“So you don’t teach the traditional view?” is a frequent comment I get when interacting with Fundagelicals. The “traditional view” refers to whatever the Fundagelical believes to be true. I hold a heterodox view of the Rapture. Fundagelicals are shocked; they develop a faraway look in their eyes as they dream of the day when Christian Dominionists seize control of the Government so that they can burn me at the stake. Their use of “the traditional view” is either ignorance of the history of Christian theology or an attempt to add an air of authority to their belief.
Complementarianism is one of those “traditional views” that is often cited as Biblical to support the Patriarchy and oppress women and the LGBT+ community. In complementarianism, men and women have different but complementary roles. Men are to lead, and women are to follow. Complementarianism is more about gender stereotypes than the Bible. In the Bible, we have glimpses into the early Church. St. Paul in his letter refers to a female Deacon named Phoebe and a female apostle named Junia,
The early Church was egalitarian, despite the cultural patriarchy of the Roman Empire. Paul taught that in the Kingdom of God, the cultural distinctions that created inequality were no more. As he wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) However, oppressors hate to lose power and control and began to subjugate women.
One hot button issue today is if women can be pastors and priest. The Roman Catholic Church has long stood against the ordination of women as a priest by using complementarianism as the argument. However, Art History has turned up some interesting finds.
In some of the oldest artwork depicting Christian worship, women and men are shown in parallel roles officiating at worship services. The picture below shows artwork from the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.
In a mosaic in the Lateran Baptistery of the Chapel of San Venantius in Rome, Mary is portrayed as wearing a bishop’s pallium identified by the red cross. This would indicate Mary as a leader in the early Church and symbolically women as leaders.
However, when the mosaic began to show wear and the red tiles fell out, they were replaced by white tiles obscuring the reference to Mary as a bishop.
On ivory boxes found Old St. Peter’s in Rome, women are depicted around the altar performing the same gestures as a male priest around the altar.
So, what happened to these women priest? Why do we argue against women pastors? Because if one thing is traditional in the Church, it’s using Bible verses out of context to subjugate women. The patriarchy sees Christianity as a powerful tool to provide justification for their positions of power. In the Medieval church it was argued that, according to the Genesis account, Man was created first and Woman second. This set the pattern for the primacy of Men. The medieval church also liked to point out that it was Woman who sinned first and she tricked Man into sinning. Obviously, Woman is inferior. Later, “scholars” would take Paul’s writing in 1 Corinthians 14, out of context. I’ll discuss that more in my next post.
Should we ordain women priest and pastors, I’ll go Peter in his response to gentiles being Baptized into the Church. The story of Peter and Cornelius’ household is recorded in Acts 10. In Acts 10, Peter is sent to a Gentile household. he preaches to them, and they receive the Holy Spirit, Peter justified their Baptism into fellowship by saying “‘Can anyone object to their being baptized, now that they have received the Holy Spirit just as we did?’ So he gave orders for them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Afterward, Cornelius asked him to stay with them for several days.”(Acts 10:47-48) I ask the same question today as Peter did for the Gentiles, “Can anyone object to the ordination of women if they have received the Spiritual gift of pastoring just as we did?” If they have the gift of the Holy Spirit to pastor, who are we to deny their use?
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