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September 18, 2003

Is the Emerging Church just another Male thing?

Jonny commented on one of our conversation threads the other night by writing: one of the things we chatted about was whether emerging church was just another male thing - hopefully it isn't... it certainly shouldn't be or something's gone wrong. but we certainly need more female voices and leaders and bloggers....

It�s something we've kind of talked about here before, but I am still wondering a lot about it too. My anecdotal evidence is that the make up of those attending Emerging Churches in Melbourne is 60-70% female, yet most EC networking gatherings (for leaders and key players) are dominated by males. (which is pretty similar to mainline church in Australia too)

Is Emerging Church thinking and leadership dominated by males? If so what might be the reasons? How might balance be attained?

Posted by Darren at September 18, 2003 05:47 PM | TrackBack

Yes it's a "male thing" (MT). It's a MT because leadership in the evangelical church is a MT, and a lot of the emerging church stuff is an evangelical thing.

If there is a day when women represent 50% of the leadership of the church (and I think there will be), that day is several generations away. It is also going to trail the day that women are 50% of leadership in general society by a generation (so says my crystal ball).

This doesn't give us an excuse, we need to be a good place for women who are called to leadership to hang out, we need to pay attention to what they say when it seems to them like we aren't.

There's one proposal for what to do about this on the emergentvillage web site, Mentoring Women Leaders for the Emerging Church by Holly Rankin Zaher and Heather Kirk-Davidoff.

Posted by: Michael Toy at September 19, 2003 01:14 AM

the truth be known.... guys just talk too much

Posted by: tom fehr at September 19, 2003 11:06 AM

Tom--that was funny:)

Michael--interesting stuff. I'll be checking out the website after I write this here.

Let me tell you my own experience with Church and women in leadership. I'm a woman (surprise, surprise) and I'm studying to be an Elder in the Church of the Nazarene. Elder means that you can be a Sr. Pastor. Deacon/Deaconess means you're not a Sr. Pastor--you don't preach. Okay? Currently, I'm a part-time Children's Pastor.

Now, the Church of the Naz. is an evangelical church that ordains women. The main church government is supportive of women. The problem is, there are people (both men and women) in the church who say they support women in leadership, but in reality, they don't. These are the ones who think it's great that I'm a Children's Pastor, but then are shocked that I preach on Sunday Evenings. These same people ask, "Doesn't your husband pastor?" (Currently, he doesn't. He's studying to be an Evangelist, actually.) I have friends, other women pastors, who honestly believe that I'm a rogue because I believe that my husband and I share the responsibility for spiritual leadership in our family. I have one friend, a long-time Children's Pastor, who believes I will have to learn someday "the hard way" the importance of "being submissive to my husband's leadership."

Attitudes like that can be hard to fight. Personally, the gender issue hurts me (and my husband) more than anyone probably realizes. It hurts so much that I get sick of talking about it. I get tired of trying to make a difference with church people. I'd rather go talk to the "world"--at least they think it's cool that I'm a pastor. I don't have to defend myself with them. The people I've had the most trouble with has been The Church. They're the ones who bum me out the most.

Posted by: Missy at September 19, 2003 11:27 AM

I think it's a male thing largely because the evangelical church, with the increase in charismatic influence in recent decades (thanks to Pete Ward in The Post-Evangelicals for pointing that out). The evangelical church is not a testosterone-friendly place. The highest values are meekness and brokenness and love and worship. None of these really gets a man's adrenaline pumping. So we start looking for other expressions of church that allow us to be men (and allow women to be women, for that matter).

Posted by: Justin Baeder at September 19, 2003 12:18 PM

me thinks your holiday has given you far to much time for gazing at the navel Darren.

Posted by: chris at September 19, 2003 02:28 PM

Look at theOoze's blog. Only 4 (out of 29) contributors are women. They could fix that.

Posted by: Ellen at September 19, 2003 05:25 PM

I'm sorry, I not understanding what Chris is saying. Is that a joke?

Posted by: Missy at September 19, 2003 10:48 PM

To come in at this from a slightly different angle - I've been in the middle of moving and have missed a couple of months reading, but all of a sudden (it seems to me, at least), this exciting new stuff going on at Living Room and others has become labelled and to some extent, put in the box of 'Emerging Church'.

I read here some months back that there are now conferences on Emerging Church, discussing how they should be structured...AGGGHHHHH!!! Here we go again! I've been part of a church for 7 years that grew from nothing - it had no denomination requirements, no structures in place - the church was completely free to follow its own vision of building community. 7 years down the line, and it's hard to tell it apart from other 'new' churches. The people wanted the same leadership roles, the same Sunday and Wednesday meetings, the same accountability....

I'm frustrated that such a cool idea like Living Room has felt the need to align itself with others who are doing similar 'new' stuff - why not have the courage and vision to do your own thing and not harp back to the old structures (which come from the Roman Empire, not Christ)?

Will the 'Emerging Church' become just another historical ideal, like all the other denominations that have come and gone?

Posted by: Penny at September 20, 2003 12:02 PM


Interesting. For me its very important that in any new way of being church we consider how to create minimal and reflective sustaining structures. So for me, it is important that there is a balance between men and women in what you do. In moot we hold this as one of our key starting values. If emerging church is not inclusive and considers this then it is in danger of creating white middle class male decision making processes. It is easier to say than to do - but for me this is key. Ian Mobsby

Posted by: Ian Mobsby (UK) at September 20, 2003 06:15 PM

Frankly, no matter what you believe on this issue (and I'm not going to state my beliefs in this comment because it doesn't matter), the discussion is far from over. There are lots of good reasons for interpreting Scripture either way. As long as interpretation is split, we won't see a 50/50 thing.

And, even if we someday clear up the issue in such a way that there is unity in the church in an interpretation that there is no gender distinction in the pulpit, there is no guarantee 50/50 will ever be the reality. If God chooses who his pastors will be, then the percentages will fall in line with His desires for His church, and not with politics or demographics.

Posted by: kevin at September 21, 2003 10:00 AM

INCLUSIVE CHURCH, Responding to Kevin

Sorry Kevin but I Don't agree. If we took that line then there would never of been the abolution of slavery, or votes for women in democracy. For me God throughout the covers of the bible is calling for justice and for the 'chosen people' to be just in its govenance. Go and look at Amos, or Jesus' care for women and the socially excluded and the judgement of Ezekiel on Jerusalem before the exile. God calls us to set up just and equitable inclusive structures as part of the new community. Failure to do so ignores the biblical narrative at its peril.

Posted by: Ian Mobsby (UK) at September 22, 2003 09:29 PM

as one of the few women going to a lot of emerging church stuff, and being the person who owns the web url 'emergingchurch.org' (something i've had for three years now, before it was being used a lot), i do agree that the new/post/young evangelicals have taken the lead in seeing how the postmodern shift is moving us towards a re-modulation of church, and they are excited... which i find heartening, as in my neck of the woods (the mainline/ sidelined) missional excitement is harder to come by... so the re-cognition of the postmodernn shift and the excitement about new vectors for mission in todays culture, is the primary reason i keep 'hangin' with the boys,' who have become my friends, and who are beloved servants of the lord.

as this movemen matures, i am hoping that the field of vision matures as well, and begins to notice things otherwise unnoticed and to seek out alternate vantage points and vistas that are readily available, yet still untrodden, bypassed and over-looked.

as i and my cohorts try to awaken our snoozing traditions and help them expand their view toward mission, i'm praying that my new/post/young evangelical freinds will begin do the same...

for the gestalt of the church to emerge in all dimensions (of space and relationality) then all of us (mainline, evangelical, roman, orthodox and pentecostal) have a critical part to play.

for the emerging church to be whole, all of us can do our part to allow god's spirit to expand our own limited field of vision... and this can take place as we discover that there is a certain way of pilgrimage required to compose a viewscape of the 'whole elephant.'

there is some old tribal saying that says, 'because an elephant is big,' therefore what you see of it depends on your angle of vision towards it... so if you stand in front you will see the trunk. if you stand in the rear you'll see it's tail and tushie. if you stand beneath it, you will only see only the belly. if you stand to the side of it, you will see the profile... so no single vantage point will show you the full majestic totality of the elephant... so all the traditions of the great church (positioned below, above, beneath... the elephant) have a needed field of vision and needed point of view.

on the woman thing, i'd suggest that any brave emerging males, if they want to expand their vision about women in leadership, simply walk down the elephant to any lutheran, methodist, episcopal or united church, and sit in a pew for a while... and if you do, you will experience a glimpse of the evolution of having women in leadership for the past 40 years (as many of these christian tribe began ordaining women in the 60's and 70's) so natch, no wheel here has to be totally invented when it already exists, and has for at least a generation.

i posted something on this on my blog over a year ago.

currently we have two young male interns/seminarians/postlulants at our little church of the apostles in seattle. both i and our music director (aged 22) are women. our senior warden is a man (who wears a utili-kilt on occasion) and the amazig thing is, nobody seems to care!
so three cheers for the truly emerging chuch, as it matures, evolves and liquifies itself towards expanded fields of vision into the kingdom of god.

Posted by: karen ward at September 24, 2003 01:03 AM

well said Karen - thanks for your comments, they were very timely for me.

Posted by: Darren Rowse at September 24, 2003 09:24 AM

Ian -

As I wrote, I'm not talking about whether women should be a part of it. I'm not stating my position on that at all. All I'm saying is that until the church as a whole reaches concensus, there will never be a 50/50 split.

Posted by: kevin at September 24, 2003 10:05 AM

I'm new to all this but fascinated. I'm male and the vicar of a UK Anglican church with 4 congregations - one of which meets cafe-style with no songs or sermon. Is this an emerging church?

We have a leadership of 4 for the new congregation - three guys and "a token women" we call her with mock irony.

Reflection: I heard of research which analysed casual conversations in pubs etc. The research suggested that 95% of all changes in the conversation topic were instigated by men. If chnage is something that leaders do and followers don't then... maybe leadership is biologically male?
Does this reflect how things always are (nature) or how things are in a fallen world?

Posted by: Derek at October 2, 2003 09:17 AM
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