Will Gender Equality Prevail?

Many of us are still sleep-deprived after two weeks of political conventions.  Part pageantry, part spectacle, and part the inevitable chaos of democracy, these quadrennial gatherings summon our collective hopes and fears and urge us to take the long view.  The tensions of nationalism and globalism were on display, and we must not shrink from this sobering epoch.

Not surprising, it was deeply moving to me, along with many others, to witness the nomination of the first woman candidate for president.  Pent-up aspirations flooded the arena as well as those get-togethers assembled for the purpose of celebrating this historic moment.  Old women cast votes for their states and young women made speeches.  The optics were grand, but will gender equality prevail?

Gaining the vote in 1920, women can now vote for a woman.  Men can too, if they choose.  Secretary Clinton is not the first to run, and she stands on the shoulders of women like Belva Lockwood and the audacious Shirley Chisholm.  She ought to be on a stamp or something; preserving her legacy matters.

 

 

Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm – In 1972, she became the first major-party black candidate for President of the United States, and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. (Wikipedia)

 

It has been a part of my life’s work to advocate for the God-given liberty of women to pursue any calling God sets before them.  Over these past nearly four decades in theological education, I have seen cracks in the stained-glass ceiling; however, the church has lost many good pastors because of stubborn resistance to the leadership of women.

In Sunday’s New York Times, Nicholas Kristof argued for the big upside of shattered ceilings.  In other words, when women claim their rightful place, men will benefit as well.  I quote from his column:

So to those men who worry about being hurt by the shards from one more shattered glass ceiling, I’d say: Not only is this inevitable, not only is it a matter of fairness, but the evidence is also overwhelming that when women gain power and a seat at the table, we men benefit as well.  So let’s relax and join the celebration.

Thankfully, Baptists and other faith traditions are witnessing a new generation of competent female congregational leaders.  Bursting with imagination and new expressions of leadership, these pastors are bringing renewal to congregations and embodying an inclusive vision that attracts younger adults.  It also attracts some of us feisty older adults, too.

Gender equality is at the center of the Gospel, as Jesus so remarkably demonstrates.  Even the Apostle Paul offers a vision of “all being one in Christ Jesus.”  Dismantling patriarchal structures continues to be a key issue of justice.  I invite you to continue this important work.

*Dr. Marshall was a favorite speaker at the John A. Hamrick Lectureship at First Baptist Church of Charleston. This article is used with her permission. Dr. Marshall is President of Central Baptist /Seminary.