So it's been popular lately for certain evangelical "celebrities" to go on the offensive with their so-called "masculine" approach to Christianity. They claim that God intended the Church to have a "masculine feel." They claim that Scripture clearly teaches that men-and only men-should hold positions of leadership within the Church, that wives should submit to their husbands, and those men should submit to the men who lead their congregations (often without question), and then those men are ultimately submissive to God (who is of course the biggest man, who can bench press two city buses while chewing tobacco and kicking someone's @$$ with his tatted leg).
While there are an overwhelming number of people who support this point of view, I have to be honest, I can't stand it! While those who tout this point of view and spout a handful of proof texts to back them up, I feel like it ignores a great deal of what Scripture teaches us. We need women in the Church. We need women in leadership in the Church. We need to realize that this isn't merely the product of twentieth century egalitarianism-there is biblical precedent. In order to prove my point, I thought I'd highlight a few women from Scripture for whose roles as leaders I am thankful.
Let's start with Deborah. Now, if you have to ask, "Who's Deborah?" read Judges 4-5. Deborah judged Israel; that means she was the leader of the people of God. Unlike many of the other judges listed in Scripture, Deborah was wise, selfless, and actively involved in the affairs of Israel (as opposed to her own ambitions). Deborah is the beginning of what I see as a sort of pattern in Scripture: when men fail at being leaders, women are often empowered by God, not only to fill the void, but to show how it ought to be done!
Just look at the story of Ruth and Naomi. Ruth has such love and devotion for her mother-in-law Naomi that she refuses to leave her alone in order to seek her own security (sounds like something Jesus might have applauded, yes?). It's through her faithfulness and determination that the line of David (and thus Jesus) came into existence.
Of course, the New Testament is filled with women who are given wonderful roles in leadership. In Romans 16, Paul mentions Phoebe (a deacon of the church at Cenchreae and leader in the church), Prisca/Priscilla (a co-laborer with Paul in his work), and Junia/Julia (who is regarded as prominent among the apostles) just to name three.
Then there's the story of Lydia in Acts 16. Lydia was a seller of purple near Philippi. After her conversion and the baptism of her household, she invites Paul and his companions to stay with her in her home. It's possible Lydia had a hand in starting the church of Paul's beloved Philippians, as she was one of the first believers in the region converted under Paul's ministry.
My final example is Mary, the mother of Jesus. If you think women should serve no role in leadership in the Church, you have obviously overlooked Mary. Without Mary's faithfulness to carry the Son of God, without her faithful example (which left such a profound mark on Luke and his gospel), who knows in what shape the early Church would have found itself.
The Church needs women...especially in leadership. The people of God have always needed women. When I reflect on my own life, it hasn't exclusively been the macho, rugged men of faith who have left their mark on my faith. In fact, the person I often credit with shaping my faith most is a woman-my grandmother, Rosie Orene Thomas. Without her faithful, loving, earthy, example of what we are supposed to be as people created in the image of God, I can only imagine what my life and my faith may be like.
May those of us who hold up the biblical example of women in leadership step up and begin to balance the scales. May we hold up those women in positions of leadership who are sharing the gospel of hope, love, and equality with a hopeless, hate-filled, and unjust world. Let us applaud their faithfulness, because the Church needs women...especially women in leadership.