First and Second Timothy and Titus (Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament), by Dr. Christopher R. Hutson

Bad theology and biblical misinterpretations kill people. We’re seeing that now during this coronavirus pandemic when pastors keep holding large church gatherings because they believe that it’s God’s will, that “the Bible says it and that settles it.”

Teaching that subordination of women is God’s will is also bad theology that kills bodies, minds, and spirits. Teaching male dominance supports violence against women. It leads men to feel they have “authority” to do anything to women’s bodies and women not to question them. Interpreting certain passages in 1 Timothy and Titus to silence women in the church is misinterpretation of the Bible, stifling the minds and spirits of women and harming the whole community.

For these reasons, I’m deeply grateful to biblical scholars like Dr. Christopher R. Hutson and for his new commentary, First and Second Timothy and Titus. Although some people say that we should just throw out passages in 1 Timothy and Titus that are still used against women, I agree with Hutson that we need responsible interpretations of these passages so they won’t continue hurting people. Hutson writes that dismissing such passages as “hopelessly mired in misogynistic, patriarchalist ideology” is throwing “out the baby with the bathwater,” resulting in “fundamentalist patriarchalism” continuing “to bathe each new generation in centuries-old bathwater.”

Instead, Hutson presents an egalitarian, or biblical feminist, interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:11-12, one of the passages most often used to silence and subordinate women. The egalitarian view begins with a “broad understanding of the gospel as challenging all forms of domination and oppression” and approaches “texts like 1 Timothy 2:11-12. . . as anomalies.” He cites ancient and modern Christian communities who have affirmed the “giftedness of women” as preachers and church leaders because they look “through the wide-angel lens of the whole NT rather than squinting through the peephole of 1 Timothy 2:11-12.”

Hutson’s book is needed today because “patriarachalists” still “use this text to perpetuate presumptions of privilege in all areas of society.” Hutson refers to the term “kyriarchalism” (from Greek words meaning “rule of lords”), coined by theologian Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza to emphasize the intersectionality of all forms of dominance. Hutson writes: “Attitudes regarding male domination intersect with attitudes about slavery, tyranny, racism, colonialism, and any other claim that some categories of people have a God-given right to dominate other categories. Read superficially, the Bible often becomes a tool of oppression rather than of liberation and redemption.”

This commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (PE) is especially relevant to the liberation of churches from male domination. “The PE are central to debates about whether women should be ordained and to what ministries,” Hutson writes. “Most Christian leaders, men themselves, have applied the PE to reinforce male dominance in the church.” Hutson’s commentary discusses problems with the traditional translation, interpretation, and application of passages like 1 Timothy 2:11-12 and states that there have always been alternative interpreters supporting female church leaders, with an increase in these voices in the twentieth century. As one of these strong alternative voices, Hutson interprets this passage as an exception for the specific cultural context of an eastern province in the early Roman Empire but not a general rule for all Christians in all places and times. “Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are gifts bestowed by the Spirit for building up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-12). Should we spurn such gifts when they come wrapped in bodies that do not meet our expectations?” He identifies a crucial question for reading the New Testament: “How do we distinguish the core message of the gospel from the cultural package in which it was wrapped before it was handed on to us?”

Hutson states that although ministers usually read the Pastoral Epistles as “guidelines for organizing and evaluating churches,” he argues “that these letters are guidelines for forming and evaluating ministers.” Thus “ministerial formation” is the focus of his book; “it is a commentary on a collection of letters about how to be effective ministers of Christ Jesus.” This focus makes it a practical, as well as scholarly, commentary.

In the “Theological Issues” sections of the commentary, Hutson offers his own “exhortations to young ministers, tapping into 2,000 years of Christian tradition about spiritual and ministerial formation.” He encourages readers to explore our own and other traditions to be effective in our teaching of the gospel in the midst of current cultural trends and philosophical questions. This book is an excellent illustration of his own advice to bring depth to our teaching and preaching with wisdom from our spiritual ancestors.

Drawing from the Pastoral Epistles, here is more advice Hutson offers ministers:

(1) “The proper place to begin your ministry is self-examination and confession, gratitude for God’s mercy, and prayer for your most cantankerous opponents. This goes against the tendency to read a vice list judgmentally by picking out whichever sins do not tempt us (or our donor base) and decrying them as reprehensible.”

(2) “If you would read Scripture properly, attend to the ethical demands of the texts. Help people see how the text challenges and corrects behavior, and put your understanding into practice yourself. No sophisticated theology will matter if people cannot see how it makes a difference in your life.”

(3) Don’t begin teaching “with any arrogant certainty that you have comprehended the meaning of Scripture, much less Deity, so as to expound the deep things to your hearers.”

(4) Ministers “must begin by acknowledging that we do not know God fully and open ourselves to rebirth. Engaging issues from a posture of false certainty is likely to result in fruitless debate. But if we engage issues as opportunities to reexamine our assumptions, we may discover new dimensions to faith.”

(5) “Consider the specific cultural context in which you are now living. If your congregation prohibits a woman to ‘teach or presume authority over a men,’ does that have a positive or negative impact on how non-Christians in your town view Christianity?”

(6) “Your task as a minister is to help Christians become morally upright people and to help your congregation identify leaders who will be unimpeachable.”

(7) “A leader should cultivate other leaders. If you think of yourself as indispensable, you may cut off the creative energy that will keep the group going in the next generation.”

(8) “The thoughtful minister must discern between earthly rules of domination and the gospel call for liberation. You cannot serve two masters. . . . You must shatter all forms of domination and exploitation that prevail in the present age.”

Hutson practices what he teaches through his research, writing, and classes at Abilene Christian University. He follows the gospel call for liberation. For seven years he has served on the board of Equity for Women of the Church, an ecumenical movement to facilitate equal representation of clergywomen as pastors of multicultural churches in order to transform church and society. He contributed two articles that are excerpts from this commentary, “Putting the Cultural Cart Before the Christological Horse” and “Flaunting Wealth, Flaunting Virtue,” to the Equity for Women in the Church blog. Also, he wrote a chapter,“‘Heavenly Zeal’: The Call and Mission of Old Elizabeth,” for a soon-to-be-published book, I Wish Someone Had Told Me: Equity for Women in the Church.

I highly recommend First and Second Timothy and Titus to all who want to follow the liberating call of the gospel to transform church and society. Hutson states that the book is for “hard-core Bible” students, “seasoned scholars and ministers,” and “ministerial students.” I recommend it also to Bible study groups and to all Christians. While the book is erudite, quoting ancient sources from Artistotle to Epictetus to Hippocrates and Christian commentators through the centuries, Hutson’s clear, engaging style makes it also accessible to general readers. This commentary is especially important in our day when many still use the Pastoral Epistles to stifle the gifts of women and others. Hutson demonstrates that the Spirit is “an equal-opportunity gifter.”

Christopher R. Hutson, PhD, is professor of Bible, missions, and ministry and is associate dean for academic programs and services in the College of Biblical Studies at Abilene Christian University. Among his research interests are the letters of Paul in their social contexts and issues pertaining to women in ministry, which he approaches through studies of biblical texts and American religious history. He is a co-founder of the website gal328.org, which pushes the issue of gender justice specifically within Churches of Christ.

Posted in She Lives! | 2 Responses

Spiritual Truth in the Age of Fake News, by Rev. Elizabeth Geitz

What is truth? This is an urgent question at the current time. What is the truth about the coronavirus? What is the truth about political candidates? In this age of multiple, widely divergent new sources and social media, it’s often hard to discern truth.

But this is not a new question. When Jesus said “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice,” Pilate asked, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38)

The phrase “Fake News” has become widespread. Rev. Elizabeth Geitz makes creative use of this phrase in her book Spiritual Truth in the Age of Fake News, demonstrating that Fake News is not new. She asserts: “Fake News began when people first interpreted the Bible to advance their own agenda, and much of that interpretation was not questioned until women were allowed to study in seminaries and rabbinical schools.”

Geitz states that whether or not we are religious, we all live in a world shaped by patriarchal biblical views, based on the false belief that the Bible says some people are second-class citizens. I agree with her that the best way to counter this Fake News is with the truth of what the Bible really says.

Fake News about the Bible can be deadly. Fake News has destroyed and continues to destroy lives. Geitz cites examples of violence from the resurgence of many “isms”—sexism, racism, heterosexism, anti-Semitism—that many people support with misinterpretations of the Bible. “It is time to set the record straight on what the Bible actually says regarding the many ‘isms’ alive and well today,” she writes. “It is time for the Fake News about the Bible to come to a screeching halt. It is time for us to claim our inheritance of spiritual truth for all people.”

In this concise, compelling book Geitz sets “the record straight,” illuminating biblical and spiritual truth. Among the topics she addresses are divine images, sexism, racism, heterosexism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and women leaders.

Understanding that divine images are foundational to our worldview, Geitz begins her book by countering the Fake News that the Bible represents God as exclusively or predominantly male. This representation “perpetuates the Fake News that God is male,” resulting in a patriarchal worldview” that supports gender inequality and many other intersecting injustices. The belief that God is male is “Fake News of the worst sort.” The truth of female images of the Divine in the Bible, she writes, “will change not only us, but the world in which we live.”

Geitz elucidates numerous biblical female images of the Divine, and she practices what she believes about the importance of these images by referring to “Divine Mother.” One of my favorite biblical divine female images is the comforting Mother: “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you” (Isaiah 66:13). After her reflection on this image, Geitz invites us to experience this truth: “Your Divine Mother can comfort you now, and more, much more than you can even ask or imagine. What would it feel like to put yourself in the presence of our Divine Mother?” Here are some of the many other biblical divine female images included in Spiritual Truth in the Age of Fake News: woman in labor (Isaiah 42:14); Mother Eagle (Exodus 19:3-4); Mother Rock (Deuteronomy 32:18); Midwife (Psalm 22:9-10); Mother Bear (Hosea 13:14); Mother Hen (Luke 13:34); woman with lost coin (Luke 15:8-9).

Countering the biblical misinterpretations that support sexism, Geitz points to Genesis 1:27 on the creation of male and female as equals in the image of God: “The fullness, the beauty, the equality of male and female inherent in this passage have been ignored throughout history, perpetuating the Fake News that women are inferior to men.” She lifts up Jesus’ words (Mark 10:5-6) and actions (Luke 8:1-3, Mark 16:9-10) to underscore the truth of male and female as equals. Also, she points to distortions of some of Paul’s teaching as “Fake News of the worst sort,” and illustrates the True News with Paul’s naming Junia as an apostle (Romans 16:7) and working with Phoebe and Prisca as equal partners in spreading the gospel. (Romans 16:1-3).

Misuse of the Bible has also resulted in terrible abuses from white supremacy and racism. Geitz writes: “Separation of the races based on the belief that ‘this is what God has ordained’ is Fake News that has led to the existence of slavery in the United States and the ongoing unequal treatment of people based on race.” To illustrate, she cites statistics of the “appalling economic reality in the U.S. today for African Americans and Hispanics.” The median net worth of African American households is one-thirteenth and the median net worth of Latinx households is one-tenth that of white households. She draws from Romans 8:22-23 to image “our Divine Mother…groaning in the birth pangs of labor,” longing to free us “from the bonds of the Fake News” that “white skin” makes people “superior to those of other races.” Seeing the importance of inclusive racial, as well as gender, images of God, Geitz asks, “What if our Creator were depicted as an immigrant, an African American, Hispanic, or Native American? What if our Creator were depicted wearing a Star of David or a hijab? Would this change your image of that group of people? Your actions toward them?”

Fake News of what the Bible says about LGBTQ people has led to violence and discrimination against them. In Spiritual Truth in the Age of Fake News, Geitz refutes misinterpretations of biblical passages used to oppress LGBTQ people, such as the story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:1-11). On the two occasions when Jesus speaks of Sodom and Gomorrah, he doesn’t mention homosexuality; instead Jesus refers to the sin of inhospitality (Matthew 10:11-15, Luke 10:8-12). “The barrage of negative statements about gays and lesbians, touted as the word of God, is Fake News of the highest order,” Geitz writes. “Jesus did not utter one word about homosexuality. Are you called to share this True News with others?”

Distorted readings of the Bible, for instance that Jews killed Jesus, have led to centuries of anti-Semitism and still lead to anti-Semitic hate crimes. Geitz gives an accurate biblical interpretation that Jesus was killed by Roman power. She also reminds us that Jesus was Jewish and was addressed throughout the New Testament as “Rabbi” (Mark 9:2-5). Centuries of artistic portrayals of Jesus as a light haired, blue-eyed European have contributed to anti-Semitic beliefs that continue to flourish, as witnessed in the 2017 march of white supremacists in Charlottesville, West Virginia. Geitz invites us to contribute to change by spreading the foundational biblical truth that all people are equal (Galatians 3:28).

Xenophobia, fear of the “other,” is often at the root of anti-Semitism, racism, sexism, and heterosexism. Fake News about those who are perceived as “other” or “foreign” has led to the deaths of countless innocent people. Geitz cites the examples of the El Paso Walmart gun massacre, the Pulse nightclub shooting, and the Charleston church massacre. She calls for a stop to the abuse of Scripture to support a white patriarchal system, and points to Jesus’ words about welcoming strangers. (Matthew 25:35-36).

Spiritual Truth in the Age of Fake News lifts up numerous women leaders in the Bible to counter biblical misinterpretations that promote a patriarchal agenda. Underlying the often-repeated statement that America may not be ready for a female president is the biblical misinterpretation that leads people to believe that women should not be leaders. Geitz shines the truth about women leaders in Scripture, citing numerous examples, including Shiphrah and Puah (Exodus 1:15-17); Miriam (Micah 6:1-4); Rahab (Joshua 2:4-5); Huldah (2 Kings 22:14); Esther (Esther 4:15-16); Anna (Luke 2:36-38); Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:1-2); Phoebe (Romans 16:1); Junia (Romans 16:7); Prisca (Romans 16:3-5); Euodia and Syntyche (Philippians 4:1-3).

I highly recommend Spiritual Truth in the Age of Fake News to all who want to join in bringing the liberating truth to church and society. The “Reader’s Guide” at the beginning gives helpful suggestions of many ways the book can be used for personal reflection, in Bible study groups, and in other group settings. Written in a clear, accessible style from a pastor’s heart, this book inspires and invites us to spread the truth that sets people free to become all we’re created to be in the divine image.

Elizabeth Geitz is an Episcopal priest, award-winning author, and nonprofit entrepreneur whose books have been hailed by New York Times bestselling authors Desmond Tutu, Helen Prejean, and John Berendt. Focusing on spirituality and justice issues, her writings speak to people of passion who want to make a difference in the world. She is the author of seven books including I Am That Child, Soul Satisfaction, and Gender and the Nicene Creed. Visit her at ElizabethGeitz.com.

Posted in She Lives! | Leave a comment

Equity Live 2!

The second “Equity Live” features Rev. Dr. Alfie Wines, who initiated events on the theme “I Wish Someone Had Told Me: Women Gifted and Called to Ministry and the People Who Love Them.” Starting with these events and her blog article on the Equity for Women in the Church website, she developed a book titled I Wish Someone Had Told Me: Equity for Women in the Church, scheduled for publication this year. The book, with Dr. Wines as editor, will include chapters by clergywomen and clergymen, seminary and university professors, and family members of clergywomen.

In this second “Equity Live” Rev. Dr. Irie Lynne Session interviews Rev. Dr. Alfie Wines about her participation on the board of Equity for Women in the Church, about the Equity book project, about the difference between “equality” and “equity,” and other issues related to gender and racial justice. In this illuminating conversation Dr. Wines, a Hebrew Bible scholar and pastor, stresses the importance of responsible biblical interpretation to gender equity and justice. She illustrates by correcting misinterpretations of the first three chapters of Genesis and demonstrating that God’s original intent in creation was the equality of female and male.

Equity for Women in the Church partners with The Gathering, A Womanist Church in creating “Equity Live” with a mission of dismantling the interlocking injustices of sexism and racism that impede clergywomen. Equity for Women in the Church is an ecumenical movement to facilitate equal representation of clergywomen as pastors of multicultural churches in order to transform church and society. The Gathering’s social justice priorities are racial equity, dismantling PMS (patriarchy, misogyny, and sexism), and LGBTQ equality.

Although the number of women in theological education has increased to almost 40%, only about 10% of pastors of all Protestant churches are women. The percentage of women of color who find places to fulfill their call to pastor is much lower. In many denominations the percentage of women pastors of all ethnicities is lower than 1%. The average compensation of female pastors is much lower than that of male pastors, although clergywomen are more likely to have seminary degrees. A recent article in Christianity Today reports that the average salaries and benefits of female pastors are 27% lower than that of male pastors, although three-fourths of female pastors have seminary degrees and only a little over half of male pastors hold seminary degrees. “Equity Live” addresses these inequities, bringing change through the power of diverse voices advocating for women in ministry. “Equity Live” will contribute to gender and racial equity in church and society.

You’re invited to support Equity Live.

Many people would like to believe that we live in a post-sexist world because of the strides that have been made toward gender equity. Unfortunately, we know that gender inequity is still prevalent in every sector of our society, and often unashamedly in the church.

The #MeToo movement that raised widespread awareness of the prevalence of sexual abuse and violence empowered women to break their silence about the abuse they have suffered in churches. #ChurchToo stories are a powerful reminder that sexual abuse isn’t limited to Hollywood.

Male dominance in the leadership and language of churches forms the foundation for this abuse of women. When males are given God-like status, they are more likely to feel entitled to do whatever they like and females not to question their authority.

Despite advances that have been made over the past decades, there are still alarming numbers of people who have only experienced male pastors and religious leaders because of the erroneous teaching that the Bible mandates that women should not and cannot serve as church leaders. Females experience prejudice and discrimination in churches through the theology, language, and practices. Congregants are trained and ingrained in patriarchal understandings of the Bible, misogynist views of biblical passages, and distorted theologies that promote the relegation of women in the church and the larger society. Often congregants learn in Sunday school and sermons only about male biblical characters who are revered as God’s chosen ones, while females sit on the sidelines of the stories. They are taught about a male God who sent a male Savior who called male disciples. So in the minds of many, images of the clergy and leadership are exclusively male. For this reason, churches are frequently male-centered, male-dominated, and male-privileged in their practices even though females consistently make up the majority of church members. A recent Stanford University study demonstrates that images of God have impact beyond churches. The pervasive depiction of God as a white male leads people to believe that white males should be leaders in all sectors of society. “Equity Live” works toward gender equality in church and society.

Often because of the church’s culture, the vocation of ministry is not even a consideration for females. When they do express their calling to serve in leadership positions, many are told that they are only allowed to serve as missionaries, teachers, or children’s assistants but never over a man. Women and girls are informed that they can work in the kitchen, but not in ministry. It is permissible for them to dust the pulpit, but not stand in it. They are allowed to clean the robes, but never wear one. It’s fine for them to prepare and serve meals, but never behind the Communion table. “Equity Live” addresses these inequities in order to effect change on an individual and systemic level.

“Equity Live” conversations will include “Calling in the Key of She,” a program of Equity for Women in the Church, created by board member Rev. Andrea Clark, that provides churches with resources to develop and maintain “female-friendly” congregations who live out their beliefs that God equally loves, calls, values, affirms, and embraces the gifts of all females in the church. “Calling in the Key of She” guides congregations to work toward justice and equality for women and girls, and in so doing to transform everyone. The goal is to move beyond imagining to working to create equitable congregations in order to create a more just world.

Please join our ministry of transforming church and society. Your tax deductible donations go to the 501(c)3 nonprofit Equity for Women in the Church, Inc.

Donate to “Equity Live”!

Posted in She Lives! | Leave a comment

MLK Day Worship Services: Where Are the Women Preachers and Leaders?

Rev. Dr. Irie Lynne Session

Today at the Dallas citywide Dr. Martin Luther King Day worship service, there were no women preachers. There are many outstanding Black women preachers in Dallas, but not one was included in the service. In most of the MLK services I’ve attended, I’ve noticed this absence. Around the country today in MLK worship services, others are asking, “Where are the women?”

Rev. Dr. Irie Lynne Session, co-pastor of The Gathering, A Womanist Church and board member of Equity for Women in the Church, not only noticed this exclusion, but she became the change she wanted to see. In addition to calling out the problem, she became part of the solution. Nevertheless, she preached! She often says, “If they won’t give you a seat at the table, create your own table.” Today she did just that. On short notice, she gathered a group at Central Christian Church, and she preached a powerful sermon.

Rev. Dr. Irie Lynne Session

Rev. Dr. Irie pointed out that not only are Black women preachers excluded from MLK services, but Black women leaders of the Civil Rights Movement are excluded from these serviceswomen such as Coretta Scott King, who partnered with Martin Luther King Jr. in leading the movement. Rev. Dr. Irie proclaimed that just as Black women’s voices and actions were vital to the Civil Rights Movement, Black women preachers and all of us are vital to the movement of dismantling racism, sexism, patriarchy, misogyny, and other injustices in our world today. She emphasized the justice issue of healthcare for all in her sermon “A Specialist She Could Afford,” drawing from the Gospel story of Jesus’ healing the woman who had suffered hemorrhages for twelve years (Luke 8:43-48).

Coretta Scott King, leading a Civil Rights rally
Rev. Dr. Irie Lynne Session & Akilah S. Wallace, Executive Director of Faith in Action, wearing a shirt with pictures of Black women leaders

Rev. Dr. Irie’s sermon and our discussion afterwards, other MLK Day worship services, and my participation as a ministry partner in The Gathering have helped me see how I have been both oppressor and oppressed in church and society. As a white American, I share the sin of my race that enslaved African Americans, segregated them, and denied them freedom and dignity and equal rights. I especially feel the need of repentance of the sin of participating in the white Christian church that instead of following our mission of justice and equality has too often perpetuated injustice and inequality, by biblical misinterpretations and/or silence in the face of racism and white supremacy. Injustice exerts its most profound damage when wrong is supported in the name of right. When wrong becomes systematized, the very concept of justice is reversed. Dr. King wrote in Strength to Love, “Millions of African Americans, starving for the bread of freedom, have knocked again and again on the door of white churches, but they have usually been greeted by a cold indifference or a blatant hypocrisy.”

Rev. Dr. Irie Session and Rev. Kamilah Hall Sharp, co-pastors of The Gathering, along with Dr. Martin Luther King, have helped me see how I’m also among the oppressed. In Why We Can’t Wait, Dr. King wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The exclusion of women’s voices is an injustice. Exclusion and marginalization of women is a threat to racial justice and to any kind of justice everywhere. The church has too often perpetuated this injustice with biblical misinterpretations and/or silence in the face of sexism. Dorothy Cotton, who worked closely with Dr. King in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, acknowledged the sexism that existed in the Civil Rights Movement, but she believed that had he lived longer, he would have come to see women as an oppressed class. The logical, ethical conclusion of MLK’s reaching, writing, and activism is gender as well as racial justice. Theologian Dr. James Cone stated: “As we blacks will not permit whites to offer plausible excuses for racism, so we cannot excuse our sexism. Sexism, like racism, is freedom’s opposite, and we must uncover its evil manifestations so we can destroy it.”

Dorothy Cotton, leader of Civil Rights Movement

Just as MLK used love and non-violent resistance against racism, classism, and militarism, today I believe he would also work against sexism. That’s exactly what Rev. Dr. Irie did today. In the power of Love, she resisted sexist exclusion and created an MLK Day worship service where her voice and the voices of other women sounded the call to freedom and justice for all.

Rev. Dr. Irie Lynne Session
Posted in She Lives! | 2 Responses

“Sound Forth the News that Wisdom Comes Christmas Carol Video

Sing and celebrate the good news that Wisdom comes to bring new life to birth!  How we need Wisdom and Her new life in our world! This video comes with the hope that Wisdom will guide us to co-create with Her a world of justice, peace, equality, love, freedom, and joy.

Sound forth the news that Wisdom comes
to bring new life to birth.
Arise with hope, Her labor join,
and peace shall fill the earth,
and peace shall fill the earth,
and peace, and peace shall fill the earth.

No more let fear and custom hide
the path of Wisdom fair.
She leads the way to life and joy,
with gifts for all to share,
with gifts for all to share,
with gifts, with gifts for all to share.

Joyful are we who heed the call
of Wisdom in our souls.
With Her we break oppression’s wall,
so love may freely flow,
so love may freely flow,
so love, so love may freely flow.

Crown Wisdom Queen of heaven and earth;
Her reign will set us free.
Fling wide the gates that all may come
join hands and dance with glee,
join hands and dance with glee,
join hands, join hands and dance with glee.

Words © Jann Aldredge-Clanton, from Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians

This Christmas season gives us a wonderful opportunity to take action for social justice, peace, and new life. Christmas carols are popular throughout our culture, not only in churches. We can sing these well-loved tunes but with inclusive lyrics. By including biblical female names for Deity and visual images representing diverse races, we contribute to gender and racial justice and equality.

One of the most prominent female names for Deity in the Bible is “Wisdom” (Hokmah in the Hebrew Scriptures and Sophia in the Christian Scriptures.) “Happy are those who find Wisdom. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with Her. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all Her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of Her; those who hold Her fast are called happy. Prize Her highly, and She will exalt you; She will honor you if you embrace Her. She will place on your head a fair garland; She will bestow on you a beautiful crown” (Proverbs 3:13,15,17-18; 4:8-9).

The first photograph in the video is of Rev. Sheila Sholes-Ross, co-chair of Equity for Women in the Church. Equity for Women in the Church is an ecumenical movement to facilitate equal representation of clergywomen as pastors of multicultural churches in order to transform church and society. Our mission is not only to advocate and network for clergywomen to facilitate access and congregational receptivity, but also to dismantle patriarchal and white supremacist church practices and structures so clergywomen can thrive in pastoral positions.

Through inclusive leadership, as well as inclusive language, churches can help create a culture that gives equal power and value to all genders and races. Churches can help change male-dominated religion and culture at the root of gender injustice and violence. By making changes in leadership and language churches can stop contributing to this culture that gives greatest power, privilege, and value to men. Equal representation of clergywomen and laywomen as leaders and inclusive worship language make powerful contributions to the transformation of church and society. Many churches, along with Equity for Women in the Church, are working toward this transformation.

May we reclaim Wisdom in our churches and our world. She will set us free to be all we’re created to be! “Sound forth the news that Wisdom comes to bring new life to birth”!

Video Credits

Performed by: Shannon Kincaid

Visual Art:

David Clanton: “Tree of Life” and two dancing children photos

Alice Heimsoth: seven photos inside Ebenezer/herchurch Lutheran, San Francisco

Mirta Toledo: “Saint Sophia”

Shannon Kincaid: “Oprah & Child” and “Queen Maeve” paintings

Elizabeth Zedaran: “Flow”

Mary Plaster: “Sophia, Divine Wisdom”

Instruments:

Keyboard: Ron DiIulio

Guitar: Danny Hubbard

Bass & Percussion: Jerry Hancock

Produced/Arranged by: Ron DiIulio

Posted in She Lives! | 2 Responses