What is lost when the Church echoes with the sound of women’s silence?

Polski: Andronik, Atanazjusz i Junia (po prawe...
Image via Wikipedia

What is lost when the church echoes with the sound of women’s silence?

In many respects I am too strident– because of my lack of “role”, my current joblessness lacks authority, lack of higher degrees, perhaps this is why I find myself speaking out more often, and more loudly.   I have finally accepted that one cannot command respect at church or anywhere.  It must be earned.  And I have not earned the respect of the leaders in my church and so I have no real voice there. But this being true does not negate the veracity of what I have to say.  Because it is that which isn’t heard, which needs to be heard.  “Not to speak is to speak.”

And even more so, from within the Church needs to hear the sounds of women’s silence.

In “the Church” what I hear all too frequently is the voices of men.  I see the male faces on the platform, on the bookcovers that are recommended, and in the Christian magazines, blogs and conferences.  Women are relegated to their own blogs or their own tracks in the Church and at events, yes that are “For Women.”  The reason I have such a problem with these things “for Women” is that although women may be talking to each other, are our ideas being heard? 

When women are unrepresented at “the table” or underrepresented then it goes without saying that half the church, or more than that statistically, are silenced.  

What is lost when the church echoes with the sound of women’s silence?

When I learned recently that Junia was a woman I felt angry, filled with a level of fury that shook me to the core.  And then a degree of apathy came over me.  You see, I have always believed and worried that the voices of women were stifled in scripture.  For most of my life, I chose “forgiving possible human error” because this was the “inspired Word of God.”  But in actuality, we are talking about a misrepresentation of the truth.  This is a way of looking at scripture that doesn’t allow for any understanding of the characters that are missing from the biblical story because they are never directly mentioned, given voice, or described or simply rewritten as in the case of Junia.

Is it important to ask what other stories are squelched by the translators or simply quieted by the culture in which the stories were written? I think so.  Scholars are needed to investigate the tensions between the story of scripture and characters large and small, depending on emphasis.  The conversations in the church are continuously around all of the well-known biblical characters most of whom are male.  Others are only briefly mentioned and this simply reinforces the silence.

The sounds of women’s silence run deep.
Let us attune our ears to the sounds of women’s silence,
to attend and listen to what is not said,
what has never been said,
what is only now beginning to be said.
Let this silence cry aloud in our ears,
let it resound and reverberate inside our heads,
let it deafen our whole being with a colossal roar.
This silence is eloquent, articulate of women’s pain and women’s lives.
It is compelling, hypnotic, fearful, overwhelming.
It speaks louder than words.
It utters volumes of speech.
It drowns out all other language.
Where are the women in our history, in our heritage?
Where are the stories of our women heroes, mystics, leaders and teachers?
Who will guide the footsteps of our daughters?
Born today into a deafening silence about their ancestors, about themselves?

So many women’s voices have been lost in the pages of history,
erased and blotted out and passed over in silence

by the rulers of patriarchy, the makers of culture.
So few have survived in the pages,
and their stories have so often been ignored,
trivialized, marginalized, distorted.  (Praying Like a Woman, Nicola Slee)

What is louder in the Church today than the sound of women’s silence?

There was a woman, who spoke from a place of no authority.  She brought the only resources she had which were not many.  She came boldly to Jesus.  She broke open and poured out oil, a blessing, over Jesus.

Jesus was at Bethany, a guest of Simon the Leper. While he was eating dinner, a woman came up carrying a bottle of very expensive perfume. Opening the bottle, she poured it on his head. Some of the guests became furious at the waste, in their indignation over her actions. But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why are you giving her a hard time? She has just done something wonderfully significant for me. She did what she could when she could—she pre-anointed my body for burial. And you can be sure that wherever in the whole world the Message is preached, what she just did is going to be talked about admiringly.”  (Mark 14:3-9)

Are we talking about this woman that risked all her personal resources, public ridicule and the possibility of being rejected by Jesus, by Simon, by her community?  Still she came and anointed Jesus. Are we talking about her courage, and faith and importance?

Oh, that we would have the courage of this woman.  She stepped out of all of the comforts of her culture and Jesus affirmed her for it!

So I end with where I began.  I don’t have the affirmation of my church, I am not really listened to I know.  I am known for my view or position, possibly in a tiny way for being strident about my views on women.  But I need to let that go and simply listen for the ways and places in which I do have a voice.  And speak to those that are listening.


Advice for Women in Ministry

3 thoughts on “What is lost when the Church echoes with the sound of women’s silence?

  1. there is something to be said for staying in a tradition in order to have a prophetic witness and hopefully make a difference.

    but…leaving isn’t necessarily wrong. there are many traditions and communities within christianity where women are not silenced. where respect is given by virtue of being human and made in God’s image–not something that must be earned with a fancy degree or simply male parts.

    keep speaking up–but don’t let anyone make you feel second class, especially in the Church. peace and joy.


    1. indeed, suzannah, i agree with you that there is a balance between prophetic witness and being crushed by the lack. i just watched a video by anne graham lotz which was short but profound. it really doesn’t matter what anyone says, or doesn’t — affirm or not — get on your knees before God and seek God’s confirmation for your message, call, prophetic witness and it will. thanks for commenting!


Thanks so much for reading and sharing.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s