Women in the Church

Patriarchy is behind this story of creation of the animals and woman Gn 2:18-25. Man named the animals, that is, man had power over the animals. Woman comes from the rib of man. Man was preeminent and woman thus assigned a secondary origin and role. Anyhow, Adam finally had a companion and they roamed around the Garden naked.

In Mk 7:24-30, the healings of two Gentiles follows the healings in Israel. Jesus ventures into Syria and seeks rest. This Gentile woman breaks all social codes. She, a woman, dares to come to the house where Jesus was and ask for healing for her daughter. No wonder Jesus initially responded in defense of the current system. In the end, he allows the woman to win the argument so as to usher in a new social order. This is also a story about inclusion. “Crumbs” relates this event to the feedings in Mark’s Gospel. Again, it is inclusivity. All—Jews and Greeks—are welcome at Jesus’ table. The woman claims Jesus’ healing power for women and for Gentiles. The diminished status accorded to women by the patriarchal system reflected in the Genesis account is overturned.

At a recent conference, the computer was projecting a picture of De Vinci’s Last Supper. I asked the person on the computer, “Where are all the women who followed Jesus and supported him? Don’t you think they would have been at his last supper?” The person had no response and started to explain the technical details in the painting. Mary, the other Marys, and the women who followed Jesus would certainly have been there; however, a patriarchal church has airbrushed them out right of the picture.

Women held significant roles in the early church which consisted of house communities. There is evidence that they presided over Eucharist. Soon though, as the church grew even more patriarchal and aligned with empire, the women were eased out. However, in the Celtic church, there is a strong tradition that Bridget—a pagan goddess redivivus— was a bishop.

Reading this account with its true socio-political significance should alert church leaders to the evil of sexism. Jesus welcomes all to the banquet—male and female, Jew and Greek—on equal footing. There are no second class citizens in the Kin-dom.