by Doris Diener, Franconia congregation & Danilo Sanchez, Ripple congregation
On May 8 & 9, credentialed leaders from Franconia conference gathered for a Faith & Life Gathering to talk about women in leadership, with input from Carolyn Custis James. In response, Danilo Sanchez and Doris Diener reflect on what they heard.
As a family, we often take walks around our Allentown neighborhood. My two daughters love playing “follow the leader.” We each take turns being at the front of the group, calling out commands like “march,” “act like a dinosaur,” and “neigh like a horse.” Everyone must follow what the leader says, and my girls get so much joy out of making mommy and daddy be silly in public. This may seem like a simple game, but I want my daughters to know from a young age that they are leaders. I don’t know if enough young women hear that message of leadership from their fathers or male leaders at home. Unfortunately, the likelihood that they’ll hear the invitation to be a pastor or leader is even less in the church.
The impetus for Carolyn Custis James to seek God’s intention for gendered humans emerged when marriage did not appear on the horizon throughout her twenties. She wondered what God’s purpose was for young females prior to marriage, or those who were single and widowed. She sought a scriptural answer that is globally relevant for all women everywhere and always.
Carolyn focused on Genesis 1 and 2 for God’s blueprint for his image-bearers. She discovered the meaning of ezer (Genesis 2:18) as it is used in twenty-one “warrior” contexts in the Old Testament: an ezer is an active intervening warrior that partners in a battle for God’s people. The powerful message is the imperative significance of male and female working together for God’s kingdom.
The incredible ingenuity of the tempter in Genesis 3 destroyed God’s original intentions for this earth: It ruined human potential to be his image-bearers as well as it shattered the “blessed alliance” between male and female. “This was a spiritual equivalent of a nuclear weapon to destroy what was intended to be God’s kingdom strategy for the life-giving maintenance of the earth,” Custis James said. Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and His empowering gift of the Holy Spirit provide opportunity for his people to live into his original design.
This makes sense to me. The women and female pastors that I know are warriors. God created male and female in God’s own image (Gen. 1:27). Men and women both carry the image of God and can be God-bearers in the world. This means both men and women have equal worth in the kingdom, equal honor to share the gospel, and equal right to leadership and authority.
From the beginning of creation, we see God reversing cultural norms. But we male pastors and leaders have not carried on a similar empowerment. We have allowed sexism and patriarchy to thrive in the church. I cannot escape culpability because there have been times that I have not spoken up on behalf of women in an all-male room or provided ministry and leadership opportunities for my sisters in Christ. But I am learning and I want to do better because I believe God created male and female in God’s own image. And I believe that God wants to use both men and women for the work of his kingdom.
Our next Faith and Life Gathering will be August 7-8. We will be considering the dynamics of Intercultural Leadership.