What Evangelicals Can Learn from Feminists
We need to go beyond the issue of ordination and just having more ministry opportunities for women, we need to deconstruct both the structure (patriarchalism) as well as the male centered point of view (androcentrism) if we want to see the church live to her sacred potential. Some of the ways we can do that is by “reclaiming history”. It has been said that those in power are the ones who write history, thus history has often been written from the male perspective. In “reclaiming history” we need to discover afresh the voices of women in the history of the church that have been muffled or pushed to the sidelines. In addition, Fiorenza and Russell help us recognize that we need to move from a hierarchical and exclusive structure to a more decentralized and inclusive one. Russell pictures the church as a big table of fellowship where all are welcome. This image of the church helps us to remember that authority is circular, shared and local. In addition women joining with other liberationist theologians to do a theology from below, which means that we are to make space at the table for those the dominant culture has marginalized, or who the dominant culture considers “less than human.” A rich contribution of feminist readers of scripture is that they have helped recapture a robust approach to salvation. They have rescued it from a “privatized, futurized and restricted to a chosen few” understanding towards a more holistic and relational approach, recognizing that salvation is the restoration of shalom – the way things ought to be.
Foirenza emphasizes that church government ought to deal with the practical needs of accountability, participation and communication. The idea that authority ought to be exercised within instead of above is liberating, and defining function of leadership to be about enabling, focusing, facilitating, inspiring, empowering and challenging is helpful.
As I reflect on the contribution that women are making to the church, I am reminded that this goes way beyond the ordination issue. It deals with the entire ethos of the church. The issue of the ordination of women is more of a symptom that needs to be tackled in our larger theological approach. When scripture says that God created us in his image, “male and female” he created them, we should be reminded if we are going live to our sacred potential as a church we need to see everything with fresh eyes. Because some of us have lived with just one eye (male view) we need to work hard at recovering the other eye (female view) if we hope to see shalom realized on earth as it is in heaven. If we want to wake up our sleepy eye to see the full salvation of God, we would do well to lend our ears to listen to more women.