Week of Proper 19: Tuesday, Year 1   10 comments

Above:  French Suffragettes in 1935

Image in the Public Domain

Gender Equality in Jesus Via the Holy Spirit

SEPTEMBER 19, 2023


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


1 Timothy 3:1-13 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Here is a saying that you can rely on:  To want to be a presiding elder is to want to do a noble work.  That is why the president must have an impeccable character.  He must not have been married more than once, and he must be temperate, discreet and courteous, hospitable and a good teacher; not a heavy drinker, nor hot-tempered, but kind and peaceable.  He must not be a lover of money.  He must be a man who manages his own family well and brings his children up to obey him and be well-behaved:  how can any man who does not understand how to manage his own family have responsibility for the church of God?  He should not be a new convert, in case pride might turn his head and then he might be condemned as the devil was condemned.  It is also necessary that people outside the church should speak well of him, so that he never gets a bad reputation and falls into the devil’s trap.

In the same way, deacons must be respectable men whose word can be trusted, moderate in the amount of wine they drink and with no squalid greed for money.  They must be conscientious believers in the mystery of the faith.  They are to be examined first, and only admitted to serve as deacons if there is nothing against them.  In the same way, the women must be respectable, not gossips but sober and quite reliable.  Deacons must not have been married more than once, and must be men who manage their children and families well.  Those of them who carry out their duties well as deacons will earn a high standing for themselves and be rewarded with great assurance in their work for the faith in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 101 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 I will sing of mercy and justice;

to you, O LORD, will I sing praises.

2 I will strive to follow a blameless course;

oh, when will you come to me?

I will walk with sincerity of heart within my house.

3 I will set no worthless thing before my eyes;

I hate the doers of evil deeds;

they shall not remain with me.

4 A crooked heart shall be far from me;

I will not know evil.

5 Those who in secret slander their neighbors I will destroy;

those who have a haughty look and a proud heart I cannot abide.

6 My eyes are upon the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me,

and only those who lead a blameless life shall be my servants.

7 Those who act deceitfully shall not dwell in my house,

and those who tell lies shall not continue in my sight.

8 I will soon destroy all the wicked in the land,

that I may root out all evildoers from the city of the LORD.

Luke 7:11-17 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now soon afterwards he [Jesus] went to a town called Nain, accompanied by his disciples and a great number of people.  When he was near the gate of the town it happened that a dead man was being carried out for burial, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.  And a considerable number of the townspeople were with her.  When the Lord saw her he felt sorry for her.

Do not cry

he said.  Then he went up and put his hand on the bier and the bearers stood still, and he said,

Young man, I tell you to get up.

And the dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him to his mother.  Everyone was filled with awe and praised God saying,

A great prophet has appeared among us; God has visited his people.

And this opinion of him spread throughout Judaea and all over his countryside.


The Collect:

O God, because without you we are not able to please you mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Consider the following:

All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus.  Merely by belonging to Christ you are the posterity of Abraham, the heirs he was promised.

–Galatians 3:28 (The Jerusalem Bible)

1 Timothy can be a troublesome book, for it contains a mixture of culturally-conditioned and locally-specific gender attitudes (in this day’s reading and in 2:9-15) as well as garden-variety sexism.  But a survey of the epistles we know that Paul wrote reveals great openness to a prominent place for women in the church.  And then there is Galatians 3:28.

A few days ago I read a New York Times story about the difficulty that many unmarried (and presumably chaste; I have no reason to suspect otherwise) evangelical ministers in the United States have securing pastorates.  I assume that interpretations of passages, such as those from 1 Timothy for this day, account for part of the cause of this difficulty.  But, as Matthew 19:12 quotes Jesus speaking affirmatively, there are those who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven.  Besides, marriage is not a universal vocation.  Furthermore, speaking as a recovering Preacher’s Kid, there is much virtue in certain proportion of the clergy being voluntarily celibate, for the lack of a family life enables them to devote more time to serving God via the church.

Gender roles in the Bible vary according to time and place.  Many laws regarding women in the Hebrew Scriptures assume that females are property of men.  So, for example, premarital sexual relations become a property crime–against her father, no less.  The man makes restitution by marrying the woman he has deflowered.  However, if one cannot prove that the man deflowered her, she is to die by stoning.  (Deuteronomy 22:13-21)  And adultery, in the Ten Commandments, is a property crime against the husband.  (See Exodus 20:17)

And, in the Hellenistic world, most women depended on men financially.  This fact helps explain our Lord’s condemnations of divorce without serious cause.  It was convenient for the husband, but placed the ex-wife at great risk.  And a widow needed a male relative–in the case of the woman from Luke, a son, to protect her.

Fortunately, there is equality through the Holy Spirit.  If our societies and institutions (especially religious ones) do not recognize this reality, they err in so far as they deviate from this high standard.  But a society is not an abstraction, for it consists of people.  Societies change over time as attitudes shift.  Sometimes this is positive; other times it is not.  Yet gender equality is good.

So, where do you stand?  And how will you act to make the world, or just your corner of it, a more equitable place, for the benefit of all?



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