For egalitarians, it is an appeal to scripture rather than liberal political thought (as Sarah Sumner suggested in Christianity Today earlier this summer) that has led to a burgeoning of books, articles, conferences, and discussion on gender and faith. An appeal to scripture also separates secular and liberal feminists (who place their feminist ideals above scripture) from egalitarians (who locate their feminist ideals within the Bible). With the success of women and freed slaves on the mission field during the 1800-1900s, Christians such as A.J. Gordon, Catherine Booth, John Wesley, Fredrik Franson, Sojourner Truth, and Katharine Bushnell challenged gender and ethnic prejudice with a robust biblicism-an ideal that has come to characterize evangelicals.
Like those of the 1800-1900s, egalitarians today also believe Galatians 3:27-29 speaks not only to salvation, contrary to Sumner's suggestion. Our soteriology (what we understand about salvation) also shapes our ecclesiology (what we understand about the church), as F.F. Bruce and Gordon Fee have observed. Galatians 3:28 (a verse inscribed on numerous ancient baptismal fonts) reveals our fullest redemptive opportunities, including not only salvation, but also sanctification and reconciliation. Here Paul does not suggest that gender, ethnicity, or class is eliminated in Christ. Rather, through Christ these distinctions now bring strength and vitality to Christ's new covenant community. And Paul lived out this vitality in his evangelistic work beside Gentiles, slaves, and women coworkers such as Priscilla, Eunice, Lois; house church leaders such as Chloe, Nympha, and the elect lady, Apphia; deacons like Phoebe, and also Junia the apostle. Our redemption directly influences our relationship to one another as Galatians 3:28 and many other passages teach (Matthew 20:25-28, Philemon 2:1-15, etc.). This is indeed part of the new wine Jesus celebrates in Mark 2:22.
Mimi Haddad is the president of Christians for Biblical Equality.