gender equality is so pretty

* this is a post i wrote a while back for christine sine’s summer blog series about the kingdom now & how people are seeing it up-close-and-personal. i thought i’d share it here, too.  it’s short & sweet & when i re-read it today it reminded me of how thankful i am for my brothers & sisters on this brave & beautiful & more-natural-every-day journey.

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when christine asked for some kingdom is near stories for this summer, i thought of all kinds of fun ways i see the kingdom of God in the life of our beautiful faith community, the refuge.  but the one that seems to rise to the surface often is the beauty of gender equality when-it’s-really-lived-out-in-the-body-of-Christ.

honestly, i never set out to be so passionate about gender equality in the church. i have always been a boat rocker in general, but it wasn’t until about 6 years ago that the scales fell from my eyes and i saw clearly how unjust so many church systems really were when it comes to gender equality.  i am a little mad at myself, to be honest, that i submitted myself to systems that oppressed women and silenced their voices for so many years.  i think it’s because their oppression was subtle; it wasn’t like women weren’t able to serve and lead in many capacities.  it was just that there was a clear and noticeable limit to that work and all the “power” ultimately rested in men instead of being shared openly and freely together.

over the years things have shifted and i see what it can look like for men & women to learn to live, love, and lead alongside each other.  it is not easy to do; there are all kinds of forces working against it.  but isn’t that really what the kingdom of God is all about?  that despite the resistance of all of the “forces” of man and the world (and sometimes religious systems), there’s now a new reality possible because of God’s spirit-at-work-in-all-kinds-of-ways-that-defy-the-status-quo.

i am so thankful to get to see the kingdom of God up close and personal almost every day.  i see men and women learning how to be friends, real brothers & sisters on the journey.  i see men and women using their voices alongside each other, separately & together but equally.  i see men and women healing deep wounds from their past with people and their present with God because they are finding people who reflect God’s image as mothers & fathers & sisters & brothers & daughters & sons in community.  i see women freed to use their gifts and passions right alongside men and men fanning that into flame tangibly.  i see prayer and support teams that aren’t just women-supporting-women or men-supporting-men but a lovely mix of both together, focused on loving and supporting and encouraging hurting friends.  i see people saying out loud “i don’t know how to be friends with men (or women), but i want to learn. can you help me try?”

really, what i’m seeing up-close every day is how Jesus’ spirit can break down patricarchal systems of inequality that have been deeply engrained in us. it is not something that comes in a rush, but it is something that can come when God’s people give up power and mutually submit, one to another, in freedom and love.

our community is small.  it is not flashy or exciting.  we are poor.  we are messy.  and there’s no question–sometimes it’s downright scary to have this level of community going on right before my very eyes. but one thing i know for sure–gender equality is so pretty, a beautiful reflection of the kingdom of God in the here and now.

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a few other things i wanted to let you know about:

  • starting in september, the monthly synchroblog is back with a regular schedule.  you can check out all the dates & details here.  i hope that some of you who blog will be willing to contribute; i remember when i first heard about a synchroblog  i was all nervous & intimidated, thinking “oh, that is just for people who are cool-bloggers-who-know-what-they’re-doing-unlike-me.” (so not true but entering into something new can feel like that sometimes).  but i plunged in the pool & am so glad i did. it’s just a great eclectic mix of people from all different perspectives writing on the same topic.  no pressure, no big deal, no hoop-la or competition.  i hope that you’ll consider being part. upcoming topics  are a great mix:  september is immigration, october is same-sex-marriage, november is life through the eyes of the marginalized, and december is advent.  email me if you have any questions.
  • lots of good posts on big-tent christianity, too, from their synchroblog. check it out here.
  • my friends craig spinks & jim henderson have some new great, interactive material out about young people’s perspectives on christianity that we can all learn so much from called the outsider interviews.  several of my friends are featured in it & have powerful stories that need to be listened to if we want to be part of transforming the landscape of faith for upcoming generations. i hope you check it out.


Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

5 Comments

  • Oh this was good, and I love that our, um messy and poor *but I would argue exciting, neeeever know what you are going to get 😉 community is for sure one that is a place to just be right along side one another.

    I remember for so long feeling like yes, there was plenty for me to be able to *do* as a woman, but…it was just felt… limited. It wasn’t like I even knew that I wanted more, I just used those skills *outside* of the church. Love that I live in an integrated community, and I hope that more and more and more, the waves of equality will permeate lots of communities. I feel lots of support from our awesome brothers on the journey, and I hope that they often feel the same way.

    One of my (many) hopes in the world of gender equality is that my future kids & grandkiddos roll their eyes at me when I tell tales of how women used to not always be treated equally in “the church”. 😉

    Love this—>”i see women freed to use their gifts and passions right alongside men and men fanning that into flame tangibly.” Me too. So.freaking.bea-utiful.

    Reply
  • Great thoughts! You hit one of my hot buttons. I can not agree with those who teach anything other than total gender equality. They seem to find what they what to find in the Scriptures. I do not want to rule over anyone or have anyone obey me, nor do I want anyone to rule over me and expect me to obey them. That does not look like the body of Christ to me.

    We know a woman who runs a mid size city, yet is not allowed to speak out or teach men in her church. If an elder in that church tells her she should do something, she is expected to obey. We have another friend whose husband will only attend churches that teach women to submit to their husbands, which in this case he interprets as his wife must obey whatever he tells her to do.

    We do not support any groups that do not practice full gender equality, even with our presence. Wish we were near The Refuge! We’re trying to grow where God planted us and live out radical, Jesus-shaped lives here. I’ve been in church since I was an infant, yet I’ve never heard the verse “This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 Jn 2:6) I can’t find Jesus teaching or modeling gender inequality or most of the other nonsensical stuff I’ve heard taught in churches. Seems to me they’re more into religion than they are into Jesus.

    Reply
  • Hmm…. reading this makes me see how far away from this most churches – and society,even, is. I recognize in myself a deep distrust of men in general. And it is not without cause. But I also know that my experiences are not reflective of all men… but my heart is still distrustful.

    Probably, the only way to heal this is to experience what you discribe. But what you describe is so rare. I wish there was a way to be part of your community without moving to Denver. 🙂

    Reply
  • stacy – yeah, that’s my hope, too. that your kids & grandkids will be like “you’re kidding!” unfortunately, my kids missed the window a bit but i have heard what they have said to people along the way who disagree with gender equality & it makes me really happy 🙂

    sam -oh i wish you lived near the refuge, too. we would have fun. one thing i deeply respect that you shared is that you will not support churches that do not practice gender equality with your presence. i do believe we vote with our feet & that when we just dismiss the injustice underneath & keep supporting organizations, even though we might disagree in our hearts, that things will never ever change. thank you so much for modeling what a new way looks like..

    katherine
    – yeah, that’s the part that is the trickiest for sure. there’s so much woundedness out there in so many i know and i do believe deep healing is possible but unfortunately there aren’t that many places to do it in. that makes me so sad. meanwhile, i hope that somehow in a weird way you can have hope from afar that men & women can really live as brothers & sisters and lead & love & live together without all kinds of power weirdness. peace to you, i’m really glad you take time to comment and share.

    Reply

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