The Christian community is still shockingly slow to accept women among their ranks of leadership, which is particularly egregious since one of the earliest Christian bishops was a woman (her name was Junia, and the church later erased her story to pretend she was a dude).
FaithStreet’s Janel Curry reports that Grace Chapel church in Boston, Massachusetts has finally voted to allow women to serve as elders (though it would appear that they still can’t become pastors there):
What was so revolutionary about Grace Chapel’s decision? Having grown up in the evangelical church and working at its institutions, I would say that it was the fact that men were breaking the silence on the issue. The statement by the head pastor at the service I attended was unequivocal — the full board of elders and all staff members supported this change. They believed it was both faithful to the Bible and necessary for their church to be able to thrive and achieve its mission. The report to the congregation stated, “We believe this important step will strengthen our elder board, more fully empower men and women for ministry, and send a hopeful and redemptive message to those we serve inside and outside the church.”
I have seen the shift in evangelical culture toward a fuller inclusion of women. At a recent meeting of the Christian Leadership Alliance that I attended, it was clear that the discussion was no longer around theological arguments over the role of women, but around strategies about how to make change happen faster. There is urgency even among men for this shift to happen.
It really is a remarkable sea-change in the environment of the American church to have men pushing for the inclusion of women in their traditionally old-boys’-club groups.
It will take more than just a few mega churches inviting women to be elders, though, to truly incorporate a thorough gender inclusivity into church culture. Much of that culture is tightly tangled up with mainstream gender discrimination. But Christians like to be counter-cultural so perhaps they can push for a renewed focus on inclusivity and equality and egalitarian thinking without caring what the rest of modern society thinks.
Kudos to Grace Chapel. May many other churches follow their lead.