by Stephen Holmes
I occasionally get asked why I have involved myself so much in conversations over gender in the church. The subtext, of course, is always ‘why as a man have you involved yourself so much in gender issues?’ It’s an issue for feminists, and only women are feminists, right?
Well, I want to set aside the last point for a moment because there is a sense in which I agree with it. I don’t call myself a feminist; it seems that the title is not mine to claim. Rather, it belongs to others – to women – to give.
When a former student described me online as one of her favourite feminists, I did not object, and indeed was honoured (albeit also concerned that we had not exposed her to all the much better stuff that is out there during her degree). It seems to me that she can confer the title, but I will never claim it. (Or almost never;
I remember hearing Alan Storkey, years ago, ask; ‘What is it like, being married to a feminist?’ He responded, ‘I don’t know. Ask my wife.’ Perfect – I wish I had said that!)
The former point: ‘why get involved?’ I guess splits into two: ‘why do you believe women can be called to lead?’ and ‘why do you spend so much time and effort shouting about it?’ I can answer the first very quickly: ‘this I know, because the Bible tells me so…’
It is actually that simple for me. I am an academic theologian by training and by inclination, and I can make it much, much more complicated if I try. I’ve dug into the serious arguments; I once sat through an academic seminar discussing every single use of the Greek word translated ‘head’ in 1 Cor. 11 between the beginning of Greek literature and about 400 AD (Yup. That’s several hours of my life I won’t be getting back…).
I can give you a lengthy disquisition on how Junia, the apostle in Romans 16:7 got made male, and why that was so wrong. I can deconstruct spurious arguments about subordination in the Trinity, and rebut exegetical appeals to 1 Timothy 2. I would use several languages whilst doing these things, and scatter footnotes like land mines across the bottom half of every page…
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