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  • Writer's pictureAllison Wilcox

Jesus and Gender Justice

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. ~ John 20:11-18

The first woman ordained as a pastor in the US was Antoinette Brown Blackwell in 1853. Her ordination was not accepted however by her denomination, and so she left it to become a Universalist, who did accept her ordination (and had already ordained another woman: Olympia Brown).

In 1964, Addie Davis became the first woman ordained in the Southern Baptist Convention. In 2000, the SBC stopped ordaining women - something that stands today.

In 1970, Elizabeth Platz became the first woman ordained in a Lutheran Church body in the US. The Missouri Synod and Wisconsin Synod Lutheran church bodies still do not ordain women.

In 1972, the first female rabbi from any theological seminary was ordained. In 1974, eleven women were ordained in the Episcopal Church. There are several Anglican church bodies that still do not ordain women.

Frescos from the early church display women in pastoral roles. The Apostle Paul listed women who served as leaders in the church. The first document on Christian worship, the Didache, said nothing about forbidding women in leadership roles.

And Jesus himself gave the first roles of apostles - ones who are sent - to a woman, Mary Magdalene. He didn't seem to have the same hang ups that many of our current churches still have.

I am fortunate to be part of a ministry staff made up entirely of women, and to be a leader in a congregation that fully supports that. Yet that right - that justice - isn't extended to all women.

So what are the ways we can seek justice for women who are called to ministry?

Holy God, move me toward justice, mercy, and humility in all my dealings with your people. Amen

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