A conversation for gender equality month.
Evangelical feminism is on the rise, and the conversation is getting loud enough for the most traditional churches to hear.
Christian millennial women and men are joining efforts and strongly advocating for gender equality inside the evangelical Church, and we are not alone. Pre-millennial evangelical feminists, men and women alike, are speaking up, too. Christian feminists are not a new group, but a revived group that is constantly reinventing itself for the next generation.
Evangelical feminists believe in redemption, justice and full equality for men and women in Jesus Christ. They are passionate about the movement, because they believe patriarchy of any kind to be the result of the fall of humankind (Genesis 3:16) and not God’s original design for His beloved children. They believe darkness will not be defeated until the daughters and sons of God are united once and for all.
Women are freer than they have ever been in the evangelical church, but the church still has a ways to go in issues of gender equality.
We talked to a group of notable authors and activists who have been vocal about feminism in the church.
Sarah Bessey: Canadian blogger and author of several books, including Jesus Feminist
Carolyn Custis James: Professor, blogger and author of Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women and Malestrom: Manhood Swept into the Currents of a Changing World.
Rachel Held Evans: Author and activist who has been a major player in fighting for gender equality in the Church
Zach Hoag: Popular blogger and author who writes about feminist issues on his blog and often gives his platform to female Christian feminists to voice their theological arguments
Why do you care about feminism finding a home within the Church?
Sarah Bessey: To me, it’s really about embracing God’s vision for humanity. It’s about the Kingdom of God and seeing the fulfillment of redemption, reconciliation and rescue in our world. I don’t think people need to necessarily adopt the same language that I have—calling myself a Jesus Feminist, for instance—but it is deeply necessary in our world to see both men and women working together in the fullness of the image of God.
But the thing is that as long as I know how important maternal health is, for instance, or as long as I continue to hear from women who have been abused and raped, as long as I know girls are being denied life itself through selective abortion, abandonment, and abuse, as long as brave little girls in Afghanistan are being attacked with acid for the crime of going to school, and until being a Christian is synonymous with doing something about these things, you can also call me a feminist.
Carolyn Custis James: Failure to equip and embolden both women and men to cultivate and employ the gifts God has given them means the Body of Christ limps. It is symptomatic of the fact that the Church does not grasp the magnitude of our mission in the world, the power of the Enemy, and that our numbers are small against such daunting challenges.
Asking women to follow Jesus in measured cautious ways so men can maintain secure in their primacy, authority and power deludes men as to what really matters according to Jesus and places women in the untenable position of one day explaining to Jesus why we buried our gifts when the need was so great. On that day, I would much rather be explaining why I did too much for His Kingdom than why I did too little.
Zach Hoag: The first reason I chose to enter this conversation is because of the Bible. I can’t deny the prominent place women have in the Jesus story: how Jesus seems to break cultural norms and boundaries and treat them as equals and companions throughout, and how they have an especially heroic role in the resurrection climax. I also can’t deny the women leaders who pepper the biblical narrative, Old and New Testaments, and defy the “submit and be silent” stereotype. Most of all, I can’t deny that the apostle Paul, the guy credited with the “submit and be silent” dogma, first said “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21)—speaking of both men and women. And, I can’t deny that he gave perhaps the most beautiful exposition of the Gospel ever when he said, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
The second reason I chose to enter this conversation, though, is my wife. While immersed in a complementarian church culture, I witnessed how much it hurt her. I was complicit in a culture that hurt other women too, suppressing their personhood and denying their gifts. And after leaving that culture, and experiencing great renewal and freedom in our lives and marriage, I was compelled to begin speaking out against it.
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