are transformed.

And isn't transformation of our lives what Christianity is about?


Jean said...

I just bought this book for my Kindle! I'm excited to read it. Thanks for the recommendation.

Kelly said...

Great! I hope you love it as much I do! I've had my husband read a couple of the stories so far and he said he'd never really thought about it much because it wasn't really something that ever affected him.