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The House Church Network: Dedicated to Kingdom Expansion
  The Compatibility of Feminism and Evangelicalism

This question comes from K.C. Hass of British Columbia, Canada. She asks, "Are feminism and evangelicalism compatible?"

To understand her question it might be helpful if we assign some working definitions for her terms. For our purposes, feminists are those who contend the absolute equality of women to men and live their lives accordingly. Evangelicals are those who believe the gospel of Jesus Christ is efficacious for everyone and who live their lives accordingly.

Now, based on these definitions there is nothing mutually exclusive about the terms. Men or women who believe in the absolute equality of women and men (feminists) can also believe that the gospel is for everyone and live their lives accordingly (evangelicals). Since Paul himself asserts there is no difference between men and women: "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3.28), there is no reason to believe Christian "feminists" cannot share the gospel with others.

However, a problem arises when evangelicalism is linked with fundamentalism (fundamentalism maintains: (1) an inerrant, infallible scripture in all matters including science, history, geography, etc.; and (2) a literal interpretation of scripture). Early on, the term evangelical became synonymous with fundamental because many believed only those who were quite conservative in their belief system could effectively share the gospel. This created no little difficulty with evangelical women who were called into the professional ministry.

Fundamentalism tends to maintain the patriarchal tenor of ancient Israel and early Judaism. Women are viewed as "equal" but without the same privileges as a man. Thus Paul can say women are equal to men in Galatians 3.28, but he means women must keep in their place: "I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent" (1 Timothy 2.12); "Women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says" (1 Corinthians 14.34). Most fundamentalists maintain these passages are considered applicable for all times and places. Therefore, using this interpretation, these women, called by God into ministry, were left without the opportunity to practice their gifts and graces. Thus, feminism and fundamentalism are incompatible.

Unfortunately, the notion that evangelicals were also fundamentalists led to an understanding that feminists (and moderates, liberals, etc.) could not be authentic bearers of the gospel. This of course is not true. No single theological stance excludes the ministries of another. Paul wrote: "But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as God chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you,' nor again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you'" (1 Corinthians 12.18-21).

The Body of Christ needs evangelicals from all walks of theology­fundamentalists, feminists, moderates, liberals, and everyone in between. We don't all have to agree, but we have to recognize we're all a part of the Body. So, yes K.C., there are indeed feminist evangelicals in Christianity.

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