Sunday, July 01, 2012

Women in the church

I’ve been reading Rachel Held Evan's  blog and others connected with it for a while now, and have been really interested in thinking about the role of women in the church for years now.  I’ve been a feminist for as long as I can remember and have been fortunate enough to be an ordained minister in a denomination that doesn’t have a problem with that (in theory…but practice is a bit of an issue in place, but that’s a whole other blog).

Today I read this blog  (These square pegs) and the comments associated with it.  I also recalled the different conversations I’ve had over the years with people, mainly women, who talk about how they like the church community they’re part of but struggle with the attitude and teaching on women’s roles in the church.  I’m particularly moved by the depth of emotion expressed by Liz when she talks about how often the church she is part of now talks about Colossians 3.  Please note this isn’t directed at those folks who say that they don’t like the complementarian position but that it’s not a deal-breaker for them – my questions are aimed at those who expressed a lot of pain and frustration about it.

The question I want to ask Liz, and all those other women who have “settled” in a church that has a complementarian position is “Why do you stay?”  If you are so upset and so hurt by the position your church community takes why do you stay silent?  Why do you give tacit support to a structure that makes you scream at the injustice?  There are plenty of loving, godly church communities where your many gifts and callings can be recognised and where you will not have to sit in the Lord’s house every Sunday feeling so righteously angry.  Is it because to leave would be uncomfortable? Might split your family?  Might mean you would have to say out loud what you think?  Because you’re probably right.  My next question is “What injustice would your church community have to commit before you felt you had to speak up?”

If you did speak up about it a lot of other people might say they feel the same way.  And if you did leave and remove your support and encouragement, and all the other women did the same then the men leading these unjust structures might actually be forced to read their bibles again.  And then maybe your daughters wouldn’t have to be so hurt by their fathers in the way that you were.

Sometime later:
I wrote this blog a few weeks ago but never got round to posting it but then I read Sophia Network's blog and was reminded of it.  I was particularly stirred by this:
Malcolm Duncan mar11It strikes me that to believe in something means that you must live out of that belief – so that is what I have done. I am deeply uncomfortable with the view that you hold a position, but do nothing about it because of fear of what others might say, think or do. So for me, being committed to the view that I hold meant that I could not secretly hold it, but must play my part in advocating it, teaching it, practicing it and living it out – albeit within the context of Christian community, sensitivity and seeking not to be an offence to others. I cannot control whether other people are offended by my view – but I will not pretend not to hold it.
And I was stirred up enough to say my piece as well; I’m sorry if doing this causes some offence, particularly to my sisters who have already been wounded by the churches they belong to, but if you’re sitting in a church that makes you feel less valued because you’re a woman, please consider speaking up, or leaving it.

I also want to thank Malcolm and other brothers like him who see this as a gospel issue and are not prepared to remain silent.


  1. Anonymous3:19 pm

    As I'm a part of the church at Goldhill under Malcolm's leading I found his interview fascinating (I didn't know that other churches changed their constitution after ours did).

    For me having teaching on this subject plus time to dialogue was formative. I've struggled with the change but in reality not wholly due to having my theological stance challenged (and changed) I've seen how my own experience and upbringing impacted by openness to new thinking. I'd always accepted that men should be leaders and as we had been in churches that we led well I'd never challenged that. Also the consequence of my growing up in a family where dad's role was generally implicitly seen as the important one meant I was generally more likely to buy into the complementarian view.
    As a consequence to the way Malcolm taught on this subject, and I have studied the scriptures and had various discussions, my own life is now at a point of change.
    I am very grateful to Malcolm for being prepared to challenge, but also for his obvious respect and care for those who didn't agree with him.

    1. I'm glad you commented...I was thinking of you when I wrote the original, and the extra bit, because I was aware of the journey you have made in the last year; you're such a wise gifted woman and I'm sure Goldhill will be the richer for whatever you (and other women there) do in your new situation. :-)