When Equality isn’t Equality

This post is a follow up to this post which explains why I can’t reconcile a gender hierarchy in the church with the nature of God displayed at the cross. It address the most common point raised when I talked about gender hierarchies – ‘but different doesn’t mean unequal,’ and ‘women who want equality just want glory for themselves.’ 

Different doesn’t mean unequal, I think we can all agree. We all play different roles in our church family, and all are important. When I advocate for egalitarian theology, and an approach to church that sees men and women as equal, I am not advocating for a free for all in who gets to do what. I strongly believe in putting the right people in the right roles in how we do church and ministry together.

I just don’t think a prerequisite for any role should be your gender.

If you do think that some roles in church are only for males or only for females, and you genuinely, after thought and consideration, believe this is biblical and God’s plan, I can respect your convictions, even though we disagree.

But you cannot say it is equality. You cannot say it is equal but different.

Definition of Equal: (of people) having the same status, rights, or opportunities.

Definition of Gender Equality: the state in which access to rights or opportunities is unaffected by gender.

If you are barring roles in the church, whether it’s leadership, preaching, teaching or anything else, based solely on gender, you can’t claim to be treating everyone as equal. If you are passing over qualified women purely because they are women, you are discriminating, plain and simple. Even if you think it’s biblical or right, you can’t say it’s equality.
The different by equal argument might work better if there wasn’t a ongoing trend – anything visible, anything with authority or power, anything that represents the church to the world, is given to men. Women are left without a voice, invisible in the background.
When you walk into church as a women and see all the people preaching, leading and teaching are male, it sends a message. Whoever speaks up the front is speaking on behalf of the church, and when it’s only men speaking, it tells women that their voices aren’t wanted or valued.
If we truly are a church of male and female working together, then it’s important our services and ‘public face’ represents that, or we aren’t representing God’s church accurately. We send the message to the world that we are okay with inequality.
Personally, the character of God as I see him in the bible and especially at the cross doesn’t seem to me a God who would be okay with inequality. As my previous post outlined, I can’t reconcile a God who pours out love freely and without hesitation with a God who would install a system of discrimination in his Church.
Then there’s the second issue: that women who argue for equality want the power and equality for themselves. They want attention and authority. I know a lot of women who have stopped talking about this topic because of this. When they say ‘we should have a women leading the service’ people assume they were signing up for the job. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I am speaking up and arguing for inclusion and equality because I see so many talented women around me with amazing gifts that are being overlooked by everyone – including themselves!
I see women who think that using their God-given gifts to tell people about him is an act of disobedience and it breaks my heart – especially when we need their gifts so badly! When women are silent and believe their ideas and opinions are worth less than a man’s, the whole church misses out and the mission of God suffers a setback. I don’t want that to happen.
So many women struggle with this issue – and I am all about opening up spaces for women to talk and discuss and wrestle it out. I’m not about argument for the sake of argument or controversy for the sake of controversy. I’ve heard men tell women that this is a ‘side issue’ distracting them from Jesus – well, it might be a side issue if you’re a man. If you’re a women, it’s your whole life, your whole faith and your whole purpose that’s being debated. It’s pretty hard for me to see that as a side issue.

2 thoughts on “When Equality isn’t Equality

  1. Jamie Carter

    Men and women are mostly similar in so many ways that I thought it odd that the differences were highlighted as being more important than how they’re alike. But when it comes down to it, two men and two women are just as different from each other as one man and one woman is; yet the differences of being left-handed or right-handed, of being tall or short, of having blond or brown hair, of having blue or brown eyes are never seen as sufficient reason why one man ought to have authority over another, or why one woman must submit to another – even what makes them alike, the fact that two are men or two are women doesn’t create this hierarchy of authority and submission based on what they share (gender) or what is different (characteristics). So it seems to me that they really are stuck on this idea that as a gender men have authority over women, and more specifically it manifests in relationships as husbands over wives, fathers over daughters, pastors over congregation members, and for some, elders over widows. Women are perpetually second class citizens of the kingdom, children under the care of their guardians, as it were. When a son reaches the right age, he is his own authority and answers to no one. For some, that never happens for a daughter, her whole life, at every station, she is under the authority of some man. So it really comes about to the idea that men have authority over women, they do think that’s so in a general sense, they just don’t teach that every woman ought to obey every man outside of the predetermined relationships.

    Liked by 1 person

    • BeccyC

      Yes, I totally agree! I have always strongly believed that the different ways people reflect God’s image are part of how we show him to the world together – but if we are all so differently made, why focus on gender?
      Thanks for reading and commenting and engaging with these ideas – I like your thinking a lot!

      Liked by 1 person

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