Women Leaders as Prophets

Women in leadership positions are acting as prophets.  Period.  End of story. It doesn’t matter if she is a pastor, a CEO, a professor, a small business owner, a president, a manager, leading a Bible study or leading a Fortune 500 company, and the list could go on.  Women in leadership positions in our current culture are acting as prophets.

But to get there, we must start at the beginning, literally.  In Genesis, the first book of the Bible, God creates both man and woman in God’s own image (Genesis 1:26-31).  “Although translations may differ, there is no confusion concerning the intent of the text to include all human beings in the singular adam.  This is a collective term for humankind; the pronoun he in the second line of the poem refers to this collective noun and does not indicate that only men are in God’s image. All humanity, women, and men are in God’s image.”[1]   This idea that we are all created in the image of God (the big theological term is imago Dei) has some far-reaching implications.   Men and women are:

  • Given equal value and identity

  • Declared good

  • Have inherent worth, authority, and beauty

The problem is that this scripture is “translated into a hierarchy of being in which men more closely image God than did women. . . For example, suggestions have been made that although both women and men are created in God’s image and hence have the same status, God has called them to different roles.  Men are called to leadership positions, and women are called to be followers.”[2]  The interpretations of the Genesis stories have expanded over time to reduce women’s roles further.  Men were created for specific positions, often roles of voice and power, while women were designed for other purposes, positions that called for them to be silent and serve.  This created a “less than” perspective and represents a sin of oppression, meaning that God’s imago Dei, has been limited and reduced in women (and other oppressed people).  In the oppression of any people, the sin doubles; individual women are oppressed and reduced to a “less than” status, and because of their reduction, the world is hurt because it does not have the oppressed persons full participation.

There is a lot of literature on oppression and how oppression reduces personhood; concerning women the effects are threefold.

  1. Because women have felt powerless some women have accepted their subservient position in society, thus they have repressed their own calling, gifts, and talents and have sought to do so for other women as well.

  2. Women who have pursued their calling from God to its full capacity have been ridiculed, suppressed, or found few people willing to support them.

  3. All of this has resulted in fewer avenues for women to live to their fullest God-given potential in the world.

Walter Brueggemann says, “The task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us.”[3]  Meaning that to be a prophet is to imagine the world differently than it is today.

When women fight against the current confines of our culture, they are acting as prophets.  When they lead in positions traditionally held by men, they are showing the world, what it looks like to have all people, men, and women, live into their God-given call, with their God-given gifts and talents.  These are people who according to Lisa Withrow, “undertake uncertain yet exciting journeys into the unknown, eager to see what lies ahead.  However, they also know that the adventure is not without some hardships, pain, and disappointment.  Those willing to travel new paths will encounter unknown wildernesses where the way forward remains obscure for a time.”[4]

While women may see for themselves ways of leading that provide them with contentment and wholeness, these new ways of leading will chafe against the current ways of the world.  Women who follow God’s call into all sorts of male-driven wildernesses have the power to speak a new vision of the future to a world that is still bound by past sins.  This is precisely what the prophets of the Old and New Testaments were doing; they were proclaiming to a world still bound by past sins, that God had something else, something better, something more whole and beautiful in mind for all of creation.

[1] Catherine Clark Kroeger and Mary J. Evans, eds., The IVP Women’s Bible Commentary (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2002) 3.

[2] Ibid.3.

[3] Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001) 3.

[4] Lisa R Withrow, Claiming New Life: process-church for the future (St. Louis, MO: Lucas Park Books, 2008) 74.

Gage HuntComment