Women in the Church— Exploring Biblical Gender Equality In a Kenyan Context

Upon returning from a family vacation at the end of May, 2015, I was catching up with my website email. In the emails, I found a curious invitation from a church leader in Kenya–to speak at their April, 2016, Pastors and Church Leaders Conference on the topic of:  Biblical Gender Equality.

I was delighted to be invited to speak on this important topic, BUT: Was this a legitimate request?  And, what actually might be involved in getting me over to Kenya in order to make such a talk happen??  These were my initial questions as my mind and heart grappled with the potential of this being a doable God-thing, or not!  This international request was certainly alluring and I was immediately intrigued with such a prospect.


Over the next number of months, I was getting to know this pastor/overseer of a group of churches with their home base in Eldoret.  I also received confirmation from a number of American church leaders who had been there to speak at various pastors conferences over the years on timely Christian leadership topics.

I felt that this church leader was certainly progressive in wanting someone to speak on the topic of Biblical Gender Equality in his country–since Africa has been patriarchal for eons.  The Holy Spirit has been moving in so many places to give people their own answers on this topic.  The Lord was also at work here among this particular network of church leaders and they were willing to have a Canadian come and expound on this vital biblical topic.

So the drama of verifying that this was a Holy Spirit ‘Go’ was part of the intrigue of this international request.

Beginning in January, 2016, and for the next three months, I continued to research this topic indepth.  I borrowed insights from a number of scholars and authors on this topic and compiled the needed information into a tapestry of words to clearly convey what needed to be covered in this four day conference—which would be interpreted from English to Swahili.

I began the first session at this conference by reading 2 Tim. 3:16, 17, which reminds us that:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

The whole Woman and Man topic is both very serious and yet it is also humorous—since men understanding women and women understanding men has been a hilarious topic to start with throughout the generations!! 

Humans have problems dealing with human sexuality.  There is much brokenness in this area, which is part of who we are as humans in a fallen world.  There are only two kinds of humans that God created—male and female.  Christians should be the ones who lead the way in understanding human sexuality and who model what godly living is all about.

Here are some questions that I used to introduce this topic and to stimulate thinking among this inter-denominational group of church leaders:         

  1. Are Christian men supposed to have more privilege than Christian women in the home and in the church?
  2. Should gender differences influence an individual’s place in ministry?
  3. When it comes to expounding the Word of God in the church today, who is allowed to preach and why?
  4. Is the gift of preaching the ‘wrong gift’ to have in the conservative evangelical world, when you are a Christian woman?
  5. If church ministry is to be grounded in servant leadership, rather than hierarchy, why are women so often NOT permitted to preach or teach in the local church?
  6. If ministry is: ‘serving’ on the behalf of Christ, then shouldn’t women and men be able to make up a ministry team to minister to the needs of the local church?
  7. If in Corinthians 11 it says that women should wear a headcovering, why do most women attend church without a hat/headcovering now?

Even a few decades ago all women wore hats to church and for just going shopping downtown.  What changed?

  1. Does your church OR would your church have a woman in the function of a pastor, elder, or deacon? Why or why not?                        
  2. Why do we need to work for gender equality in the home, in the church, and in the world?
  3. Does the gender power imbalance further fuel and justify violence, especially against women (and children)?

I then gave my outline and where I was going with this topic.  At first people were curious about this lady speaker from Canada, but after a day of working through the material together, they were keen to track with me through this compelling subject.  Their interest was evident and their desire to learn was key.

The following are the four main topics which we covered:

  1. What’s Going On?                                                                    

Why is the ministry and gifting of godly Christian women so often still being prohibited in the Church?

How are women being treated and why?

Where do people get their ideas from?

We are going to look at the TRADITION of Patriarchy in cultures worldwide and see why this belief system dominates.

What does history teach us about the Patriarchy in the Jewish and Greco-Roman cultures?

Next, we are going to take a serious look at the TRADITION of Patriarchy in light of:  What Does the Bible Actually Teach?

  1. What do ‘some’ Christian leaders believe, teach, and practice TODAY about the place of women in marriage and in the church?            

Why do some Christians still hold to a Patriarchal View of the Scripture?   Is their belief valid?     [NO!]

  1. What Does the Bible Really Say Regarding the Problem Passages?

We need to look at some of the ‘problem Scriptures’ in order to understand what is really biblical—regarding God’s View of women in marriage and God’s View of women in the Church?

Why are there differing beliefs about what the Bible says? 

How can we get our own answers on this topic from the Bible?

This should lead us to ask:  What should be the Christian’s belief and practice?

  1. What Are We Going to Do About it?         

Who are we and What is Our Identity In Christ?

How Can We Be a Part of the Solution by ensuring that Kingdom Principles are HOW we are Motivated in Christ’s Kingdom?

It is encouraging to know that numerous Christian leaders have studied this issue and have changed their minds from a belief in a Patriarchal or a Complementarian View to a Mutualist View of Scriptures.

Lastly, I provided some useful ways that Christians can be part of the solution to this ongoing problem in the church and in the world today.

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Here is one illustration that struck a chord with everyone. 

Illustration:  So, let’s take a walk together to church. 

Men, women, and children are on their way to church.  Everyone is happy and sharing about their lives the past week, with one another. 

As they approach the front doors to the church, and the women enter the church, they all stop talking—since the Bible says that ‘women are to remain silent in the church’.  So not wanting to offend God, the Bible, or their families, ALL the women NOW stop talking.   

Here are some questions that we might ask ourselves:

  • The question may be: Is it OK for women to just whisper, but not to talk out loud while in church??  
  • Another question might be: Is it OK for women to SING during worship, but not to talk in church??  
  • What about—Can women read the Bible out loud during a church service, since this would be ‘talking’ and be very un-silent??
  • This also includes: Can ladies give announcements about church events OR do they need to pass a note to one of the men leaders in order to get this announcement stated out loud for the Christian community??
  • What about women being asked to take up the offering—even if they do not ‘say’ anything to anyone?!

So you can see that things are starting to get ridiculous with such interpretations of these particular passages from the Bible.

An image that was a winner at this conference was Vladimir Kush’s sculpture of the Scissors, which I used as an image of male/female unity in Christian marriage and the Body of Christ.     http://vladimirkush.com/gallery-maui

 

Picture1

As a friend responded, after seeing this image:  “Such a perfect depiction of Ezer kenedgo!  Seeing those scissors, it is clear that Adam was failing at ruling ‘alone’.  He was a single blade–so he made a ‘stab’ at ruling, but he really wasn’t ‘cutting it’!!!  TWO MATCHING BLADES ARE NEEDED!!”

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On the last day of this conference in Kenya, a Visible Application of how this message was impacting these church leaders was when three of the leaders stood on the platform and one of them offered an apology to the sisters–on behalf of all the brothers there.  It was a touching moment.  This humble act was a significant step in their desire to ‘apply’ what they were hearing from God’s Word.   This is how they were prompted to take immediate action on what they were hearing!

It further confirmed to my mind and heart that this email invitation and my entire trip was a God-thing and that the Holy Spirit was and continues to be involved with getting the topic of Biblical Gender Equality established among many more of God’s people–in Kenya and beyond!

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There is An Opportunity to Support our Brothers and Sisters in Christ in Africa.

There is much poverty in Africa.  Getting the word out regarding Biblical Gender Equality requires time, energy, and funds. 

For those who have a heart to further this teaching in African nations, continue to pray for God’s leading and regarding this open door of opportunity to teach and serve God’s people in Africa. 

People can contact me through my website email: 

[email protected]

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 For Further Reflection

Two sites which provide Free Articles for personal research are:

Christians for Biblical Equality and God’s Word to Women.

CBE           www.cbeinternational.org 

GWTW      www.godswordtowomen.org

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© 2016   Barb Orlowski, D.Min.