08: What is biblical equality with Major Annalise Francis
Jesus led by example when he advocated for the most marginalized, and we must too.
That includes advocating for biblical equality, which can range from equal treatment between genders, races, socio-economic status and more. Bringing justice into our families, ministries and society means educating ourselves about these issues first.
Major Annalise Francis is the administrator and corps officer of The Salvation Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Ashland, Ohio.
She taught an Old Testament course at the College for Officer Training at Crestmont, including building a foundation of biblical equality.
As she’ll tell you, biblical equality is the belief that all people are equal before God—and yet it doesn’t mean that we’re all the same.
So how do we make space to love and appreciate each other?
Show highlights include:
- Major Annalise Francis’ working definition of biblical equality.
- What she thinks people get wrong most often about biblical equality.
- The kind of decisions and steps we can make as leaders at the local church level to advocate for and be proponents of biblical equality.
- How she responds to someone who disagrees about women’s roles in life and ministry.
- Influential women leaders who have inspired Major Annalise Francis.
- Action steps to promote biblical equality today.
Listen and subscribe to The Commons Podcast now. Below is a transcript of the episode, edited for readability. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, see the links at the bottom of this post.
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Cassandra Amezquita: All right. So, today we have a very interesting topic–biblical equality–but before we get into our interview, we want to play a fun game with you. If you have a TikTok or look at Instagram Reels, maybe you might recognize it. So let’s put our hand up. And for every question you identify with, go ahead and put a finger down. So let’s get started! Put a finger down if you always get asked where the kids are, but nobody asks your husband.
Meagan Ruff: Oh my gosh. I could put all my fingers down for that one.
Cassandra Amezauita: And for every one of your kids!
Meagan Ruff: Okay. Put a finger down If you are always asked to work in the nursery or kids ministry.
Cassandra Amezauita: Oh man, I’ve been there. My kids are basically the whole nursery so…but okay. Next one, put a finger down if people automatically assume you are good at cooking. I’m not that great.
Meagan Ruff: Yes. I think you’re good. You make really good flautas. People always think I’m good at cooking, but it’s definitely Aaron in our relationship.
Cassandra Amezauita: You’re really good at baking your secret scone recipe.
Meagan Ruff: That’s my one hit wonder. If you like us or scones, let us know. We’ll have you over and we’ll make both for you. So moving on…put a finger down If you’ve ever been called bossy or emotional.
Cassandra Amezquita: Oh, yes. Been there. Also, I have a very strong-willed daughter–which a lot of times if I’ve heard people want to call her bossy or they’ve called her bossy, I correct them and say, “Nope, she is independent. She’s strong-willed and someday she will be in charge of a huge company or a lot of people.” Okay. We both have a pinky up, so let’s go to our last one. Put a finger down if you don’t see enough people that look like you in positions of leadership.
Meagan Ruff: Hmmm, Yes.
Cassandra Amezquita: I can definitely identify with this.
Meagan Ruff: Yeah, for sure. Well, if you put any fingers down during that little game, you’re definitely going to want to listen today. Cassandra and I had the great privilege of interviewing our favorite teacher from training school. I’m going to just go out on a limb and say that.
Cassandra Amezquita: Yes, she was mine.
Meagan Ruff: So, she actually taught the biblical equality elective at The Salvation Army Training School in Southern California. And she taught the Old Testament and some other things I’m sure. Major Annalise Francis was with us and she just brought all the info, all the good quotes, all the information that anyone could ever need about building a foundation of biblical equality and also how to work for that in your homes, in your ministry, in your church, in your community. And, it’s just a great interview! You’re going to love hearing from her. So without further adieu, here’s our interview with Major Annalise Francis.
Meagan Ruff: All right, so let’s start off with some rapid fire questions. The first one is what are you currently reading or what book have you just recently finished?
Major Annalise Francis: I recently finished NT Wright’s “God and the Pandemic,” which is only 70-plus- pages. So I was able to get through it really quickly, but there’s a lot of impact empowered insight in those 70-some-pages. And then I’ve actually been working through re-reading a couple of books. One is Kristina LaCelle-Peterson’s “Liberating Tradition.” And the other one is by an author…And I’m trying to remember the name of it. Isn’t that terrible? It’s on my bed stand.
Meagan Ruff: That’s all right. You can always send it to us too. And we can add it to our show notes.
Major Annalise Francis: Yes, I will do that. It will come to me. I’m sure I’ll work it in later.
Meagan Ruff: Okay, perfect.
Cassandra Amezquita: Okay, do you have a song that you have been listening to frequently?
Major Annalise Francis: You know what, that’s so funny you say that. My son Liam has been actually really into the song “Waymaker” and also “See As The Greatest.” So, I think those are the two songs on in my house when getting ready in the morning or making dinner. And so they tend to run through my head throughout the day for the last couple of weeks.
Cassandra Amezquita: It’s cute. I’m looking forward to when my kids listen to worship songs rather than like Baby Shark or Disney music.
Meagan Ruff: Or the gummy bear song.
Cassandra Amezquita: Oh gosh, Yeah.
Major Annalise Francis: It’s a fun and new phase. He’ll stand on the bed, just singing his heart out to “Waymaker.” It’s really precious.
Meagan Ruff: What is your go-to coffee or tea order? If you’re going to go to a coffee shop, what is your go-to order?
Major Annalise Francis: I really love soy chai, but I’ve always been a bit of an old soul. So, if I drink caffeine after about 12 or 1 p.m., I will be up all night. So by mid-day I switch to herbal tea.
Meagan Ruff: Nice.
Cassandra Amezquita: And along with that, what’s your favorite snack?
Major Annalise Francis: Oh, that’s a good question. I’m really into veggie chips at the moment. I like berries. So yeah, probably those.
Meagan Ruff: We have a funny story about that. We were talking about it when we first emailed you to ask if you had come on because Cassandra and I were texting each other and we were like, “She hasn’t responded yet. What if she doesn’t want to do it?” And we were just being silly. Usually when we’re texting at night, we just get ridiculous.
Cassandra Amezquita: After like 8 p.m. we’re just ridiculous.
Meagan Ruff: Yes. And so then we were like, “There’s no one else we would want to talk about this topic.” It has to be a Major Annalise. Like we were just going on and on being silly about it. And then, we were reminiscing about the biblical equality class that we were in. One of us, I don’t know which one of us said it…
Cassandra Amezquita: It was you Meagan.
Meagan Ruff: I was like, we were joking that we were like, we would live call Major Annalise no matter what, even if she didn’t come on the podcast. And then I was like, “Yeah, didn’t she one time feed us flowers in this class?” And we were laughing so hard. We were texting, but I literally was just sitting on the couch, laughing. Aaron was like, “what is going on?” And we were remembering a time when you brought hibiscus flowers or something to class. And we were like, “I’ve never eaten a flower before,” and we don’t even question it. I just ate it. We were like, “that’s how much we love Major Annalise.”
Major Annalise Francis: I forgot about that! Those kinds of things are much easier in California than here in Ohio.
Meagan Ruff: Yeah. That’s what I was thinking. Like, that’s definitely like a Southern California thing that you would just find like at the grocery store checkout anyway.
Cassandra Amezquita: Well, we’re going to get into the questions now for our topic quality. So, Major, would you mind answering, what is your working definition of biblical equality?
Major Annalise Francis: I would say the belief that all people are equal before God and Christ, and that includes that all people have equal responsibility to use their gifts and obey their calling to glorify God and for the glory of God. And also that God freely calls all believers into different roles and callings and ministries regardless of their race or ethnicity, their class, or their gender.
Meagan Ruff: That’s great. What do you think people get wrong about biblical equality?
Major Annalise Francis: Yeah. This one caused me to pause and think…I would say a couple of all different things. One would be that it’s a new and progressive idea, maybe even labeling it a liberal idea that somehow has been birthed through secularism or liberalism that’s invading the church. But as you study scripture carefully and certainly the history of the church itself you’ll realize this isn’t something new that has emerged, but that the seeds of equality are present from the very book of Genesis. We see elements of God’s ideal throughout the Old Testament, certainly prevalent in the life and ministry of Christ. And we just see it released at Pentecost and throughout the early church. And when you do a careful study of church history, what you actually find is that male dominance within the church is historically linked to institutionalization. And often the church has bid for cultural respectability, at different times, if there’s a new movement that comes up and it seems exciting, but kind of fringe and crazy, maybe even like the salvation army at the beginning of its existence, right. It didn’t have the same kind of respectability. It was scandalous.
Often the traditional practice of the church isn’t necessarily an indication of God’s will, it’s much more often sociological and cultural forces. And then the church has a response to conform based on those pressures. So, you often see female involvement and even the involvement of diverse, maybe more kind of marginalized people expanding. People of different ethnicities and abilities were involved in renewal movements throughout church history, only to be replaced by a more stringent idea of leadership, often male leadership as revival and kind of the fluidity and freedom at the birth and beginning of something new gives way to institutionalization. It talks about that really the contemporary call for mutuality among men and women is really more, I believe, a manifestation of the Spirit’s work in the church today.
Cassandra Amezquita: Yeah. That was like a good refresher on the elective we took with you. The next question is what kind of decisions and steps can we make as leaders or as a local church to advocate or be proponents of biblical equality?
Major Annalise Francis: I guess I’ll say this first– I think it’s making sure we’re understanding that the misnomer that biblical equality doesn’t mean that we’re all the same. And so it’s about making space to love and appreciate each other. And I think our differences go beyond earth, the classifications to the actual, like spiritual struggle involving the very identity of God’s people of who we are as the people of God and being able to, really embrace the oneness that we have in Christ. It’s not merely like a lack of opposition or an idea of tolerance. Paul’s point throughout his writings in the New Testament is that there is no other, right? We are all literally one in Christ and all of us in Christ form a new entity, a new body, a new expression of that. And so I think learning how to have this United witness to new life in Christ and also figuring out how to live that out in our relationships and our relationships really need the newness of that relationship and the reality of the new creation of our union through Christ and in the spirit.
And so I think identifying our role is really important in that too. Our role is reconciliation, right? To reconcile ourselves to the Lord, reconcile ourselves with ourselves, reconcile ourselves with other people, the world around us. And if the purpose of the gospel is to reconcile us to God and to others, if our mission, our, our mission is to be God’s ambassadors of reconciliation. How do we fulfill that? Right? We need to work hand in hand to reach out, to bring others into fellowship with the Lord, to bring others into fellowship with us. This is supposed to be good news, right? The gospel is supposed to be good news, not drudgery, not difficulty, not opposition. I think it’s very active working together toward our common mission helps encourage that process of reconciliation in an important and a powerful way. So, you know, focusing first things, right? What is our first role? It’s to be disciples, it’s to make disciples, obey and help people to learn God’s word and obey what he’s called us to do and be, and then to help restore the goodness of the world, you know, be part of the new creation, be change agents.
And I think our role in helping change that equation is we have to examine our ideology, right? Understand that we all come with our own ideas from our family of origin or culture of origin, our theology, our own assumptions, personal and based on culture. I think it’s important to critique cultural ideas about women and about women’s roles and men’s roles and how we relate to one another and how we relate to the world. And then we have to be intentional about implementing equality, right? Be intentional about what we say and how we say it to really communicate redemptive gender ideas. And of course to literally include others.
Cassandra Amezquita: Yeah. I’ve noticed a lot this past year that– sometimes it’s hard for people to reconcile because they go easily to defensiveness. And when they reach that point of defensiveness, it’s really hard to get opinions across or even just biblical truths across they’re sort of like protecting something.
Major Annalise Francis: Yeah. And I think that’s a really good point. I mean, as people we want to keep ourselves in check, right? Like, are we willing to go on an earnest journey or exploration? Are we willing to examine ourselves? If I’m in a conversation with someone, am I willing to consider an alternate point of view? Am I willing to approach a dialogue with the possibility of changing my mind about something, you know? And I think unless we’re willing to come with that openness of mind and heart it’s difficult.
Meagan Ruff: Yeah, and the openness and also the humility of like, “I could potentially be wrong about this,” which is something that’s really hard for me in a lot of situations. I don’t like going into a conversation being like, “I could be wrong about this and they could be right.” And it’s something that I’m working on, but no matter what the situation is, but especially in this topic…
Major Annalise Francis: When you feel really passionately about something, it’s hard to entertain that idea. But am I willing to hear them and be like, “Oh yeah, well, that part of what they’re saying sounds true. I’m going to look into that. I’m going to explore that. I’m going to dig into that.”
Meagan Ruff: Yes. So, kind of going along with that, how do you respond or answer someone who very seriously disagrees about women’s roles in life in ministry, or even men’s roles in life in ministry? How do you respond?
Major Annalise Francis: Well, for starters, I think I would urge that person to read and listen to voices from the alternate point of view, like legitimately well-studied, well put together voices and biblical scholars from the other tradition. Be willing to hear biblically-sound teaching from a different perspective. Like again, “are you willing to go on a journey or an exploration with this, with an open heart and open mind?”
The other thing is that it’s helpful if somebody is willing to listen to identify the underlying ideology and the impact of that ideology. I think it’s easy for us to have a view of what this looks like and how this works itself out in our own lives, in our own world, in our own corner of the world and our own context. But I remember, Mimi Hidad, who’s the president of Christians for Biblical Equality International, said some really powerful things about this. She said the most important indicator of whether a fetus will be aborted, a girl will be enslaved in a brothel, a wife abused in her marriage or family, a woman denied a place of decision-making and her family or community is not based on her gender but on the value we assigned to her gender. In study after study, research shows that when a culture values females, as much as males, girls are more likely to survive into adulthood– physically survive. And certainly without the same extent of psychological trauma, right? And for this reason, gender justice really begins with an idea. Do we really believe that males and females are of equal worth, right? Ontologically, on toast, from the essence of their being, how they were made by God. Because to subjugate one group to another logically implies that one group is morally or intellectually superior to the other, right?
It’s hard like in a systematic theology to work itself out towards the end of that logic the other way. Right? So then like your birth, your genetics, your ontology shapes your destiny. And we believe it’s biblically sound that every person is created in the image of God and they are ontologically equal, right? At their essence, they are created by God equally. So, it’s important to get to that and then understand the impact of how the ideology works itself out in the world. Because when communities value females equally and extend females authority and resources to develop their potential and to contribute to their communities, you see levels of abuse reduce, economic stability actually increases within families and communities. Non-governmental organizations call this “the girl effect,” it’s been widely studied. So, it kinda misses a non-governmental organizations note that investing in the education and businesses of females brings substantial economic growth and stability, and often political stability, to communities.
Yet, there are a lot of religious traditions around the world, including Christianity and some expressions of it, that continue to diminish females’ worth. And so the basic rights of women are really strongly affected by how people, how men, choose to interpret and apply them to the meaning of scripture. And so when mothers, wives, sisters, daughters are considered both different and then also inferior in the eyes of God. We worship this belief that tends to permeate society and everyone suffers at the end of the day. And ultimately, it leads to their marginalization and their abuse.
We need to take a global perspective of this. I like how Mimi Hadid puts it. She says, ideas have consequences, right? So there’s a gender side around the world. There’s genital mutilation, rape spouse abuse, child abuse, slavery, and prostitution honor, killings, child, marriage, dowry, dowry death, lack of access to education and healthcare around the world–poverty wears a woman’s face. So, it’s critical to understand how these issues, these beliefs in this ideology, plays itself out on a global scale, and it has consequences. So, kind of understanding it beyond my own sphere. Would I be willing to take this journey of exploration and consider it? Maybe there’s more to it than just ideas of power and authority. I actually recently read a quote by Hillary Clinton that I really liked. It says no society can achieve its full potential when half the population is denied the opportunity to achieve theirs, and I think a lot of truth in that.
Cassandra Amezquita: I always remember the image. It was like a little, I don’t know if it was a comic or something that you showed us in class where there were three people trying to look over a ledge. And it was not about them having equal height because some of them were still taller or shorter, but it was about giving them the right steps in order to be able to look over equally and then everyone can enjoy the view.
Major Annalise Francis: Yeah, absolutely.
Meagan Ruff: Yeah. And I think as you were saying that, I was thinking about how I remember you teaching us about the idea that women are inferior to men, right? That if men are always the ones who are studying the Bible and coming to that conclusion and then putting that out and then enforcing that idea. So then more men are studying the Bible and women are not–it just kind of perpetuates the cycle. And so, I remember you definitely said it way better than I just did, but I remember that really being something that reinforced to me to be like, “wow, I need to be really intentional about how I study the word” and not just not just leave it up to like, “Oh, I took this class and this was good.” But really being intentional about learning and teaching other women in whatever ministry I’m in and teaching my daughters that because that will help to change that a little bit. Even if it’s as much as I can do in my little sphere day to day. But that really stuck with me.
Cassandra Amezquita: Correcting people with love or drawing them in with love and helping them side by side, like, “let’s look at the scripture together.” I know I had a church member who stopped coming because she said that she grew up thinking that women shouldn’t be at the altar, like doing a sermon or doing a message, or anything. And so she was very uncomfortable with the fact that we had a lot of women preaching. But she said, “I’m uncomfortable with this, but I want to learn. So, do you mind showing me?” and so we just sat together and we studied and I think like her eyes were really opened. But it was more like a loving correction rather than a pressing or criticizing or anything
Meagan Ruff: Or like a debate.
Major Annalise Francis: Yeah. And what a beautiful opportunity, right? Like this wide open door to be able to walk someone through that. I think the other piece of that too, is helping people understand, you know, we kind of get caught up in a few tricky passages rather than looking at the whole meta-narrative of scripture and God’s redemption work from beginning through now. And this idea that the Bible teaches that all people are created in the image of God and are equal. And there’s this beautiful oneness, this Shalom, right? This goodness, this rightness that’s shared by all of creation. There’s this wonderful peace and Shalom with God, with yourself, with others, with the world around you. And then the fall of hope happens. I see these perfect relationships were broken. This Shalom and symbiosis of creation of humans to God, of humans to themselves, humans to others, humans to creation itself, is broken.
When sin distorts the mutuality of man and woman, we then see this thing play itself out where this kind of male only rule is an invader. It’s not God’s intention. It’s kind of wreaking havoc on God’s good plan and creation. It corrupts the harmony of oneness between people. It obscures their identity and their purpose has God’s image bearers. And so we see this partnership of male, female degenerating into human domination. And it’s never meant to be that way from one perspective to the other, right? It’s not about domination, we see this chaos and oppression and suffering unleashed, but that’s part of the fall and we don’t want to live there, right? We are a new creation. People are not meant to live in the chaos and distortion of the fall. We’ve been liberated in Christ. And so I think the contrast in Genesis between a perfect world and the one distorted by sin, the one we experience all the time, we’re very familiar with the distortion of the world by sin, right? That contrast can’t be any clearer. My communion with God is cloud clouded. The social Shalom and wellbeing is forfeited the sin that we ourselves feel. So prone to commit, at times this paradise is lost in the spiritual intimacy that God intended. And we misunderstand ourselves as who we are, as people created in the image of God, we lost our loving relationship with others. We lost creation care and the social systems that play into these broken relationships and ideals were lost. So, we’re plagued by our own self issues, right? We devalue ourselves. And then, because we don’t feel good about ourselves, we sometimes devalue others, or our high self-esteem increases by others, low self-esteem, you know, or a lack of love for others leads to brokenness in them. And so I think that’s why that reconciliation piece, a holistic reconciliation, is so important with this. And again, helping people see that’s the overarching plan Christ came to repair all of that brokenness, right? To be that piece that restores people to God, to themselves, to others, to the world around them. And that’s the place we want to live.
Cassandra Amezquita: Yes. That makes sense. And I think that’s, that’s the goal we should all be using in our ministries, right? Just that restorative gospel. So people can, like you said, reconcile to God, reconcile to themselves and to others as well.
So, the next question is who are some of the influential women or church leaders, leaders in general, who have inspired you? Maybe some of our listeners can open up their eyes a little bit more to who they can listen to or who they can read about.
Major Annalise Francis: Oh gosh, this is a hard question. I feel like I could break this into a few different categories…
Cassandra Amezquita: Go for it, do it.
Major Annalise Francis: There are some real heroes of the early church that were women. And so many of them fell into the category. They had such a powerful ministry and even when they faced opposition, they had a power of ministry of women that were counted among the martyrs of the early church and sometimes have really unsung, untold stories. So Perpetua is one of them. Paola, Apollonia and Alexandria. There’s a really neat woman in church history and she helped people learn Hebrew. Then they’re the ones that help define Trinitarian theology for the church.
I have such a regard for so many of the early evangelicals of the 19th century that really were some of the first to notice the link between this interpretation of scripture and inequality and social injustice. They helped develop a systematic biblical basis for the equal value in service of males and females, really all people as it focuses on ethnicity too. And so many of them birth reform movements within the church, they were part of the abolitionists, gender equality and suffrage. And they really critique traditional interpretive methods that devalued people based on race and gender. And that also then at that time really supported the ideas that defended slavery and the subjugation of women. So, there’s a host of them: Phoebe Palmer, who was like Catherine Booth’s hero, Catherine Booth herself, Catherine Bushnell, Elizabeth Seton really some of the birth of early social work, Elizabeth Frye in her prison ministry. Amanda Berry Smith and Sojourner Truth were both African-American sisters in Christ that wrote and worked for justice in these areas.
Then a few men that really kind of joined the top of the ranks of those that were the leading figures of that time. Francis Willard, AIG Gordon, Frederick Franson and BT Roberts AGU Gordon helped kind of be instrumental eventually in the founding of Gordon college and BT Roberts and Roberts Wesley. And you look at their early stories, they were really amazing pioneers in these areas too. They’ve really done some amazing work in this area of developing our theology and an understanding of scripture in these ways. So, Catherine Clark Kroger, she founded Christians for Biblical Equality International along with Gretchen Gamblin Hall. They’re both really solid scholars to read in this area.
Meagan Ruff: I’m writing all these down as best I can.
Cassandra Amezquita: Yes, that would be great.
Major Annalise Francis: Yeah. And then there’s a wonderful New Testament scholar. She’s even written some commentaries, I don’t know if she still does, but she was at Wheaton College and then Mimi Hadid, that I mentioned earlier. So, and there’s a host of others, but they’ve certainly had an impact on me as well.
Maybe she’s not a big giant and in history, other people would know her, but my mom has had a really profound influence on me too. Yeah, she was against so many odds and has been somebody who really advocated for women and for their rights. She went and got her master’s degree in social work in the sixties and has just been involved in social justice and women’s rights. I remember when I was a little girl she got me a poster of Smurfette going into a door that said “president” and the poster said, “girls can do anything.” So, she was kind of my early inspiration in my life.
Meagan Ruff: Is your mom the one who kind of inspired you to really dig deep in this or are there other influences as well?
Major Annalise Francis: Certainly I think my mom set the seeds, in my own heart of thinking,that women were on equal footing with men. She didn’t have the biblical theological training. And so as I got older, honestly, when I was in my early twenties and I had a commute to work and would listen to Christian radio and I just started hearing things, you know, the primary voices at that time in the nineties and probably still now the prominent voices in evangelicalism were really purporting complementarianism. And so I wanted to figure out for myself like, “well, what does the Bible say?” Like I’ve, you know, I think I see myself as a biblical feminist and certainly was raised as somebody to value women’s rights, but what does the Bible say about this? And so I really started my own kind of biblical exploration and theological journey in my twenties.
Meagan Ruff: That’s awesome. Well, we’ve definitely benefited from it.
Cassandra Amezquita: Yes. I would put you in my category of influential women.
Meagan Ruff: That’s what I was going to say too. What are some action steps, you’ve kind of said some, but if you were going to lay it out, what are some action steps for listeners so they can promote biblical equality in their homes and in their ministries?
Major Annalise Francis: Yeah, I think maybe I’ll start with the ministry part.I think faith based facilitation is important. I think even what you mentioned earlier, Cassandra, especially as officers, we move into communities and try to get our bearings and figure out, “well, how do I make an impact here?” And so I think it’s so important to listen, to spend time just listening and then really exploring the issues with the people here, hearing what they think, hearing what they say, and being part of community conversations. It’s so important to build those relationships.
Then, honestly right now the time is really right for so many of these issues. There’s a lot of people earnestly exploring and thinking about issues of racial equality, especially right now, but certainly even gender equality. And so it’s asking the people what they desire and what they need, right? What are you needing in your community? How are we going to then decide together how to respond to those needs? And using an approach that speaks the truth and holistic love has to be talked about and really identifying who naturally takes on roles. And sometimes you can go based on people’s passion or gifting, but sometimes you have to be intentional in whole community representation because maybe the people that will step up and take the lead on responding to that need will be the typical people that would do that. And we need to work on involving everyone and representing the whole community.
Oh yes. I just remembered the book and something that he wrote in that book has always stuck with me. He said, what person of color or woman are you submitting to in your life? And it being even an important discipline for us, those who might naturally be the person to step forward and lead are having to be extra sensitive and extra intentional to be willing to do that, to help people develop on their own, equip them to help themselves. In fact, I remember Brian Baki who has a prominent role in the Mustard Seed Foundation. And his father is arguably the father of the urban mission movement, Ray Baki. But I remember him telling me he was part of a really fruitful ministry in Chicago. And there’s this huge men’s ministry group that developed and, well, it seemed like the natural choice, the natural kind of next choice to step up and lead the group was a Caucasian man. He purposely stepped aside to empower a man, I believe he was a Filipino descent and said, “I think you’re the better choice right now to step up and lead this group,” like being willing to step aside in order to give other people opportunity and also to have more holistic community representation. Sorry, that was just a little extra came to my mind threw in there, even as we’ve talked about this issue of reconciliation–examining what we think and communicate about women, especially to be a disciple, a learner, and also to have education about gender equality and proper leadership in the church and community, right?
At the end of the day, I think the intention of the New Testament was to teach that proper leadership in the church is based on character and gifting, right? We don’t see the gifts of the spirit dispersed into gender lists. In Britain, it’d be strange if the gift of leadership or of preaching or teaching was really only going to be given to less than half percent of the world’s population or the church has a population that, you know, that seems odd. It doesn’t say in scripture that those are only open to men and certain gifts will only be given to women.
And so I think we want to equip people with the necessary tools. They need to think rightly about their identity in Jesus Christ, as God’s image bearer each and every one of them and this important role of mentoring, asking people what they believe and asking young people what they are learning about their identity as men or women. There’s a lot being put out there, especially via social media. I know my girls are on TikTok. What are people hearing from culture? What are they hearing from the people around them? What are they hearing the church saying and what is being modeled to them? So, we want to train ourselves and I think train people to critique cultural messages about gender and women, right?
To the extent that women believe cultural messages, I mean, some of the strong cultural messages are that their value is in their body. And so to the extent that women believe that they may also be unable to recognize her or exercise their own capabilities. I think there’s been a lot of progress made on that front, in the last decade, even with advertising and things, but again, ideas have consequences. What has, what has that idea resulted in self-hatred eating disorders, violence against women? There’s been strong consequences to that. And, you know, the church’s response all too often reinforces cultural ideas about beauty and femininity as well. And even now, sometimes I think the church sees themselves as the guardians of those ideals at times, which is not the liberating message or truth of the gospel.
There was that old book in the eighties, “Men are from Mars. Women are from Venus,” there’s a Christian version of this circulating around too.. But most of the ideas purported along this line of thinking are really culturally constructed ideas about gender. They’re not related to our basic sexual identity as male and female. Certainly not. And so, you know, stripped of our cultural programming, stripped of these nuances, I think all of us are actually more alike than we are different. And certainly there are a beautiful array of cultural differences and expressions, and there are differences between genders, but we’re more alike than we are different. And that’s a more, I think, helpful and important starting place in our own life and our own ministries.
I recently listened to a broadcast on MPR by a woman named, they’re interviewing a woman named Sonora jaw, and she just recently wrote a book called “How to raise a feminist son.” I haven’t read the book yet admittedly, but I think I will, based on listening to the interview. She was a single mom. And so, this was important to her and she, she said him and his son is a boy who believes in the full humanity of women and girls around him, Tim. And she went on to say, it’s a boy who knows how to trust his mother’s voice, her anger, her love, and then extend that to other women in society and other women around him. And so I think feminism for boys also means feeling like the whole spectrum of emotions and recognizing that they can be led by women.
And so how do we rethink masculinity and raise these boys to be 21st century men as well? We want to examine both what we’re saying and thinking about women, but also what we’re saying and thinking about men. So, the empowerment of women leaders is for inclusion. It’s for modeling, it’s for mentoring. The intention is not to help women learn how to gain power, but to live out their calling and the power that’s already present, available and intended for them. Right? And that’s a beautiful and a powerful message for everyone to hear and to live out the church cannot live into the fullness of the gospel when exclusionary power structures continue to exist. Right? I think a woman named Carolyn Lewis said that, right, the church can not itself, cannot live into the fullness of the gospel when exclusionary power structures continue to exist and that’s across the board, right?
So we want to pay attention to what people are being told in church at work, at school, by friends, by the media and train people to evaluate the messages they hear in light of the truth of the gospel. We want to model a lifestyle that’s different from the misogyny around us and explain how our lifestyle is patterned after Christ. And then build a network of healthy relationships, teach people to engage with their world, viewing their world and the people around them through the lens of Christ so that we can be those agents of reconciliation and help restore the Shalom, the goodness, the oneness, the peace, the rest that God created an intense for each of us to enjoy in our lives personally and together.
Meagan Ruff: Yes. Amen. That was a great culmination of everything that you said–that was perfect. That was great. As we said at the beginning, we could probably talk to you all day and I know you could probably talk about this all day. But we are so thankful that you came on and talked to us about this. We’re really excited for our listeners to hear about it and hopefully, kind of like I said our biblical equality class that we took with you was only the beginning that kind of stirred up this excitement and passion about it…Hopefully this episode will be the same for a lot of our listeners and they’ll, you know, dig into some of these authors or some of these women and study biblically equality for themselves.
Major Annalise Francis: So, thank you so much for having me. It’s been wonderful.
Cassandra Amezquita: Thank you.
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