Saturday, April 22, 2006

Women Benefactors and Church Leadership

It seems evident to me that women provided patronage and support for Jesus and his Galilean rentinue, and in the Pauline and Johannine churches too. See Luke 8.1-3 (Joanna and Susanna), Acts 12.12 (Mother of Mark), Rom 16.1-2, (Phoebe), 1 Cor 1.11 (Chloe), Col 4.15 (Nympha), Phil 4.2-3 (Euodia and Syntyche), Acts 16.14-15 (Lydia), 2 John 1-2 (chosen lady).

Where did patrons, especially female patrons, fit into the leadership structures of the early church? Did they have any role, voice, influence or determination in proceedings by virtue of their patronage? In other words, how did the cultural dynamics of patron-client relationships affect leadership structures in the early church (esp. in relation to female patrons).

The reason I ask is because we are used to talking of Elders and Deacons, but where did patrons fit in?

4 comments:

Gertrude the Goldfish said...

Maybe these patrons had a 'thing' for the church leaders. I know there are plenty of women who are attracted to church leaders just because of the role that they have. I have a friend who deliberately went out to 'bag' a vicar - and suceeded! I'm married to a clergyman and observe many women being extreemly flattered if he just talks to them.

Jason Goroncy said...

is gertrude serious?

JayWoodhamTheMan said...

To take a more serious tack I think this is an excellent question to ask. It's clear that women, ones that were well to do and probably educated to some degree, were prominent in the NT church.

Those who are quick on the draw to deny women leadership in the church today as well as those who think that to deny certain offices to women effectively denies female leadership proper would do well to consider these "patronesses."

Richard Fellows said...

Good question, Michael. It is interesting that about half of the benefactors of the church in the NT are women, but only about 5% of benefactors in the wider society were women. The figure for synagogue benefactors is close to 5% too, I think. These statistics demand an explanation and I hope to blog on this. Did women fund the early church because it empowered them? Any thoughts on whether women benefactors of the church became relatively less frequent when the church became more sexist in the second century?

I find it hard to decide what aspects of leadership were given to benefactors, but I have argued elsewhere that benefactors were afforded a lot of respect by the church.