My friend Dave Fitch writes,
“The NT church is not about whether women should be “over” men or men “over” women. It is about eliminating the “over” entirely. It is about abolishing the politics of anybody being over anybody and instead we all come together mutually under one Lord where the organization of authority is centered in the recognition of the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit at work regularly in the body of Christ under the one head – Lord Jesus Christ This is the new community created in Christ, a foretaste of the Kingdom.
“Too often however the complimentarian/egalitarian logic thwarts this dynamic. “Complementarian” approaches to leadership keeps hierarchy (and thereby patriarchy) in place. “Egalitarian” approaches to leadership often (unintentionally) become the means to ensconce “male dominant” ways/structures of leadership and then invite women into them…”
Dave suggests that what is greatly needed is an exploration of the New Testament view of women and men in leadership in light of —
** the Kingdom
** the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the Church
** the already/but not yet eschatology of Scripture.
Dave has really pushed this conversation over the past few years, going back in fact to around 2006 IIRC. You can always hear his heart coming through — his heart to follow Jesus without compromise, and to encourage others to do the same, regardless of gender, and in light of the very things he lists above.
From my own listening to the pain, and passion and vision, of Christian women who have endured in the church, with great patience and grace, under patriarchal systems it’s important that we also acknowledge the subtle dynamic of theological frameworks, grounded in faulty and transparent cultural assumptions. Those assumptions, and the distortions they produce in theological frameworks, have to be confronted in the spirit of mercy and truth, at the same time as we attempt to approach the Scripture afresh.
Moreover, that work, both negatively and positively — the deconstruction of existing systems and creative engagement of the text — should be led by women, with men working alongside. Women need to set the pace and the agenda: they need to be given that power also. It’s always very risky for those who have held the reigns to lead any oppressed people to freedom: it can subtly reinforce the stance of “you really need us to help you” – the existing power dynamic we are attempting to subvert. And the voices of those who have experienced prejudice need to be heard as we work together. There are nuances to the conversation that we will otherwise miss, and thus richer opportunities for healing and growth.
I don’t think dave excludes any of this: I just want to make it explicit. So while it’s a somewhat different category, I want to extend his list. An exploration of the New Testament will have to be paired with an exploration of tradition and cultural liturgies, the deconstructive side of the work.