As men and women in the church, we live in the tension between Genesis 1:27 and Galatians 3:28. We were created “in the image of God . . . male and female” but at the same time, we are “no longer male and female; for all of [us] are one in Christ Jesus.”
The genders are a distinct part of our identity as God’s image-bearers, and yet are in some ways irrelevant as we all seek to serve Christ according to our individual mix of gifts and graces.
In the life of the church, there are times when our unity and equality need to be emphasized; for example, as we push for greater acceptance of women in senior leadership positions, encourage full partnership in marriage, and break down stereotypes of “masculine” or “feminine” behaviors. At other times, we need to focus on the unique needs of women and men, girls and boys, offering opportunities for people to build relationships, express themselves, and grow as disciples with others who share their gender. Separating youth into boys’ and girls’ small groups can facilitate authentic sharing, for example, and providing a women-only worship service or men-only Bible study can create a special space for adults to grow closer to God and one another.
This issue explores these and other aspects of men’s and women’s experiences in the church. Whitney Walton recalls how touched an elderly woman in her congregation was just hearing a woman’s voice from the pulpit. Larry Coppock explains the benefits of Boy Scouts for discipling not just boys but their entire families. Carolyn Custis James describes how the iconic Proverbs 31 Woman—and Man—model strength and mutuality in marriage.
Our gender is but one characteristic in the tapestry of traits that define each of us as individuals, but it is one that cannot be ignored as the church aims to nurture and empower each person as an effective, devoted follower of Christ. We are all unique, but we are all God’s image-bearers, and we are all one in Christ Jesus.