Ever since fellow blogger Grace stirred up the old pot about gender roles in church it's been itching me. This is something that I have never really understood. Maybe I never will.
I suppose that part of my misunderstanding of this issue is that I wasn't brought up in a bible-studying family. Ok, truth be told I was raised among savages. At least that's how it seems to grow up in a non-practicing Catholic family of Irish descent. I was never exposed to those telling passages of Paul's epistles that seem to place women into a subservient role in both the family and the church.
I say "seem to" because I honestly can't be sure what to make of this stuff. It gets at the whole idea of authority of scripture. Do we take 1 Corinthians 13:34-45 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12 as descriptive of particular social situations in particular cultures at a particular point in history or do we take them as being prescriptive for all churches for all time? I can't answer that question.
But here's the question I can answer: which gender carries the greatest share of the ministry load in the Christian church in OUR culture? You'd have to be blind not to know that the "weaker" sex does the heavy lifting.
I won't bore anyone with statistics mainly because I don't want to waste my time researching them. I am simply saying that mere observation should confirm this. But let me just speak from my own experience.
In the two large churches where I have spent a number of years the majority of small group leaders have been women. Actually, the majority of small group participants have been women but that's another story. The majority of children's ministry leaders are women (duh!). The bookstore volunteers, the greeters, the ushers, the participants in short-term missions.
Ok, but what about the professionals? Well, I've sat under the direct leadership of exactly ten paid ministry professionals since I've been following ministry as a vocation (first as a volunteer, then as an intern, then as a paid professional myself). Guess what? Seven out of the ten have been women. And let me tell you, if you asked me to rank them according to their leadership ability the three men wouldn't make the top half.
I've heard some make the case that women can be in leadership, just not over men. That means they should never be teaching pastors. Ok, now that's silly on a number of levels. First because women are capable teachers in every other aspect of our society - business, academics, sports to name a few. Second, because we have a hypocritical approach to this restriction. We won't let women teach men in the "big church" but we'll let them teach children, the most critical audience there is for the future of the faith. Even that statement is silly. Let them? We wouldn't have children's ministry if we didn't have women there. We'll also allow women to teach men if they're missionaries in a foreign land. Again, how silly is that?
But mostly I think that it's silly to restrict women from the role of teaching pastor because it's not even a very influential role in the growth of disciples of Jesus anyway. Don't believe me? Just take a hard look at the Willow Creek Reveal study.
As a man who has been greatly influenced by the teaching, writing and spiritual leadership of women I find this whole discussion embarassing and I wish it would just go away. Until it does it is another thing drives a wedge between the church and an increasingly disinterested world.