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Christian egalitarianism (derived from the French word égal, meaning equal or level), also known as biblical equality, is a Christian form of the moral doctrine of egalitarianism. It holds that all human persons are created equally in God's sight—equal in fundamental worth and moral status. This view does not just apply to gender, but to religion, skin colour and any other differences between individuals. It does not imply that all have equal skills, abilities, interests, or physiological or genetic traits. Christian egalitarianism holds that all people are equal before God and in Christ; have equal responsibility to use their gifts and obey their calling to the glory of God; and are called to roles and ministries without regard to class, gender, or race.
According to Christian egalitarianism, gender equality in Christian church leadership (including pastors) and in Christian marriage is biblically sound. Its theological foundations are interpretations of the teachings and example of Jesus Christ and other New Testament principles.
It refers to a biblically-based belief that gender, in and of itself, neither privileges nor curtails a believer's gifting or calling to any ministry in the church or home. It does not imply that women and men are identical or undifferentiated, but affirms that God designed men and women to complement and benefit one another.
The opposing view is Complementarianism. It holds that differing, often non-overlapping roles between men and women; manifested in marriage, church leadership, and elsewhere; is biblically required.
A plain reading of Jesus' teaching recorded in all three Synoptic Gospels indicates that Jesus even forbids any hierarchy in Christian relationships:
While "lord it over" implies abusive leadership, his words "exercise authority" have no connotation of abuse of authority.
The Apostle Paul wrote:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Christian egalitarianism' interpretation of scriptures and spiritual convictions bring them to the conclusion that the manner and teaching of Jesus abolished discrimination against racial minorities, slaves, and women, in both the church and marriage. They believe that the Bible teaches the fundamental equality of believers of all racial and ethnic groups and all economic classes. They consider overarching principles of the Bible to be that men and women are equally created in God's image; equally responsible for sin; equally redeemed by Christ; and equally gifted by God's Spirit for service; and equally held responsible for using their God-given gifts.
Egalitarianism with regard to the doctrine of grace is taught throughout the Bible.
Of the 7 times Paul the Apostle refers to Priscilla and Aquila in the New Testament, Priscilla is listed first in 5 of the 7 times, suggesting to some scholars that she was the head of the family unit.
Ultimately, Christian egalitarianism holds that all people are equal in fundamental worth and moral status. A significant source of this trend of thought is the Christian notion that humankind were created in the living image of God (Imago Dei).
Jesus Christ did not conform to a mentality unfavorable to women, but reacted against inequalities based on sexual differences. By calling women to follow him, it is believed he showed that he went beyond the customs and outlook of his environment.
Illustrative of efforts to institutionalize this notion are these excerpts from the organizational Statement of Faith of Christians for Biblical Equality, a major Christian Egalitarian organization:
- We believe in the equality and essential dignity of men and women of all ethnicities, ages, and classes. We recognize that all persons are made in the image of God and are to reflect that image in the community of believers, in the home, and in society.
- We believe that men and women are to diligently develop and use their God-given gifts for the good of the home, church and society.
The first known use of the term "Christian egalitarianism" was in 1979 in an article in the journal "Theology Today." The first organization whose purpose was advocating Christian egalitarianism was Men, Women and God, established in the United Kingdom in 1984. The American organization Christians for Biblical Equality was established by evangelicals in 1987.
Church Magisterium's view
In his 2004 Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger warned against a related tendency to see gender as culturally constructed, which has generated "a new model of polymorphous sexuality", which reflects an "attempt to be free from one’s biological conditioning".
Prominent Christian egalitarians
- Linda Belleville, author of Women Leaders and the Church (2000)
- Gilbert Bilezikian, author of Beyond Sex Roles (1985)
- Christians for Biblical Equality
- Greg Boyd, theologian and Senior Pastor of the Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, author of Myth of a Christian Religion: Losing your Religion for the Beauty of a Revolution (2009)
- Shane Claiborne
- Bob Edwards, author of Let My People Go: A Call to End the Oppression of Women in the Church (2011)
- Mary J. Evans, author of Woman in the Bible (1984) and co-editor of The IVP Women's Bible Commentary (2002)
- Gordon Fee, contributing editor to Discovering Biblical Equality (2004)
- Kevin Giles, Vicar of St. Michael's Church in North Carlton, Australia, in the Church of England; author of Jesus and the Father: Modern Evangelicals Reinvent the Doctrine of the Trinity (2006)
- Stanley Grenz, author of Women in the Church (1995)
- Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, co-editor of Discovering Biblical Equality (2004); author of Good News for Women (1996) and Women Caught in the Conflict (1997)
- Kenneth E. Hagin, author of The Woman Question (1967)
- Trevor Huddleston
- Paul King Jewett, author of Man as Male and Female (1975) and The Ordination of Women (1980)
- Craig S. Keener, author of Paul, Women and Wives (1992)
- Catherine Clark Kroeger, co-founder of CBE; co-editor of The IVP Women's Bible Commentary (2002); co-author of Women, Abuse and the Bible (1996), I suffer not a Woman (1998)
- Scot McKnight, Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies at North Park University; author of The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How you Read the Bible (2008)
- Roger Nicole, Emeritus Professor of Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, Florida.
- Roger Olson Professor of Theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University
- Carroll Osburn, Professor of New Testament Language and Literature at Abilene Christian University; author of Women in the Church: Reclaiming the Ideal (2001)
- Philip B. Payne, author of Man and Woman, One in Christ (2009), New Testament Scholar and professor at Fuller Theological Seminary (North West)
- Ronald W. Pierce, co-editor of Discovering Biblical Equality (2004)
- Aida Besançon Spencer, author of Beyond the Curse - Women called to ministry (1985)
- Ruth A. Tucker, co-author of Daughters of the Church (1987)
- William J. Webb, author of Slaves, Women and Homosexuals (2001)
- Ben Witherington III, Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary; author of Women in the Earliest Churches (1988) and Women and the Genesis of Christianity (1990)
- N. T. Wright, Bishop of Durham in the Church of England; author of Women's Service in the Church: The Biblical Basis (2004)
- F.F. Bruce, Biblical Scholar and professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis
- Christian views about women
- Christian views of marriage
- Christians for Biblical Equality, an egalitarian organization
- Complementarianism, an opposing view
- Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, a complementarian organization
- Evangelical and Ecumenical Women’s Caucus
- Padgett, Alan G. "What Is Biblical Equality?" Priscilla Papers, Summer 2002: 16:3 Padgett is professor of Systematic Theology at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN.
- The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible Scot McKnight - 2008 "The former is often called “complementarian” and the latter “egalitarian,” though simple labels mask both the seriousness of the views as well as nuances within and between such views. The term “complementarian” fudges the reality; ... "
- Groothuis, Rebecca Merrill. "The Bible and Gender Equality." [www.cbeinternational.org Christians for Biblical Equality Web site]
- Marsh, Clive, Steve Moyise. Jesus and the Gospels. Continuum International Publishing Group, 2006. ISBN 0-567-04073-9
- http://www.spiritrestoration.org/Church/ministry-profile-christians-for-biblical-equality.htm Christians for Biblical Equality
- Edwards, B. (2011) Let My People Go: A Call to End the Oppression of Women in the Church. Charleston, SC: Createspace. ISBN 978-1-4664-0111-2
- cf., the Psalms are a good example of use of the concept of Grace in the Hebrew Bible. The psalmist, traditionally seen to be King David, calls out to God to intercede in both his personal affairs and with the concerns of the nation. Other Hebrew concepts used to describe the grace of God include a group of words whose basic element is hen or hanam, which means the spontaneous gift of affection; and raham, which implies mercy and compassion, including the merciful restoration of a broken relationship. In the NT, most of Jesus' parables provide examples of grace in the sense of undeserved or unmerited favor or reward. A prime example is the parable of the Prodigal Son.[Luke 15:11-32] Another is the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard.[Matt. 20:15-16]
- [Acts 18:2], [Acts 18:18], [Acts 18:19], [Acts 18:26], [Romans 16:3-4], [1 Cor. 16:19], [2 Timothy 4:19]
- Achtenmeier, P.J. (1996). HarperCollins Bible Dictinary (revised ed.). HarperCollins. p. 882. ISBN 0-06-060037-3.
- Stagg, Evelyn and Frank. Woman in the World of Jesus. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1978
- Women and the Ministerial Priesthood
- "Statement of Faith". Christians for Biblical Equality. Retrieved 2007-02-11.
- Miller, RM, 1979, Slave Religion: The "Invisible Institution" in the Antebellum South [Book Review], Theology Today, 36(2), 297-299.
- National Catholic Reporter