This is my contribution to Rachel Held Evans synchroblog Week Of Mutuality
One of the biggest fears I have if I ever become a senior minister at a church is that I will be type-casted as both the “celebrity power hunger black male preacher” as well as the Angry Black Man. Just as an honest assessment of my experience, I support women’s equal standing the Body of Christ, and ordination, but because of the histories of a large group of men who call themselves pastors, who have blocked black women away from the pulpit, I know I will always be looked at with suspicion.
Yet I am more than my race. I am more than my gender. I am more than my (non)marital status. More than my accomplishments or labels (both those that I have accepted and those imposed on me) as Sarah said it best. So, I am not asking for anyone’s permission to write this post.
Complementarians, Christian men and women who believe that “the Bible requires Christian women to submit to male leadership in the home, church (and, according to some*), society” would say that the Bible requires us to experience life in a patriarchal hierarchal order, or rather in some cases, “patricentric” (centered around fathers); for an example, see Denny Burk’s latest post in response to #Mutuality2012. Others, perhaps from the field of non-believers, would say that the fact that the Bible is hopelessly patriarchal means we should do away with the text and its god to boot!
Both complementarians and those who would discredit the Bible altogether rely on different ways of reading Scripture. Is one reading the Bible more literally than the other? We could go back and forth on whose is being more literal, but that would just lead us to an abstract and distracting debate. One of the contentious passages of Scriptures that complementarians suggest that women are placed under submission to men is 1st Corinthians 11:3 (NIV), “But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” I think the best way to read and understand this passage is not to separate it from the letter’s corpus of a whole, but to maybe even read it together with 1st Corinthians 10. In that passage, Paul is reverting back to the Hebrew Bible, and the formative stories of Israel. He re-tells the story of the rock as the source of the people’s water, and finds the tale’s meaning in Christ and if we fast forward to chapter 11, Paul praises the church at Corinth for not only remembering him, but holding on to the traditions (which one can presume to be the Jewish traditions and stories from the Old Testament).
The term kephale (which is translated by English writers) as head can also mean “source”, concepts such as Zeus is the source of life, etc., were used back then. It’s reasonable to argue that Paul is reminding the Corinthian church of the story of Adam and Eve [if we buy into the whole ribs thing], that Adam (Man) is the Source of woman (Eve), Christ is the Source of Man, and God is the Source of Christ. Paul continues, “Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God” (verses 11-12) The passage has a very Trinitarian conclusion: Just as the Triune God is the Source of the Messiah and is interdependent of Christ, so do men need women, and vice versa.
Bottom line: Men and women are more than equals. We can be considered “equally made in the image of God” and still there be no reciprocity in the relationship, while gender segregation is still tolerable. However, because the Holy Trinity is the Source of all there is, we have a Life we can partake of, humanity as One in Christ, the New Adam, with both genders living interdependent of one another, for one another.