My friend Eugene Cho has just published an excellent post on Women in Leadership which expresses not only his views but also those of the Covenant church. First let me say how much I appreciate Eugene for speaking out like this. Men in leadership are so often silent on these issues. Second let me express a big amen to all that Eugene has said. Like most women in leadership I have struggled with the attitude of many in the church towards women to whom God has given this type of gift. We have so often been made to feel like second class citizens who are not really doing what God has called us to. Somehow the freedoms of Christ are more liberating for men than for women. I know that I have written about this before but it doesn’t hurt to repeat myself here.
One person who really helped me understand this issue was British theologian Elaine Storkey. I remember meeting her in England several years ago when she pointed out that Jesus miracles always embraced men and women. He raised both Lazarus and Jairus’s daughter from the dead. He healed the unclean male leper and the unclean woman with an issue of blood. He equated the kingdom of God with a man finding a pearl in a field and a woman finding a coin in a house. And after his resurrection he revealed himself to men and women alike. Mary’s encounter with the risen Christ was just as important as Peter’s.
So often even women read the gospels through male eyes. All of us know that Peter proclaimed “You are the Christ.” Few of us remember that Martha made the same profound theological statement. In fact according to Elaine Storkey, the story of Mary and Martha is completely misconstrued. In the Jewish culture where it was not unusual for a man to pray “Thank God I was not born a woman”, women were thought to be unable to understand theological concepts – witness the movie Yentl and the extreme measures she uses to learn theology. In the story of Mary and Martha Jesus is basically saying – “Mary (and Martha too) has as much right to sit and learn theological truth from me as the men do.” The story does not recount whether Mary and Martha continued to sit at Jesus feet but maybe Martha’s proclamation of Jesus as the Christ is meant to imply that she did.
Recognizing that Jesus liberated women in the same way that he liberated men was extremely freeing for me. It has helped me to realize that any time one human being sees another as inferior – as less human – they deny part of the message of Christ and the freedom that Christ offers to us all through his death on the cross.