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

Speaking the truth in love

Written by: on January 26, 2023

Based on a Catholic perspective to scripture including the theology of Aquinas, The Genesis of Gender: A Christian Theory highlights the extreme views of secular feminism on gender and, on the other end of the continuum, sadly, evangelicalism. It then proposes what may be considered a balanced, Biblical perspective on the subject. Written by Catholic author and professor Abigail Favale, the book chronicles Favale’s journey from postmodern feminism to moderate evangelicalism, and ultimately to the catholic tradition. After teaching on gender at college from a secular feminist perspective for a decade, Favale realized how confusing her ideas were. She said “I feel like I’ve been giving my students poison to drink,” noting that “for so many years, I’d been careless, careless with their [her students] minds and, most disturbingly, their souls.”[1] Taking her lament a step further, Favale decided, “I didn’t want to keep teaching gender theory as a set of value-neutral ideas, without giving any attention to the worldview operating in the background.”[2]

This turning point in Favale’s spiritual journey does not only highlight the need for sound doctrine but also the significant influence teachers wield in forming the worldview of future leaders. This is a privilege and responsibility shared by anyone occupying the space of a mind-moulder: talk-show hosts, actors, sportsmen, religious leaders, the list is endless. It brings to mind the need for Biblicism to remain a defining trait of Christianity, as Bebbington observes in his study of 18th – 20th century British Evangelicalism.[3] I wonder how much repenting I may need to do, if I reflect seriously on how my unscriptural views may have mislead my listeners in the past, or is misleading current listeners in my context even now.

In nine chapters Favale examines this important subject of gender, discussing topics like Heretic; Cosmos; Sex; Gender; and ultimately challenging her readers to speak the truth in love, especially when engaging with those they may differ with.[4] This reminds me of a conversation I had last year with a respected Christian leader who mentioned how she’s prayerfully and patiently journeying with her brother who is in a relationship with someone who has transitioned from identifying with his biological sex. Coming from a very conservative background, I was quite uncomfortable. Yet, deep inside I knew God was in this conversation and wanted to teach me an important life lesson. Ultimately, this encounter helped me realize that although I was not aware, I’d unconsciously taken a similar approach in my relationship with a dear family member experiencing a similar situation. I was struggling with whether my stance of journeying slowly with my relative was being overly liberal with this family member and thereby toying with their spiritual destiny. I then realized that if God is patient with me, I can also be patient with others.

So, reading The Genesis of Gender was very enlightening. But it also triggered unexpected feelings in me. Given Luther’s 95 theses and my little experience as a former Catholic, I was inclined to believe Evangelicals corrected Catholics, and not the other way round. Therefore, I’m sad to say that my initial thoughts towards The Genesis of Gender was one of resistance owing to my bias against Catholic theology. But to my pleasant surprise, I enjoyed reading the book and found its theology to be sound and extremely helpful in understanding the gender debate. It has definitely changed my opinion about the value of Catholic theology and helped me appreciate, again, the beauty of God’s grace in using frail vessels like us all.

[1] Favale, Abigail. The Genesis of Gender: A Christian Theory. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2022), 10.

[2] Favale, The Genesis of Gender, 11.

[3] Bebbington, D. W. Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s. (London: Routledge, 1989), 269.

[4] Favale, 181.

About the Author


Henry Gwani

Follower of Jesus, husband, father, community development practitioner and student of leadership working among marginalized communities in South Africa

16 responses to “Speaking the truth in love”

  1. mm Andy Hale says:

    Henry, what a fascinating post. It was interesting to read about your ongoing process of Catholicism and Protestantism.

    Following that thought further, what are your core ideas about Catholicism that might lead to such a surprise in the author’s beliefs?

    • mm Henry Gwani says:

      Thanks for your kind words Andy. One of my core ideas about Catholicism that is disturbing is the elevated position Mary seems to occupy. I’m not sure about the situation in Western Catholicism but in my home country, prayers and songs to Mary form an important part of every service. That disturbs me as it borders on veneration and not simply “honor” as many adherents claim.

  2. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Henry, in your cultural context, how prevalent of an issue is gender? I plead ignorance about knowing the dynamics of the issue in any culture other than my own. Have you spent time with people wrestling with gender dysphora? If so, what have you found helpful?

    • mm Henry Gwani says:

      Thanks for your question Roy. Gender is becoming a very significant issue in my context now as community members gain confidence to go public with their “orientation” and even make efforts to influence the curriculum at various levels of education. But, I’m ashamed to say, I’ve not spent any significant time discussing the subject with individuals wrestling with gender dysphoria, Indeed, it is only recently that I’ve began to come to terms with the reality that immorality with regards to gender is no less than immorality in any other area. And, more importantly, that God loves everyone, including the LGBTQI community, equally. Anyway, thanks again for your question. It’s a great prompt to intentionally and prayerfully seek out my neighbors in this area and engage.

  3. mm Denise Johnson says:

    Henry, I am so with you about the reluctance toward the strong Catholic thought. My “escape” from the Catholic church was rather dramatic. But I find God’s faithful correction to knock the edges off my pendulum swings of faith. I would be interested to know how prevalent this type of gender discussion is in your context. What are the prevail views in South Africa and the Christian community?

    • mm Henry Gwani says:

      Denise thanks for sharing a bit of your journey with me. Unfortunately, there has not been any significant respectful discussions across the gender divide that I am aware of. May I quickly add that I have not been following the subject (or news in general) that closely either. There has certainly been comments and campaigns, but I’ll like to see a bit more engagement. I think after graduation, I’ll pay a bit more attention as it is such a critical field for Christianity and leadership

  4. Kayli Hillebrand says:

    Henry: You once again have written a powerful reflection that is not only cognitively engaged but vulnerable in your willingness to share you personal experiences and biases. I think we could all agree to your statement, “I wonder how much repenting I may need to do, if I reflect seriously on how my unscriptural views may have mislead my listeners in the past, or is misleading current listeners in my context even now” could be applicable to each of us. I’m often reminded that God doesn’t need me to accomplish what He wills, but rather there is an invitation offered to partner, in spite of Him knowing how much I will likely falter along the way.

    • mm Henry Gwani says:

      Kayli, I greatly appreciate your kind words. The human partnership with divinity, despite the Father’s awareness of our likelihood to “falter along the way,” never ceases to amaze me. Praying that we’re constantly conscious of that profound truth as we journey with the One who loves us unconditionally

  5. mm Troy Rappold says:

    Henry G: You make a good point about the value of teachers. They have so much influence and I’m thankful for all the great ones I’ve had over the years. I too, got a lot from this book; it was very enlightening.

    • mm Henry Gwani says:

      Much thanks Troy. Unfortunately, there seems to be decline among teachers in my context today in the awareness of the significant influence they wield in the lives/worldview/future of their students. Just two days ago, I was discussing with a friend about the fact that some teachers may be spending more contact time with students than parents do while the child is awake. Hopefully they are making the right investments in our children.

  6. mm Eric Basye says:

    Henry, it sounds like it was a redemptive book for you on many levels! These are challenging conversations to say the least, but I think that we will see an increasing amount of them in the days and years to come. Given these challenges, how do I hold onto a biblical framework yet do so in a spirit of humility, love and truth? By God’s grace period by God’s grace. Grace.

    Forgive any typos 🙂 iPhone

    • mm Henry Gwani says:

      Oh my brother! It was definitely a redemptive book for me. There’s definitely no substitute for grace as these conversations continue to gain momentum. I think it will stretch us in our engagement with the world, ability to give and receive grace, and hopefully, ministry impact. As for your and my typos, grace and peace 🙂

  7. mm Jonathan Lee says:

    Hi Henry,

    thank you for your thoughts and reflection. I also learned a lot from her book. As I read through your post, I also got to reflect and ponder about the issue of embracement regarding those who hold to different values and lifestyles. Healing begins with opening the door to grace~

    • mm Henry Gwani says:

      Hey Jonathan – very thought provoking book indeed! Thanks also for your comments on healing and grace. May God grant us the healing needed for the deep wounds in our land and fill our hearts with His abundant grace

  8. mm Nicole Richardson says:

    Henry thank you for your reflection on our book for this past week.

    How does Friedman’s argument for self-differentiation push against the notion that feminism was to blame for Favale’s detour of faith?

    • mm Henry Gwani says:

      Hey Sis, I almost called you Friedman’s sister 🙂 That’s a very profound question. I haven’t thought much about the intersection between self-differentiation, feminism and faith-detours, but imagine that self-differentiation, done right, should reinforce, not contradict, our identity in Christ or sexuality from a biblical perspective.

      How does Friedman’s argument for self-differentiation push against the notion that feminism was to blame for Favale’s detour of faith?

Leave a Reply