My journey towards egalitarianism began with a search for two things: practicality and consistency. I struggled to reconcile them in the biblical interpretation process, and often felt that one was at odds with the other, particularly in 1 Corinthians 14.
While it sounds virtuous, and is appealing to those who would like to believe that involved fathering is the answer to all society’s ills, the idea that any human being, apart from Christ himself, can take spiritual responsibility for another has no place in historic, biblically-based Christian doctrine.
What the example of Deborah reveals about gender authority: As women have gained increased influence in society, and as Bible scholars offer a consistent egalitarian interpretation of Scripture, gender traditionalists have had to work harder and more creatively to justify the subordination of women within the church and family—even to themselves.
The women’s Bible study I was attending was going through A Woman After God’s Own Heart by Elizabeth George, one of those guides to “biblical womanhood” that offered a few good insights, but mostly just made me feel guilty and inadequate about my fledgling homemaking skills. Something about the theology seemed off, but as a young mom, I took the older, more experienced women’s words to heart.
“So, how do you handle dowries in the United States?” I blinked at the young Anglican priest in surprise. It was the second day of the Ekklesia Foundation for Gender Education’s (EFOGE) training event in Bondo, Kenya, where a group of schoolteachers, clergy, and church leaders had gathered to talk about biblical equality and discuss how to implement CBE’s curriculum, Called Out!, in Kenyan schools. But the conversation never stayed strictly within the confines of the curriculum, and that morning’s impassioned debate about dowries was the talk of the lunch line.
Women are natural communicators. No one doubts this, really, and a quick, unscientific glance at the blogosphere confirms the female desire to enter into the conversation about important issues impacting our world. But why are so many of these bubbling female voices still running underground, or being siphoned off into their own little “women’s quarters” of Christian society?
I was miffed. I had requested Jim Henderson's upcoming book,The Resignation of Eve, expecting a fiery egalitarian polemic about how limiting women's roles is driving women away from the church--a premise supported by recent research from Barna indicating that women, as a group, are abandoning the church faster than men. Instead, I found myself immersed in a series of interviews that sounded an awful lot like the conversations I have over chocolate chip muffins and watery Folgers at my weekly women's Bible studies. And frankly, after 15 years of involvement in women's ministries, the last thing I wanted to read about was one more woman expressing insecurity about her gifts and ambivalence about her position in her church.