Have you ever noticed how scripture celebrates our interdependence, our mutuality, and our oneness as the church? To be members of Christ's body gives new meaning, fellowship, and comfort to us in our weaknesses and suffering. It also means that our achievements and our joys are shared and celebrated by our brothers and sisters in Christ. Contrary to the isolation, competition, and ambition that often separates individuals, in the church our intimacy with Christ unites us as we humbly share in one another's achievements and each other's disappointments. In fact, in Jesus, we are to be so close to one another that what wounds one, wounds all, and when one rejoices, all rejoice (Romans 12:15).
Paul makes it clear that when one member suffers, all suffer. When one is honored, all are honored (1 Corinthians 12:26 and 12:12-14). If this is true, then the church as a whole should suffer when women encounter gender-bias. Yet, often women shoulder rejection that isolates them in their pain, distancing them from the comforts of authentic Christian community that God intended for the church.
For example, one woman told me that her pastor holds staff meetings without inviting her, despite the fact that she teaches Bible and leads adult Bible study groups as a paid staff member. Other pastors even hold these meetings during times when the women cannot participate, or on the men's basketball court -- sending an agonizing message to women. Just consider how this segregation might seem if ethnicity were the issue, rather than gender.
The pain of these actions is real and often women have few places to turn to for support. As a result, some women are confused, others are angry, and many simply leave the church altogether. Friends, the time has come for all Christians to acknowledge the suffering women have endured. Though many of our brothers have not encountered gender prejudice, they can learn to share in the sufferings of their sisters in Christ. That is the road to reconciliation, healing, and authentic Christian community. That is the path of Christ, and also the responsibility of leadership.
What other important steps can the church take to begin the path of reconciliation and healing in the gender debate? Join us in praying for churches that God would build authentic reconciliation, community, and empathy, so that the process of healing for women and men may continue!
Mimi Haddad is the president of Christians for Biblical Equality.