Christians for Biblical Equality


The Trinity Argument for woman's subordination.
Kevin Giles

George Knight III in his 1977 book, New Testament Teaching on the Role Relationship of Men and Women, invented the post Women’s Lib case for the subordination of women. He argued that the Bible teaches the “equality” of the sexes and their “role differentiation.” Who could disagree with this? However, when unpacked what we find he is arguing is that “equal” means spiritually equal and role differentiation means men have the “role” of leading and directing; women the “role” of submitting and obeying.

He argues this is what 1 Timothy 2:11-14 teaches grounding men and women’s “role differences” in creation before the fall. Thus women’s subordination is the transcultural and trans-temporal God-given ideal.

Then on the basis of 1 Corinthians 11:3 (the head passage) he argues that just as the divine three persons are ordered hierarchically, so too is the man-woman relationship is ordered hierarchically. Indeed, he argues the latter is predicated on the former. The Father is “head over” the Son, and men are “head over” women.  No higher basis for women’s subordination can be found; it is grounded in the life of God.

Knight’s Novel teaching was embraced with great enthusiasm by evangelical men who felt their God-given precedence was in jeopardy and by many women. As the argument from creation, predicated on a novel interpretation  and 1 Tim 2:11-12 failed to convince many Wayne Grudem in his 1994, Systematic Theology, revived the Trinity argument which then became the primary argument for the permanent subordination of women. Bruce Ware became his number one collaborator in this exercise. They were able to win over most of the evangelical world.

In Complementarian circles not one voice was raised in opposition to the Trinity argument and article after article and book after book put this case. From May 1st 2015 to May 30th 2016 no less than four major books put this case.

Paul and women: was the apostle a misogynist?
Kevin Giles
I have been involved in the very divisive and painful debate over what the Bible teaches on the status and ministry of women for over 30 years. Few people have published on this issue more than me. In most of my writings on the male-female relationship I have concentrated almost entirely on what the Bible says.  However, I must admit to you in the last few years I have been saying something more. I now tell people, without even looking at the Bible, you should not believe that God has subordinated women to men. We now know the earth is not flat, the sun does not revolve around our little planet, the world we live in is not 7000 years old, and women are a not subordinate class who God has excluded from leadership. On the first three matters the few verses in the Bible that theologians in past times quoted to prove these things do nothing of the sort. They simply reflect the beliefs of everyone in pre-scientific times and as an historical document the Bible from time to time innocently reflects these beliefs. We as Christians are not bound by these reflections of pre-scientific ideas most of us agree. It is the same with women. God has made it crystal clear to us in the last thirty years that women can have first class leadership abilities, first class minds and whip us men on most things. At this stage of my life, in the world in which I live, nothing at all inclines me to believe women are subordinated by God to men. I admit I come to read the Bible today with this conviction in my mind.
Today we consider what Paul says on women because Paul more than any other writer in the NT is taken to subordinate women to men, or to put it the opposite way, to give to men “headship”,  in plain speech, leadership.  I think this is a very one sided and objectionable reading of Paul and this is what I will argue today.
Paul the historical man.
Paul was a first century Jewish man. We all accept that he did not drive a car, did not have a radio or TV and knew nothing about computers, and he could not have imagined a world where women freely chose who they would marry, went to university, could support themselves financially and hold any job, including being the prime minister or president of a nation. We should therefore not expect him to speak or think of women as most of us do in twenty first century Australia.

Dr Shane Clifton’s workshop critiquing the conservative position that women and men are equal in being but functionally different – that men function as leaders and women as followers – is based on a chapter from the book Raising Women Leaders: Perspectives on liberation women in Pentecostal and Charismatic Contexts, edited by Shane Clifton and Jacqueline Grey.

An excerpt of the relevant chapter can be found here (0.5MB)


Mimi Haddad, President of Christians for Biblical Equality International

Thank you CBE Melbourne, for the honor of addressing such an accomplished and devoted community. CBE has been truly blessed by your leadership and we look forward to many more years of partnership beside you, all for the glory of Jesus. It is for the sake of the Gospel we work together like this now and always.

Amartya Sen

As some evangelicals debate whether women can hold senior positions in the church or academy, or have an equal voice in their marriages and families, 200 million females are missing from the planet. The gender ratio has never been more skewed according to Amartya Sen, Harvard professor of economics and philosophy. 26 years ago, Sen was the first to suggest that the world was facing a gender holocaust. His study showed that 100 million females had vanished. For his research, Sen won the Nobel Prize and launched a gender lens in economics that heightened the scrutiny of humanitarians and researchers, who with one voice, declared the scope and impact of patriarchy to be one of the most malicious and debilitating forces in history.

Definition of Patriarchy: By patriarchy, we mean what Merriam Webster means
1: A social organization marked by the supremacy of the father in the clan or family, and
2:  A society or institution organized according to the principles or practices of patriarchy

The UN Millennium Project: In response to the research of Sen and colleagues within the NGO world, the UN Millennium Project—a consortium of 250 global experts working to end poverty, hunger and disease—recognized that…the “Empowerment of women has [proven to be]… one of the strongest drivers of social [well-being]… and is acknowledged as essential for addressing the global challenges facing humanity.”1

According the UN Millennium Project data

  • In the best case, women are paid 30% less than men for similar work. Women do most of the unpaid work and represent 50.5% of the 1.52 billion workers in vulnerable employment. In most cases, a woman’s economic roles are added to her traditional housework: what we call the “second shift.”
  • 70% of people living in poverty are women.
  • Representing the largest number of agricultural workers globally, women receive only 5% of agricultural services. Repeatedly, the Food and Agricultural Organization notes that placing women as heads of farming ventures would reduce starvation by up to 150 million annually.
  • Women represent about 64% of the 775 million adult illiterates.
  • Women account for less than 20% of all national legislative bodies worldwide.
  • Globally, women comprise only approximately 9% of corporate boards even when we realize that adding two or more women to an all-male board both increases productivity and lowers unethical practices.

According the UN Millennium Project data

  • Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) traumatizes about 3 million girls each year, in addition to the estimated 140 million women and girls already affected.
  • Violence against women is the largest ongoing war in all of history. 70% of women will to be targeted for physical and sexual violence in their lifetime. 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not a legal offense. These are the most underreported crime worldwide.
  •  Of the estimated 800,000 people trafficked annually, 80% are female—most are trafficked for sexual exploitation, many are children.
  • Less than 20% of the world's landholders are women.
  • Women & girls are the last to eat & have the least to eat.
  • It is feared that over 200 million girls are missing, constituting the largest holocaust in all of history.

The Girl Effect

In addressing these challenges, researchers have discovered what is called the “Girl Effect,”2 that is, in study after study when females are valued equally beside males, and when income is invested in their education, health and businesses, these are communities that thrive economically and where girls and women are less likely to encounter abuse, illiteracy, poverty and disease. Investors now realize that undermining patriarchy not only makes enormous social sense. It is also good economics!

The Virtuous Cycle

According to research published by Goldman Sachs, investing in females drives economic growth. At the same time, it promotes humanitarian objectives. We call this the “Virtuous Cycle,”3 because women spend their income not in prostitutes, drugs or gambling but in promoting her family and community’s future… it’s a virtuous cycle that reduces inequalities and drives economic growth. According to the World Bank, undermining patriarchy is smart economics, and it’s good for families, communities and countries.

World Bank

According to the 12th President of the World Bank, Dr. Jim Yong Kim: “No Society can reach its full potential if half of the population is left behind. A professor of medicine and former president of Dartmouth College, Kim said gender equality is essential to ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. Thus, the World Bank is committed to the idea that gender “diversity and inclusion are embedded in all that we do.” Like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, has gender equality in center view. An organization of 189 countries, the IMF fosters global monetary cooperation, financial stability, international trade, high employment and sustainable economic growth, and poverty reduction.4 According to its manager, Christine Legard:

“Despite significant progress in recent decades, labor markets across the world remain divided along gender lines. Female labor force participation has remained lower than male participation, gender wage gaps are high, and women are overrepresented in the informal sector and among the poor. In many countries, legal restrictions persist which constrain women from developing their full economic potential.”5 Making a commitment to the following goals, IMF pledges:

  • “We pledge to further strengthen our policy advice and analysis to support female labor force participation.
  • We promise to continue our work to address gender data gaps, with the aim of supporting the financial inclusion of women.
  • We commit to push forward our work on gender budgeting, including through policy advice to member countries.
  • We will build on recent research with the objective of helping to break down the discriminatory effects of legal restrictions.
  • We commit to undertake further research on the links between gender inequality and growth, and the impact of policies on gender inequality.”

They have a focus on gender equality in their funding priorities, as do the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation.

In speaking on technology to an audience segregated by gender, Bill Gates was asked if he thought it was realistic for Saudi to become one of the top 10 countries in technology. Gates responded that if you’re not fully utilizing half the talent in the country, you’re not going to get too close to the Top 10. The women erupted with wild cheering! The Gates Foundation demonstrates a clear commitment to gender equality in their humanitarian work.

What about the church? According to this year’s Barna study, most Americans share the concern that significant obstacles still make it harder for women to get ahead compared to men (53%). Three in 10 (30%) believe those obstacles are largely gone. Women [however] are more likely to believe those obstacles exist compared to men (59% vs. 46%). According to Barna’s editor and chief, Roxanne Stone, “… there are still significant growing pains on the journey toward gender parity. For most women, these are less about representation in the workplace and more about expectations and fair treatment. In our research, women point out inequality in promotions and in pay… women are still under-represented in executive suites and paid less than men for the same jobs. Additionally, women continue to disproportionately feel the tension of work/family balance.”6

Even so, Barna reports that “Evangelicals are the most skeptical of the existence of barriers for women in the workplace. Less than one-third (32%)—fewer than any other segment Barna studied—believe significant obstacles still exist.” Compared to Christian organizations, the secular world has made significant gains.

According to the extensive work compiled by Dr. Karen Longman7 For over ten years, women have earned more than 50% of doctoral, master and bachelor degrees. Yet:

  • Women hold only 31% of professor positions (2014).
  • Men out-earn women by $13,616 at public institutions and $17,843 at private institutions.
  • Women hold 27% of higher education presidencies (2011). They are less likely to be married or have children.
  • According to Bill Gates, Warren Buffet et al, engaging a diverse workforce increases not only performance but workplace ethics.8 Even so,
  • Women make up 22% of board members in Evangelical Organizations and 20% in the CCCU.
  • While we encourage Christian women to pursue leadership: studies show that organizational practices and policies are very real obstacles women encounter in pursuing higher levels of leadership.

Institutional Male Leadership: The Experience of Women in the Evangelical Academy

As this chart shows, women outnumber men in most Christian churches, yet women remain a minority as seminary students, particularly in the leadership of seminaries and Christian academic institutions like the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS). In fact, women in leadership are half as well represented as the secular academy.
In 2015, CBE’s Princeton intern, Emily Zimbrick Roger, did a groundbreaking, qualitative study of women’s experiences at the ETS where membership is open to anyone with terminal academic degrees. According to Zimbrick Rogers,9

  • Of its 4,500 members; women comprise less than 6%. And…
    • No women have ever served on any ETS executive committee
  • Experiences of women at the ETS include:
    • Humiliating assumptions: Women are not scholars but are married to one
    • There was an unvoiced sentiment that women do not belong at the ETS
    • “General feeling of being unequal, unnoticed and even invisible.”
    • Women “felt that their very presence was too different and therefore too difficult to include”
    • Some described difficulty talking to married professors, who seemed to create barriers to conversations, collegiality and collaboration.

Taking a closer look at the institutional structure at ETS, Zimbrick Rogers found that:

  • ETS has a male public face that is “usually ideologically aligned with overtly complementarian entities” and identities…
  • The majority of speakers and panels were made up of white men
  • Many women were not interested in pursuing leadership in ETS because they believe the membership will not vote for them
  • Many men and women believe that the board of ETS has purposefully kept women off the board and to stack the board with complementarian male
  • While complementarianism is not part of the officially mandated, the ETS runs as if it is de facto
  • “The majority of women experienced an atmosphere of hostility, marginalization and exclusion at ETS”10
  • While the majority of evangelicals are women, ETS remains extremely patriarchal.

The marginalization of women in the Christian academy has not escaped the notice of key funders like IDF and also the Carpenter Foundation. The Association of Theological Schools (ATS) recently received $150,000 from E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation to support its Women in Leadership Initiative to advance women at ATS schools and in more traditional leadership roles where they continue to be highly under-represented in ATS schools. According to ATS director, Jo Ann Deasy, for the past twenty years:

“The participation of women has increased, particularly in settings that present no confessional barriers... But overall, indicators suggest that a ‘30%’ threshold tends to exist in theological education, even in areas where no gender-related confessional constraints limits women’s participation.”11

Yet, the under-representation of women leaders and the marginalization of their voices globally, acclimatizes not only a male-majority in institutional leadership. What is worse, women are often the most able contributors of crucial skills and information that, had we attended to their voices, we could have avoided human catastrophe.

Consider the rural women in Iraq and Syria who, more than ten years ago, were the first to expose the abuses of girls and women by ISIS, as it was forming. No one listened, but what if we had? Jimmy Carter gave these women a yearly platform at his Human Rights Defender Forums. Carter also ensured that their recommendations were included in a special report sent to the White House each year. I spoke with several of these women when CBE participated in the 2015 Human Rights Defender Forum and I could not help but wonder, if we had listened to their warnings, years ago, could we have prevented the recent genocide of the Yezidi people of Northern Iraq among whom many thousands of Yezidi girls have become sex slaves.

President Carter is convinced that: “the most serious unaddressed worldwide challenge is the deprivation and abuse of women and girls, largely caused by a false interpretation of carefully selected religious texts and a growing tolerance of violence and warfare… In addition to the unconscionable human suffering, almost embarrassing to acknowledge, there is a devastating effect on economic prosperity caused by the loss of contributions of at least half the human beings on earth. This is not just a women’s issue. It is not confined to the poorest countries. It affects all of us.”12

According to Carter, you can pick out individual verses throughout the Bible that shows that the verse favors your particular preference, and the fact that the Catholic denomination [the largest Christian denomination] prohibits women from serving as priests or even deacons gives a kind of permission to male people all over the world, that well, if God thinks women are inferior, I’ll treat them as inferiors. If she is my wife, I can abuse her with impunity, or if I’m an employer, I can pay my female employees less...”13

Carter’s observations may help explain why in 2011 George Barna reported a 10% decline in women’s weekly participation in the life of the American church, the first of its kind in history. More and more women are leaving the church.14 Yet, women and men are joining hands with CBE to dismantle Christian patriarchy theologically and in practice. At CBE’s 2017 conference in Florida (July 21-23), we have will hear from extraordinary leaders like Rebecca Kotz—who is taking on Gender Based Violence as a tour de force. Her tact is brilliant in exposing the patriarchal forces in American culture, particularly as is it driven by the porn industry where voyeurism has been replaced by gang rape, and where eroticism arises through inflicting pain on women. According to Kotz, patriarchy assumes the centeredness of males as human, and females as “other.” It is a system that devalues females and, increasingly, demands compliance with patriarchal assumptions and objectives that fuel Gender Based Violence, of which women are the objects of abuse.

Kotz shows how the gender roles feed into a cycle of violence, where women are first deemed “other” from men, and marginalized by strict gender roles, wherein they are devalued then abused and killed.

At CBE, we describe patriarchy as a fungus or “mycelium”—the largest organism in North America. Its tentacles are underground and thus its presence is invisible though it reaches great distances while draining nutrients and life in its presence. Like mycelium, patriarchy is invisible because we’ve become so accustomed to its presence. The devaluation of women escapes our notice because it’s just part of the world we live in. We believe it is normal, even God ordained. As Christians we often assume that the “He Will Rule over you” of Genesis 3:16 is prescriptive and not descriptive—a force that has shaped human history and is our reality of life since Eden. We are too easily inoculated to the ubiquitous presence of male rule as it exerts a toxic, deadly, though invisible force. Its presence can be recognized by the destruction in its path.

Consider the experiences of Kristoff and WuDunn

In their Pulitzer Prize winning book, Half the Sky, they note that: “When a prominent dissident was arrested in China, we would write (and publish) a front-page article; [but] when 100,000 girls were routinely kidnapped and trafficked into brothels, we didn’t even consider it news.”15it didn’t make front page news! Violence against women is silenced by its pervasiveness.

The Hunting Ground

Consider the response sexual assault victims receive from police and administrators on colleges and universities around the country. It was only as students organized, filed and won a series of Title IX lawsuits against colleges and universities that assaults gained the attention and protection from their institutions and communities, according to the award winning documentary The Hunting Ground.

Eleanor Roosevelt said: Well Behaved Women never make history!

To challenge the abuse of females, even as it has become increasingly violent, places a challenging and dangerous burden on gender-reformers. Yet, my student from Princeton did rock the ETS boat. With grace, tact, vision, intelligence, and courage, her work led to some significant improvements for women in the academy even as it defied the silencing of women. It also required women to speak, act and resist the status quo. Patriarchy is banking on our compliance. Patriarchy is counting on our passivity.

As Kristof and WuDunn observed, male dominance and female docility are two sides of an abusive coin. They write:

“One of the reasons that so many women and girls are kidnapped, trafficked, raped, and otherwise abused is that they grin and bear it. Stoic docility—in particular, acceptance of any decree by a man—is drilled into girls in much of the world from the time they are babies…”16

Sadly, the church too often teaches women to be silent, even when facing abuse. I am CBE’s second president and almost immediately I began hearing from women who had been abused by men who professed Christian faith. Ideas have consequences and religious ideas have significant consequences. For centuries the church has taught flawed ideas about God and humanity. Remember, Christian theologians supported apartheid, slavery, the subjugation of women. And, from every period of history, theologians have presumed women are inferior as the basis of male authority. Here are a few examples, though there are many more:

Theologians Who have Devalued Women:17

  • Chrysostom: (347–407) “The woman taught once, and ruined all. On this account therefore he saith, let her not teach … for the sex is weak and fickle (ontos)…”
  • John Knox: (1514-1572) Nature, I say, does paint [women] forth to be weak, frail, impatient, feeble, and foolish; and experience has declared them to be inconstant, variable, cruel…  [thus] a woman's place is beneath man's.”
  • Mark Driscoll: (2010) writes: “when it comes to leading in the church, women are unfit because they are more gullible and easier to deceive than men. . . . [W]omen who fail to trust [Paul’s] instruction . . . are much like their mother Eve. . . . Before you get all emotional like a woman in hearing this, please consider the content of the women’s magazines at your local grocery store that encourages liberated women in our day to watch porno with their boyfriends, master oral sex for men who have no intention of marrying them . . . and ask yourself if it doesn’t look like the Serpent is still trolling the garden and that the daughters of Eve aren’t gullible in pronouncing progress, liberation, and equality.18

According to these teachings, female subordination is believed to be the result of their own inferior nature—ideas that foment a patriarchal worldview that is dangerous for girls and women. As we now realize, the most prominent indicator of whether a female will be abused is not based on her gender but on the value placed on gender by religious and cultural gatekeepers.

In turning to mentors for wisdom in dealing with the gender challenges we face today, I can think of no better leaders to consult than someone who died before most of us were born. Among the greatest abolitionists she gained international reputation in the late 1800s. Tracing the church’s complicity in destruction of girls and women, she spoke truth to power through her intellect, courage and biblical scholarship. She was the first to redress religious patriarch through a cohesive biblical worldview that established females as equals beside men in creation, fall and

Christ’s new covenant. If you are unfamiliar with the legacy of Dr. Katharine Bushnell, then I will consider an honor to introduce you to a social reformer on whose shoulders many of us now stand.

Born in 1856, Katherine Bushnell was one of the youngest graduates of the Chicago Women’s Medical College. Working first as a medical doctor in China, she returned home to lead the “Social Purity Department,” at the Women’s Christian Temperance Union—where she became a Christian activist of the highest order.19

Infiltrating brothels to interview girls and women enslaved in sex-camps in the iron mines of Michigan and the lumber Camps of Wisconsin, Bushnell gained first-hand accounts that she presented to State legislators as an expert medical witness. Do not imagine that her work went unchallenged. Once, while attempting to enter a courthouse in Wisconsin, she encountered a mob of hostile men and she feared for her life. Their goal was to intimidate her, but Kate turned to God in prayer and God answered within moments. A band of women walked into the courthouse and stood behind these men, as if to say, God is at your right hand, and the righteousness of your cause will prevail. Her efforts that day were successful and led to a bill, dubbed the ‘Kate Bushnell Bill,’ which sent perpetrators to long prison terms for enslaving girls in Wisconsin, where sex-trafficking was particularly heinous.20

From here Bushnell traveled to India to work in brothels established by the British military in order to retain British soldiers and officers. Her autobiography describes how she and her colleagues, “walked through the lines of encampments
… [and] went on to the little tents for women… [here we] took their testimony…hearts melted and tears flowed, and they were eager to tell us how they had been brought against their will, or by trickery or thoughtlessly, into such a horrible life. More than once… they would not let [us go] until [we] prayed… to help them to get out of [their] virtual imprisonment. We interviewed about 500 … [girls].”21
In attempting to understand why these girls were deceived and imprisoned, Bushnell asked hard questions about the indifference and complicity of the Christians. She asked:

“How can officials of high standing as Christian gentlemen be so indifferent to the wrongs of women and girls, so complacent in the dealings with the sensuality of men and so ready to condone their offences against decency? [men who had sent orders] to … secure ‘younger and more attractive girls’ for .. British soldiers…

Sir John Bowring, who wrote those beautiful hymns like “Watchman, Tell Us of the Night” and “In the Cross of Christ I Glory” by his legislation at Hong Kong, brought into existence an ordinance making it punishable for any … girl to live but with her owner, who kept her for immoral purposes… acts which cannot but seep hundreds, perhaps thousands of girls into prostitution.”22

After decades of working with prostituted girls and women, Kate believed that God was turning her away from treating the symptoms—trafficking—in order to dismantle the roots of gender-abuse. And, herein begins her theological vocation that constitutes the summit of her reforming work. Bushnell observed that the major religious traditions, including Christianity, create a gender-caste system that declares females innately depraved. It is not their character, their giftedness or their devotion to Christ that devalued women. It is their gender—a fixed and unchangeable condition. Christians have taught for centuries that virtue is determined by gender wherein males are viewed as superior and given scrutiny and authority over women. The Bible, the Koran and the teachings of Hinduism have been consistently interpreted to make this case. This, for Bushnell, is the root or mycelium destroying life in its wake. In this she was not alone.

She was joined by formidable colleagues, who were equally ill-behaved, like Catherine Booth of the Salvation Army; Josephine Butler who opposed Britain’s Contagious Disease Act; Pandita Ramabai working to end gender based violence and sex-trafficking in India, and Sojourner Truth a leading American suffragist and abolitionist. These activists and others perceived how religious teachings were distorted in order to provide the most exalted, convincing and irreproachable devaluation of individuals, whereby their subjugation and abuse are rationalized. The pernicious pervasiveness of patriarchy shaped our reading of scripture, history and the integrity and capacity of women. Because of this, Bushnell believed that their work dismantling the sex-slavery and GBV though necessary, would inevitably fail without addressing the theological presuppositions that devalue women.

Of course, there is a great irony here! While religious commentators portray women as feeble, morally and intellectually, yet God used what was viewed as weak to shame the proud. It was women’s strength, spiritually, morally and intellectually that exposed the flawed reasoning and shallow theology that diminished human flourishing. Their example also demonstrates that social reform brings to the tables of leadership those who have experienced the greatest injustice. It is the voices of the marginalized that are most needed, and it was women whom God used to dismantle gender abuse 100 years ago and today. Few accomplished this with greater capacity than Katharine Bushnell.

Like a laser obliterating cancer cells, she exposed theological errors of mammoth proportion that had deceived and subjugated women for centuries. She unmasks the ontological devaluation of women by Christians who interpret Scripture with patriarchal lens:

Bushnell’s Autobiography

…until [we]—come to understand that a woman is of as much value as a man; and [people] will not believe this until they see it plainly taught in the Bible.23 Just so long as [Christians] imagine that a system of caste is taught in the Word of God, and that [men] belong to the upper caste while women are of the lower caste; and just so long as [we] believe that mere FLESH—fate—[birth, materiality] determines the caste to which one belongs; and just so long as [we] believe that the “he will rule over you” of Genesis 3:16 is [part of the moral teachings of the Bible, rather than describing life in a fallen world] ... the destruction of young women into a prostitute class will continue.24

Ideas have consequences and Christian teaching, speaking on behalf of God has the most significant impact of all. For this reason, Bushnell challenged a patriarchal reading of Scripture, in her book, God’s Word to Women. Examining over 300 passages in Scripture, Bushnell devoted enormous attention to the early chapters of Genesis. Here she showed, that Adam and Eve are equally created in God’s image25 and both are called to govern the world with equal authority.26 Eve was not the source of sin27 because both disobeyed God.28 It was Satan, not God, who inspired the domination of men over women.29 God extends leadership to those who do what is right in God’s sight, regardless of their gender, birth order, ethnicity or class.30

Genesis 3:16

Male rule is not a biblical ideal. Rather, the “he will rule over you” of Genesis 3:16” is a consequence of sin. Patriarchy is part of the chaos and disorder of sin, which Christians are called to dismantle and oppose. Male authority, privilege and patriarchy are the result of sin and are therefore at odds with the moral teachings of Scripture.
The UN Millennial Project has, correctly, identified the consequence of male-rule as a malicious force that devalues, marginalizes and abuses females blurring their identity as equal agents beside men, which is their God-given vocation and their creational identity since the beginning.

Despite life in a patriarchal world, biblical women were far from obedient to men. Even in a world of sin and patriarchy, biblical women lived out their identity as ezer, as a strong rescue, as prophets, teachers, deacons, apostles, military leaders, diplomats, business leaders, revealing on the pages of our holy text women’s identity, an identity that shifts out of view under the force of patriarchy.

Yet, thanks to abolitionists like Bushnell, she and egalitarians after her have made clear that Paul himself co-labored beside women leaders, challenging their leadership and men’s only when it proved abusive, domineering (1 Tim. 2 :12), or failed to advance the gospel consistently (1 Tim. 2 :11–12, Acts 18:26, Rom. 16:1–5, 7, 12–13, 15), or was disruptive (1 Cor. 11:5, 1 Cor. 14:34). Bushnell situates women’s identity not in the fall, as so many theologians had, but in Christ’s completed work on Calvary.31 Bushnell’s work was a death-blow to what philosophers call “ascriptivism," that biology is destiny: that virtue arises from a fixed attribute like gender.

What about today?

Christian humanitarians, working to end global sex-trade, follow in Bushnell’s path.

Lance Robinson:

By making [males] the default tie-breaker within the home or workplace, even in the best of marriages, there is still the subtle message that the wisdom of a woman is less than that of a man. By making the position of leadership within spiritual community unacceptable based solely on gender, a glass ceiling is imposed that speaks volumes to the souls of women and where they stand in social order, and even perhaps before God. … Ideas do have consequences, and… holding this theological position became a problem of injustice for me.

[As] my vocation began taking me to various parts of the globe dealing with issues of injustice, time and again I encountered cultural practices that subjugated and subverted women, most always justified through long standing traditional or religious values and mores. Whether through a process or an abrupt change, it was not until those values were challenged and replaced that breakthroughs for women were realized. I began challenging my own beliefs.

Working with sex-slaves for nearly 20 decades, another humanitarian wrote:

When one type of human being is deemed lesser, it provides license to treat them as less. No matter how subtle, dehumanizing ideas of people leads to dehumanizing actions.

For humanitarians working to advance gender justice today, and for those who worked over 100 years ago there is agreement: the church will remain a weak vessel of justice until Christians interpret Scripture without a patriarchal lens. Challenging gender injustice will always require both social and theological reform. It must always engage the leadership of women.

I say this as respectfully as any gender reformer can: Every day that the church teaches, models and normalizes male-rule as God’s ideal—we fuel a patriarchal trajectory that places girls and women at risk of  abuse. To say it another way, every time we advance women in leadership; every time we demonstrate that God created men and women for shared governance and leadership we advance human flourishing. It is not maleness or femaleness but character, intimacy with Christ, and the fanning into flames God’s gifts to us that Scripture celebrates as the basis for leadership.

A Tipping Point

We have reached a tipping point in tolerating patriarchy; in refusing to harness isolated biblical texts in its support. We see, more clearly than ever, its destructive presence in institutions, businesses, marriages families and communities around the world.

As Christians, we of all people recognize the power of Christ’s a new creation, in which the privileges of the Jew, the free and the male are now also that of Greeks, slaves and females. We have a holy text in which the most unlikely held astonishing positions of leadership. You never look at another individual and determine what they are capable of. For Christ in them is able to do more than you might think or imagine possible. That is the power of the Gospel, and it does offend human pride.

We stand at the most unique place in all of history. We can be the headlight or the taillights of God’s renewing work in this world, as Dr. Martin Luther King Junior observed. But be clear on this, God is moving forward to release his beloved daughters from prejudice and domination, and we are invited to join God. Join us! Let’s advance women in leadership and in doing so, we also confront gender injustice.

2 Kristoff and WuDunn, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.  (New York, New York: Knopf Publishing group, 2009), p. xiv-xx. 

5 https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2016/09/22/PR16420-Lagarde-Announces-Specific-Actions-on-Womens-Economic-Empowerment

7 H. L. Johnson, Pipelines, Pathways, and Institutional Leadership: An Update on the Status of Women in Higher Education, American Council on Education Higher Ed Spotlight infographic Brief, 2016 as cited by Karen A. Longman in her 2016 Pepperdine CCCU lecture, Women in Leadership in Higher Education, Half the Sky: What’s the Current Picture of Women in Leadership?

8 “The laws of economics and many studies of diversity tell us that if we tapped the entire pool of human resources and talent, our collective performance would improve" (Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg and Warren Buffet – states his success is due to only competing with ½ the world’s population)

9 http://www.cbeinternational.org/sites/default/files/ETS2015-web.pdf

10 Ibid

12 Jimmy Carter, Call To Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power. (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2014) p. 3

13 Ibid

15 Nicholas D. Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women World. (New York, Vintage Books, 2010) p. xiv.

16 Nicholas D. Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women World. (New York, Vintage Books, 2010) p. 47.

18 Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Church, Seattle, WA. Quoted at http://www.dennyburk.com/mark-driscoll-on-women-in-ministry-2,accessed March 24, 2010.

19 See time line on the life of Katharine Bushnell, available here: http://godswordtowomen.org/gwtw_bushnell_timeline.pdf

20 Katharine Bushnell, Dr. Katharine C. Bushnell: A Brief Sketch of her Life and Work, (Hertford, England: Rose and Sons Salisbury Square, 1930), p. 4.

21 Katharine Bushnell, Dr. Katharine C. Bushnell: A Brief Sketch of her Life and Work, (Hertford, England: Rose and Sons Salisbury Square, 1930), p. 8.

22 Katharine Bushnell, Dr. Katharine C. Bushnell: A Brief Sketch of her Life and Work, (Hertford, England: Rose and Sons Salisbury Square, 1930), p. 11-12.

23 Katharine Bushnell, Dr. Katharine C. Bushnell: A Brief Sketch of her Life and Work, (Hertford, England: Rose and Sons Salisbury Square, 1930), p. 12.

24 Ibid  p. 13.

25 Katharine Bushnell, God’s Word to Women: One Hundred Bible Studies on Woman’s Place in the Church and Home. (Minneapolis, MN: Christians for Biblical Equality, 2003), 9ff

26 Ibid, 10.


28 Ibid, 39, 48.

29 Ibid, 43ff, 75.

30 Ibid, 66, 68, 75.

31 Ibid, 169.

"I just want the violence to stop"


[Powerpoint Presentation from the workshop (With handout at the end)]



What is abuse?

  • Every couple has arguments or disagreements. In a respectful and equal relationship, both partners feel free to state their opinions, to make their own decisions, to be themselves, and to say no to sex. In an abusive relationship, one partner tries to dominate the other through physical harm,criticisms, demands, threats, or sexual pressure.

    For the victim and her children, this behaviour can be very dangerous, frightening, confusing and damaging.