27.11.10

The Gender Agenda reflections part 1

With a declaration that if you are looking for an unbiased review, this is not a book review in the true sense of the word, I can not help but come to the reading of this book with my egalitarian head on, this means in short that I believe that men and women are complementary but that women and men can lead and preach.




I have finally got around to joining AWESOME and ever grateful for people who do not think as I do, I am glad to see that both of these women are on the leadership team of Awesome.


Reviewing the Genda Agenda

This book has quite an opening and if we think that as women to be ordained into the church as ministers, we have struggled with opposition to some extent, Lis Goddard's experience must have been emotionally, theologically and spiritually very challenging - it was very close to home indeed for her!

I wonder if we begin reading this book wondering if in its conclusion, women in the priesthood will win out, we are reeled in by Clare's 'wondering if at some stage I might go forward to the priesthood.' (p.20) There is suspense created but only temporarily for Clare Hendry is quite certain about where she stands.

GENESIS

They begin at the beginning and Clare's belief in Adam's ascendency and Eve's helper status seems a bit uncritical but I recognise it as standard complementarian thinking. 'Helpmeet' as helper is rather crude I always think and there is not enough logic to Clare's idea that helper suggests subordinate but also refers to God who helps human leaders. I think about 'ezer kenegdo' at this point and how when it is attributed to God, he is never subordinate to his people, he is their rescuer. As Allison Young explains 'Kenegdo is a Hebrew preposition and adverb meaning “corresponding to” or “face to face,” so it is best understood as meaning that Eve was a fitting partner for Adam, for she was like him.' Dr. Susan Hyatt in "In the Spirit We're Equal" defines the Hebrew to mean "one who is the same as the other and who surrounds, protects, aids, helps, supports," with no indication of a secondary position. But subordination and equality co-exist in complementarian thinking and I hope the book is going to show me how this might work.

Lis doesn't pick up on 'Ezer kenegdo' until she tackles 'Adamah', reading the word like Goldingay, who says:
Apparently the God-likeness of humanity is only present in the combination of male and female. Certainly humanity itself is only present in this combination. Adam - in this context - is not male; it is a word like ‘mankind’ or ‘humanity’ orhomo sapiens. It is then further defined as ‘male and female’. There is about humanity both a unity and a plurality. Genesis 1, then, immediately subverts the suggestion that the male is the ‘natural’ human being, the female being a deviant type. Only man and woman together make real humanity.

Lis then picks up on the illogicality of Clare's thinking about subordination in the Ezer Kedegdo language after this.

Clare wants to root Genesis in Ephesians 5 to make sense of it, Lis is more keen to take it on its own terms. Lis is unconvinced by the split that Clare places in understanding male leadership to be the model for the home and the church but not the world beyond. It does seem strange that Clare should introduce the idea at this stage where I think it does little to make her Genesis study convincing. 

THE FALL
Lis's reading of the Fall is that the curse (male headship) should be redeemed, is redeemed in Christ, being the implication. She reads that curse as man's domination of women and Clare doesn't disagree but understands the curse as being man inappropriately handling this role and woman rebelling against his natural and good leading. Clare would use Headship rather than domination but understands that the world testifies to its exploitation being a problem. In their readings of the Fall we are in important territory and the place where complementarians and egalitarians decide the foundations for the rest of the way in which they exegete the other problem passages. I am glad that they both ask us to pray and confess for the ways in which our relationships are not what they should be and yet Christians will be unsure until they have decided whether either Lis or Clare's is the more convincing argument, quite the extent to which they should be penitent. 

WOMEN IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
The two women seem more at odds in their discussion of women in the Old Testament. Lis finds some of Clare's points 'bizarre' but apologises for this charge afterwards. I sensed the women's slight fatigue with one another in this part of the book. Clare's response is gracious as she considers how they are nevertheless united in wanting to see women fulfil their potential in God. 

MARY
Clare and Lis both write beautifully on Mary and there are some real gems here and a candid admittance of the stumbling block to discussion for evangelicals keen to distance themselves from 'Mariology'.

ANOTHER MARY
She who disappoints Martha is read in a similar way to Kenneth Bailey and NT Wright by Lis. Kenneth Bailey describes how Mary is 'seated with the men and...the traditional cultural separation between men and women no longer applies.' (BAILEY, K.E., Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes. Cultural Studies in the Gospelsp.193-194.) Tom Wright describes how you would do this 'in order to be a teacher, a rabbi yourself.' (WRIGHT, N.T., Women's Service in the Church, p.4)

...and so we move on to other female leaders in the church and what Jesus modelled in his ministry in terms of his relationships with women.


But I must break now and put down the Hendry/Goddard debate and return to the Barth/Brunner one.

I'll be back soon.


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A little background reading on the two theological integrities in the Church of England regarding women in ministry.