“The contemporary struggle of women for recognition in the Church should not be necessary. The apostles gave women recognized roles in the work of the early Church. Paul writes: “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon in the Church at Cenchreae. Receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints and help her with anything she may need from you, for she has been a benefactor to many people, including myself. Greet Prisca and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their own necks to save my life, and not only I but also the Gentile churches thank them” (Rom 16:1-4).”
― The Road of Hope: A Gospel from Prison
I have been thinking about this post since I read it, so I wanted to share it with you to get your take. The Christian Post posted Pope Francis allows women to be voting members in Synod of Bishops. At first, I thought this was a Babylon Bee satire.
Pope Francis will allow women to be voting members of the Roman Catholic Church’s Synod of Bishops, a first since the pontifical advisory body was created more than 50 years ago.
The Secretariat for the Synod of Bishop announced Wednesay that 70 members of the synod, which is scheduled to meet in two sessions slated to take place in October 2023 and October 2024, will be non-bishop members of the Church, with half of them being women.
The 70 individuals will be appointed by the pontiff from a list of 140 people compiled by the International Reunions of Bishops’ Conferences and the Assembly of Patriarchs of Eastern Catholic Churches, according to Vatican News.
Although the Pope claims this was a needed change, not a revolution, many in the media saw this as a pivotal revision. NPR posted In a historic shift, Pope Francis allows women to vote at bishops’ meetings.
Catholic women’s groups that have long criticized the Vatican for treating women as second-class citizens immediately praised the move as historic in the 2,000-year life of the church.
“This is a significant crack in the stained glass ceiling, and the result of sustained advocacy, activism and the witness” of a campaign of Catholic women’s groups demanding the right to vote, said Kate McElwee of the Women’s Ordination Conference, which advocates for women priests.
…Until now, the only people who could vote were men. But under the new changes, five religious sisters will join five priests as voting representatives for religious orders. In addition, Francis has decided to appoint 70 non-bishop members of the synod and has asked that half of them be women. They too will have a vote.
The Pope has not changed his mind on women in the priesthood, but he has been known for wanting to give women more of a voice in the Church’s governance and has appointed women to other high-ranking positions. As NPR wrote:
Francis has upheld the Catholic Church’s ban on ordaining women as priests, but has done more than any pope in recent time to give women greater say in decision-making roles in the church.
He has appointed several women to high-ranking Vatican positions, though no women head any of the major Vatican offices or departments, known as dicasteries.
The Washington Post published Women can vote for first time at key meeting for Catholics, pope rules.
Maeve Louise Heaney, Xavier chair of theological formation at Australian Catholic University, said in a phone interview that it was a “logical step forward” for the synod.
“We all know that it is different when you have only a bunch of men, or only a bunch of women, to when you have diversity in a room,” she added. “When you have diversity in the room, the conversation shifts.”
…“The church will be more complete, and it will be a joy to have her represented in her entirety in Rome,” Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary general of the Secretariat for the Synod, and Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the Synod’s relator general, said in the Vatican’s announcement.
Just as the SBC has the Conservative Baptist Network, the RCC has its conservative naysayers.
Heaney said there would probably be strong — and opposing — reactions to the pope’s decision from conservative and liberal Catholics. “You can get all kinds of reactions when a decision is made to give women more of a voice,” she said.
“The one thing I hope in my heart is that we are capable of welcoming this intelligently,” she said, “and not allowing our individual fears to overtake what is simply a step to listen more broadly to membership of the church.”
So what about complementarian churches that do not allow women a say on elder boards or the denominational hierarchy?
I have long believed that there is a way for women to have a voice, even if a church maintains that only men can be pastors or priests. My Lutheran church has shown me a way for that to be accomplished. The pastors, the Church’s only elders, meet regularly with the leadership team, whose membership can change every year. It comprises the leaders of the various ministries in the Church. Women lead some of the ministries. Also, the Directors of Christian Education, one of whom is a woman, meet regularly with the pastors. Women have some input into how the Church is run. (I find it amusing that the men’s ministry is the one that cooks for church events.)
I suggest churches that do not allow women in leadership form a council of women who can send a representative to the elder and deacon meetings. These women can provide a voice, and I would suggest a vote on contentious matters affecting the Church. One vote will not change the men’s governance but could give much-needed pushback to the menfolk. Why is this not Scriptural? However, I bet the theodudes will heatedly weigh in on this.
Throughout history, women have been excluded from leadership in the Church with some notable exceptions, which I plan to discuss soon. I learned much in Italy, finding that the historical Church often celebrated and extolled the role of women. Unfortunately, much of this history has been lost to the current evangelical conservatives who see church history as starting with John Calvin.
Prediction: I believe that the Pope’s action is the first step to changes that will soon come down the road in evangelicalism. Evangelicals have had to face the problem of racism, which is still going on. See the current and unexpected brouhaha of the Executive Committee vote for its President. I will write about this next time. In years to come, more of these church votes will involve the votes of women because they will realize they have a “women problem.”One hundred years from now, I predict that the gender landscape of contemporary Christianity will look quite different.
Thx so much, Dee, for this post. I saw the news and I’m ever grateful you are opening up this discussion at TWW.
Your prediction may happen much sooner than 100 years.
These are welcome changes that need to happen.
Right the wrongful treatment of women in a society, then all ships rise. IMHO. Even most men will fare better … though little do some realize this now.
Dee, let’s pray that the gender landscape of contemporary Christianity will look much different five years from now. Given all the scandals of well-known church leaders and declining church membership/attendance, things will certainly look different, sooner rather than later.
After a contentious church business meeting decades ago, I asked the interim pastor at the SBC church we were attending “What’s it going to take for things to change around here?” He replied “Young man, it’s not going to get any better until the old deacons die.”
Things aren’t going to get any better for women in SBC life and elsewhere until the “religion” of the old guard dies … until the mantle is passed to a more spiritual bunch who know that there should be no distinction in the Body of Christ in race, class or gender (because God said so).
IMHO, not every religious group is on par with the SBC.
Some are. Maybe the PCA. There’s a twitter discourse right now about the meanness of the PCA and the “reformed” crowd.
Apparently a lot of religious groups love to hate women. Or, maybe they just love to hate thinking women with voices, pens, and keyboards. Jimmy Carter spoke of this regarding religious groups in his Tedtalk.
for the ‘whole’ Church (eventually)
. . . a hopeful change going forward
Francis, the man who said ‘who am I to judge?’
IS ‘a man for all seasons’, it seems 🙂
humility brings grace, then comes wisdom
Other religions may become more inclusive towards women, but I don’t see it happening in the SBC any time soon….. as in 10 years, or more. I ramble around most of western Kentucky and a fair portion of western and middle Tennessee…… I venture into eastern portions occasionally. If anything, SBC churches in this area are getting even stricter on women’s “roles”.
The impunity is the point! The only way authoritarian leaders will soften on patriarchy is if doing so consolidates their power.
Or, maybe they just love to hate thinking women with voices, pens, and keyboards.
Just judging from my experience, you came pretty close to hitting the nail square on the head. This is pretty close to my experiences in the SBC since the BF&M 2K started gaining ground around here (late 2011/ early 2012).
I have a degree in math. I was a 7-12 teacher, so I have an education and the experience.
I taught a mixed gender adolescent SS class at the next to my last church. (I was the only bonafide, licensed teacher there.). A few of the men railed about a woman teaching teenage boys. One of those men also taught a young adult class. When we left, no one would take my class, so it had to be absorbed. Aforementioned man had to take my boys. He taught one more class meeting and resigned.
The church also started a youth outreach program there. Hubby drove church bus and I supervised the kids. I missed 2 nights because I was sick – hubby said kids were completely out of control when I wasn’t there. I’m not assuming that the program hinged on us, but it dwindled to nothing 2 or 3 months after we left. I do know that the gentle, soft-spoken man who volunteered to take over driving the bus asked for someone else to take the job after he drove a few times, and no one would.
Same church also had a female treasurer who had to give the report at each business meeting. The same men objected loudly and profusely at every business meeting to having a woman treasurer. Treasurer became so aggravated that she and her female assistant (both of whom have business degrees and worked at banks, btw) offered to resign one night. Not a single man volunteered to take over the position and none would accept a nomination.
The pastor didn’t exactly approve of women doing the things we 3 women did, but he knew that none of the men had the training and qualifications to do what we did.
PS – The church we transferred to is even more strict on women. So, I quit.
I offer this as a story of hope.
My husband and I had re-entered the church dating scene. I was visiting a church for the first time on their anniversary Sunday, when all ministry leads were giving a report on the last year’s happenings.
When it was the senior pastor’s turn, he said that the entire leadership team had read “A Church Called Tov.” And they were convicted by the need to not simply reach out to those typically on the sidelines, but to actually put them in leadership roles. And so they asked the children’s ministry director, a woman, if she’d accept a calling as pastor, since she was already a pastor in everything but name. She accepted.
I have church PTSD, and have lost count of the number of times I’ve had to leave a service because something from the pulpit set it off. Well, this was the first time I started tearing up in the service for a GOOD reason. Next Sunday, I brought my husband back. Then we brought the kids. And have been going strong (for us) since then.
It’s too early to tell if this will become a long-term church home for my family, but even if not, it was nice to see a glimmer of hope.
Sorry Dee but the “Pope argument” is weak – unless you are in satire mode. The so called “Synod of Bishops” is an instrument for lording it, “entrance to” which is confined to those already primed in the latest twists of corporate policy. The Roman church was never meant to be a voting affair but the “sensus fideorum” worked haphazardly up to approx 1980.
Male and female are intended as joint category in God’ eyes, not neglecting non-mammalian facets. But those who lord it are not an acceptable category in His eyes at all. So, doing that was a deceptive attempt on their part to not fix the problem. Allow a small overt wrong to fester (planned hostage to fortune) so that that can be “shown” to be the sole visible fix “needed”. One of the smaller objective wrongs in its own current context, such that “righting” it rights nothing.
Top level Acts 29 or TGC ploys flaunting “ain’t it good to be bad” are just agents provocateurs to see if there is still mileage in confusion sowing (my guess is, plenty, unless we implore the Lord). The stories commenters are coming out with are ground-floor and where real church action is at. TGC / Acts 29 elites hijack and invert genuine humble successes to enforce their own image.
Paul says: “I do not (present tense) allow one of the women to initiate men (until she is firmer)”, she having been an “exotic initiator” until recently, and because Paul understands what intense sacred power of any religion or sect is, which the superapostles are making larger scale misuse of.
Sound hermeneutics makes one a better believer. Not superstition, not materialism. Ascending wasn’t something quaint that an eccentric Jesus did to liven up a dull Thursday. In the so called go-ahead 2020s why would “good christians” embrace irrationalism ever more “firmly”?
The Pope may realize the church has a woman problem, but until something is actually done by the Pope, it is all just talk IMO. Look at how much talk the SBC leaders have done about sexual abuse over the decades and what have they actually done-nothing but delay.
Weak, unspiritual men have to control something … even if they have to distort Scripture to defend their ungodly power over God’s children.
As Matt Chandler said in an interview with John Piper “I preach to men” … in the same interview condescendingly referring to female members of ‘his’ church as “our girls”. The image that TGC/Acts 29 bears is not the image of Christ.
Reminiscent of the famous Max Planck quote cited by Isaac Asimov:
“A great scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”
To the point of their Pastors (“TOUCH NOT MINE ANOINTED!”) getting their own Commanders’ Harems of Handmaids?
All I can say is that in many (if not most) Catholic parishes in the US, while the Pastor is male, most of the committees and Parish Council that does the day-to-day aeministration are headed by women.
The Ideal CHRISTIAN Woman:
Barefoot, Pregnant, and Uttterly Submissive.
Playground Masculinity all the way – “BOYZ RULE! GURLZ DROOL!”
In the UK women have been recognized in Baptist churches since 1918. In 1853 Anita Brown Blackwell was ordained in the United States in a Congregationalist church. When we were living in the UK our Baptist church ( evangelical ) was led by two women pastors and other outstanding women elders. Our church, generally Arminian and strongly ‘ Bible believing’, never noticed whether the pastor or teacher was a man or a woman, but focused on their teaching. We were also blessed by some dedicated men pastors and excellent deacons.
In England Thomas Helwys’ Confession of faith in 1611 outlined the declaration of faith which characterized the theology of the General Baptists, and he wrote against the Calvinist doctrine of limited atonement. He also said that “The officers of the church or congregation are either elders , who by their office do especially feed the flock concerning their souls, or deacons , men , and women, who by their office relieve the necessities of the poor and impotent brethren concerning their bodies.” He was arrested by James 1 and died in prison.
Living amongst American Christians I find it difficult to come to terms with the extensive complementarianism here. Even if, as Dee says, some leadership is allowed, it is still putting women at a supportive rather than a truly leadership ‘role’. All true shepherds should be servants , of course, and some of these ‘pastors’ should recognize this.
Headless Unicorn Guy,
Sounds like a monarchy.
I’ve often noticed how organizational structures Americans would die to resist are celebrated in many churches.
Sarah (aka Wild Honey),
Thank you for this, SARAH
hope saves us from the darkness
Do you recommend that book ‘A Church Called Tov’ ? It seems to have opened the eyes of your new churches’ elderly leaders . . .
I hope you and your family will be a long time in the presence of ‘hope’.
Thanks again for sharing the encouragement. 🙂
It’s hard to fathom how the stuff you’ve described can be in this day and age.
Headless Unicorn Guy,
you speak truth;
but no one should underestimate the strength of those nuns . . . whoah!
I taught in the inner city and my vice-principal (also a Catholic) and I were talking about what would help the kids with their behaviors and attitudes the most:
I said ‘five nuns coming in here to kick tail’
She agreed.. . . we both knew EXACTLY what that meant
There are some forces in this world that do not need to rise ‘to the top’ to ‘matter’.
The nuns in our youth were such women: we may have at times feared them and respected them and loved them, but no doubt, they knew how to ‘kick tail’ in a way that did not break our spirits, but inspired us to keep trying and to do better
Those ‘men’ at the ‘top’: they at heart all know better, too. They KNOW. It’s that ‘crucifix’ they look at that teaches them this truth:
IF any REAL Christian ‘leader’ feels he needs to ‘be raised up’ in the eyes of his ‘followers’ in order to be respected, all he has to do is to imagine how Christ was raised up. Then he will quietly walk away from all thought of pedestals; because he knows that the Only One who ever deserved to be on a pedestal, chose the Cross instead
For someone who spent 70+ years in SBC life trying to make a difference, I’m not surprised at all. Walk into just about any SBC church in rural America and you will encounter such treatment of female believers. It may not be obvious at first glance during a Sunday morning visit, but look more closely – you can discern the oppression by the countenance of church women.
A direct result of Calvinization of the SBC in recent years.
I wouldn’t hold my breath about this as a sign of change.
The RC church is overdue a major schism. You read RC Twitter and you just wonder how can there be anything positive from the continual politicking and bitching.
They have a particular difficulty because in their ecclesiology only one half of a split can be ‘the’ church (which may or may not be the group which gets the real estate and the Swiss bank accounts). This is the only thing holding the different factions together, but they are at least as divided as all the groups calling itself Anglican are
But if it comes there are four potential groups competing
1. The old rite crowd
2. The JP2 type conservatives
3. Middle of the road contemporary Catholics (these are the ones that history will decide are the RC church)
4. Very liberal ‘spirit of Vatican 2’ types
Presently they’re all waiting for Francis to die – his tendency to improvise and say different things to different people has got a lot of people’s backs up and what will happen then will depend on the next pope.
It would not be impossible for Francis’s move to be reversed in short order.
I do hope the Catholic Church sets some sort of noticeable example for the more strict Christian faiths. Even a long, steep journey begins with a single step.
My 1st husband and his family were Catholic, so I am somewhat familiar with Catholicism, at least during the second half of the ‘80s (before the SBC CR). I did not get along with the priest, at all. For the record, neither did my Catholic mother-in-law.
By the time my 1st husband died, the old priest had left and a new, much younger priest was at the helm. He treated women and girls with much more respect, concern, and friendliness than the old guy……. but the same rules and teachings pertaining to females still applied. The new priest actually sat and talked with me privately for quite sometime when preparing for the funeral. He allowed me to decide what scriptures would be read at the service, knowing full well that I was not Catholic and never would be.
(Just an FYI: A nun cleaned the priests living quarters and prepared their meals, and provided and served refreshments for guests in the quarters.)
Shake the dust off the sandals while moving right along, Jesus advised when what the disciples had to offer was not welcomed.
IMHO, this applies to women disciples, too. Nowadays included. For those who do not welcome the gifts and talents of women, it’s their (the misogynists’) loss.
Moving on is what Jesus advised.
I wonder what Fr. Guido Sarducci would think about all of this.
Stewardship Commission Chairwoman and Spanish Music Director here. “Someone stop me before I volunteer again!”
Here in the Ozarks in the SBC it appears women’s roles continue to dwindle. But then again the male leadership here is convinced Bill Gates puts tracking devices in you if you get a covid vaccine, that covid does not exist but is only a fantasy designed to dethrone their savior of the country, the orange king, and that masks cover the masculine beard so they emasculate men who wear them. They also don’t see you as fully Christian if you see the world as over 6000 years old so there is that.
As one old gal put it, said with extremely heavy southern accent, “They’s gone sla-a-a-p nuuuttttsss.
Lol, sadly Linda, I’ve seen the same things here, far from the Ozarks and not in the SBC.
If the Pope knows he must include women to full enfranchisement, He’s also gotta’ include the Wilson sisters:
Thank you, Sarah (aka Wild Honey), for sharing your story of hope. 🙂
Hopefully things will continue going well for you and your family in that church 🙂 — and that it will also be a long-time church home for you and your family. 🙂
I can understand why you quit!!!
Your whole comment made me laugh (in a good way ), Nancy2(aka Kevlar).
Thank you for sharing….now I’m going to go back to eating lunch.
Very generous. Hope you’re appreciated.
Don’t forget the ‘they’ on the other side of the great coin flip.
People in my adult faith class (ELCA Lutheran) were shocked to find out that I don’t believe in evolution and that the Earth’s age is not in the billions of units.
I’ve always been an anomaly who doesn’t fit into any one thought category.
In this strange new world, we have great need for them what ‘marches to a different drummer’. That takes courage in a world where being ‘lock-step’ is rewarded too often by the angry and the powerful.
If you long to sing the old songs of Zion, sing them. All voices are needed in ‘the whole Church’ . . . no one is dispensable. The mysteries of God call to us all.
“But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3:8)
Good! let’s stay that way!
“The only goal of Power is POWER. And POWER consists of inflicting maximum suffering upon the powerless.”
— Comrade O’Brian, Inner Party, Airstrip One, Oceania Nineteen Eighty-Four
“There is no Right, there is no Wrong, there is only POWER.”
— Lord Voldemort
“POWER IS POWER.”
— Queen Cersei Lannister, Game of Thrones