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Jesus, women, and leadership

Regular columnist Suzanne Cooke wonders how Jesus regards the women’s march in America last week.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the idea of leadership.  As Rector of our parishes I, like all of my clergy colleagues, am required in one way or another to ‘lead’ the people whom we have been called to care for.  It is a rocky but rewarding path to travel! 
And, of course, if we want to think about leadership in its purest Christian form then we have to look to the ministry and leadership of Jesus himself.  In a book called the Fourfold Leadership of Jesus, the author Andrew Watson breaks Jesus’ ministry down into four distinct areas: Come to me; Follow me; Wait for me; Go for me. Today I have been especially thinking about the notion of – Go for me. 
The term in essence means mission. It speaks to a people, called and sent by God, to seek out hardship, oppression, prejudice, injustice, and bring the peace, love and healing of God into a troubled world. 
The idea of being sent by God into this troubled world has been on my mind because it feels like the notion most connected, for a disciple of Christ, to the events of last Saturday, where millions and millions of women across the world took to the streets to demonstrate their anger and dissatisfaction with what they see as gross infringements of their human rights. 
Many people have been under the impression that this march was a demonstration about Donald Trump’s election as president, that these women (and goodness there were a lot of them!) thought that by taking to the streets they could somehow undo what the process of democracy had done.  This was a misconception.  The ‘Women’s March’ was conceived as a mark of defiance, as a cry of solidarity, as a call to unity. 
Primarily an American movement, but supported across the globe, their mission statement is as follows:
“We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families – recognising that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.” (www.womensmarch.com)
It sees the current political rhetoric in the US as insulting, threatening, dehumanising, and wants to call us all to stand in opposition of those who speak it, and in solidarity with those it seeks to cast aside. 
As a disciple of Christ I have asked myself where Jesus might have been last Saturday - where he would have positioned himself at a moment of such obvious importance to so many, many people. For me it seems obvious that he would have been supportive of a movement that sought to root out prejudice and injustice. 
But the picture I had in my mind was not of Christ leading this march, but rather of him standing alongside women across the world. 
Jesus, it seems to me, had a particular ‘leadership’ approach with the women he encountered.  In characteristic style his attitudes towards women were in stark contrast to the accepted attitudes of the time.  In every encounter he challenges social norms by supporting or challenging women in ways that sought to empower and liberate rather than silence and oppress.  
This is a model of leadership where Jesus calls us to take responsibility for the change that needs to take place in our world – to ‘Go’ for him.  Be his eyes, his ears, his hands – this is being the ‘body’ of Christ. 

This is the Christ that stands with us in our pain, that walks beside us in our moment of greatest need. He stands beside us that we might be empowered and make our voice heard – which it has been, in an unprecedented way! 
The ‘Women’s March’ on Saturday may have arisen out of a desperate need for justice and unity, but it has shown that, for maybe the first time in human history, many women across the world have a voice that will not and cannot be silenced.  Something, I think, Jesus would have been very happy about!

The above image is courtesy of www.pixabay.com


Suzanne CookeRev Suzanne Cooke is the priest-in-charge of the Upper Tas Benefice in South Norfolk and the founder of Soul Circus, a regular creative, experimental service supported by the Diocese of Norwich and the Youth Task Force.  You can find out more at www.soulcircus.org.uk

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