Equality will not happen by osmosis.
The only way equality for Christian women can happen is through a deliberate, concentrated, dedicated plan. A plan devised by women and men who have a fire in their belly for equality.
- Bookstores. Contact bookstores such as Cokesbury and request that they have a classification for Gender Equality (or egalitarian) listed in their line-up of books. Currently these bookstores do not have a special listing for books relating to Gender Equality, making it hard to find books on biblical female equality in the church. Contact Amazon and ask that they begin a Religion subcategory for female equality. Think through the companies you shop with and ask for this.
Ask these bookstores to be proactive in gender equality by carrying books, old and new, that are egalitarian in nature. This includes Egalitarian Leadership and Egalitarian Marriage. Currently Christians for Biblical Equality (www.cbeinternational.org) has books dedicated to Christian biblical female equality.
- Egalitarian Marriage Seminars. Male Headship teaching seminars are held frequently, but rarely do we find a marriage seminar that is for egalitarian leadership. This is a vacuum that needs to be filled. There are actually few materials available for such a seminar, and this, too, needs to be addressed. Write or contact Abingdon Press and Cokesbury for such material. LifeWay Resources will not carry such material because it is in their statement of faith that women are to submit ‘graciously’ to their husbands.
- Targeting Women’s Ministry Groups. Enlist and train women of all ages to present seminars, Bible studies, special events in churches and/or at a neutral location. This could be done with a specific program, or with each woman or man (we have found men are more open to women pastors and preachers oftentimes than women are) using their own materials that teach biblical female equality.
- Ask for help from seminaries that are egalitarian. A husband-wife team who were in the first graduating class at Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas, brought this to my attention. They said that pastors who are trained at Truett, when they secure their pastorates, forget about female equality. Their churches do not have women deacons, and they themselves do not make an effort to promote their female classmates who are looking for an opportunity to serve their calling.
In theological seminaries where both men and women are equal, remember that it will not be that way for women once they enter the ministerial field. Contact these pastors and ask them to have at least one sermon a year on biblical equality. Ask the male students before they graduate to commit to encouraging female equality in their church when they begin their pastorate.
Encourage these male students to bring in speakers (such as in #3) to teach their congregations about female equality. In my experience, the church pastor is not necessarily the best person to hold these classes.
Most churches have members who have come from a fundamental religion background and those members are not absolutely sure that it is biblical to have female deacons and elders, and pastors. It is imperative that we teach them why it is biblically correct to have females in leadership. These members have neighbors and family and friends who are being taught that women are to remain submissive to men.
- Sunday School Lessons. Enlist those who write Sunday school lessons to have lessons for one quarter each year that highlight the women of the Bible. Having taught Adult Women’s Sunday school classes for years, and attending Sunday school classes all my life, I had never heard of Hulda, and I am sure most women can tell you the same thing.
Make sure our children see those female heroes. That means that Children’s literature should be scrutinized to present female Bible characters.
- Youth Programs. Provide and actively encourage churches to teach from literature that promotes female equality. Provide such information to each Youth Pastor, at least in those churches that have a egalitarian teaching graduate as pastor.
Keep an eye on the email solicitations from fundamental churches inviting your youth to participate in their conferences and events. Learn to recognize key words that tell you that your girls are not thought of as being equal. Recognize the names of key leaders who are known for their complementarian stance against women. Avoid these. Be vigilant. Train the church secretary to recognize solicitations through email and telephone calls that are from complementarian leaders.
This is just a start. I am sure that there are more avenues that can be explored. The point is that we must do something.
If we don’t do something, there is a real danger that before too many years, female equality conversations will stop altogether, as we have not won. Those who have won are in danger of losing their equality because they are swimming against the tide, and they have not taught their people the biblical basis for female equality.