There is much we can learn about God as we contemplate this beautiful and diverse universe God has created. Scripture tells us that the best windows into God’s divine being are God’s image bearers—and about half of those image bearers in the world today are women.
Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (NLT). Women complete the image of God in humanity and immeasurably enrich the church.
Many of Jesus’ most faithful disciples were women (Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, etc.) who risked their lives to stay with him during his crucifixion. They were the first ones to witness his resurrection and the first to share this good news with others. In the early church, God-fearing women such as Lydia, Phoebe, Priscilla, and Junia provided leadership and support for the first congregations.
The same has been true in more recent history. As has been true of women throughout much of history, women in the Christian Reformed Church who were denied positions of leadership in established churches courageously found other ways to lead. They often undertook mission work, sometimes at great risk to themselves. In fact, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, there was a movement of young, female missionaries.
One example is Johanna Veenstra. More than 100 years ago, Veenstra voyaged to Nigeria as one of the first Christian Reformed missionaries and helped lay the foundation for the most successful church-planting work our denomination has been a part of. Unfortunately, it took many years before Veenstra was recognized by her own denomination as a missionary called by God.
Looking at the global church today, we can see similar stories. In Latin America, Africa, South Asia, and other regions, women often play an outsized role in the ministry and mission of churches. Their deep spirituality, passion, consistency, and rootedness in their communities and families anchor their churches in societies and cultures that are often hostile and even closed to the gospel.
What is even more amazing is that many of these women do all of this without the benefit of access to education, employment, and the civil rights that we take for granted. God has truly poured out his Spirit extravagantly on so many Christian women who give selflessly for gospel ministry.
As we think about the Christian Reformed Church today, we give thanks to God for our many sisters who have faithfully contended for the gospel in Canada, the United States, and around the world. Several of their stories are on the pages in this section.
Whether we consider ourselves egalitarian or complementarian, whether we are men or women ourselves, we all share in gratitude for the women in our midst. We also share in lament that we have too often hindered girls and women from sharing their gifts.
This month I’d like to encourage us all to think about the opportunities we might have to encourage women and girls in our communities. Mentoring can be a powerful tool for faith formation in girls and younger women, helping them to recognize and follow God’s call on their lives. Inviting feedback and spiritual insights from girls and young women can also make space for their faith to flourish.
For our churches to truly display the image of God, women and men must worship and work together for God’s glory. This is what it means to be the body of Christ in a world where brokenness characterizes the relationships between men and women. May we all live into this more fully.