Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Rise in Strength Global Consultation

Written by: on June 6, 2019

I just returned home from the RISE in Strength—Global Consultation for Women in International Christian Leadership, which was sponsored by the World Evangelical Alliance and the Lausanne Conference. Meeting for four days in Amsterdam, sixty women from every continent and many different denominational backgrounds gathered to discuss how to reach the unreached and serve the unserved; to share wisdom, experience, and resources; and to craft a unified statement calling the Church to recognize the need for gender equality.

This Call to the Church was the topic of long and careful conversations and will be translated into ten or more different languages and distributed among our respective networks. It begins with the statement “Recognizing the changing context in which we find ourselves, we gathered from diverse backgrounds. We were united in our conviction that gender inequality continues to be a barrier that diminishes the effective witness of the Church to the transforming power of the Gospel.”[1] The document goes on to highlight areas of gender inequality to which the Church needs to attend and calls the Church to action on several accounts. The concluding statement reads, “We call on men and women of the global Church to act so that women, men, girls, and boys can all embrace their spiritual gifting to strengthen the work of the Church and Her witness to the glory of God.”[2]

At the Rise Consultation, Dr. Mimi Haddad, Fuller Professor of Historical Theology and the President of Christians for Biblical Equality, presented a pecha kucha on Gender Inequality. She eloquently stated “Adam’s aloneness is the only ‘not good’ in a perfect world.”[3] She explained that when Adam named all of the animals and found no suitable helper among them, “the strong rescue that Adam needs does not come from a creature that requires human rule.”[4] Using the creation story, she highlighted how rank and authority enter the world as a result of sin. I had never noticed it before, but even the fact that Adam named Eve (a way of ruling over her as he had over the animals) comes in Genesis 3:20…after the fall.

I have deep respect for those who take the time to do honest theological reflection around this and other issues. I believe the Word of God leads us into all Truth. So did every woman at this consultation. They were lovers of Scripture, lovers and respecters of their husbands, fathers, and sons, lovers and advocates for their sisters, daughters and mothers. But above all they love Jesus and long to see His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. And in heaven, men and women are co-heirs, co-rulers with Christ as their head.

Martyn Percy, Anglican Priest and Dean of Christ Church Oxford sympathizes with the long path that women have had to walk to take their place alongside of men within the Anglican Church specifically and the Christian Church in general. In commenting on the controversy over female bishops, he cites the French Roman Catholic theologian Yves Conger whose “revolutionary insight was that church leaders ultimately have a responsibility to not be too patient. In other words, a moment comes when a decision must be made. Hopeful patience may prove to be wise for some while. But pointless waiting is merely prevarication posturing as discernment.”[5]

The reality is, gender inequality is an issue all over the world, with women being among the poorest, least educated, and most vulnerable populations of every country on earth. When women are not valued as equals, they suffer abuse and injustice at the hands of those who devalue them. What we can no longer deny is that patriarchy in the Church is complicit with the problem. In A Call to Action, former US President Jimmy Carter writes, ““I have become convinced that the most serious unaddressed worldwide challenge is the deprivation and abuse of women and girls, largely caused by a false interpretation of carefully selected religious texts …In addition to the unconscionable human suffering,….there is a devastating effect on economic prosperity caused by the loss of contributions of at least half the human beings on earth. This is not just a women’s issue. It is not confined to the poorest countries. It affects all of us.”[6]

I believe that all forms of inequality in the church are a major hindrance to the Gospel. Historically, missionaries have contributed to the problem by propagating patriarchal interpretations of scriptures that failed to communicate the liberating power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am convinced that missions and evangelism in the 21st century must be distinctly egalitarian. We can longer side-line the gender issue as “secondary” to the Gospel, for it hits at the heart of the Gospel message, which says that Jesus Christ came to set us free from every form of oppression. He is the one and only Ruler and King. The body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, is made up of two distinctly different but equally valued and purposed sexes.

The tone of the Rise Consultation was one of hope and reconciliation. There was no desire to see men removed from their service in the Church, only an eager desire for women to participate as full partners. Every word of the Call was scrutinized so as to be sure that men of God would not be shamed or offended; but rather, invited to be reconciled to their sister in Christ for the sake of the Gospel and the glory of the King.

I’d be happy to share with you the Call to all Christians that was written at the Rise in Strength Consultation once it is published. I’d be eager to hear your feedback.

[1] Rise Consultation—Amsterdam June 2019. Call to All Christians.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Rise Consultation—Amsterdam June 2019. Dr. Mimi Haddad.

[4] Rise Consultation—Amsterdam June 2019. Dr. Mimi Haddad. Dr. Haddad explained that the Hebrew word /ezer/ used to describe Eve comes from two words, one meaning “to be strong” and the other meaning “to rescue.”

[5] Ian S. Markham and Joshue Daniel, eds., Reasonable Radical? Reading the Writings of Martyn Percy (Eugene, Oregon: Pickwick Publications, 2018), Kindle loc 5653.

[6] Jimmy Carter, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power, 2015.

About the Author

Jennifer Williamson

Jenn Williamson is a wife and mother of two adult sons. Before moving to France in 2010, she was the women's pastor at Life Center Foursquare Church in Spokane, WA. As a missionary with Greater Europe Mission, she is involved in church planting and mentoring emerging leaders. Jenn benefitted from French mentors during her transition to the field, and recognizes that cross-cultural ministry success depends on being well integrated into the host culture. Academic research into missionary sustainability and cultural adaptation confirmed her own experience and gave her the vision to create Elan, an organization aimed at helping missionaries transition to the field in France through the participation of French partners.

2 responses to “Rise in Strength Global Consultation”

  1. What an incredible experience, Jenn! It must have been interesting to delve into the facets of gender equality and define that within the context of varied denominations, cultures, and perceptions.

    You rightly assert, “When women are not valued as equals, they suffer abuse and injustice at the hands of those who devalue them.” I’ve seen this so many times within all varied contexts. What was the biggest common thread that you found within everyone’s drive towards equality? What was most encouraging to you?

  2. Jenn,

    Thanks for this post – your consultation coincided perfectly with Percy’s emphasis in his contextual theologizing and his advocacy as a feminist.

    I think you are positioned well to lead through egalitarian modelling in France. We definitely need many living examples of women who courageously advance into new territory. I think pastoral life can lead the way before theology gets there. Theology will catch up eventually, but the pastoral needs of the moment are often what drives change.

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