The role of women in Christian churches has been a checkered one at best. While great strides have been made to get us to the point we’re at, it’s important to remember that there’s still work to be done. Women’s History Month was last month, and one of the last things that came out of it was a piece from The Huffington Post on 15 influential Christian women feminists.
“In some circles, using the word feminist is the equivalent of an f-bomb dropped in church — outrageous, offensive,” wrote Sarah Bessey in her book “Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women.”
Bessey is one of the 15 Christian women highlighted in the HuffPo article. While many in Christian communities blast feminism for what they see as an attack on things like motherhood, homemaking, and marriage in general, she argues that her belief in Jesus is what brought her to feminism in the first place.
“That discipleship led me to caring about everything from maternal health in Haiti to sexism in the Church as issues of justice close to God’s heart,” Bessey said. “Patriarchy is not God’s dream for humanity: It never was and it never will be.”
In one survey, 50% of new customers say they were attracted to a business by an on-premise sign. But most church signs don’t feature strong messages of feminism in order to draw in new congregation members — something that Bessey and many other Christian feminists see as a problem with the establishment.
One of the other women in the piece is Vicky Beeching, a theologian, broadcaster, and LGBT activist. She believes that the way Jesus treated women when he walked the earth is evidence that it can be argued he was one of the first feminists.
“The church has seemed afraid of the feminist movement, unsettled by it somehow; branding it as harsh and shrill,” Beeching said. “That seems bizarre as Christians should be at the forefront of women’s equality, not bringing up the rear!”
Perhaps Rev. Winnie Varghese, an Episcopal priest at New York City’s Trinity Wall Street Church, put it most succinctly.
“As a Christian, feminism is a reality check on the gospel message of equality among all people in the eyes of God. If we believe we are equal in the eyes of God, we have to work to make that equality a reality in the world we live in.”
Check out the piece to read what the 12 other Christian women leaders have to say about feminism and religion.