Men and women equal in Christ but not in world

Ethel Schultz Pittaway
Ethel Schultz Pittaway

Take the lead. Take your rightful place. There appears to be a certain amount of urgency in these statements.

Who are they addressed to in our church? To those who have a passion for the poor? Perhaps to all who are committed to serving the homeless?

Sadly not. These statements and similar are addressed to men only at church gatherings and men’s camps.

It appears that there are those who believe that change in our society, homes and churches can only happen when men are at the helm or in authority.

Would these same men stand up on a Monday morning and dare to make such a suggestion in the boardroom? Why do they find it acceptable at the gathering of God’s people?

Is it not the same as discrimination based on race? Would we make these statements and address them to a particular racial group? Would we make a stand at a public gathering and urge whites to take charge? Would we insist that only blacks could lead?

Why do we find these suggestions regarding race abhorrent and yet do not have an issue with it when we address men and exclude women? When we suggest that women are unable to lead or believe it to be unbiblical.

Nelson Mandela set the course in his State of the Nation Address at the opening of the first democratically elected parliament: “It is vitally important that all structures of government, including the president himself, should understand this fully: that freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression.”

So states Miranda Pillay in

She continues: “All of us must take this on board, that the objectives of the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) will not have been realised unless we see in visible and practical terms that the condition of the women of our country has radically changed for the better, and that they have been empowered to intervene in all aspects of life as equals with any other member of society.”

Has the condition of women in our churches changed for the better? Are women empowered? Are women being treated as equals? Not if we continue to propagate the message that only men can lead.

Not if we continue to use exclusive language in our speech. Not if we make fishers of “men” and ignore women. The change for the better will not happen in the church as long as men (and women) believe and accept that there are limits on what women can do and never discover that more is available to them. And as a result they will never experience the joy and fulfillment of working together as equals and reaping the benefits.

St Paul states in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Let us encourage men and women to reach their full potential by encouraging both to lead. Let us accept and respect women and offer them equal opportunities in the church instead of asking them to sit on the sidelines while only men are coerced to take the lead.

Ethel Schultz Pittaway is the Canon for Gender Issues for the Anglican Diocese of Port Elizabeth.

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