At the heart of Christian egalitarianism is the belief that our personal qualities and talents largely determine our activities in the home and Church. Egalitarians do not place restrictions or privileges on the basis of gender alone.

Before the Fall, male and female humans shared authority, responsibility and purpose (Genesis 1:26-28). There is differentiation of sex (male and female) in Genesis 1-2, but no differentiation of roles. The main message in Genesis 2:18-25 is that the woman was vital and similar to Adam, who was alone and needed help.

Male rule is given as one consequence of sin (Genesis 3:16). But after Jesus’ death and resurrection, and after Pentecost, there is again the potential for the true unity and mutuality between the sexes that we find at the beginning of creation.

In the Greek New Testament all verses that refer to ministry gifts, including teaching and leadership gifts, give no hint that some ministries are only for men (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, 27-28; Ephesians 4:11-12; Hebrews 2:4; 1 Peter 4:10-12; Romans 15:14; 1 Corinthians 14:26 and Colossians 3:16).

The few New Testament verses that limit women were given for specific reasons, to specific women, or to specific churches that were experiencing problems. In 1 Corinthians 14:26-40, Paul silenced three groups of speakers in Corinth, not just women, who had questions that could wait for home. He bookends this passage by encouraging orderly, edifying ministry without mentioning gender.

In 1 Timothy 2:8-15, he addressed the poor behaviour of some Ephesian men and women. These two passages are not the apostle’s general teaching on ministry and shouldn’t be taken as such.

Paul valued women and used the same terms – co-worker, diakonos (minister), apostle and labourer – for his male and female ministry associates. Nowhere in the New Testament are husbands told to lead or unilaterally given authority over their wives. I believe families, congregations and societies function best when men and women are partners who share responsibilities together.