More About Our Church Mothers
Have you ever had the experience where everywhere you turn you encounter the same teaching? Like the Sunday sermon will be about a certain passage, then a friend will randomly share it with you the next week, then you see it on a wall hanging in a receptionists office, etc., etc. You know what I mean?
Ever since my post from Monday about the Church Mothers, I’ve had that same experience. So, as a follow-up, let me share two postscripts.
First, several friends sent me the link to this article by former President Jimmy Carter. The article, entitled “Losing My Religion for Equality,” begins with the story of Carter’s decision to sever ties with the Southern Baptist Convention after 60 years of membership, based on the Convention’s decision to declare women as “subservient” to their husbands and unfit for pastoral ministry. That’s where his article starts, and the whole article is brilliant, but check out where his article finishes:
I am also familiar with vivid descriptions in the same Scriptures in which women are revered as pre-eminent leaders. During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn’t until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.
The truth is that male religious leaders have had – and still have – an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions – all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.
Next, yesterday I started reading a book by Peruvian missiologist Samuel Escobar entitled The New Global Mission. In the book, Escobar discusses the seismic shift that has seen the locus of Christianity shift from the west to the global south and its implications for the next generation of missionary activity. In chapter 2, as a part of a historical survey of evangelical missions, Escobar laments the lack of voice, respect and dignity given to women throughout the church’s long history. He writes:
“This loss of memory in the way of telling the story is due to what American historian Ruth Tucker calls a ‘male dominated institutionalized church [that] has deeply entrenched concepts of power, authority and office–and women have not fit into the scheme.’ Tucker wrote her book Guardians of the Great Commission precisely because her research into the history of missions showed how deeply involved women were both overseas and on the home front. However, when she studied the standard English works by well-known authors on the history of missions, women were absent, which reflects an incredible loss of memory…”
So, believe me. And also believe a devout former president and one of the world’s most respected missiologists:
The Church Mothers were and are legit.
Don’t let male privilege tell you otherwise.
What about you? How do these accounts challenge your perspective?