Women in Ministry: Gender Equality thru Christ

Since the civil rights movement of the 1960’s women have been inspired to minister in the Church. Despite this calling, some denominations of the Christian faith are opposed to this. Fifty years later, this continues to be debated among scholars, theologians, and leaders of the Church. While many denominations such as Baptist and Protestants encourage women to preach in the pull pit, others are not allowed to take a leadership role in the church. Many cite this reasoning to scripture found in the New and Old Testament that both prove and disprove women involvement in ministry. Thus, the debate continues. The debate among theologians can be observed in the book, Women in Ministry by James Beck. In this book, several authors provide their interpretation and argument for and against women in ministry. Despite differing views and perceptions, Christian women and men across faiths have found scripture and insight that demonstrate no gender division in ministry.

Brief Summary           

Reading this book, their interpretation, personal analysis and opinion, has increased the awareness and knowledge of this issue. Consequently, this delicate topic directly influences the women’s role in the Church and her lack of or acquisition of leadership. The varying perspectives and interpretations of the word continue to cause conflict within Christian denominations. While many evangelicals are against women in the ministry, others encourage and stimulate gender equality within the church. Differing views and perceptions of this continue as Christian people of different faiths find no cause to exclude women from ministry.

Creation

In this book, Beck indicates that traditionalists believe that women should not be involved in ministry. Therefore, they should not be teachers, preachers, or hold any leadership role in the church. This ideal is not only conservative but also orthodox, and primitive. Some may suspect these ideals originate in cultural and social influences of gender inequality and gender roles. However, traditionalists have found reasoning and justification in biblical scripture. The authors indicate that many of these arguments can be found throughout Genesis chapters 1 and 2 when God created man. The text suggests that traditionalists point out that:  man was made before woman, man named woman, woman was created from the flesh of man, and that “female is created as a help for the male to relieve the aloness”[1]. Traditionalists use these Biblical accounts to justify the submissive position of women in the church. Although some may view these facts as valid reasoning to keep women from ministering, others interpret the scripture differently.

In opposition to these views and interpretations of the Bible, women theologies have come to a different conclusion. Both Bellevile and Laird suggest that Genesis chapter 1 and 2 indicate no gender hierarchy between man and woman. Laird in her essay suggest that, “in Genesis, man and woman are created much like twins are born…together”[2]. Although Laird’s account is exaggerated, there is truth to this interpretation. The Bible indicates that, “male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27).[3] Thus, God created both male and female. In this chapter he gave males and females distinction and identity. However, as the Bible indicates male and female were both born and created from “adam” meaning “earth or soil”. From this stand point and interpretation, men and women are made from the same stuff (the stuff being earth or soil). However men and women are both made from God’s image.

Equality

Genesis 1:27 indicates that both man and woman was made in God’s image. Beck recognizes this throughout Biblical scripture. Being made in His image, suggest equality, oneness, and sameness. Thus, there is no division along gender lines or hierarchy. In God’s image, both men and women share the same rights and the same promise to us given by God. In addition, as Beck emphasized in his text, both men and women have the same power to have rule over the earth, (Genesis 1:26-28). Women and men are encouraged to bear fruit and prosper, to raise and rear children, and to inhabit the earth. Both genders are given the same powers and rights to life and prosperity. In these instances, there is no barrier along gender lines nor specific roles or duties allowed to man or woman. Instead, God gives these powers to all people equally, providing no separation or distinction among the people. “Although there is a great deal of theological speculation about what creation in God’s image means Genesis unmistakably affirms that male and female equality share it”.[4]

Other instances of equality can be observed between man and women in the Biblical scripture. Ironically, Beck suggests that traditionalists utilize the story of the forbidden fruit as an example of gender hierarchy. Traditionalist use this as story as an excuse to keep women from ministry. Genesis chapter two tells us that both Adam and Eve were discouraged from eating the forbidden fruit. However, after being tempted by the serpent, Eve ate the fruit and Adam followed. Because Eve ate the fruit first, many assume that she encouraged Adam to do so as well. Furthermore, due to Eve being the first to commit this sin, she is often blamed for Adam’s sinful behavior. Eve’s actions and disobeying God justifies her submissive role, her naivety, and inability to minister. Despite this, the story also justifies sameness, oneness, and equals between men and women. Adam and Eve sinned, they both ate the forbidden fruit, and both were consequence for this. “Disobedience on the part of both the man and the woman followed. And there was a price to pay for both as a result of their desire for knowledge”.[5]

Biblical History of Women in Ministry

The most fascinating and interesting portion of this analysis was Bellevile’s account of women’s involvement in Christianity. Throughout the second part of her chapter, the author takes the time to list numerous women in the Bible who became involved in ministering and service to the church. In fact, other female theologians have noted women involvement and also stressed their importance. Carr, a feminist theologian, cites that Jesus changed how women were viewed and perceived during his time. Although Carr doesn’t go into great detail about this, Beck does. Bellevile sites many instances throughout the New Testament in which Jesus went against the laws and customs of the era to reach out to women. Jesus healed the woman suffering from blood flow by touching her, Jesus speaks to the Samarian woman at the well, and He also encouraged a woman to listen to his teachings alongside the men. Although many traditionalists observe female servitude and submissiveness throughout the Old Testament, Carr cites that this isn’t true. “In the fellowship of Jesus women apparently did not play a marginal role, even though only a few references of women disciples survived the androcentric tradition and recantation process of the gospels”.[6]

Reading Belleviles account of female service to the ministry is astonishing, rewarding, and uplifting to the cause of women in ministry. Women were recognized as prophets, apostles, and even guarded the holy tabernacle. Thus, women have provided service to the Christian faith before the birth of Christ and played a significant role in Christianity. “Women are singled out in the early church as apostles, prophets, evangelist, patrons, deacons, teachers, prayer leaders, overseers of the house church, prayer warriors and those known for their mercy and hospitality”.[7] Reading the list of service that women provided to Christianity only justifies, clarifies, and proves that women have a right in ministry. The right to minister is granted and ordained to women by God and implemented through Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. Women had a strong role and a great participation in ministering to others and sharing the Gospel and word of God. Through this grace and power, women have ministered, are able to minister, and will continue to minister the word of God to the people so that others can be saved.

Conclusion

The Bible teaches to love all. It also demonstrates that everyone will fall short of God’s glory and both men and women must seek salvation. All of God’s people have the same promises granted to them, the same power, and the same rights. From this point of view, God must then view men and women on equal grounds. The same can be said for Jesus. He spoke to women although it was against the law. Mary Magdalene was encouraged to spread the word of Jesus’ resurrection to the people to uplift his name as the Son of God. Scholars Grenz and Muir-Kjesbo declare that, “research has established significant differences between the sexes. It is precisely because of these differences that men and women should both serve as leaders, for one will receive a truncated view of leadership if men only function as leaders”[8]. God created both man and woman in His image and gave us all the same privileges and rights. Although some Christian faiths are against women in leadership, scripture suggest otherwise. Giving women equal power as men not only in life, but also in the ministry demonstrates the same equality Jesus conveyed to women throughout the New Testament.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  1. Beck, J. (2005). “Two Views on Women in Ministry: Revised Edition”. International and Pan American Copy Right Convention. Retrieved from: http://books.google.com/books?id=pXcMvBsrMLgC&printsec=frontcover&dq=two+views+on+women+in+ministry+by+james+beck&hl=en&sa=X&ei=h1MhUcKQFoW_0QHWiYHgAQ&ved=0CDgQ6AEwAA
  2. Laird, R. (Spring 1992). “A brief theology of women in ministry: Four reasons women should teach, preach, and minister”. GROW, 46–50. Retrieved from: http://www.whwomenclergy.org/articles/article32.php
  3. Carr, A (1982). “Is a Christian Feminist Theology Possible?” Theology Studies 43 (2) pp 279-297. Retrieved from: http://www.thefishersofmenministries.com/Is%20a%20Christian%20Feminist%20Theology%20Possible.pdf
  4. Grenz, S., Muir-Kjesbo, D. (1995). “Women in the Church: Biblical Theology of women in Ministry”. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press. Retrieved from: http://www.sbts.edu/documents/tschreiner/review_Grenz.pdf
  5. Holy Bible, New King James Version, University Press

[1] Beck, J. (2005). “Two Views on Women in Ministry: Revised Edition”. International and Pan American Copy Right Convention

[2] Laird, R. (1992). “A brief theology of women in ministry: Four reasons women should teach, preach, and minister”. GROW, 46–50.

[3] The Holy Bible Genesis 1:27

[4] Beck, 2005

[5] Beck, 2005

[6] Carr, A (1982). “Is a Christian Feminist Theology Possible?” Theology Studies 43 (2) pp 279-297.

[7] Beck 2005

[8] Grenz, S., Muir-Kjesbo, D. (1995). “Women in the Church: Biblical Theology of women in Ministry”. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press.

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About Russia Robinson

I am an independent freelance writer and free thinker. I strive to use my writing talents to benefit the greater good of society, one word, one sentence, one page at a time. Originally from Richmond, California I attended San Francisco State University receiving a BA in English Creative Writing and American Literature in 2004. After this I attended post graduate studies in 2008 at Georgia’s Kennesaw State University in Technical Writing. With an academic background in English, I have spent more than 10 years’ helping young people succeed. This can be seen in my career background in education and mental health. I am a certifiable Language Arts teacher for the state of Georgia. I also worked in social services including juvenile mental health treatment services and counseling. As a result, I understand the diversity of problems people face in their everyday lives. With words put together like so, I promote equality and a healthy society for all people regardless of individual differences. Conducting research, writing articles, essays, and blogging, I push to educate others about various issues that affect people. I also do this creatively through short stories, poems, pictures, and a novel in progress. My hobbies and interest are reading and learning. I enjoy all things art and all things nature. From camping and astronomy to photography and cooking, I enjoy sighting seeing and socializing just as much as I enjoy curling in bed with a good book or binge watching TV.
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