The most recent issue of China Source Quarterly explores the subject of “Women and the Missio Dei in China.” As I read guest editor Hope Bentley’s well curated and comprehensive issue, one word kept coming to mind: tension.
While it is nothing new that tension exists within life, ministry, and Chinese culture, this issue highlighted the unique tensions that women experience. Tim Arnold makes a distinction between problems that need to be solved and tensions that need to be managed. Some of what women face will have solutions, but often the tensions that Bentley and the contributors addressed will not have solutions. Instead, this is a subject to return to every so often to evaluate how you are managing the five tensions I noted. If you only focus on one side or the other, it might feel more comfortable; but that is an inadequate way to resolve these tensions. Thus, I was challenged to acknowledge and seek to manage these tensions better as a fellow woman in the Missio Dei.
The five tensions I noted are:
1. Big Picture/Individual Stories
In this issue, the reader experienced the scope of history in the last several hundred years and also swooped down to see a few women’s stories up close. Are you familiar with the big picture and the role that women have played in the Missio Dei? If you love the big picture, do you know individual stories as well?
2. Leadership/Behind the Scenes
I was struck as I read how unique it is to women’s experience (much more so than to men’s) to have outside influences dictate how much leadership a woman is allowed to exercise. I noticed this both within the church and outside in other ministries. Of note from this issue is the role of Confucianism (historically) and Reformed theology (currently). The tension of women and leadership is one that you probably have strong convictions on, me too. But I was struck by how this tension plays out within China and how women have been navigating it throughout history.
Both of these words—“contextualization” and “theology”—came up throughout this issue. On the one hand, of course women need to be contextualizing and sensitive to culture; but on the other hand, parts of the culture are not in line with scripture per se. When and how to contextualize needs to be revisited by each generation.
This issue shines a light on both mothers and singles and for good reason—both have been significant to the spread of the gospel. Both have unique ways that their stage of life can be challenging and beneficial. As you think about women and the roles they have in the Missio Dei, are you elevating one group over the other? In what ways are you or your organization holding space for women who are mothers and women who are single?
The final tension that stood out to me as I read this issue is the tension that women face being understood in their calling and being misunderstood in their calling as well. To use a well-known saying from Chairman Mao, “Women hold up half the sky.” No one can deny that women have been instrumental in the Missio Dei. But what also came through in this issue is that being called as a woman by God doesn’t mean that you will be understood by others or used in ways that are consistent with your gifting.
Women and the Missio Dei in China is an important issue to read and discuss. Spend time with your coworkers discussing these articles and noting where you see these five tensions. How are you personally and your organization doing at accepting these tensions and creating space for both sides to exist? As a woman, I am honored to stand amongst such faithful servants and inspired to keep pressing onward in the Missio Dei in China.
Image credit: Matt Ming, Three Women Waiting via Flickr.
Amy Young, MA, LPC loves a good story. She served in China for nearly 20 years (plenty of stories there!). As the founder and CEO of Global Trellis, her current story involves helping great commission workers have tended souls and expanding skill sets. Amy has written six books for great …View Full Bio
Are you enjoying a cup of good coffee or fragrant tea while reading the latest ChinaSource post? Consider donating the cost of that “cuppa” to support our content so we can continue to serve you with the latest on Christianity in China.