Thursday, March 3, 2011

Feminism, Female Clergy and the "Corporate Culture"

"We simply must move beyond the limitations of culturally sanctioned roles."
Recently, several people have contacted me about this blog with the following complaint - apparently I don't post often enough.

Well, first off, let me say, "Thanks!" Thanks for reading and thanks for wanting more. But I promised going in that this would be a just a once or twice a week venue, written specifically with the "Preacher's Husband" perspective in mind.

However, if you really are interested (thirsty for more), then hop on over to the "Derek Maul" blog at I post there almost daily, with a much broader - but still faith-based - view into my world.

Today I'd like to respond to an excellent "comment" by "Tim", left on my "Looking for a few good Clergy-Hubbies" post from a couple of weeks back. It's a long comment, but certainly worth reading in its entirety if you're interested. Essentially Tim - who describes himself as a "pew-sitter on his feminist theology high-horse" - makes a distinction between women in leadership who "Become hard, they look and act mannish" and women who embrace Paul's radical declaration that in we are all one in Christ, heirs according to the promise, and take the route of simply following Jesus.

Here is Paul's post from his blog to the Galatian Church, from Chapter Three: "So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise."

Tim goes on to point out that not only women but men, too, are in serious need of liberation when it comes to playing gender roles that have nothing to do with Gospel. He said it's obvious that "The Preacher" and I both try hard to live beyond such restrictive generalizations.

Thanks, I appreciate the love....

Back in seminary (Rebekah earned her MDiv from Columbia in Decatur, Georgia, 1979-1982) there was a lot of pressure for women to deny their femininity and try to "make do" by imitating men (as if being a man was by definition more appropriate for ministry than being a woman?).

Rebekah refused to play ball, and was consequently criticized both by the professors and by the women "ahead" of her.

Many women looking to enter ministry in those days did cut their hair short, wear clothes tailored for men, sport a clerical collar, work to lower their voices, disguise female physical attributes, and generally adopt back-slapping, good-old-boy, hard-edged mannerisms. There was also a lot of anger, antagonism and resentment toward men, along with political protest and undisguised bitterness.

My wife maintained a distance from the female caucus because she insisted that God called her to ministry as a woman, no apology necessary for not being a man thank you very much. She was respectful of her female colleagues, but felt that her path lay in simply serving God, not making a political point.

Rebekah is more gracious than I am when it comes to this area. She still says that the women who preceded her had to fight for every inch of ground they gained, that they faced much more pointed discrimination, and that it was important that those of us in "the second wave" acknowledge their sacrifice. She didn't join them in their more political feminism, but she wouldn't criticize them either.

More problematic for me were (and still are) the men who believe/d that leadership in the church should be approached using the playbook of corporate America. This not only buys into the "Old Boys Network"power and control paradigm, but effectively shelves Christ's model of servant leadership.

We simply must move beyond the limitations of culturally sanctioned roles. The Christian church should always be the place where life looks more like the kingdom of God than it resembles the ambient culture.

Pastors - men and women both - who buy in to the dynamics of corporate America seriously compromise the kind of leadership they have been called into, and seriously compromise the witness of The Church to the liberating truth that following Jesus is a calling into a New and Living Way.

Thanks, reader Tim, for a good jumping off place for this discussion. I'm interested in hearing from more of you. It needs to be an ongoing conversation.

Grace and Peace - DEREK

1 comment:

  1. I will get back to you on the feminism and other stuff, because my degree is calling me. However what I want to comment on at the moment is:

    'More problematic for me were (and still are) the men who believe/d that leadership in the church should be approached using the playbook of corporate America.'

    I couldn't agree more. I believe with all my heart that one of the biggest reason the mission of the church is failing so miserably in so much of the West is that our model of leadership is deeply flawed. I believe Martin Luther was criticised that when he got rid of the Pope, every pastor saw themselves as a new mini-Pope. Certainly John Calvin, much as he did a great deal for critical biblical analysis and theology, also brought an overwhelming amount of hubris to the table, and all too many Protestant pastors have followed in his wake.

    I firmly believe that when the church is known as a place where humility and love is at the centre of our relationships and our leadership, then the church will be ready for mission. At the moment in my own church, our pastor is trying to make some changes, and is getting accused by people who have been hurt too many times by previous pastors of having a hidden agenda. They won't believe him even when he says he doesn't and his wife is backing him up. And I honestly don't believe he doesn't. But the cynicism of leaders trying to get their own way, by at best manipulation, and at worst outright deception is endemic across the board, with a pitiably few deceptions.

    You commented about Rebekah's and Tim's relationship as a pastoral team, and I'll candidly admit that that was a 'wow' moment for me. All too often, pastoral teams don't get on. My church itself became an independent church within our denomination rather than remaining a church plant connected to the mother church purely because of a pastoral squabble, primarily because the senior pastor wanted to wield his authority too greatly.

    I'd love to write a book on church authority, but if I did, I'd either have to be anonymous, or I'd damage a huge number of relationships with men and women I love and respect, even if their styles of leadership are, in my mind, unbiblical and unChrist-like.