In a world that continues to evolve and embrace change, one can't help but be reminded of the powerful and diverse ways women show their strength and leadership, a strength inspired by the powerful and diverse women of the Bible. Their strength was demonstrated through compassionate love, uncompromising resilience, and bold leadership, which directly challenges the recent move by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) to expand restrictions on women in church leadership.
The SBC's decision may be controversial, but it has highlighted an opportunity to explore the numerous biblical women who embody a broad spectrum of leadership and strength, qualities we recognize, value, and celebrate in our own United Church of Christ (UCC).
A significant biblical figure is Deborah, a prophetess and the only female judge mentioned in the Book of Judges. She exhibited fearless leadership during a time of national distress, using her prophetic abilities and wisdom to guide the Israelites to victory. Deborah's courage and leadership remind us of our own women leaders in the UCC, such as the newly appointed heads of our national and regional conferences, both women of color leading with boldness and vision.
The story of Ruth demonstrates the strength in loyalty and love. Ruth, a Moabite woman, devoted herself to her mother-in-law, Naomi, after they both were widowed. Ruth's story shows the strength found in relationships, in empathy, and in sacrificial love. We see such love and dedication in the work of our very own Pastor Tina, a woman of immense compassion and strength, who has tirelessly devoted her life in service to others and now to our congregation.
Abigail's story, found in the Book of Samuel, represents wisdom and peacemaking. During a crisis, she intervened with diplomacy and wisdom to prevent bloodshed between her husband, Nabal, and future king, David. Abigail's story reminds us that strength also lies in wisdom, diplomacy, and peacekeeping.
The New Testament also provides examples, such as the quiet strength of Mary, mother of Jesus, who bore the tremendous responsibility of raising the Messiah. She navigated this path with grace, humility, and trust in God.
In stark contrast, we find the bold and vocal leadership of Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene was one of the few who remained with Jesus during his crucifixion, and she was the first to witness and report his resurrection, earning her the title "Apostle to the Apostles."
These biblical women’s diverse forms of strength—from quiet compassion to bold leadership—echo in our UCC congregation. We are blessed to recognize and celebrate these various forms of strength and leadership in our own women, just as we mourn the SBC's recent decision to limit women's roles in leadership.
We are mindful that in celebrating these strong biblical women, we affirm the capability, diversity, and importance of women’s leadership in our faith communities. These stories provide an inspiring reminder to our congregation and beyond. They challenge us to embrace the diversity of women’s leadership and strength, recognizing that it is not limited to a single archetype. Women contribute strength to the church in a myriad of ways, and we must avoid the belief that there is only ONE type of leadership that works. We must be especially vigilant never to assume that female leadership necessarily looks the same as male leadership; the two styles can be very different and equally effective.
In the United Church of Christ, we strive to emulate these biblical women's strength, leadership, and diversity. We see their strength in our leaders and our congregation, and we honor their contributions, recognizing that, like the women of the Bible, they too are shaping our faith narrative and th life of our congregation.