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Friday, 5 April 2013

The Glass Ceiling for Women in the Church

So I've been reading a book by Danny Silk (from Bethel Church in the US) called 'Powerful & Free: Confronting the Glass Ceiling for Women in the Church' and I've got to say it's fab! As the title might imply, Silk obviously takes the position that Women should be able to lead in Churches. Now, I am a Bethel fan and I love a lot of what they do over there, but I recognise that some don't - it's very American, some would say it's extreme, some might say it's even heretical. Personally I think that's a load of tosh but I can see why some would find Bethel a bit hard to get a grip on. The reason I say all this, is to say: if that's you, then don't discount this book because of it's Bethel links! I think it's a very balanced book, with some great scriptural basis for his opinions, and it addresses the main points against women leading rather than riding rough-shod over them. I would recommend it to anyone considering this issue.

I should say my own position is that I believe women should be able to lead in the church. I didn't always feel that way, but when I didn't it was basically because I was uneducated about the whole thing. I now work for an Anglican fresh expression church and I am shortly going to start training to be an Anglican Priest. The journey to this point has not been easy it's fair to say, and I am in one of the most traditional dioceses in the country, but actually the problems I have faced have been more about the kind of ministry I would like to be in (and the kind of church I attend) than the fact that I have boobs. The church that I am in fully supports women's ministry and in fact there are several women on the staff team and one on the oversight team.

It's very interesting that many evangelical churches are anti-women in church leadership, particularly in the US, and yet Bethel which is certainly evangelical in it's outlook, does not adhere to all the beliefs that often go with evangelical churches. Our church is very similar in it's outlook to Bethel. Obviously for the Anglican church in this country there is a very real glass ceiling (which all being well will shortly be shattered) of not having women Bishops. I find it utterly amazing that women can be overlooked in such a way and yet it actually happens on so many levels in the church. Do you know at the vote at general synod the women reps of this diocese all voted against the motion. That staggers me more than anything.  Women are the ones who put up with being put on sunday school duty, or preparing the flowers, or making the coffee, even those with amazing spiritual gifts and yet given the opportunity to make a difference they would not stand up and do it! So often the church stifles the gifts God has given them and puts them where they don't want to be but the truth is that some women go along with this argument, and more than that, they actually reinforce it.

One of the main points Danny Silk makes in this book is that without women in leadership we don't have a balance. A balance of opinions, skills, gifts. So how can we expect to run a balanced church? The bible talks in several places about the body of Christ and each part having it's own function, but together they form a whole. Surely by missing a part of that we are creating an unbalanced body?

Another way he talks about this is that by saying that in empowering women, it also releases men into their true destiny. It's like the opposing business models which say 1) Work on your weak points so that you will be all round good worker or: 2) work on your strong points, this is where you are naturally gifted and can increase in your productivity. 1 - is the old school view and 2 - seems to be the norm these days. So if all our male leaders are trying to be everything, trying to fulfil all roles, they will become weaker in their actual gifts, wasting too much time and energy on the things they are not naturally gifted to do. Actually how much more efficient is it to encourage everyone in their giftings regardless of their gender? It's the importance of a team working together, inspired, anointed and gifted to do God's will. Silk uses the example of a family, and so often we talk of the church as a family don't we? (and I'm not going to go into discussion here about single parent families, homosexual parents or anything else) but most families have a mother and a father, and each has a role to play, we cannot expect men to fulfil both roles and it's the same in the church, each brings a different view and different skills. 

It seems such an obvious point and yet so often we get bogged down in how one person interprets a scripture over another's interpretation. I believe we have to form our opinions based on our own experience of Jesus and of the bible. It's a dangerous thing to take every or indeed any scripture out of context and quote it literally. And in fact all of the scriptures that are used to confirm the view that women shouldn't lead can be taken in more than one way, especially if you look at the context surrounding them. So it becomes one persons view against another. So with that in mind we are left with our own opinions and our own experiences. This is mine:

I absolutely believe that God has called me into ministry in the church. This is not something I have sought, in fact I spent a long time in denial about the whole thing. (and more here). And yet this calling was confirmed so many times and in many ways, through people who didn't know me, through people who did, through people in the church and out of it. And at every turn I have asked God to shut the door if this is not right. How can that be explained if women shouldn't be in leadership? Am I continually hearing God wrong? Are the people who confirmed that calling in me hearing God wrong? Is the Bishop wrong? is God wrong? 

(links above to other posts I have written on my experience!)

If you are someone considering this issue, I would really recommend the book and I'd love to know what others have thought of it...

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