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Reclaiming Feminism

When half the church is sidelined, our mission suffers.

May 30, 2016 by Lieutenant Kristen Jackson-Dockeray


When I was in university, someone asked if I considered myself a feminist. The question stunned me. I had never really thought about it. The label didn’t quite fit; somehow it felt frumpy and constricting. I don’t remember how I answered the question then, but I know how I answer it now.

I am a feminist.

This statement often elicits more questions, usually along the lines of, Are you bitter? Are you angry? Do you hate men? These questions push at the edges of why I am a feminist.

I am a feminist because I believe that women are people. At the core, feminism simply means that the dignity, rights and responsibilities of women are equal in importance to those of men, and we refuse discrimination.

That’s it.

I am a feminist because I love Jesus Christ, and he championed the dignity of women. One of my favourite examples is the role that women play in the resurrection narrative. The first witnesses of the Resurrection were women. The first people to preach the good news of the Resurrection were women. Jesus sent a woman to tell the disciples the good news: he is risen. I think that Jesus was a feminist, too.

I am a feminist because it is 2016, and some people still try to explain away my gifts and calling. At a lunch meeting for ministers in my city, I am the only woman in the room. My husband still hears whispers about whether a woman has a place in the pulpit, a place at this table. My gifts and passion are openly debated, because they are not enough. As if my worth and dignity were not determined the day I was created in the image of God.

For the sake of the gospel, women must speak, teach, pastor and prophesy

In Bible studies and conferences, I have been smothered nearly to death by proof texts that make me feel as if I have it all wrong. As if I’m wrong about my calling. As if I’m wrong about God’s movement in my life. This is one of the many reasons why I am a feminist. I believe that God is on the move, and I want to move with our God.

I am done wasting my time with debates about what women should and should not do. I am done because I know warrior women who are creative, who are leaders in their churches, who God has gifted for ministry. Women who are called by the Holy God. And I am not about to get in the way of God’s anointing.

I am done because I have already seen the life-giving answer to the question of women in leadership in my friends, colleagues and the women who have gone before me.

This movement of God has scriptural, traditional, experiential and spiritual justification. Our big and awe-inspiring God is on the move. He is at work in this, his world, and we have been invited to come along. We have been invited to participate with all that we are and all that we have, leaving everything on the altar.

Carolyn Custis James, author of Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women, writes, “When half the church holds back—whether by choice or because we have no choice—everybody loses and our mission suffers setbacks.”

For the sake of the gospel, women must speak, teach, pastor and prophesy. For the sake of God’s kingdom, we must demonstrate the already and not-yet redemptive movement of God. So that the church can surprise, amaze and intrigue the world. So that the church can offer a foretaste of what it means to be made in the image of God, intended for wholeness within the body of Christ.

Then we can each say, I am a feminist—not because it is 2016, but because this, my friends, is Jesus, and this is what the kingdom of God looks like. Filled with men and women who are living out their gifts and callings, announcing that Jesus is resurrected, death has been defeated and God is on the move.

Lieutenant Kristen Jackson-Dockeray is the corps officer at Niagara Orchard Community Church, Ont. 

Comments

  1. Dean Noakes says:

    I have now read a couple of Lt. Kristen’s articles and wonder, Is there a shift taking place in the Army? I know it has always been an egalitarian denomination, but I have been in another setting now for the past twenty years. Is something changing inside the Army? I note her remorse that outside the Army, in the larger Evangelical gathering there are large groups who are complimentarian. And if the reactions in that setting are the impetus for her articles then it would be helpful to know this and so better understand the context of the articles. If, however, there is no shift away from egalitarianism within the Army then the articles seem to be little more than “preaching to the choir.” (Sorry for the crude analogy) But one is left with the nagging question, Do we need to be convinced anew of the virtues of egalitarianism if in the context of the Army it is not under any threat? Or, if Lt. Kristen wants to argue against complimentarianism, clarity of purpose would be appreciated.

  2. Geoff Moulton says:

    Dean, Thank you for your comment. As you have observed, Lt Kristen Jackson-Dockeray is writing to affirm the role of women in The Salvation Army.

    You may be interested to read this piece from the USA Western Territory that highlights research by Colonel Janet Munn (training principal in USA Eastern Territory):
    http://www.newfrontierchronicle.org/gender-dynamics/

    The article reads, in part:

    “While 53 percent of officers worldwide are female, fewer than 10 percent hold leadership roles and only 1.7 percent of married women are appointed to these roles, according to research conducted by Colonel Janet Munn. Munn, 55, recently finished a dissertation and subsequent book on transformational leadership, specifically on the use of power by gender….

    “The point of greatest commonality among respondents showed that most leaders now recognize gender equality as biblical. But while many respondents indicated that leaders are trying to implement changes to improve gender equality, they face a variety of obstacles.”

    I believe it is the gap between belief and practice that Kristen is trying to address. It may be that Canada and Bermuda Territory is making better progress than most, but we believe discussions about gender equality are still very necessary.

    God bless.
    Geoff Moulton – Editor-in-Chief

  3. Dean Noakes says:

    Geoff,
    Thanks for your response. One question that begs asking; Is Feminism synonymous with Egalitarianism? I ask particularly because I have always recognized the Army as an egalitarian denomination but not feminist. One wonders if the conversation is being conditioned by cultural norms or by Biblical exegesis? That thought arises especially in light of the “point and counter-point” article between Col. Bob Ward and Maj. Amy Reardon where the Major is lamenting her perception of the treatment of female officers in contrast to the culture surrounding her. Noticeably absent in these articles is the place and authority of the Word of God. I have yet to see anyone turn to the Word as their sole authority, rather the positions and answers seem always to be coming from the current cultural norms. This raises two closing questions; Are we Christians called to mimic the world or transform it? Is the Bible our ultimate authority in all matters of life?

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