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life, politics, power and privilege, social justice, women in ministry

down with the man

Today a friend asked what I thought about the idea out there in the Evangelical blog-o-sphere regarding the lack of men in the church.  Specifically, a number of [male] pastors are stating the need to focus on recruiting more men in church leadership, because men are in the minority in their congregations and clearly if this isn’t addressed, the church will degenerate into…whatever the church degenerates into without men.  I don’t know about other churches, but we have some men at Quest. Some in leadership (half our pastoral staff are male, including our lead pastor), some in the pews, and I don’t feel a dearth of male presence.  I do have a few thoughts around the notion that the church will go to hell in a handbasket if we do not recruit more male leaders in a hurry.

1. Our churches aren’t supposed to mirror the surrounding world. In Jesus’ day, the folks who felt most welcome hanging out with the Messiah were those on the margins.  Those who were not fully welcomed elsewhere.  In the Jewish parlance of his times, that meant women, ethnic and cultural minorities, lepers, fishermen, and a precious few who may have been regarded as ‘Jews amongst Jews’.  If our churches are welcoming to women in a culture where women are still paid less, who have never seen a woman president or vice president, who are constantly degraded and treated as objects in media and culture, who are more likely to be hungry, exploited, and abused, could it be that we’re doing something right instead of doing something wrong?  Could the emphasis on a need for more male presence be also an affirmation to women that they aren’t ‘enough’ in the church just as they aren’t ‘enough’  in society?  Don’t get me wrong, I feel called to minister to men as much as to women, and feel that they also need to be welcomed in our churches.  It does make sense to me that a religion calling all in power to humble themselves and give up privilege could be most uncomfortable to those who have the most to lose.

2. We have a leadership problem here, folks. To my friends in the mainline, it’s absolutely unfathomable that we who call ourselves evangelical are still caught up in the women in leadership debate.  It’s an embarrassment, it’s a justice issue, and it will kill us if we do not resolve it.  I find a lot of folks saying “I’d support women on paper, but in reality, I think the culture wouldn’t understand it.” Really? Have you ever met a female doctor? Lawyer? Supreme court judge? Governor? Regardless of your political leanings, women in the workplace isn’t something new or different.  Women in ministry isn’t something new or different.  The voices we have traditionally marginalized because they haven’t come from the Western canon of white males are the very voices we’re continually resistant to hearing today, whether these voices come from other cultures, from women, or from whomever we can’t wrap our mind around seeing as Christian.

3. Male leadership doesn’t automatically attract men. I realize it’s easier to spend time with someone you can relate to, or who looks like you, but the Gospel is not some sort of exclusive boy’s [or whatever] club.  For that matter, some of the very congregations led by males have a female majority, and churches led by women have male congregants.  For most folks in the evangelical church, I feel there’s a significant ‘fear factor’ at work.  If you haven’t seen a woman as a lead pastor before, there tend to be irrational fears about what that might look like, how it would work, and a sense that it’s not ‘normal’ or ‘natural’.  On the flip side, those who were raised with women pastors wonder why this is even a discussion, because it seems ‘normal’ to them.

Tired of this rant? So am I. It disappoints me that we still are not willing to be the Body of Christ, and that we are still hung up on an image of what we think it should look like.  As long as the church continues to be focused on image, like so much window dressing, we are missing the point of becoming the people of God, opening ourselves to be used to God’s purpose, on Earth as in heaven.  Sigh.

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Discussion

4 thoughts on “down with the man

  1. I totally agree with your post, Pastor Leah. Being in ministry, I here this constant cry that we’re losing white males and that we need to bring in more white male leaders to stem the flow. This has always irked me as the implicit message is that the people of color and women that are in the ministry are not “enough” as you say – which in turn makes people of color and women feel like they are the problem or taking spaces that are supposed to be reserved for white males. Instead of this irrational fear of losing white males why can’t we turn it on its head and celebrate the presence, leadership, and contributions of women and people of color in ministry, who have been and who are still oppressed in ministry and in society. Also, you are totally correct in saying that just because you have a male in leadership that tons of males will follow. In my ministry, we had three males lead the fellowship for awhile and our fellowship became 2/3 women. Instead of freaking out, I saw it as a blessing.

    Posted by koreanpower999 | March 18, 2009, 11:22 pm
  2. Hey Christian, thanks for the comment. The church is growing most amongst women and people of color…not that people of color aren’t women, but i’m still waiting for some more verbage on that one. Why can’t the church as a whole be rejoicing about this and elevating the new voices in leadership instead of grasping at a model that’s slowly dying. Maybe that’s God’s will, a phoenix from the ashes that looks nothing like its predecessor…have you read any of Phyllis Tickle’s stuff about the emergent church? Interesting notion that the church implodes and blows away it’s own power structures every so often (she’s saying 300 years, i think), and recreates itself. She thinks we’re in that place now. I hope so.

    Posted by leahklug | March 18, 2009, 11:27 pm
  3. Completely agree with points #2 and #3. #1 I would agree with except that it just doesn’t match my observation of the church. I don’t think the church has a particular heart for women or that they’re even trying to reach women because they are downtrodden or oppressed. The church is doing its natural selfish thing and women are naturally coming to church. I don’t think the church has figured out why.

    Posted by randplaty | March 19, 2009, 12:32 am
  4. It is sad that in our day we are still debating about women in service for the Lord. It really is time to resolve these differences and get back to the task that we have been given by Jesus. I think we are far from a dearth of male leadership, congregants, etc. Insecure men will always be threatened by spiritual women who know who they are in God. The attempt to limit the gifts of women in the church is a symptom of some mens desire for power and control. The only things that will be accomplished by sidelining over half of the church body will be the continual cessation of the miraculous, and the eventual departing of the Spirit.

    Posted by Terri Tippins | March 25, 2009, 12:50 pm

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About Me

wife, partner, daughter, and sister. traveler on the journey of faith. rage against the machiner. sometimes pastor.

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