Last month, amid the crises of international war and local flooding, International Women’s Day was once again celebrated. This year’s theme was Break the Bias. The IWD website asks this question – or, really, raises this hope:
Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. A world that's diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women's equality.
I am thankful I can imagine this world because it’s the world described for me within the pages of the Bible. At the beginning as God created, and at the end where all things will be made new, there is the vision and reality of men and women equal as God’s image bearers, united in purpose, with distinction.
It’s a beautiful picture. It’s why we lament and grieve when our relationships fall short of this reality. Sin does affect them, and it’s undeniable that crimes against women, and horrific treatment of women, have occurred throughout history and in these most recent days. So, in prayerful dependence on God, we hope and wait for the return of Jesus to bring us into the wonderful joy of relating truly with him and one another.
Which brings me to the unique and powerful opportunity we have to show the world what God intended.
Sydney is a city that has turned its back on God – deliberately and to its peril. This rebellion has led to confusion about many things. Like many liberal Western democracies this confusion is revealing itself in areas such as sexual ethics and matters of life and death.
More and more we need men and women to show our city the beauty of God’s plan for humanity. That we are created in unity as men and women, with distinction and equality. One of the great offers the church has for women is to provide a clear understanding of their true value as women and model this truth and beautiful picture of humanity to the world.
More and more we need men and women to show our city the beauty of God’s plan for humanity.
This why it’s so vital to have women serving in ministry – formally and informally – in ways that are appropriate and in line with God’s word. Having women alongside men, serving as brothers and sisters in the family of God.
I am so thankful for our Diocese’s commitment to the ministries of women because of a desire to live out the model God has given us for men and women. Currently we have about 280 women involved in some form of stipendiary lay or ordained ministry, part-time and full-time, on staff teams or in organisations. These women serve Jesus in a multitude of ways and as they contend for the gospel alongside men, together we model to the world God’s good plan for us.
When the role of Archdeacon for Women’s Ministry was established, Archbishop Harry Goodhew said it was with the view of “advancing the ministries of women”. Not advancement of women per se, but the growth and development of the ministries of women, complementing the ministries men undertake, for the glory of Christ.
With all that in mind I am delighted that this year I will be joined in the work by Jenny Salt. Jenny has had 25 years of ministry experience serving at Sydney Missionary and Bible College. She has been involved in preparing men and women for Christian ministry in Sydney and beyond. She has great gifts in teaching the Bible and mentoring.
Archbishop Kanishka Raffel says, “Jenny’s support and mentoring of women in Anglican ministry in Sydney will help ensure the next generation of women are raised up and sustained in gospel work”.
In a season where gender will be the dominating theme – with all the discussion, complexity, confusion that surrounds that word – it is vital we continue to show the world what it means to be men and women in God’s kingdom. What it means for men to truly love their sisters in Christ. How we treat one another as family, as brothers and sisters in the Lord, will be a powerful word to our world, which is so confused.
The New Testament is extraordinary in the way Paul both includes women in the ministry but also provides guidance on how men and women are to relate. In Titus 2 for example, I think it’s so amazing and countercultural for the time that Paul would instruct Titus to make sure the women are discipling one another.
We skip over this so quickly with our own cultural blinkers on, perhaps considering these instructions to be a little old fashioned. Yet as the church is established the Apostle understands and recognises how important is it for women in these churches to be intentionally discipled and nurtured in their faith. They are not to be left behind while the men are trained and raised up for leadership! If that was true in the 1st Century, it remains true today.
Let’s consider as a church how we might continue to advance the ministries of women. Give thanks with me for the opportunity to expand this work and seek to honour God as, male and female, we continue to contend side by side for the gospel.
The Ven Kara Hartley is Archdeacon for Women in the Sydney Diocese.