Women's Roles In The Christian Tradition: Subordination And Discipleship
Out of the Gospel perspective and the experience of whole generations of women, the following affirmation can be made: Woman is not an inferior human being, either spiritually or intellectually. She is created in the image of God as much as her male counterpart, and institutions that deny this are in effect denying the image of God in their presence. As stated by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, "Women throughout the world press for recognition of their human dignity, the acknowledgement of their human rights, the enlargement of their roles, and the same fullnesss of life opportunties that are taken for granted by the men of the culture around them."^ In the history of the Christian Church, the contributions of women have been overlooked and underreported. It is becoming clear that women are increasingly frustrated and disillusioned with theologies that continue to use the New Testament as justification for oppression. Women in most Christian churches find themselves relegated to subordinate roles. The Roman Catholic church, for example, denies all forms of ordination to women, basing this denial on the lack of Scriptural evidence to support women's claims to leadership roles. Actually there is ample Scriptural evidence of women who provide excellent first century models for these sacred roles. Thus the true barriers to the advancement of equitable treatment for women are dogma and tradition. The focus of this paper will be these questions: Does the second-class citizenship of women have an authentic Scriptural basis? If not, why has the Christian Church held so tightly to this position? And, Can women look to the New Testament for affirmation and support in the search for a greater level of religious expression? The first section of this paper will deal with the question of women's history and roles in the pre-Christian era and the early Church. The second portion will suggest a basis for a more equitable assignment of leadership roles for the persons who are called to them.