The F-word is a Dirty Word in the Church

I have had something percolating for a while — thoughts on being a woman in the church.

  • It is good to be human. But is it good to be a woman in the church?  
  • And what about the f-word?  It’s hard to be a feminist in the Evangelical church. 
  • Do you ever wonder why people of faith don’t talk more about how Jesus treated women?   

 I keep picking at the edges of it, writing, and rewriting.  Here is just a few paragraphs…

It is difficult and painful to be on the faith journey as a Christian Feminist woman who grew up in the evangelical church.  At first, for me, as I broadened my perspective.  I was cautious, suspicious even.  Mostly I was fearful because of what I had been taught.  And I’ll admit it, even angry at some of the assumptions that people made about what the Bible teaches.  It seemed to me that these conclusions were drawn without being willing to actually study it.

As I felt an internal pull, a tugging of my heart toward the truth, I was afraid.  Whereas I had been especially affirmed and promoted at work, at church it was crystal clear that this was not to be expected.  Women were “supposed” to do the receiving and watch men do the vital ministry of teaching and leading the church.

But more than anything, I just wanted other people to talk to about what I heard God stirring inside me.  I could not find anyone to talk to about it.  So I began the lonely venture of studying the scriptures for myself.  I also read theologians, including feminist theologians, with heartfelt trepidation, fearing that I may end up leaving the evangelical church based on what I learned.

The f-word is a dirty word in the Church. 

I went back early this morning to a letter I wrote to my elders last year.   I put everything in those pages, there for them to take in.  My heart out there on the page.  I was told by the elders of my church, not now.  Just wait.  Be patient.  And I think I hear the Lord saying, Sh…………  Stop.  Wait.  Just wait…………..  And be quiet a while.  I have a sense that he wants to work on my heart, my lack of forgiveness, and anger, and so though I have pages and pages I’m waiting.   

In the meantime…

I read a beautiful post on Eugene Cho’s blog that I resonated with greatly.  Pastor Cho is also a great advocate for women.  The article by Dr. Michelle Garred, who is a researcher and consultant in international peace building, talks about experiences at a Christian event as a recently married and yet professional woman, and asks compellingly:

Why does this distorted social setting appear to pit me in competition against my husband and best friend? Why can’t someone meet a couple and assume that these two inter-dependent individuals both have something to offer? Why should I be forced to wield my trump cards as instruments of power, making conversation into a contact sport? Most importantly, what about the many women who don’t have trump cards, but who do have boundless gifts to be shared with the Church? Who sees those women? And who hears them?

I found myself telling the author …

“Thank you for writing so simply and eloquently, with a gentleness that isn’t angry. I found myself resonating loudly! And I have to say that once you lose the credentials of “important work” and you are a “wife” then you seem to have even less stature and credibility, which is partly the culture of “work” being valued over all else. But it is also sexism rearing its ugly head.I know I am very angry and I know that I need to get beyond it to forgiveness somehow. I too resonate when people of colour talk about their experiences with racism, because they echo my own as a woman in the church.  All this to say – amen! Preach it! You are saying something really important and hopefully, PhD or not, others will listen!

I would encourage you to read it: Gender, church, and the art of alternate endings.

I also read and resonated loudly with this article by David Park another great advocate for justice, in the EFCA church.  He talks of  Six Postures of Ethnic Minority Culture towards Majority Culture.  And oddly enough, or not, I found that this has been similar to my response as a woman in the church.   But if you want to read it in its entirety it’s here.   These postures are:

Posture 1: Unaware.
Posture 2: Angry and Wounded.
Posture 3: Silent and Resigned.
Posture 4: Duty and Pleasing.
Posture 5: Unity as Assimilation.
Posture 6:  Equal and Empowered Partnership.

I have lived, am living these.  Park says: In the effort “to build bridges between minority and majority cultures, that there is the feeling that this whole race dialogue is “unfair” to the majority, but it’s really not. It’s hard on both sides to work towards having a relationship, especially a relationship that is part of our witness of a common savior. It takes work, and it is fair. So jump in and assume the right posture. We are in it for the long haul.”

Yes we are in it for the long haul as we work together to build up the Church, to see it as Jesus would and become the beautiful reconciled body of Christ with everyone serving our of their gifts and talents.

I hear God’s call to be a voice for certain voiceless populations, especially for women in the evangelical church.  I am constantly clarifying, are you sure Lord?  And at times I have been unproductive, and not very Godly, allowing myself to be anxious or angry, or even trying to please others rather than listen well.

Each of us must ask ourselves, male and female alike, are we living as an old person or a new creation?  In the flesh or in the Spirit?    And what are we being called to as we serve?

I’d love to know what you think on this or anything.  And in the meantime, as I actively wait to know what I am to do with my writing on women in the church, pray for me will you?

Melody

6 comments

  • I have also found it difficult to be a woman in the church and I agree that the six postures listed by David Park echo many women’s experience. The thing that literally saved my life was an organization called Christians for Biblical Equality. They believe that all Christians should exercise their gifts with equal authority and responsibiliy in the church, home and world. They have the most resources available anywhere on the topic of women and the church, including many free articles. You can find them at http://www.cbeinternational.org.

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    • Liz, I know it and am a member! I love, love, love them and am so encouraged by Mimi Haddad and their work. Thanks for mentioning them though because others need to know or be reminded of their important work. Melody

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  • Thank you for this post! This is something I’ve been wrestling with, too. I found the book “Back to the Well: Women’s Encounters with Jesus in the Gospels” to be very helpful in finding ways to approach my elders and my pastor regarding the subject. I’ll be praying for direction, guidance, and the gift of forgiveness for you. In the mean time, right on, sister!

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    • Thank you Lani. I will look for that book. And thanks for commenting. Melody

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  • I appreciated your reflections too. The landscape is challenging indeed. I was one of the editors of that 6 postures article referenced and a writer of the 5 postures article referenced in David Park’s post. As we were crafting these articles we often were drawn to how so much of what was being written could apply to the challenge of women as well. In my ministry which is dominated by white males (of which I am one), we’ve wondered if the journey of learning to serve those marginalized ethnically would be a significant gateway to continue making progress in making space for and empowering women as well. It seems many I relate to are quicker to track with ethnic marginalization than the marginalization of women. Time will tell, but there’s much work to be done. Appreciate your perseverence!

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