Bias, discrimination, workarounds and the future of women in ministry


Bias, discrimination, workarounds and the future of women in ministry


I don’t fully understand what it means to be discriminated against because of my gender or the color of my skin. I know that it sucks and it is frustrating. I know that some women in evangelical Christianity have an internalized sense of inferiority.

I was in a Hermeneutics course a few years ago. It was taught by the same guy who is attempt to restart the dialogue on women in ministry in our denomination. We studied the issue in depth over an entire semester. It became quickly apparent the women in the class weren’t speaking up nearly as much as the men. I asked a number of them why they weren’t because I thought this was a great tragedy. Some felt they somehow had less right to speak to the issue. This when I realized how deep this goes.

There were others in the class that didn’t exhibit this internalized inferiority said that they didn’t want the conflict. I was at a loss because these women had many supportive friends in the classroom discussion including the prof. The debate was very civil and free from the emotions and hypersensitivity that plague women in ministry debate.

I really didn’t know how to interpret this and I was at a loss at how this could be rectified. I even sat down with the prof and talked about it a couple of times. In the end the class was great for me but it could have been so much better.

Other discrimination
I am discriminated against for other reasons. It is a silent discrimination. Despite the fact that I have the gifts, the ability, the experience and training to lead a church it is unlikely I would ever be hired as anything more than a youth or children’s minister. I am far less likely to be invited out to someones house for fellowship and discussion. Some people believe that there is something inherently wrong with me. There is no sense of political incorrectness associated with making fun of what makes me different.

I have never been married.

Implement a workaround
I am a victim but I see no benefit in walking in the role of a victim. We are all victims of something or other. I don’t have any agenda to see more single people in leadership. With the nature of the church and how leadership functions I wonder why anybody would want to be a leader. I can find places to lead and discuss outside the traditional structures.

Often in computer programming and networking I run in to a problem that is too difficult or costly to tackle head on so I implement a work around. Sometimes it is less ideal but it does 90% of what the ideal solution does with much less effort. The next couple of decades it will be easier for women to lead from the fringes in alternative structures than it would be to change the establishment.

It’s only a matter of time
The issue of women in ministry in the evangelical context will become a non-issue within the next 20 30 years. This isn’t because of what is going on today. It’s because in 30 years the boomers will be dead, my generation and the next will be leading the church.

A few years ago I was in a Corinthains class that engaged in the gender roles debate. The class was divided in to 4 different groups holding 4 different positions. I ended up on the complementarians group. I did my research on the subject. I spoke eloquently and passionately about something I wasn’t sure I really believed. The class and my group was convinced that I was deeply devoted to the complementarian position. Our main opposition, the egalitarians, were in shambles. There arguments were so poorly crafted that even the prof said that their research was false.

At the end of the debate each member of the class handed in a piece of paper indicating which of the 4 positions they held. My group was re soundly defeated by the egalitarians. The people that are 18-20 years old now are profoundly different than even my age group.

It is only a matter of time.

  1. #1 by markio on January 31, 2004 - 11:11 am

    We learned in one of our classes, while looking at focus groups, that regardless of what topic you are discussing women are less inclined to voice their opinion in a mixed group. You actually have to direct the questions to them in order to overcome the effect. The issue is far deeper than just what is going on in the church. Lest we forget that the Church has paved the way for this to happen at the level of the ideals. Equality is an idea that is birthed out of the creation story. Let’s never forget that. How it looks, now that is something worth debating.

  2. #2 by scotty on January 31, 2004 - 1:42 pm

    I definitely feel the singleness thing. I was planed out to Northern Alberta to be interviewed for a camp director position. When they got back to me, the only reason they could give for not hiring me was my lack of a spouse. When I left the youth pastor position in Outlook I had very sincere people apologize that I was leaving without having found a wife (like that’s the biggest tragedy here, and as if that would have prevented the frustration I had with the institution). I’m shocked they even hired me in the first place. My replacement is married, not by accident. They believe that this man’s maturity must be beyond mine because he has a gold ring on his left hand. And forget any hope of being a senior pastor or associate pastor. Everyone knows that single men just want to jump the bones of any female who walks by :)

    We all have these discriminations that we must deal with in varying degrees. But we should do our best to avoid overreacting.

  3. #3 by Randall on January 31, 2004 - 3:29 pm

    Some of the same kinds of things i was thinking as I was writing my schpiel (sp?).

    I was thinking of the single women and men pastors out there who are amazing, gifted individuals, who are not trusted or given a chance, because of a lack of gold. (Or silver or whatever the rage…)

    Yeah, I’ve got some ok things to say BUT, it IS different if you are single and a pastor.

    I do not like the reality that you “need” a spouse to fulfill a calling/gifting God has given you.

    And I am sorry it is that way. Today.

  4. #4 by robbymac on January 31, 2004 - 4:29 pm

    To comment on a different part of LT’s post:

    “It’s because in 30 years the boomers will be dead, my generation and the next will be leading the church. ”

    What?? The whole problem is the Boomers? And you really think our generation is so much smarter, etc.?

    You can’t possibly have meant that. I must be misreading you. Please tell me I’ve misunderstood this comment.

    I hope I’ve misread you. The alternative is too appalling to consider.

  5. #5 by LT on January 31, 2004 - 5:06 pm

    Rob:

    I’m not blaming the boomers for any problems in the church. I’m just pointing out that the generations that have come after have grown up with very different assumptions about the role of women in society in general. When the people that have these assumptions make up the bulk of church congregations I think you will see a dramatic change.

    The church will change when the post-boomer generations take over but from what I’ve seen lately I’m not sure it will be much of an improvement. I don’t think we are doing what we need to do to get closer to what God would want from us. There is a very good chance we will move from a modernized gospel to a postmodernized gospel and miss Jesus’ gospel.

  6. #6 by Toni on January 31, 2004 - 6:24 pm

    Thanks for explaining – I was concerned too about that.

    There are too many things that I want to write on these topics, but I’m hesitant. Partly because of the effort involved being wasted, and partly because of the abuse and pigeon holing it will cause.

  7. #7 by Bene Diction on January 31, 2004 - 9:08 pm

    I admire your optitimistic attitude, but I can’t say for a second I share it.

    I don’t think the gender issue is going to change in my generation, your generation, the next generation….

    This goes way deeper than knowledge, law, classes, a reasoned biblical response, good parenting, the culture, denominational rules etc. etc.

    Leighton, statistically you are within the norm as a single guy in Canada.

    The average age of grooms stood at 33.7 years old in 1998, compared with 31.2 a decade earlier, while the average age of brides was 31.1 in 1998, up from 28.6 in 1988.

    So, the ‘church’ doesn’t get that and you are perceived as broken. The ‘institution’ don’t get a lot of things.

  8. #8 by patience on January 31, 2004 - 11:38 pm

    “The issue of women in ministry in the evangelical context will become a non-issue within the next 20 – 30 years.”

    Oh man, I really hope so. I have to say as someone who is on the outside looking into all the pomo blogs I was very disappointed.I’m not a theological heavyweight, just a regular person. I was hoping that I would find a community, instead I found more of the same that I ran from- it seems to be the same old fundamentalism just wrapped up in a better package.

    “Solid Scriptural evidence to deny women leadership”?

    “The church will change when the post-boomer generations take over but from what I’ve seen lately I’m not sure it will be much of an improvement. I don’t think we are doing what we need to do to get closer to what God would want from us. There is a very good chance we will move from a modernized gospel to a postmodernized gospel and miss Jesus’ gospel.”

    Really? This is it? I’m so disheartened…

    I am that post-boomer generation and I have to say I can’t wait for my generation to take over, maybe then we will be able to explore the journey together with out all the junk your generation is sorting out now. I’m sure there are many sincere hearts but sadly I think I’ll wait to jump in when women can lead, children are heard and I guess I’d rather have the postmodernized gospel you spoke of- especially if this is what Jesus’ gospel is all about.

    take care…

  9. #9 by Kristi on February 1, 2004 - 12:03 am

    LT, Interesting dialogue that has been happening on your blog. There seems to be some issue of controversy arising on your blog over the past months – you must really like debating – or something?

    I wonder, as the banter goes back and forth, what it is that isn’t clear, or is ‘misinterpreted’. You use some very strong language:”I don’t fully understand what it means to be discriminated against because of my gender or the color of my skin. I know that it sucks and it is frustrating. I know that some women in evangelical Christianity have an internalized sense of inferiority.” In the first sentence you say “I don’t know”…then the next 2 sentences are started with “I know”. How can you say you don’t know..but then amazingly you do know?

    This whole blogging thing is rather ironic in-and-of-itself. One day it’s all about hockey…lord knows hockey has its place…then the next it’s about chaffing from a forest misadventure…then it’s ‘women in ministry’. I just don’t get it?

    As a linguist I would recommend that if you want less ‘misinterpretation’ look more closely at the specifics in your language to start off with. Anyways, I’m sure the next months will bring much adventure to your blog, and perhaps I’ll pop in again…do hope that your future forest encounters are a little less harsh! Or perhaps, if they are, I would just prefer not to read about them!

  10. #10 by LT on February 1, 2004 - 1:07 am

    Kristi:

    You have a good couple of questions.

    I do enjoy debate.

    I am striving to improve the way I say things so that I communicate more clearly. I’m not sure the example you provided is all that inconsistent. I do believe it is possible to not “fully understand” something but to understand certain aspects of that something. For example I don’t fully understand gender discrimination because I am male, but I do understand that it is frustrating.

    It is very difficult to write in such a way that most people clearly understand what I’m trying to communicate. When your audience is a diverse as it can be on the Internet it is very difficult to find the best language to communicate with everyone.

    Just look at the comments on this post. I’ve got a couple of people that were concerned that I was blaming the boomer generation for all the problems in the church. In another one I’ve got another commenter who thinks I am a boomer.

    I think I get labeled a lot. Once I get the label then I become an enemy and people become very sensitive to things I say. The problem is I get labeled as a liberal by conservatives and a conservative by the liberals. I continually get it from both sides of what I’ve grown to consider an increasingly futile debate.

    I’ve had a number of people say that I communicate very clearly but I’ll admit those people tend to be a lot like me.

    The subjects on my weblog can be very erratic but they closely follow what is going on in my life. There are a lot of reasons why I blog. I’m not sure I could grasp it one sentence. It has a lot to do with what I feel I am called to do in this life.

  11. #11 by Angela on February 1, 2004 - 12:02 pm

    Because I am a woman and know first hand what it is like out there, I don’t think there will be very much of a difference for women. Sure over the past decade or more they have established something and gained ‘recognition’, but there are still so many people in my generation that still think that women are not equal. Don’t forget: the young men of today are being taught by the men of yesterday. When I was in college, we were all training to become Police Officers, I know this isn’t ministry but you could see it in the guys eyes and how they talked that they would hate for women to get in and not the men. Because to them women are weak, can’t hold their ground, are not as fast, etc, etc. The list could go on forever. I think women can hold their ground, but men are just naturally stronger. There is a balance somewhere but it seems that neither sex is willing to step on the scale. Until that happens, I am afraid we will continue along the same path and keep repeating history.

Comments are closed.