There are no ladies in our Church

I showed Role Calling: Pastor’s Wife: Who Should I Invest In? to Jane (my wife), her first comments were that “I’m no lady” and “There are no ladies in our Church”. It was a matter of debate a few years ago, but apparently there is now unanimity that we don’t have any ladies :-)

Mind you in our house use of language can be the cause of much dissent. For example between scone as in “gone” and scone as in “own” or “lone” :-)

As for me the patriarchal view is just so yucky that it sticks in my throat. Remember that rather than call them selves supporters of “Male Headship” these views are marketed as “Complementarian” where men and women are equal but have different roles. With that “definition” in mind re-read the post and then tell me if you can see anything that gives you the idea that these “ladies” who are “expected to serve in their role as a pastor’s wife” are equal to the pastor?

So just as a reminder here are some of the ways I picked up that show a woman is not equal:

  • They can’t be a pastor
  • They can’t “serve” men
  • They serve by choosing to “pour into” people (what a truly horrible phrase)
  • They can’t have a job
  • Their first priority is care for the home
  • They have their life mapped out into seasons controlling who they should be serving.
  • They have a duty to set an example of not being equal to their husband for other ladies to see.

Cynically it makes me wonder how much connection there is between the need strict programs for the male pastors to avoid moral failure (they mean sex. See 42: protecting against moral failure) and these views of what a wife should be like.

I wonder. If your wife is not your equal then is your eye more likely to wander?

28 thoughts on “There are no ladies in our Church

  1. David Faulkner

    I suppose with all this hierarchical stuff it’s not surprising Mr Seaver has an interesting policy on comments (listed in his right sidebar). Made me think of a certain other Reformed blogger who stopped allowing them altogether. Conversation and other egalitarian values just don’t generally seem to fit, do they?
    One thing I would just say, though, on your final paragraph: I’ve seen ‘moral failure’ in churches of all traditions and theological persuasions.

    Reply
  2. Dave Warnock

    “One thing I would just say, though, on your final paragraph: I’ve seen ‘moral failure’ in churches of all traditions and theological persuasions.”
    Of course you are right, so have I. I was not suggesting any tradition was entirely safe.
    I guess I am extrapolating from my own dis-interest in a submissive, less than equal wife and wondering what that would mean in terms of temptation to “look around”.

    Reply
  3. Sally

    Hmm interesting post, odd isn’t it how the term “ladies” has become synonymous with airs and graces type thinking.
    As for the complementarians, such a nice word for chauvanists I am always astonished when I find women being advocates for such a worldview.
    I can only say that I am glad that my children were brought up without stereotypical roles, the boys are just as capable at housework and cooking as the girls, and the girls expect to work, so true sharing of all responsibilities is the order of the day.
    Sometimes I am surprised at how they have grown up to be such stable youg adults, at others simply pleased that God being our helper we have raised such balanced people!

    Reply
  4. Tom

    Hi,
    Am I the only one tired of all this bitching and moaning about what other Christians are up to?
    Is the work of Role Calling getting in the way of your own ministry? Is it actively blocking you from your work?
    Are you in communication with Role Call to correct him? Or does the blog writer come to your church so you can teach him if you think he’s wrong? Or are you just complaining about what other Christians are doing on the otherside of the world because they share the love of Jesus in a slightly different way?
    I’m tired of this drip, drip, drip of criticism and hostility towards other Christians.
    THe Methodist church in the UK is shrinking, becoming older and more reliant on bureacracy. Rather than moaning about what other Christians are doing…
    (“Oh look! They spread the Gospel of Jesus to 500 new people this week, set up a ministry for the homeless and baptised 45 new members BUT… they did it with a different view of gender and election to us! How terrible! How unGodly!”)
    how about we put away negative comments to concentrate on Christian love towards our bothers and sisters, showing the world this love and telling the Good News.
    I’m not saying we shouldn’t explain our doctrines clearly or that we should be willing to compromise them. But criticising other Christians for the sake of criticising other Christians does no good. Treating someone else as a “complementarian” first and a Christian second is just wrong. Shouldn’t we rejoice over the 95% we agree on – the risen Christ, salvation, the Gospel, etc. rather than making the 5% we don’t agree on the defining issue?

    Reply
  5. Dave Warnock

    Tom,
    I disagree with you. As someone who has benefited a great deal from the ministry of women gender equality is a vital gospel issue for me.
    I wonder how you would feel if you were a woman attacked by so many Christian blogs.

    Reply
  6. Micky

    Thanks Dave. I disagree with Tom at so many levels. The way women – and men – are treated in Churches is a reflection of the kind of God we believe in. If we believe that women and men are created in God’s image (as it tells us in the Bible) then we have to take that very seriously.
    We are also told in the Bible that we have a responsibility to help those within the Christian community who are misled to see truth. Let’s face it, the heart of this issue is one of truth. Do we believe that when Jesus said ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ that he only meant half the human race? This is not a 5% little issue – it is central to the health of the body of Christ. If one part suffers all suffer – so if 51% of the body is suffering prejudice and oppression, restriction and bigotry, the whole body is.

    Reply
  7. Tom

    “I wonder how you would feel if you were a woman attacked by so many Christian blogs.”
    If there is a woman being attacked by a blog then by all means defend her, refute what they say against her.
    However it sounds from your statement that you wish to label any body who holds a complimentarian posistion on gender roles as attacking women. If so then I would reject that. I think the women in churches that hold a complimentarian doctrine would find it a little bit patronising to be told that even though they may have come to their decision with a lot of prayer and thought that they are in fact wrong, that they are oppressed and if they tell other people about being complimentarian they are attacking women.

    Reply
  8. Tom

    “The way women – and men – are treated in Churches is a reflection of the kind of God we believe in. If we believe that women and men are created in God’s image (as it tells us in the Bible) then we have to take that very seriously.”
    Indeed we do have to take it seriously. And complimentarians would agree with you! Complimentarians agree that men and women are equal, equal in the eyes of God and are spiritualy equal, of equal worth, etc. The main area they disagree in is that men and women are supposed to do the same roles. For example, they do not think that men can be stay at home Dad’s and that if a man chooses not to work when their is work available for him he is committing sin.
    So you could agree on the fact that men and women are equal whilst disagreeing on the roles people play.
    “Do we believe that when Jesus said ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ that he only meant half the human race?”
    Of course not and the complimentarians would agree you on that.
    “We are also told in the Bible that we have a responsibility to help those within the Christian community who are misled to see truth.”
    Indeed! And if you are in the persons church then by all means speak to them. Or you could email the church, or call the church if not. But I don’t see what a continual stream of blog entries moaning about other Christians is going to do.

    Reply
  9. Tom

    In my first post I said:
    “Treating someone else as a “complementarian” first and a Christian second is just wrong. Shouldn’t we rejoice over the 95% we agree on – the risen Christ, salvation, the Gospel, etc. rather than making the 5% we don’t agree on the defining issue?”
    and both respondents disagreed which I think is very sad.
    I know there are doctrines which are essential to the Christian faith and which if you reject then you’re not a Christian. Things like… there is a God, Jesus is the Son of God. He died on the Cross and rose from the dead.
    But there are other doctrines that we can take a very strong posistion on but they are not essential to the faith. For example, free will vs election. Infant vs adult baptism. If someone disagrees with us they may not come to our particular church or denomination but they are still a Christian and are a brother of sister to us to be treated as such.
    The problem is when a doctrine that should belong in the second category gets put in the first and becomes a defining issue about whether someone else is or isn’t a Christian.
    From where I’m sitting that’s what you have done with gender. Noone disagrees that women are equal to men, the question is whether women and men should do the same roles. I am on the egalitarian side, rather than the complimentarian side but that doesn’t mean I can’t welcome them as sisters and brothers in Christ first and then deal with that doctrine if it comes up.
    It’s just fundamentalism under a different banner. It might not be fundamentalism over the same doctrine as classical fundamentalism but it’s the same basic point of pride. “My doctrine is better than yours! It’s not just enough that you agree to disagree… you must stop teaching your doctrine in favour of mine. If you don’t then you’re not a real Christian.”.

    Reply
  10. Dave Warnock

    Tom,
    3 comments in a row. hard to respond to everything.
    “If there is a woman being attacked by a blog then by all means defend her, refute what they say against her.”
    It is more subtle than that. It needs to include claims of general norms that result from a poor model of God resulting from a poor reading of scripture.
    I have no problem with women who choose to submit to male headship (although I do question how free a choice that can be). But I know many women who have men attempting to force male headship views on them. I get a number emails from women in those situations.
    In any event the original post on Role Calling was written by a man not a woman who has chosen to submit to male headship.
    “So you could agree on the fact that men and women are equal whilst disagreeing on the roles people play.”
    Sorry you have missed the whole point. I do not accept this statement. You cannot have equality with separated roles. the US accepted that with regard to colour of skin. We all agree that “separate but equal” did not result in equality. This is exactly the same.
    ” But I don’t see what a continual stream of blog entries moaning about other Christians is going to do.”
    Well judging from the emails I get it helps women trapped in male headship teaching to know they are not alone and that there are good scriptural and theological reasons for questioning that view of male headship.
    It also seems to me that many people have simply taken male headship for granted and in their world view all Christians support it. I think it is essential to not let that terrible assumption go unchallenged.
    I treat the issue of gender as so important because for me a key element of the gospel is justice. Male Headship denies justice to those that Jesus died on the cross for. With your comment about a stay at home Dad being a sinner you are actually denying justice for men as well as women.
    “Noone disagrees that women are equal to men, the question is whether women and men should do the same roles.”
    Then as I have already said you have re-defined equality. If you cannot do the same roles then by every dictionary definition you are not equal.
    From “Merriam-Websters” online dictionary:
    b: like in quality, nature, or status c: like for each member of a group, class, or society /
    I don’t think you can find anything I have written saying that those who support male headship are not Christian or even not a real Christian. I am pretty careful about such accusations. Yes I say their interpretation is wrong and is unjust and unloving. But that is a long long way from saying they are not real Christians. You are making a leap and a judgement that I do not make.
    The idea that a “real Christian” is defined by doctrine is strange and not one I subscribe to.

    Reply
  11. Bridget Jack Meyers

    I truly do not understand what it is with the complementarian/patriarchy/hierarchicalist position and wanting so badly to ride the “equality” train. I was reading a complementarian book the other day (I forget which one) wherein the authors kept on interjecting that in spite of their beliefs on restricting women’s roles, men and women are equal. “Women, you can’t be pastors, but don’t worry, you’re equal. Women, you can’t be elders, but don’t worry, you’re equal. Women, your husband gets the final say in all of your home decisions, but don’t worry, you’re equal.” Who do they think they’re kidding? Do they really think they can push any system of discrimination they want just so long as they keep labeling it “equality”?
    If complementarians want to teach that men and women have separate and distinct roles wherein all the female roles are subordinate to the male roles, fine. They can even teach that those subordinate female roles are as equally vital to church and home life as the presiding male roles.
    But please, stop teaching those things through an “equality” sock puppet. Just call it what it is.

    Reply
  12. Alastair

    It seems to me that “equality” has become the modern idol. The greatest commandment seems to be “thou must be equal”. How much of this stems from the spirit of the age? Why do we all have to be the same in order for us all to have equal value?
    Its a fallacy. My wife and I believe in some form of headship. She wouldn’t trade it for “equality” for anything. The scripture commands me as her husband to lay down my life for my wife in sacrifice. This I do. She does not equally sacrifice back. We have different roles in our relationship, and we both find it incredibly freeing.
    There are abusive complementarians. They must be named, shamed, and called to account. They are also abusive egalitarians. They also must be named, shamed, and called to account.
    I often ask my wife how she feels about the “headship” thing in our relationship. She speaks her mind freely and has always told me she likes the way our relationship works.
    I do find it offensive that it has been suggested that perhaps many of the women in complementarian relationships would rather not be, if given a free choice. I also know a wife who is tired and frustrated in the lack of headship that her husband demonstrates. So it swings both ways.

    Reply
  13. Dave Warnock

    Alastair,
    “Why do we all have to be the same in order for us all to have equal value?”
    Who says we all have to be the same? I certainly haven’t.
    Equality does not imply identical.
    “They are also abusive egalitarians.”
    Sorry I don’t understand. Of course there are people who sin who are egalitarian. But you seem to be implying that egalitarianism in itself can be abusive. Please can you give more details about what you mean.
    “So it swings both ways.”
    Actually, no it does not.
    Imagine a married couple going to a church that believes in Male Headship. Are they going to be free to choose an egalitarian lifestyle. No, because the definition of a Male Headship church is one that will not permit a woman take certain roles (at home and in the church).
    Now imagine a couple going to a Egalitarian church. Are they going to be able to choose a male headship lifestyle. Yes, because egalitarianism does not mean that men and women are identical. It simply means that roles are not pre-determined by gender. If a couple choose for the wife to not take on roles in the church or for the husband to be the main breadwinner etc then there is no problem.
    It does not swing both ways. In a male headship society a woman cannot choose to be egalitarian. In an egalitarian society a woman can choose to live under male headship. That is very different, it is called freedom and it comes from equality.
    “I also know a wife who is tired and frustrated in the lack of headship that her husband demonstrates.”
    Have you factored in that if she is part of a church that teaches male headship and female submission then she is being constantly told that her marriage is a failure and so is her husband. No wonder she is tired and frustrated! Especially so if she is gifted in leadership etc and is being denied the use of her gifts that would be of great benefit to the family by a church teaching that those God given gifts are invalid.

    Reply
  14. Bridget Jack Meyers

    Alastair (I love your name btw),
    Kudos to you for acknowledging that male headship systems aren’t about equality, and I mean that seriously and not sarcastically. If I were complementarian, I think I would just bite the bullet and do the same.
    For me, egalitarianism actually isn’t about equality, either. It’s simply about me being allowed to freely use the gifts and callings God has given me. There’s something very wrong to me about having attributes and desires which, had I been a man, would be encouraged and desirable to complementarians, but since I’m a woman I’m told those exact same desires are sinful and rebellious.
    How much of this stems from the spirit of the age?
    A great question. Of course, the counter-question is, how much of the complementarian system stems from the spirit of the past age, where women were widely regarded by the prevailing culture as inferior to men in every way and unable to carry out leadership tasks?
    Recently there was a great discussion of this at the Mormon philosophy blog Zelophehad’s Daughters: “Patriarchy is Cultural. Is Equality?.” If you can understand the Mormon references, I think you’ll like the case the author makes.
    And I, for one, don’t see anything wrong with women choosing to live under a male headship system. I only have a problem with it when they tell me that I have to do the same.

    Reply
  15. Valkyrie

    What kind of church is that? A church without ladies? I haven’t seen or even heard of such a thing until now.

    Reply
  16. Dave

    Valkyrie,
    There are plenty of women, they just don’t consider themselves ladies. As Sally said:
    “odd isn’t it how the term “ladies” has become synonymous with airs and graces type thinking.”

    Reply
  17. Bridget Jack Meyers

    Personally, there’s still a traditionalist in me which kind of likes the term “lady,” perhaps due to the time I spent in the campus medieval club (*grin*), but I understand that it’s often used in condescending and pejorative ways. I wish we could somehow rescue the word. We just don’t have enough nice words to describe women.

    Reply
  18. Dave

    Jack,
    I agree, but we are also short of good words to use for a mixed group of people. eg I don’t like using Hey (guys, folks, people) and end up with Hey everyone but would like something a bit more casual/friendly.
    BTW I do use “ladies” when everyone present is say above retirement age, seems more acceptable then.

    Reply
  19. Sally D

    I am very pleased that someone is standing up for the rights of women in the church. As someone who attends an NFI fellowship, I find it incredibly oppressive – much more so since the recent conference where exclusive male leadership was re-asserted.
    I think that you will find as many scriptures to support slavery as there are to support male domination over women. For example, Paul just tells slaves to submit to their masters to witness to them, similar terms that are used for women married to non-believers.
    John Stott wrote an excellent chapter on women in “Issues Facing Christians Today”. Basically, if someones has a gifting they should be allowed to use it.

    Reply
  20. Dave

    Thanks Sally D,
    Of course now I will really rock some people’s boats by saying:
    Isn’t John Stott’s point just as true for people who are (or exploring being) gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered.

    Reply
  21. Stickler

    “I treat the issue of gender as so important because for me a key element of the gospel is justice.”
    AMEN, and bulls eye!

    Reply
  22. Paula

    Actually, I do have a problem with Christian women “choosing” to play a subservient role to men:
    Galatians 5:1
    It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

    In context, I understand that to mean it is wrong for a believer to volunteer to any form of slavery. And when a person vows to obey for life, that is slavery.
    Just something to consider. :-)

    Reply
  23. Dave

    Paula,
    Good point. I should not use the word “happy”. But if I believe in equality and freedom then I have to allow people to make bad choices.

    Reply
  24. Paula

    Yes, I agree. God lets us do a lot of silly things. But still, the scripture does say that we belong to Another and must not enslave ourselves.
    So the big question is, is it actually sinful to do so? If it is, then we can’t allow “freedom to sin”; if it isn’t then of course it’s a matter of personal conviction.

    Reply
  25. Dave

    “So the big question is, is it actually sinful to do so? If it is, then we can’t allow “freedom to sin”;”
    Actually we have to allow freedom to sin in all kinds of areas don’t we. People have to make their own decisions about all kinds of areas of their life.
    If this were not the case there would be no need for confession in worship as we would have all watched each other so closely that nobody would have sinned.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>