Women in Leadership Mirroring God
For the last few weeks we have been looking at the series by Dr Jehan Loza on women in leadership. This is the final article in the series.
Dr Jehan Loza holds a PhD in Sociology (Deakin University), a Masters of Vocational Practice – Church Practice at Tabor and has nearly 25 years experience undertaking qualitative evaluation and research with a range of stakeholders both in Australia and internationally.
Jehan has worked across diverse cultural and geographical contexts including with Indigenous communities. She has intimate knowledge of community and organisational capacity building processes and has applied this knowledge both practically and theoretically in her work.
On Mirroring God: Women in view, Co-ministering for the kingdom
The doctrine of the Trinity is at the heart of the Christian faith. Embedded within the Trinity and arising from the essence of God is the notion of relationship/community (Bilezikian 1997; Grenz, 1994, 2004). That is, within the one God, you will find the deep fellowship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This three-ness in the one God is ontological, each sharing in and constituting the divine oneness.
According to Grenz (1994:69), the three-ness is also economic; being that while each is internal to the eternal divine reality, each is distinct and differentiated from the other. Each fulfils a specific role in the one divine program:
The Father functions as the ground of the world and of the divine program for creation. The Son functions as the revealer of God, the exemplar and herald of the father’s will for creation, and the redeemer of humankind. And the Spirit functions as the personal divine power active in the world, the completer of the divine will and program (Grenz 1994:69).
The Trinity therefore operates as a divine diversity and a divine unity; being that despite each having different functions, the divine activity of each is characterized by mutuality and cooperation with each involved in every aspect of God’s working in the world. The Trinity is a co-ministering relationship; each having a unique role, that together makes them complete.
In Genesis 1:26, when God made man, he made them in his image. First he created Adam and then his helper, his very condition for survival – the Ezer, Woman. Man is only complete with woman. She is “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” (Gen 2:23) the first man cried before the fall.
He recognized woman as himself, not as for himself or unto himself; as himself, together as one.
Woman completed man and this completeness was a reflection of the Trinity. This relationship of complete mutuality is based on mutual submission and one void of power dimensions found in socially constructed dualisms.
Such a relationship emphasizes the fact that Christ is the source of its unity, the means by which it takes place. Here Christ occupies the chief position (not man) – he is the source of its life and the centre of its unity. To man and woman, God gave dominion of all that He had created. This is the pure and perfect state in which God made them and which man-woman were to operate; and did before the fall.
Marva and Peterson (2000) claim that leadership is often taken up by those that have a wrong concept of it; as organizational and functional rather than as the gospel inspired notion of leadership as relational. These authors call for a counter-cultural leadership, a leadership of a ‘Holy Spirit community’ that refuses to buy into the power-based management styles of western culture.
The doctrine of the Trinity must be understood as an invitation to discover the ways in which we participate in God and, as a result, the ways we can contribute to the life of the divine human relationship between man and woman The doctrine of the Trinity facilitates the church to build communities that represent the life of Christ in different ways, but always as fully participatory.
This is rarely the case and I have found in my own experience that my role in the church has been to support my husband; though we share similar gifts, skills and talents but certainly the same qualifications.
It has been heartbreaking for me to know that the mainstream world, in some respects, places greater value on women than God’s very own institution does.
It has been a tough journey (and nowhere near to being over) and has been infused with many tears and arguments. Mostly these arguments have been instigated by me as I have retorted in anger: “in the mainstream world, I am recognized for who I am and what I can do. Why is the church – as a representative of God – the only bloody (literally) institution where I am rendered invisible to the degree I am?” And within that wrestling, anger and debate, my husband became the representation of all men.
It has been tough for him too as I have accused him, questioned him, manipulated him, willed him, punished him and prayed him into a deeper understanding and revelation of God’s heart for women and their role in His kingdom.
His breakthrough moment was breathtaking and left me on shaky ground as now, in his anger which has been my anger and frustration, he turns to me for answers. But I have none.
So we fumble; my husband and I. We do not quite know how to do it for we know we are bound by existing structures and dominant viewpoints that are difficult to sway.
But we try. We try and represent something other, something new. We try to co-minister in our role as Connections Pastors. But it is not easy. In my worst moments, I think ‘this is my ministry but he decided he wanted to ‘co-minister’’, and if I am honest, in my worst moments it means, ‘take-over’! And I catch myself because, of course, I want to co-minister with my husband, I really, really do. So I try to ignore his name being mentioned first (it seems, in my sensitivity, it is all the time but I know it is probably only as often as my name is mentioned first).
I try to ignore that he is the one that is asked to preach (and I don’t know why that rates, only for its symbolic value I guess, because I do not ever want to preach). And when I get frustrated and cry and go to him, my husband, who better understands his Ezer and her value, responds in his own heartbreak:
Jehan you are the value and I am the function. The church sees leadership as function and the Church is yet to be able to name your value. I want what you have, I want your value. I feel that I come second, that I am invisible. People do not tell me that church would be a lesser place without me. I am merely told I give great messages. One day what you do will be named but I pray that that is not the day when more women are in functional roles because men have invaded and appropriated those spaces that are of true value, the space of relationships.
This morning we talked about Pricilla and Judge Deborah and wondered if they asked such questions as the ones we ask.
Probably not, we concluded. Pricilla and Judge Deborah’s co-ministering roles with their male-counterparts is reflective of the Trinity, we concluded. Well as best as it could be, within a fallen world marked by power relations between the genders. We talked again about co-ministering and what it looks like in practice. I asked: ‘are we even co-ministering in practice John? We have the ideal but do we really know how to do it?’
No we don’t! We really don’t but we are trying. We know we won’t get it right, not in this lifetime. But we continue to seek it as we seek Him because we want to play our lives out more in His image. It is what will make my husband more complete and what will make me more complete. It is the way it was designed.
Does this mean that one might lead and one might support. Sometimes, yes. And sometimes it means we will both go together.
A gender equality reading of the Bible reveals that God ordained leadership for both man and woman and that there are many instances of Biblical female characters acting as leaders and as public ministers. It is there for the viewing; you only need to look, really look to see it. It exists in the heart of the Trinity.
The Trinity must be understood as an invitation to discover the ways in which we participate in God and, as a result, the ways we can contribute to the life of the divine human relationship between man and woman. “Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven”: probably impossible in my lifetime but one that I shall nevertheless seek in my relationships with my male co-ministers.
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