As an undergraduate I remember writing an editorial entitled “The F Word.” While meant to be a clever play on words and a challenge to traditional Christian views of feminism, I had no intention of causing a revolution. However, that’s what I did. As the editor of the university student-run newspaper, I received more hate mail then I could count – all because I challenged my female colleagues to reconsider how feminism and Christianity connect. For too long feminism has been considered a “nasty” term that is used by progressive, liberal women who hate men and have no connection to faith.
While I have met such women who say that feminism and faith have no relationship, I want to challenge that assumption. True in some denominations men denominate the church leadership, but that isn’t the case in the Wesleyan tradition. Since the Methodist movement began in the 1700s women have served in leadership and ministry roles. In the Free Methodist Church, which I am a member of, Free Methodist Founder B.T. Roberts encouraged women and men to be considered equal in the eyes of God.
As Roberts noted, the belief of women being less capable to lead than men was a result of still following the law established after the sin of Adam, which gave man dominion over woman. Yet Roberts argues that Christ came to redeem us from the law, taking on the curse of the law for us (Galatians 3:13). Thus, the primitive law that God originally intended for the world is restored – man and woman leaving their parents and becoming one flesh, a team. As Roberts notes in “On Ordaining Women”:
The greatest domestic happiness always exists where husband and wife live together on terms of equality. Two men, having individual interests, united only by business ties, daily associate as partners for years, without either of them being in subjection to the other. They consider each other as equals; and treat each other as equals. Then, cannot a man and woman, united by conjugal love, the strongest tie that can unite two human beings, having the same interests, live together in the same manner? Christ came to repair the ruin wrought by the fall. In Him, and in Him only, is Paradise restored.
Robert’s writings were revolutionary in the 18oos when he wrote “On Ordaining Women,” and they are still revolutionary today. In an age when women are increasingly told that there are set gender roles for men and women, the ability of women to feel capable and called to serve in ministry is threatened. I don’t want to diminish the call of women who feel it’s their ministry to stay at home with their children. However, women who feel called to work and called to ministry should be supported just as much as the women who chose to stay home with their children.
While, I may not have wanted to start a revolution as an undergraduate. I want to start a revolution now. Too many women are forgetting the progressive Wesleyan tradition of women in ministry. We are falling into the Christian patriarchy trap and forgetting our heritage. I hope to use this blog as a place to share my research on the Christian patriarchy movement. It’s only when we remember our faith and our history and challenge cultural stereotypes that women can once again feel capable and called to serve.