Tertullian in the Church
I’m continuing to enjoy (and be challenged by) Sarah Bessey’s Jesus Feminist. Yesterday, I came across the following description of male privilege, from Bessey’s journey with the evangelical church:
“A woman managed the children’s ministry. Her role was almost identical to my husband’s role as youth pastor: she preached, prepared sermons, organized programs, counseled, loved kids, trained leaders, attended strategy meetings, and managed a budget, among other staff duties such as prayer meetings and hospital visits. And yet the church called my husband Pastor Brian, and she was just Lisa. I couldn’t figure out why her official title was director instead of pastor. I was told the omission of ‘Pastor’ from her title was ‘for appearances’–to avoid a direct challenge to certain passages of Scripture about women being silent in the church, or ‘You know–how women can’t be pastors.’ One person told me that it was also because if she had the title of pastor, she would automatically be part of the executive team, and the team needed to be only composed of men because a woman would change its dynamic. It was believed that her presence in their meetings would mean that the guys couldn’t be as honest or open; she would upset the delicate accountability structure and honest dialogue of the inner sanctums of church leadership. Lisa did not let her lack of a title hold her back from building a complex and strong ministry centered on discipling kids in the ways of Jesus. Semantics and titles weren’t her worry; she pastored those kids and their parents, whether anyone wanted to call her pastor or not.
Upon my introduction to the larger Church culture, I discovered that the way I grew up, particularly in terms of ‘women in ministry,’ was not common. Everywhere I turned, evangelical sermons on marriage were filled with ‘Oh, you know women’ jokes. Generally speaking, women were perceived as soft, emotional, and naturally nurturing, while men were positioned as natural leaders, hating to talk about relationships, and requiring more sex. Male and female relationships were framed as fairy tales where women are encouraged to be passive receivers and men are the heroic rescuers or as a contest and exercise in combat and negotiation. There was a lot of talk in those days of the ‘feminization of the church’ and how guys needed to step up and be men, which apparently resembled the ideal of benevolent dictators, rather than the Son of Man.”
My mom was Children’s Director at our church growing up. Same deal. I wanted to believe her exclusion was about not going to seminary, but the youth pastor (not director) also hadn’t gone to seminary, so that didn’t work. It always bugged me when the pastoral staff was called to the front for something and my mom was excluded. Even a kid can see that’s crap.
The excuses given, at least in Bessey’s story, seem so petty and driven by fear. Sad.