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.
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.