The Human Cost of Hierarchical Patriarchy

When I hit her, she didn’t see it coming. It clearly hurt, and it makes me angry today, more than a year later, that I was the one to deliver the blow.

I didn’t want to, but my hand was forced.

The pain was obvious to me, as were her immediate feelings of rejection, worthlessness, and despair.

flickr photo shared by [Daniela Brown Photography] under a Creative Commons ( BY-ND ) license

I did have a reason for doing what I did, but it was a lame one. You see, my weapon wasn’t physical. It was a message:

That will never happen because of the whole ‘women teaching in Church’ thing.

I was physically stunned when I actually heard someone in church leadership say those words to me about my wife.

For a little background, in 2012, Kelly and I responded to the repeated call from our pastor and the EFCC leadership to ‘get out there and do something’ to spread the Gospel. So we generated a proposal to create a new part-time job at our church called ‘Director of Outreach’, or something similar. We initially received very positive feedback and Kelly got going on the Master of Arts in Christian Apologetics program at Biola University.

The initial proposal was turned down because ‘The timing wasn’t right’. So we resubmitted it the following year. After it initially being left off the AGM agenda, I was given a few minutes to talk about the proposal a the end of the meeting and there were good things said about both the proposal and Kelly’s suitability for filling the role, and then it was turned down again for much the same reason as the first time.

Then in late 2013, I was at the men’s Bible study and someone brought up the fact that the leadership team had tossed around the idea of creating a part-time position to increase the amount and quality of discipleship happening in the church. I mentioned that I was a little surprised that something like that would be floated when our proposal had been turned down twice.

It was at that point that I heard the statement about my wife being perpetually relegated to second-class status in the church, regardless of her demonstrated skills.

Protracted discussions ensued, which have been partially summarized on this blog. The discussion soon culminated with the church body voting to affirm a logical contradiction, and then tabling a draft of the new constitution which is specific that ‘Pastors shall be men.’ Not just the Sr. Pastor, but all pastors. Apparently a woman could be hired, but she wouldn’t be a pastor…maybe a director, but it isn’t at all clear how the actual job she would do would be any different; one of the myriad inconsistencies with the ‘equal but unequal’ view of women in the church.

So what is the point in outlining all this?

It needs to be known that there is very real and tangible damage done to people and to outreach when what should be a non-issue is made to be a major ‘watershed’ issue.

First, Kelly’s reaction to hearing that her thousands of hours of developing her gifts in studying and teaching theology, doctrine, and the defense of Christianity to fulfill the Great Commission were meaningless because she is a woman was virtually indistinguishable from what her reaction would be had I slapped her across the face…hard.

The same tears.

The same profound sense of rejection.

The same physical, gut-wrenching pain.

The same loss of self-worth.

The same disillusionment.

All caused by the same failure of some men to get over themselves.

It is a very short mental traverse from a woman hearing ‘You are not worthy to teach’ to her telling herself ‘I am not worthy’. Or from ‘You have less authority than a man’ to ‘I am less than a man’. In fact, I think that there isn’t a mental traverse at all; the second message is embedded in the first.

The view that women are prohibited from teaching in the church is unnecessary, harmful, and it has done real damage to my family.

Further, and this is likely only a micro view of the greater problem, is that while I expended huge amounts of effort, ministry opportunities were wasted.

For several years, Kamloops has hosted one of the largest atheist conventions in North America. Two years ago, Kelly and I were instrumental in having two philosophy profs from TWU travel up here to debate two of the speakers at the convention and then spend the following day training and equipping the Christian community to engage with their non-believing family, friends, and co-workers. One year later, we didn’t organize a debate, but we had another great turnout for three events at a local church and a talk at TRU.

Last year, Kelly was in the middle of a grueling semester and I was completely wrapped up in arguing for Kelly’s responsibility to use her gifts to fulfill the Great Commission. The atheist convention came and went and we had zero response. Nothing.

We were spinning our wheels…we had lost traction. What forward momentum we had was lost due to deeply entrenched ideas about how and why women ought to be subjugated in the church.

So it became time that we move along.

We moved along because the fundamental equality of men and women (Gen 1:28) cannot be reconciled with the idea that women are prohibited from certain leadership roles only because they are women. To clarify with another example, saying that men and women are equal in their being, yet women are prohibited from serving as elders because they are women is identical to saying that caucasians and Africans are equal in their being, but Africans are prohibited from serving as elders because they are African.

In short, you must choose between viewing men and women as equal or prohibiting the full participation of women in the life of the church. You cannot have it both ways.

Some have tried to get around this by using the example of a father and son, where the two are equal in value, but the father has authority over the son (and there are myriad other examples such as boss/employee, coach/athlete…). But this does nothing to skirt the issue because the two people in the relationship can and do reverse their positions of authority. Eventually, the son becomes independent of the father and then assumes authority, employees are promoted, and athletes and their coaches can be in the other’s shoes.

Women can never ‘outgrow’ their gender. Every one of these types of examples fails.

You must choose between viewing men and women as equal or prohibiting the full participation of women in the life of the church. You cannot have it both ways. Click To Tweet

When you further consider these supposed counter-examples, what becomes clear is that it is appropriate to recognize authority based on competence and calling, but not on gender.