Women Should Be Quiet in Church (?)

 j0442246 Between Attending Q conference last week and an interesting email I got today, I’ve been deeply pondering the role of women in the Church.  I guess it actually started a few weeks ago while I was listening to a local Christian radio broadcast by a woman about women in the church.  Her view is that women should not teach men the Bible for any reason, ever.  If they do, they are disobeying God, and outside of His will.  Women like this should be asked to be quiet and not teach men.  I know that is  extreme view that many men and women do not hold, especially men and women who read my blog. But it got me to thinking…

The Q conference was heavily male dominated both on the presenter side and the participant side.  I’m not knocking the Q guys at all.  They brought an amazing array of presenters, some women that I never knew about, and so glad I was introduced to.

During one of the presentations, Phyllis Tickle, an older woman talking about the Spiritual Disciplines, said,

If you are a white, middle-class woman and are fasting from chocolate, don’t even tell me.  White middle-class women annoy me.  I look in the mirror every day, and that’s who I see, so what does that tell you? 

The rest of the room went on with listening and learning, but I was stuck there.  I am a middle class woman.  My friends are middle class women.  I annoy myself sometimes, and my friends annoy me, but I was angry that Phyllis would say that in front of a room full of mostly white, highly educated, middle class men who I want to be respected by.

I decided to go to her Q&A session later that day and ask her about it.   She was very kind, sensitive, and said she did not want to demean the sacrifices people make to draw near to Jesus.  What annoys her is the attitude of self righteousness and pride that seems to be more prevalent than fasting itself.

I completely agreed with her, and got real sad about it.  I wondered why more women weren’t in attendance at the conference, and why more weren’t presenting.  I wonder all the time why women hardly ever teach from the platform at our church.  I wondered why more women I know aren’t leading their friends to Jesus through Bible study, or praying for one another.

I was left wondering if we women just aren’t doing our jobs as followers of Jesus.  Wondering if that is why there aren’t more leaders in my own church who are women.  Wondered about the Church in the United States in general.

I left the conference ready to brush up on my own walk with God.  I’ve started praying the hours, a practice what Phyllis talked about (there’s even an iPhone app for it.  It’s called explorefaith).  I decided to pray more and try harder at growing my own girls up to be smart, educated, and articulate about their faith.  They need to know  what they believe and why.   They need to be able to be feminine and honoring to God in their speech, but be able to hold their own in conversations with their peers now and when they grow older.  They need to be able to lead women when no one else is leading them.

This is what my good friend Gene Ort had to say about the subject (and he’s a guy I really respect)

Without women in the church, only half of the story gets heard. Without women leading.. women and children often get leftovers and token ministry. To much testosterone leads to imbalance. I believe Christ taught equality of sexes. Not too say men and women are the same, but the differences in ministry create wholeness. All strengths in ministry and leadership should be promoted and celebrated, male and female. Gender prejudice is just dumb and biblically ignorant. Just sayin’

If you’re a woman,  do you have something to say that will help, encourage, or inspire others?  Is your life worth multiplying?

I’m not saying whether my thoughts are right or wrong or absolute. I’m just wondering.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

8 thoughts on “Women Should Be Quiet in Church (?)

  1. Zena Holderbaum says:

    Thanks for the opportunity to answer. I definitely feel that woman should be heard in the church. I loved what your friend Gene had to say about only half the story being told. However, we as women need to remember that men thrive on respect. If we keep that in mind as we are leading, we will have a better impact. Many women are gifted with leadership qualities, however, we forget that men are called to be leaders. We need to let them lead and we can do that by respecting them while they are leading. A smart women knows this looks different for each man but can rise up when this is necessary.

  2. j a n says:

    I appreciate your observations… Last year at Q they actually had an 18-minute panel on “hidden misogyny in the church.” And it was well-done and fair. I’ve had the same feelings as you… and persistently indicate on follow-up surveys the disproportion of men to women presenters as an issue. I’m not a feminist, or strident in my views, and I always take away so much from Q… but I’m not sure how you can expect to successfully change culture / future / Church while utilizing only half of the resources available…

  3. Oh Michelle. You’re right, I did read this post. Actually I’ve read it all the way through twice now.

    Had I read it the other night when I was stirring up others via Twitter and Facebook, I might have responded differently. But today all of my filters are back in place so I won’t have much to say online where it would live for ever.

    You asked several really big questions. I think for now I’ll leave them and let my brain mull it over for a while. I’ll have to come back if I have thoughts I feel comfortable sharing online.

  4. myassistantcan says:

    I’ve been thinking about this issue a lot since you’ve brought it up and I’ve read your post several times as well. I’m not one to settle well with inequality and injustice.

    My impressions of most revolutionary fronts is that they are mostly led by men. Why? I wonder if, as women, our desire to be liked has held us back from leadership. Perhaps it is that the feminist movement is a liberal movement while the church is more of a conservative front and has yet to trudge through the opposition to female leadership. There is a strength that goes along with leadership that helps to shield you against others (Rob’s resilience against the people who say continual negative things about him, for instance) that maybe women are used to exhibiting…since we are more social and taught to be liked. Is it a combination of both internal and external opposition?

    As for me, I’m sure I have some tidbits to share but I know that as a fighter for justice I could be doing more for the Kingdom.

  5. Hummm….you’ve certainly thrown it out and there and I am totally looking forward to finding out more opinions on this matter.

    First, I know nothing of the “Q” conference so I am totally not going to knock it, but I did look at the list of presenters and saw that out of 34 speakers that only 5 were women…which is only 15% of the speakers. I am quite certain that women in the church account for more than 15%…so, just off the bat that it something that could be better balanced.

    As far as Women in Leadership at the church…I’ve felt, for far too long, that too many women are content to let someone else step up and lead. Absolutely men are called to be “the” leaders of the church, but if we aren’t getting the value, input, and gifting of the women then we are not really reaching the “entire” church, now are we?

    There’s so much more to this topic Michelle…so much more…I’d love to see you tackle it a little more.

    Kudos to you for throwing it out there!


  6. Cayce Harris says:

    Hi Michelle,

    I am one of the other women who was at Q. My sweet friend passed your blog post on to me and the other two women who attended with us. It’s funny because we never talked about how few women were there, but it was a conversation that was so obvious it almost didn’t need to happen.

    I have, on a number of occasions, had it explained to me that men have a problem with passivity in the church…so before they start letting women speak up (aka preach, teach) they’d rather focus on urging men out of passivity and into Godly leadership.

    I loved seeing the not-at-all passive men at Q. Awesome.

    However, I “blame” that mindset in part for giving me an out. With that explanation of the need for men to step up and out of passivity, my heart quietly said, “ok.” That ok turned me away from stepping into my gifting, not toward it. It was very subtle, but something in me agreed with the lie, God wouldn’t want me to speak truth to men.

    WHAT!!?? That’s crazy from where I sit now, but we all know how subtle lies can be.

    Without the female voice, there is a huge hole in our conversations and experiences of faith. Likewise, without the masculine voice, a part of the whole is missing.

    My thoughts throughout the entire Q experience: who will teach on intimacy? I truly enjoyed each presentation, maybe too much because I love to get all “heady” and could talk all night with anyone who will listen about redemption and the Gospel engaging our culture in a way that benefits all and shouts of the Kingdom. But there was a voice that felt left out (although Jo, a woman presenter, hit on it): the whisper of His voice that speaks so intimately to the deepest parts of us and says “let me heal you, let me hold you, let me lead you, NOW walk this way.”

    We talked all around it…we all tried to walk away with a description of the one thing we’ll do this year. That’s great, however I think often we must be reminded of the deep love relationship that all love of neighbor must stem from. Men can certainly speak to this, however I am willing to bet that most often for the feminine voice, it comes a bit more naturally.

    This is NO knock to Q…I am grateful and enjoyed each moment. It is only an observation and something I got to hear from a gentleman on the final day; He too thought the female voice was somewhat absent and seemed to think we all may have been better off had it not been.

    Thanks for your thoughts and the opportunity to leave mine.


  7. cindyscottday says:

    Maybe there was a time when women weren’t the best choice as leaders and teachers. But we have women senators, congressional representatives, judges, college professors and university presidents, CEOs and hopefully someday a woman president. There have been many queens who ruled their countries, even centuries ago, and many presidents and prime ministers in other countries. There are many women heads of household. Women are scientists, doctors, astronauts, engineers, and inventors. Women hold high ranks in the armed forces and die defending our country. And women (mothers and wives) have long been understood to be primary influences in prominent men’s lives. There are many women who will be lost to the Christian message if they believe it can only come from a man’s tongue. It’s really simply just time to get over it.

  8. Kathy Friend says:

    Ya know, it is funny that you post this. So many times God puts something on my heart – some issue – and then reminds me to ‘do something’ about it over and over and over again; every song I hear, every podcast I listen to, every blog post I read. Oi!

    Yes – I would love to see more women in leadership ministry roles in the church. But consider this; do you think men can be led by women? Considering the natural make up of men, how God made men…I don’t know the answer, just posing a question.

    I think the role of Christian Women in the church is such a big topic – it is impossible to cover here. I do believe that we, as women who profess to be saved followers of Christ, have a great responsibility. Not only to the “church”, but to our communities.

    I can’t imagine if I weren’t able to show God’s love to other women, to encourage women, or to use the abilities and talents God has given me to really make a difference.

    However, with responsibility and leadership comes criticism. With criticism comes transparency. Many women I know are too guarded to allow transparency; and don’t posses the self esteem to handle criticism. And, in all honesty, I am probably one of those women (too!). So the issue (I believe) lies with us, first. Considering the book(s) ‘Power of a Praying Wife’ – in order to have a good husband, be a good wife. In order to gain leadership roles…become a good leader.

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