Thursday, 24 February 2011

How Jesus developed women as leaders

I don't really like blowing my own trumpet. But I was quite chuffed when the post delivered a book which includes one chapter by me: 'How did Jesus develop women as leaders?'

Depending on your perspective, that might seem like a really odd question. Or it may be that you've already read my article on it on the web - in which case you might like to read the new, more full version here.

The book is called Apostolic Women, Apostolic Authority: Transfiguring Leadership in Today's Church, edited by Martyn Percy and Christina Rees, published by Canterbury Press in December last year. The book was designed to collect up papers from a pre-Lambeth conference held at Cuddesdon in 2008, but these were supplemented by a number of other papers written (or edited) for the book, and mine is one of those.

I've just finished reading the book and it will be reviewed soon; there's plenty of varied material in it and I found many of the chapters very valuable. There is lots throughout about 'power'; a great chapter on women in the Bible and church history; a perspective from the US on the deployment of women, which raises issues I've been contemplating, about lack of women called to larger churches; Jane Hedges' research findings on whether women are up for senior posts; 'size matters', a piece of research on the lack of women leading larger churches; a good chapter on spirituality; and an excellent piece by Lis Goddard on the need to transfigure episcopal ministry into something more collegial and collaborative, and how this might also benefit women who currently feel marginalised.

My article - well, you can read it! It might not appear at first that there is anything to write about how Jesus developed women as leaders. But read the biblical text more closely and there's lots going on. The women who were 'with Jesus'. Mary and Martha, the woman at the well, Mary Magdalene, the women leaders emerging as leaders in the early church. And how women were included alongside men - not in the 'twelve', but very close to them, and certainly included in both learning experiences and commissions to ministry.

It's very apparent to me in the current climate, where some women are facing a backlash (?) of teaching that says we should not be leading in the Church, that we need to read what the Bible is actually saying rather than reaching for those old 'proof' texts (without looking at translation, context and recent interpretaion), and lobbing them over the parapet at women.

Funny too how men can lob stuff at women (why do they make up the rules?), but if we respond we're being over-sensitive, ambitious or 'aggressive'!