I Can’t Reconcile A Gender Hierarchy With The Cross

If you know me at all or have even glanced back through this blog, you’ll know that I’ve been thinking and reading about the role of women in the church and how equality and theology collide. I tentatively hold egalitarian theology, though I am still trying to figure out what that means.

There are lots of complicated reasons women go looking for answers on this subject, but the truth behind my search is a bit simpler. Essentially: I can’t reconcile a gender hierarchy in the church with the nature and character of God as seen on the cross and through scripture.

I can’t reconcile a God who loved us so much that he let Jesus die for men and women with a Church where anyone is less valued, less included, less wanted because of their gender.

I can’t reconcile equal-but-different or different-but-equal with the God who poured out grace indiscriminately, the Jesus who valued women so much that they were the first to see him after he was resurrected, and who tore down barriers between Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free, male and female.

As Kelly Ladd Bishop put it in this article: the basic idea that God ordains a gender hierarchy is completely counter to God’s character, and the entire message of redemption in scripture.

Patriarchy is an imperfect and broken system. It is a result of sin and the fall. You simply need to look at patriarchal societies in our world today to see that. A system or structure that treats humans as less than other humans isn’t in line with God’s vision for humanity. He made us in his image, to be male and female in relationship, not to be seller and sold, owner and slave.

Jesus came to destroy sin and to destroy all the effects it has on our world – including broken systems like the patriarchy. Jesus. didn’t settle for making sinful systems nicer or injustices kinder or cloaked in nicer language. He came to abolish them.

God tears down broken systems. He frees us from sin and all of our brokenness. We are now called to live in God’s family, where sinful structures have no place. We are called to model redemption to the world. Inequality, oppression and hierarchies have no place here.

Why then would the good God who intervened wholeheartedly by stepping into our world and dying on a cross install a gender hierarchy in the church? I don’t think he did.

I don’t think the church is meant to work like that. I don’t think the family of God is meant to work like that. I think when you trust Jesus you follow him with your whole heart and life and you serve him how you can. I don’t think there’s time or room to be worrying about who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’ and who is allowed to do what and what counts as preaching and who can be taught by who and who can say what. I don’t think we have time or energy to waste.

God has set us on a mission to bring light to a dark world and we’re bickering about who gets to hold the candles. We all do. We’re all in. We have to be, or we will never get it done.

Whatever your thoughts on this, can we agree we have wasted enough time? Can we agree it’s consistently humiliating for Christian women when we become an ‘issue’ to be debated? Can we agree it is beyond insulting that books have to be written and conferences have to be held and people have to voice their opinions, hurtful or not, before we are permitted to get on with the job of serving Jesus?

I’m sick of being an issue. I’m sick of people arguing that this is equality while women are barred from positions and left out of discussions. I’m sick of us all being caught up in this dangerous distraction. We’re all in. We’re on mission together. Let’s act like it.


3 thoughts on “I Can’t Reconcile A Gender Hierarchy With The Cross

  1. Jamie Carter

    I’ve always liked the idea that there is level ground at the foot of the cross. That no one is raised up over another and that no one is considered inferior to another in the name of the gospel. Paul constantly spoke of it as: “Christ and him crucified.” He never saw it as: “Christ and male headship” or “Christ and female submission.” The more we look at the issues of male headship and female submission, the more our eyes are misdirected away from Christ himself. Where I see male headship being taught, Christ is not at the center of teachings. The eternal relationship of authority and submission, how God is the boss of Christ becomes the more frequent teaching. It really is an uneven form of salvation, isn’t it? It also plays out horribly in day-to-day life. I think back to the stories where these women were told: “You’re a great teacher, we’d let you preach if only you were a man.” I somehow can’t imagine Jesus telling that to anyone; that when he had reached the woman at the well the one thing she wasn’t allowed to do was to run through the city streets saying that she had found the messiah.

    Liked by 1 person

    • BeccyC

      Yes! The cross makes everyone equal and tore down all the barriers us humans had built. Cross-centred theology goes hand in hand with believing we are all equal and we are all free.


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