Sunday, July 09, 2017

Women as Leaders in the Early Church

Doing a little reading in Early Christian Families in Context tonight and hit a wall.

"However, it is important to note that interpreters have usually not distinguished precisely between women's involvement in the expansion of early church groups and the other types of leadership they undertook among believers. This is no doubt due to the fact that the NT evidence by no means suggests a rigid demarcation between types of leadership. A woman leader of a house church such as Prisca is also depicted as engaging in evangelizing efforts. But for the purposes of this paper, it is essential to try to distinguish as much as possible between local leadership and leadership efforts with an outward orientation- indications of activities that clearly win new members."

Margaret Y. MacDonald in her paper "The Role of Women in the Expansion of Early Christianity

I know that the role of women as "evangelizers" is what she's exploring and I will finish the paper and learn, but I got tripped up on the above sentence in bold.

The NT does not provide evidence, according to MacDonald, that there is a rigid demarcation between types of leadership.


 What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.  If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret;  but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God.  Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment.  But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent.  For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted;

I Cor 14:26-32

It seems to me from this passage in Paul's letter that the meetings in Corinth were mighty disorderly. That everyone was speaking. That all were learning from "each one."  I'd give a kidney and my left arm to be in one of those gatherings. 

So, why, as modern attenders of a religious service, are we so all-fired eager to assign functions and to prioritize those persons of said functions  as "important" when clearly, in Corinth, anyway, EVERYONE functioned and EVERYONE was important. 

I mean, how I feel about this is nothing new, but I'm trying to figure out how to get through the scholarship with this in mind. The study of women's roles in the early church seems to get bogged down in what I think/imagine/feel might be an anachronistic view of "church." If we can peel back the layers of what "church" is now and has been through the centuries, we might have less of a problem figuring out how women functioned at it's beginning. 

Sunday, January 01, 2017


In her book Befriending the Beloved Disciple, Adele Reinhartz discusses the application of the concepts in the Gospel to future generations as something familiar to Jews- and brings up the Passover Haggadah. 

   The idea that a text might reach out to include a readership living generations and even centuries after the events it records and after the time of its implied author is familiar to Jews. Jews are enjoined every Passover to relive the exodus experience as if they themselves came out of Egypt. The Passover Haggadah, which provides the "script" for the annual Passover seder....enjoins its readers to see themselves as if they belonged to the generation of the exodus....Generations of Jews have taken to heart the obligation to write themselves into the story by thinking and writing about their own experiences on the basis of the exodus paradigm as presented in the Haggadah. One popular song that has been reinterpreted and rewritten to express the lived Jewish experience is Dayeinu, meaning "It would have been enough for us." In the traditional Passover Haggadah, this song commemorates the many miraculous things God did for the Jewish people and declares that any one of these would have been ample on it's own....The song Dayeinu in effect says "Thank you, God, for overdoing it." 

Apparently this song has been re-written many times. The following is a moving version of the song written by the Hamilton, Ontario chapter of Na'amat, a Jewish women's organization that raises money to benefit women and children:

It would have been enough to bring us through the Red Sea, enough to give us the Torah and Shabbat, enough to bring us into the Land of Israel.
While we count each of these blessings as if it would have been enough on it's own, as Jewish women, we are aware there remains much to do: 

If we speak truthfully about the pain, joys and contradictions of our lives, Dayeinu.

If we listen to others with sensitivity and compassion. Dayeinu.

If we challenge the absence of women in traditional texts, in chronicles of Jewish history and in the leadership of our institutions. Dayeinu.

If we continue to organize, protest, and vote to affirm our values and convictions. Dayeinu

If we stand up against sexism, racism, homophobia and economic injustice where we live, work and study. Dayeinu

If we renew our commitment to Na'amat and our other institutions, dedicated to the well-being of our people, and continue to volunteer our time and resources. Dayeinu.

If we break the silence regarding the violence against women and children in the Jewish community and in the world. Dayeinu.

If we teach our children to pursue justice with all their strength. Dayeinu.

If we care for the earth and its future as responsibly as we care for those we love. Dayeinu.

If we create art, music, dance and literature. Dayeinu.

If we realize our power to effect change. Dayeinu.

If we bring the study of Jewish history, tradition, and practice into our lives, home and communities. Dayeinu.

If we honour our visions more than our fears. Dayeinu