Dear Sisters, YOU are the Head and Not the Tail

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I spent this past weekend in Austin, Texas learning from leading voices in the “women in leadership debate” within the conservative evangelical church. I enjoyed every minute of it. Almost everything that was taught served as a confirmation that I really am hearing from the Holy Spirit. My brothers and sisters, who are much smarter than I am, are reading the scriptures in the same way that I have been.

To be honest though, I learned the most from those who were attending the conference.

I sat with one group of young women who grew up in strong complementarian churches. For the first time in their lives, they were discovering that maybe there is another way to be faithful to the Scriptures – a way that leads to true freedom and security for both women and men. They had not yet arrived at the egalitarian position, but they were involved in new church plants, and felt God calling them to lead in some way or another.

One woman in her 20s stuck out to me the most. As we conversed, it became clear to me that she had a calling and a desire to preach. She told me that she was asked to preach this coming mother’s day and how nervous she is. “I just want to do really well,” she said. What I heard from her heart was, “I just want to be really faithful, ya know?” My heart said, “Yes, sister, I know.”

Many women who grew up in the evangelical conservative church have never seen a woman preach in their local churches and have never imagined that God could ever call them to preach. The scary questions boil down to these: “Am I good enough?”, “Will God be pleased or displeased?”, “Will others reject me?”

The truth is that women inside the evangelical church, in mainstream traditions, and even out in society have found themselves caught up in social constructs that make them feel as if they are “less than” men. These social constructs of “gender roles” are made into religious teachings, backed by theology meant to belittle and control, and stamped with sacred sounding phrases like, “Biblical Womanhood.”

Yet, if we are honest, the Bible is filled with all sorts of different types of women. I personally relate to Deborah, as she is a prophetess that sits under the shade of a tree, but deep within, she has a warrior heart and is always ready to go to battle for her God and her people. If Deborah were living in 2016, I imagine she would be sitting in her air conditioned home, with her amazingly secure husband, writing prophetic blog and Facebook posts.

Then there is Mary and Martha, who Jesus considered close friends. Could the two be any more different from one another? Martha is a people pleaser and I imagine her as a kind and patient soul. Her heart is to serve others and she easily accepts and embraces the social constructs of her day. Martha struggles to understand her sister, Mary, who always seems to have her head in the clouds.

I imagine Mary as sweet and kind as well; she doesn’t mean to break the rules. She just doesn’t fit into the social constructs of her day, and someone with authority comes along who allows her to believe it might be OK for her to simply be herself. After all, Mary took the posture of one of Jesus’ disciples (which was a major “no no” for women in her day).

I am not surprised by this; women who are in love with Jesus and have tasted the freedom He offers, will often escape the heavy weight of social gender roles (especially when their personalities and gifts don’t naturally fit into those roles).

Then there is Priscilla, who was born to preach. The Apostle Paul obviously favors her, as he mentions her name before her husband’s five times out of seven in his letters. It was a big deal to mention a woman’s name before her husband’s in the setting of the early church.

Priscilla was the exception to the social rule, which leads me to believe she was quite the evangelist. Of course Paul would favor any woman or man who preached the Gospel effectively. We all know that Paul was obsessed with spreading the Gospel to the Gentiles; of course he would not silence a female preacher who was helping to save souls.

Heck, Paul even named a female apostle, who was Junia (Rom. 16:7). Would Paul really permit a woman to be at his same level of leadership? Wouldn’t his manhood be threatened by a woman giving direct and personal commands? Of course not! Paul was secure in Christ, not some cultural idea of manhood.

Oh, but Bible translators for the last 500 years were not so secure in Christ. They could not fathom the existence of a female apostle, so they added an “s” to create the masculine name, “Junias” (a name that did not even exist at the time of the early church).

Bible translators began to revive Junia’s true identity in the 1970s. Now, insecure Christian men are trying to claim that Junia was not an apostle; but rather, a woman who just sort of hung out “among the apostles.” It’s funny how everyone simply believed Junia was an apostle when she was thought to be a man.

The Apostle Paul would roll over in his grave if he knew how women are being silenced and underutilized, for the sake of the Gospel, in the Church of 2016.

The modern, hyper-focus on “male headship” has made Christian women desperately insecure. Women have been convinced to make themselves smaller than they actually are so that insecure “church men” can feel better about themselves.

The Church has taken just a few Scriptures and has created an entire theology in order to uphold social constructs, but I am here to tell you today that the Bible is a very big book with much more to it than hierarchical gender roles.

In fact, dear sisters, as God’s chosen ones, the Bible would say to you…
The LORD will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the LORD your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom (Duet. 28:13).

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20 Comments

  • It is by no means certain that Junia was a woman. There is in fact a debate about this, I have checked, but even if one accepts this as a female name, there is nothing about her teaching or being in authority mentioned anywhere in scripture.

    Also this article still avoids holding together teaching and authority at the same time.

    We also have very little idea of what structure there was in the church at the time. We use the term leadership in a very loose way. No were in the bible are women barred from leadership. Paul only said they should not teach or have authority over men. I personally can think of a number of women I know who believe what paul said but are not confined to arranging the flowers in church on sunday. We superimpose our present day ideas of leadership on to the scipture and read things into them. That is the wrong way to do it and leads to being mis led. It is us who have to read what God says OUT of the scriptures.

    • Micah has addressed the points you bring up in her other blog posts and in her writings, and that would be well worth checking out. This particular post doesn’t appear to have been written to address all possible issues relating to women in ministry and women with spiritual authority to carry out their callings. But there’s plenty of information in her writings and links that do address a wide array of questions.

    • “Nowhere in the bible are women barred from leadership. Paul only said they should not teach or have authority over men.”

      I think that Jesus taught men also not to have authority over men…”it shall not be so among you”???

    • George I respectfully submit, if you would, with humble heart, truly study this issue in depth, that you would come to the same conclusions as Jory and every other egalitarian. If you would rather argue and debate, the truth will remain hidden to you. I speak the truth in love. Peace to you.

    • Actually they know without a doubt that Junia was a female name. And the correct translation of the Greek called her “foremost among the apostles”. It was changed by some translations to “well known among the apostles” when they realized she was female. I would say that the actual translation gives her the authority you claim she didn’t have.

    • George Falconer,
      I am copying this quotation from page 127 of J. Lee Grady’s new book “The Truth Sets Women Free” 2014

      “Early church father John Chrysostom (347-407) who was by no means sympathetic to women, acknowledge that Junia held a powerful position in the New Testament church. He wrote in his commentary on Romans: “Indeed, to be an apostle at all is a great thing; but to be even amongst those of note: just consider what a great encomium that is. Oh, how great is the devotion of this woman, that she should be even counted worthy of the appellation of Apostle.” from “Commentary on Romans, Nicene and Postnicene Fathers” First Series, XL, 555 quoted in Krueger, Women Elders: Called by God? 17.

      Being closer to the time when this name of Junia had not been tampered with, Chrysostom was not of the rebellious view that this woman HAD to be a man and therefore the translation must be changed, but the changing of the name leaves us all the question…how much more was tampered with to keep women in their place? Seeing how important this issue is to men today, I doubt it was less problematical in the past, and in those days when there was NO feminist cohesiveness. The language of our previous leaders, Catholic and Protestant, from Calvin to Knox, Augustine to Tertullian, make it quite clear that they believed women were disgusting and unclean, inferior and dangerous, not even made in the image of God. Many men have a lot for which to repent and the tradition is maintained to this day with Complement-arianism…and they dare to flatter us with such phrases as ‘The high calling of women’ while THEY stand on the pedestal expecting adulation, honour and entitlement.

      They have broken many hearts. No wonder Jesus came to bind up the broken hearted…He knew how women are treated and how He needed to pour salve on our wounded spirits and broken hearts, even to this day. Every voice raised against us in the church is a voice that hacks away at our souls and bruises us again and again…and that includes Grudem and Piper…when will it ever end?

  • “The Apostle Paul would roll over in his grave if he knew how women are being silenced and underutilized, for the sake of the Gospel, in the Church of 2016.” I have no doubt about this…the Judaizers won…and he would be very unhappy about that!

    I wonder why it is always “I am of Paul” on the Complementarian side when Paul found the idea (I am of Paul, I am of Apollos) disgusting? It is as though Christ didn’t exist when one gets to the idea of Egalitarianism…You never hear Complementarians quoting Jesus or ” God said”…Yet Jesus said: “All things ye would that people would do to you, do ye even so to them” Now Jesus command was Egalitarian…it can not be interpreted otherwise.

  • I am a woman who has held ministry and leadership roles for over 12 years. I am so grateful for your advocacy and voice, and I join you in working toward a more biblical view of women in leadership.

  • I think what you’re doing here on your blog is amazing Jory. I wish a site like this had been around when I was 17 and trying to defend myself against family members who said, “But how can you be a feminist and go to church?”

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