It's International Women's Day!
I've been intending to write about women since Tony Jones called for a new schism in the Church over women's roles in November 2013. The subject of women is so huge that the pages and pages I was writing about in my mind imploded on themselves, and I ended up writing nothing... yet.
In his manifesto, Tony Jones states:
"The time has come for a schism regarding the issue of women in the church. Those of us who know that women should be accorded full participation in every aspect of church life need to visibly and forcefully separate ourselves from those who do not. Their subjugation of women is anti-Christian, and it should be tolerated no longer.
- If you attend a church that does not let women preach or hold positions of ecclesial authority, you need to leave that church.
- If you work for a ministry that does not affirm women in ecclesial leadership, you need to leave that ministry.
- If you write for a publishing house that also prints books by “complementarians,” you need to take your books to another publishing house.
- If you speak at conferences, you need to withdraw from all events that do not affirm women as speakers, teachers, and leaders."
When I hear that it is International Women's Day, or that people are ready to schism over women, I get very ambivalent about the subject. I know that there is inequality, injustice, and abuse directed at women specifically BECAUSE they are women. (Sex trafficking, child brides, illiteracy, rape, portrayal in the media, etc.)
But shouldn't we be actively fighting against those things not because women are women, but because women are... PEOPLE?
I grew up in a home where my mother and father played out extremely traditional gender roles. There was a bit of misogyny thrown into the mix of my home and church life.
After I grew up, I trained for evangelical Protestant ministry; my B.S. is in ministry. I did not go onto a church staff, I went on to train and become a elementary school teacher.
But as you can see, on paper, I should be right there with Tony Jones. Down with the misogyny inherent in the system! Let's rend asunder the Bride of Christ again!!! (And again...)
Since that time, I converted from evangelical Protestantism to Orthodox Christianity. I've heard evangelicals speak badly of liturgical and sacramentally oriented churches, because only men are allowed in the altar. We're so repressive.
Remarkably, for a woman who can smell misogyny from 1,000 paces, for someone who would be first to defend the place of women as ministers of Christ, I just can't manage to feel repressed in my church.
In the first place, I have the suspicion that men in the altar has not to do with gender but to do with apostolic succession. The priests of the Orthodox (and Roman Catholic) churches can trace their ordinations in a direct line back to any one of the specific twelve apostles. And I don't care how you slice it, NONE of the apostles were women.
In my church growing up, women (even the "directors" on staff) have no vote in the governing body of the church, the board of elders. At my current church, women have places and votes on the parish council.
In the married relationships at my church, I don't usually catch whiffs of "you must submit to me, woman!" There is an attitude of mutual respect and support. If people are jerks to each other, it is because they are being individually crappy people, not crappy because I am a man and you are a woman. The relationships that have a tinge of that seem to be comprised of converts that come from a background of more misogynistic dogma.
Most importantly, I have been allowed and encouraged to do more ministry since I have become Orthodox than ever before. I don't think the priests of the church even realize that my original training is in ministry, yet both of them have encouraged (and sometimes even asked) me to write, serve on committees, run small groups, etc.
It is important to note that I never have felt like they have asked or allowed me to do this with any consideration that I am a woman. They have asked or allowed me to to these things because I am... a person. I am made in the image of God. I have the aptitudes that will enable me to fill these ministry roles.
Isn't giving someone a microphone or leadership role or place to write because they are a woman itself misogynistic? It has been so freeing to feel as if I am viewed beyond my demographic and seen for what I actually am.
To be clear: inequality, injustice, and abuses everywhere must be addressed. NEED to be addressed, because they are wrong.
More thoughts occur on why the problem in the Church has become what it is, but I will let this blog post suffice as a beginning of my thinking on the subject.
What say you, women? What say you, priests and ministers of Christ? Isn't it misogyny to give someone a place because they are a woman? As if you are doing her a favor, giving her a leg up because she is somehow less than? Please discuss in the comments. I would love to hear your thoughts.
For a high-quality, absolutely invigorating perspective on feminism and the Church, I give you Angelina Stanford's What Is Woman?: A Reexamination of Feminism and the Church.