I read something the other day that mentioned that all of the world’s major religions are patriarchal in nature. Which shouldn’t have hit me as hard as it did, except it was like a cosmic 2X4 to the head. Of course they are. I just hadn’t thought about it that way before (Come on, Evenshine, what part of “wives submit to your husbands” didn’t you get???).

We’ve been attending a new church, and one of my first questions for the pastor during the membership potluck (grooooaaan, I know) was about the roles of women in the church.

Wait! Wait! I’m SO not a feminist. Really I’m not.

I asked in a broader sense- my hubby, God love him, integrated quickly into the soccer team and the men’s group at church, who meet sans kids to watch movies and…scratch? I don’t know. They kvetch. Trade fish stories. Bond.

The only available women’s group was a group that met during the week in a nearby apartment complex with hispanic stay-at-home moms to do “crafts”.

OK. Hispanic? Nope. But friendly towards.

Stay-at-home mom? Nein. Gotta make a living.

Crafts? Girl you must be crazy.

Theologically speaking, the question for me is: are women NOT in leadership roles in the Bible for cultural reasons, or for moral reasons? In other words, is the reason there are no women pastors in our denomination because it’s inherently wrong, or because it wasn’t done culturally in the early church?

Enter complementarianism vs. egalitarianism.

I won’t go into the differences, except to say that my church is on the complement side of the argument. They believe that women can’t be pastors or elders. Deacons? “Debatable”, says Pastor Alex.

I’m not a crafter. Small pieces of things generally annoy me, and I don’t have the requisite psychosis for scrapbooking. Doctrinally I guess I’m supposed to care for the kids and clean house, but- pshaw. I can do that at home. So what’s a reasonably intelligent, theologically-minded gal to do?

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10 Responses to ComplementEgality

  1. You let me know when you discover the answer to that one. I’m Catholic, so women can do a lot of things in my church (really – they can) but not be deacons or priests.

    My husband is a member of The Knights of Columbus and they are a gaggle of gossiping girlie-men, IM-humbleO. He can hardly stand to go to meetings. Maybe he should try to softball team!

  2. You let me know when you discover the answer to that one. I’m Catholic, so women can do a lot of things in my church (really – they can) but not be deacons or priests.

    My husband is a member of The Knights of Columbus and they are a gaggle of gossiping girlie-men, IM-humbleO. He can hardly stand to go to meetings. Maybe he should try the softball team!

  3. Mary-LUE says:

    Hmmm… I used to work at a very conservative church. I have always been an oddity because when I didn’t know what I thought the Bible said on the subject, I said that. Still, lots of things rankled… women directors instead of women ministers. What’s the difference? If it is okay to do ministry, then it should be okay to be called a minister. If it isn’t okay, then don’t have them working at the church. The inconsistencies drove me crazy… especially in the era of ministers getting more nervous about spending time counseling with women. Where I worked, there was a lot of concern about not putting one’s ministerial self in a potentially compromising position… even if it was just that someone could claim something happened. A he said/she said type of thing. Of course, who did they come running to when they needed someone to talk to a woman in trouble? The secretaries!!! Seriously? My broken record was that if they weren’t going to counsel with women, they sure as heck better train and educate women to do it.

    I am now at a church where it is all pretty much an egalitarian approach. I served on the Board of Elders for years. A woman preached the sermon this past Sunday.

    BUT, I know there could come a time when circumstances could see me back in a more complementarian environment. I hope that I would somehow manage to balance respect for the church with finding ways to stretch a little the perceptions of what women could/should be allowed to do. At the very least, I would hope that my only options weren’t crafting. I’m NOT a crafter!!!

    I wish you well as you find your place.

    P.S. TOTALLY WORDY, I know. I hope it made sense.

  4. antropologa says:

    Like you said, it depends on the type of religion. I know many synagogues have women in charge of all kinds of stuff, and Unitarian churches and the like. And I guess it all started culturally originally and has held over?

  5. Jen says:

    Our church isn’t much different. The church has a policy of not separating men and women because we should come together. In many ways they follow this…While women can’t be preachers, the “elders” are husband and wife teams that mostly meet co-ed. Despite the “non-separate” agenda, however, there is a men’s prayer team, bible study, occasional events, and all male softball team ( or separate co-ed). The only all female bible study meets during the day and women’s groups are discouraged. It’s weird.

    Also, I agree with Mary-Lue…if you want women to counsel other women (a Biblical concept, too), then you should train and empower women to do that. If you want women to be the glorified babysitters of the church and to serve food at the potlucks, don’t be surprised when that’s all we want to do for you.

  6. The gender issue. One of many reasons I don’t subscribe to any organized religion. What on earth makes the male of the species more capable than the female? I can only think of one main difference and that usually gets them into trouble. Just saying.

  7. insider53 says:

    Interesting comments on this one so far. Rather than be cute or funny I can actually give you a rational answer. The Bible comes in two parts, Old and New testament. The old is taken from the Torah and other stories while the new is of course the Gospels. The Bible was compiled by the first Pope in order to create a new religion, Christianity. Women fare better in the old testament than they do in the new. In the new you have a few good women and the rest are fallen women who tempt men. So the answer is both, it is cultural in the old testament and by man’s design in the new testament. I of course disagree with all this doctrine about women and refuse to teach my daughters that they are less than simply because of their gender.

  8. faemom says:

    First off, the early churches did have women leaders. Paul mentions them in several of his letters, congradulating them on their work. The Gnostic Christians believed the Holy Spirit was femine. The ancient Greek text in many of the old orthdox texts support that. Jesus had women followers, even had women supporting Him and the Disciples.
    So second, why aren’t women a bigger role in many churches? I have no idea. It frustates me to no end. I do believe women should be able to lead churches. I’m sure if I had had the oppurtinuty in college, I would have become a priest.
    Third, of you like this church so much, maybe you could start a women’s group. Just a thought.
    I do love when you talk about religion and such serious stuff in your blog. It gets me thinking.

  9. Gibby says:

    In reference to Fae’s comment, I just read a book that mentioned the Gnostic gospels (a Jodi Picoult novel, no less!) and I am sort of interested in checking it out now.

    Anyhow, I was raised Catholic, went to Catholic school for 12 years, even. I always thought that the nuns got the shaft. Sorry to use the words “shaft” and “nuns” in the same sentence, but it is so true. They did all the work but got none of the credit.

    Wait, that sounds familiar…

  10. evenshine…I am doing a bible study group with about 8 other women and we are studying 12 women of the bible. It’s a study workbook written by men and I am appalled at how women are applauded for being included in “bibilical history” but also at how their professions and “decisions” are so different from what the new testament would have us conjure up as a good servant of the lord. However, my group insists that God chooses broken but faithful women to demonstrate his mercy and grace.

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