If you’ve been tracking with Missio Alliance for any length of time, you’ve likely taken note of the emphasis we’ve placed on issues of gender in the life of the Church and Christian leadership in general.
In fact, one of the driving questions from the very inception of our ministry was:
What does it mean to say women are full participants in the ministry of the church alongside men? We seek to understand the New Testament elevation of women to full authority in the church.
That question has been a means of opening up space for a fresh conversation about God’s desire and design for men and women serving alongside one another as co-laborers in the kingdom of God, under the reign of Jesus, in the life of the Spirit.
Alongside this driving question is our identification with Lausanne’s Cape Town Commitment on this subject:
Men and Women in Partnership
Scripture affirms that God created men and women in his image and gave them dominion over the earth together. Sin entered human life and history through man and woman acting together in rebellion against God. Through the cross of Christ, God brought salvation, acceptance and unity to men and women equally. At Pentecost God poured out his Spirit of prophecy on all flesh, sons and daughters alike. Women and men are thus equal in creation, in sin, in salvation, and in the Spirit.
All of us, women and men, married and single, are responsible to employ God’s gifts for the benefit of others, as stewards of God’s grace, and for the praise and glory of Christ. All of us, therefore, are also responsible to enable all God’s people to exercise all the gifts that God has given for all the areas of service to which God calls the Church. We should not quench the Spirit by despising the ministry of any. Further, we are determined to see ministry within the body of Christ as a gifting and responsibility in which we are called to serve, and not as a status and right that we demand.
A) We uphold Lausanne’s historic position: ‘We affirm that the gifts of the Spirit are distributed to all God’s people, women and men, and that their partnership in evangelization must be welcomed for the common good.’ We acknowledge the enormous and sacrificial contribution that women have made to world mission, ministering to both men and women, from biblical times to the present.
B) We recognize that there are different views sincerely held by those who seek to be faithful and obedient to Scripture. Some interpret apostolic teaching to imply that women should not teach or preach, or that they may do so but not in sole authority over men. Others interpret the spiritual equality of women, the exercise of the edifying gift of prophecy by women in the New Testament church, and their hosting of churches in their homes, as implying that the spiritual gifts of leading and teaching may be received and exercised in ministry by both women and men. We call upon those on different sides of the argument to:
- Accept one another without condemnation in relation to matters of dispute, for while we may disagree, we have no grounds for division, destructive speaking, or ungodly hostility towards one another;
- Study Scripture carefully together, with due regard for the context and culture of the original authors and contemporary readers;
- Recognize that where there is genuine pain we must show compassion; where there is injustice and lack of integrity we must stand against them; and where there is resistance to the manifest work of the Holy Spirit in any sister or brother we must repent;
- Commit ourselves to a pattern of ministry, male and female, that reflects the servanthood of Jesus Christ, not worldly striving for power and status.
C) We encourage churches to acknowledge godly women who teach and model what is good, as Paul commanded, and to open wider doors of opportunity for women in education, service, and leadership, particularly in contexts where the gospel challenges unjust cultural traditions. We long that women should not be hindered from exercising God’s gifts or following God’s call on their lives.
Through the incorporation of the Synergy Women’s Network into our organization… through special sessions convened at our North American gatherings for female leaders… through specific ventures such as networking women church planters… through the intentional centering of female voices in our leadership and publishing… and in many other ways, we have sought to advance this sort of commitment and call to action.
We continue to sense that there is a unique and important role for an initiative like Missio Alliance to play on this front. Specifically, we feel a sense of call to advance two things:
- First and foremost, from a place of biblical and theological conviction, we want to continue being a vehicle for connecting, resourcing, and equipping women who serve as leaders in church and ministry contexts. We see this as one of the most important and strategic needs facing the North American Church in our increasingly Post-Christian context and envision a future for evangelical witness in which God’s vision of women and men serving alongside one another as true co-laborers in all aspects of kingdom ministry is a strong and pervasive reality.
- Alongside this we also want to continue being a “space” in which those who differ in their interpretation of Scripture on this issue can, nevertheless, engage one another around the larger issues of Christian identity and mission. We desire for this engagement to emerge from a place of unity in a common mission to see women flourish as servant-leaders in church and ministry contexts amid diverse expressions of leadership structures.
With all of this articulated as a backdrop, we are excited to let you know about two upcoming significant efforts in this area.
The first effort is a series of articles that we will publish in our Writing Collectives beginning tomorrow. Prefaced by an article by one of our Leading Voices, Carolyn Custis James, about the indispensable need for women in church planting in general, this series takes an in-depth look at changes in the church planting landscape in Boston over the last ten years or so. As we’ll hear from a number of people who have been and are immersed in that context, Boston serves as something of a case study for trends in church planting that would seem to work against the kind of intentional, partnered inclusion of female voices and giftedness that the Body of Christ so desperately needs if it is to exist as a sign and foretaste of God’s coming kingdom.
The second effort will come in the form of a multi-regional summit set for Saturday, October 29.
We’ll have much more information to share on this very soon, but for the moment here’s a snapshot…
#SheLeads is being convened by Missio Alliance as a multi-regional summit for women who lead in church and ministry contexts as well as men who long to see the mission of God advanced in and through the co-laboring of men and women as partners in kingdom ministry – the Blessed Alliance!
Although there are many amazing and needed conferences and projects related to women leaders in North America, there are very few that are designed specifically to engage women who lead in church and ministry contexts and the unique challenges they face. There are fewer still that advocate for a vision of gendered leadership that can help us move past the (all-too-often caricatured) besetting dichotomies we have inherited.
Thus, Missio Alliance is excited to convene #SheLeads as a multi-regional summit to connect, resource, and empower women and men as leaders in the church and in ministry unto a fuller and more faithful expression of partnered ministry in God’s mission.
To our entire community, but especially to those of you who are women seeking to honor the Lord with the fullness of your embodied selves in the places God has you, we are so grateful for your friendship and ministry!