Women and the Church

There was a recent gathering of women at Indianapolis regarding the Emerging Church and women. You can read up on what happened at the following links:

Emerging Women 1
Emerging Women 2
Emerging Women 3

Julie Clawson wrote the first article, but you can find other blogs at Emerging Women.

Women and the church . . . if there ever was a rough topic, this is it. It’s not a bad topic, it’s just a hard one because men have done a lot of harm here. Lots.

To make matters worse, the waters become muddied when we read the thoughts of someone like John Eldredge who believes that the church has become a hard place to be ” a man.” Whatever he means by that, it is true that in many churches the women do the bulk of the volunteering, except for teaching adult Sunday School in many cases. In many mainline churches, the women are quickly taking over as pastors in the midst of a shortage of male pastors.

In keeping with the conservative evangelical and the emerging, post-evangelical corner of things though, we have a funny dynamic at play: The church is typically led by men, but inhabited and run by women. It’s as if there can only be a few alpha males, and then the rest of the men become disinterested. I can’t explain why things are this way. Nor can I say that this is a common experience for every church in America, but I think there are enough trends in place that I’m somewhere in the ballpark.

So where were we . . .

Before losing myself in a tangent about how difficult this topic is, I wanted to say something about the place of women in the church. I’ll spare you the arguments for and against women in ministry. I’ve laid them out on this blog before. I’m more interested in exploring the possibility of the church functioning as a family. But if we’re going to even talk about that, then we have define what kind of family we are talking about.

I’ll be the first to admit that we don’t have our act together over here. I can frustrate Julie sometimes with my dull, cluelessness, while not considering her enough. I don’t know what the ideal Christian marriage is supposed to look like. Nevertheless, we do work at things as a team, never trying to pull rank on each other. I try to be involved in as many decisions as she is, lest by abstaining from a decision I give the impression of being too important to consider it. We have divided up certain duties in the marriage, but we do this as equals trying to work within our strengths. Curiously though, neither of us are good at writing thank you notes, so if anyone wants to help us out with that one . . .

So there is my rough framework for a family. Obviously it gets more complex with kids in the picture, but there is my basic framework for male and female relations. If you drop that into a church, I wonder what would happen? An explosion? Possibly. It depends on what the existing structure is. In that case, it may do more harm than good. But in a new, shiny, emerging church hot off the assembly line of cafes, blogs, and emergent books . . . there are new possibilities.

Of course the problem is that many of our old practices will rise to the top. Men will naturally dominate the conversation, because they always have, and women will struggle to find their voice amidst the family. Heck, just look at my links on the side here. Two female bloggers. Yikes! While I know that many emerging groups are interested in sharing the wealth of influence and power, thousands of years of being in charge have not prepared us to give away our power and influence.

The emerging women re-gathering is very positive in that these women are speaking up for equality, for the emerging church to practice what it preaches, to call us out for our continuing failures.

And then I have a nagging notion . . . is this gathering a symptom of a really big problem that will not go away soon? Are the men in the emerging church just repeating the mistakes of their fathers? Do these women feel so left out of the conversation that they need to unite in order to get noticed by the men who are leaving them out?

I encourage men especially to take some time and read through the 3 articles with links above. These women are hitting on problems that will not go away. This is a necessary, but painful process the church must work through in order to embody the Gospel today. My apologies for anything I’ve done to contribute to the problem.

This rambling post has gone on long enough! The first thing I should do is add some links to emerging women on my sidebar!