Church Renewal, Women in Leadership
A Real Man, A Real Woman
July 29, 2020
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Yellow wallpaper. In her book Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: How the Church Needs to Rediscover Her Purpose, Aimee Byrd introduces us to the church’s yellow wall paper (a reference to Charlotte Perkin’s novella The Yellow Wallpaper). This yellow wallpaper refers to the stereotypes of men and woman that are hurting women, men, and the church. What has to happen, according to Byrd, is for the yellow wallpaper to be pulled off the walls and reality revealed.
To tear off the yellow wallpaper Byrd calls on the church to rediscover the way we read scripture seeing the many moments where women “interrupt” the story. These interruptions are central to the story and are essential for God’s story to move forward. Ignoring the story of women in the scriptures or dismissing them as aberrations misses how God uses women in bringing about his kingdom. (Byrd’s telling the story of Phoebe [Romans 16.1-2] is captivating.)
Her section on recovering our mission points out that our aim is not Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Rather our mission is to be and make disciples who reflect the teachings of Jesus as seen in the Sermon on the Mount. We are seeking first to shape a certain kind of people not to shape certain stereotypical gender roles.
One of the most powerful sections of the book comes in Byrd’s examination of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’s (CBMW) quiet acceptance of leaders who hold to the Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS). This idea holds that the Son will forever be subordinate to the Father—an ideas that goes against the historic creeds, but supports the eternal subordination of women to men. Rather than rejecting this idea CBMW refers back not to scriptures but to the Danver’s Statement. Byrd writes, “...notice how the Danvers Statement is the unifying authoritative teaching for the CBMW. The current president calls it their ‘true north.’ It matters more how one views the ‘roles’ of men and women than holding to orthodox teaching on a first-order doctrine" (p.121.).
What is finally striking about Byrd’s take on removing the yellow wallpaper is that she in large part rejects both complementarian and egalitarian viewpoints. She chooses instead a family picture of relationships—especially the relationship between brothers and sisters. She brings us back to the days of the New Testament and maps out that relationship in depth, showing a third way of gender relationships in the church. As she does, she seeks to pull back the yellow wall paper.
This book is a great read for stepping deeply into the scriptures and seeing them with different eyes. It is also an important read for congregations to see where they need renewal in the way women are included or excluded in ministry. Finally, it points to abuses that can happen when certain views of women are held.
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