And I am really angry that some of them do see but don’t think it matters. I am tired of the patronising comments that women need to toughen up, not be so sensitive, learn how to take a joke.
I find it encouraging that I see Christian men making this kind of statement on a reasonably regular basis now – very different to the situation two decades ago, when I first started mixing in church leadership circles where it was left to women to point out the problems.
Dave’s post, however, is particularly eloquent. Its timing is also good – coming so soon after the Catholic church’s re-affirmation of ordination of women as a serious crime against canon law (but not, it hastens to add, at the same level as sexual abuse of minors by priests, even though the two things were affirmed as crimes against church law in the same document).
It causes me to wonder what kinds of things make people leave churches. Why do women stay in that kind of situation? I left my local Presbyterian congregation because I didn’t want to have to run their youth group and didn’t like the minister’s take that a pastoral visit to a hospital patient who turned out not to be Presbyterian was a waste of his time. I stayed away because of their increasingly narrow understanding of the place of women in leadership.
The Presbyterian Church of Australia, which I grew up in, ordained its first women ministers in the mid 1960s. Most of it then united with the Methodist and Congregational churches in 1977 to form the Uniting Church, but I remained Presbyterian because my local congregation did. A few years before that, when it agreed to have women elders, my home congregation joyously ordained (no, this is not a mistake – elders are also ordained in the Presbyerian church, at least in Australia) the 40 women who had been functioning as elders anyway. I moved and found that continuing Presbyterianism was much narrower in other parts of the country. When I felt called to ministry, the minister of my home congregation offered to arrange for me to be supported through the Presbyterian system if I wanted to, but advised me against it because he had already sensed the changing attitude and I chose to remain with the Uniting Church.
As time has gone on, the Presbyterian church has become more and more narrow on the issue of women in leadership. It no longer ordains women to ministry and in some states, it no longer ordains women as elders either. Because ordination is for life, they can’t “unordain” people, so they still have one woman minister in active ministry, but I do not understand why she stays. She has been treated abominably by many people in the denomination, although at the moment she is the senior minister in a congregation where her husband is assistant because that’s the way the congregation issued their call, so there are still pockets of resistance!!
But why is this important? Well, I like Dave’s explanation at the end of his blog piece:
In the beginning God made men and women. Both were equally an expression of his image, character and love. Men and women were commissioned together for both child rearing and ruling. Then the fall happened and what was meant to be together got broken. The world has been crying ever since. Men and women were supposed to be together- equally. We still need to be together if we are to fully represent God, understand His will and live His ways. Male dominated leadership cannot do this. Strict gender based roles cannot do this. And when we belittle, marginalise, overlook and make life harder for women not only do we fail to represent God faithfully, we also destroy a little bit of His image in one of his very loved children.
Maybe over the weekend I’ll return to blogging on Thomas or eyewitness testimony, but maybe not – I have a job application to write. 😦