Friday, August 10, 2007,9:14 AM
To the Men of the Emerging Church
So after reading Dave Fitch's article on why he isn't an egalitarian over at the Church and Postmodern Culture blog (and then Makeesha's great response), I am just left wondering what the deal is really with men in the Emerging Church. So you get these high profile men writing stuff that equality isn't biblical (but that they still support women in ministry) and that women should be allowed to live out their God given roles. One one level that might sound good, but it's just the same old oppression in a different packaging. Others tell me point blank that they won't waste energy working to help women in ministry because our ministry structures aren't biblical to begin with. So why waste time working to get women involved in a system that they are working to change? But the obvious problem is that the system is not changing, the boys keep it going as is, and the women remain on the sidelines. Others give an ample space for the fight over whether women are fully human on their blogs, but never really stick their necks out and actually support women. And then when certain leaders degrade and objectify women as mere sex objects, the men of the church remain silent or pat him on the back. WTF? This is the response we get from men in the Emerging Church.

What are you guys afraid of? Controversy? Having to share power? Having to talk to women? I just don't get it. When they say they "support" women, but don't actually ever do anything to about I have to question if they really do respect women. Are we just a nuisance that they can placate with kind sounding words? If they give enough platitudes and asides (I really do support women in ministry, really) will we shut up and pretend that everything is okay? I know a number of women who have given up on the emerging church as a joke because of the way women continue to be treated.

Hey boys guess what. We don't want to be treated like a piece of meat or piece of art. We don't want to treated like second class citizens and be endlessly tokenized or debated. We want to be a part of the conversation and respected for who we are. We can have our own conversations, but it would be really nice of you to make just the slightest effort to treat us as human beings and let the world know about it.

So what I would like to see is one, just one, male leader in the Emerging Church come out in complete support of women. No debating our worth. No stereotyping us into assumed roles. But complete and open support with a commitment to action to do whatever you can to help the women's voices be heard. That isn't too much to ask is it?

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posted by Julie at 9:14 AM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 8/10/2007 10:45:00 AM, Blogger Erin

    Don't get me started ;-)

    Exactly! (Although you are more gentle and even-tempered than I am in saying it.)

    "I am just left wondering what the deal is really with men in the Emerging Church."

    Umm, they're men? I love how so many of them *say* they support women, but only with certain *qualifiers*.

    "So what I would like to see is one, just one, male leader in the Emerging Church come out in complete support of women."

    I might be wrong, but I think I've heard your husband say something to that effect. So there's ONE for you. What I think you meant to say is *many* male leaders.

    I don't know, Julie, I guess all we can do is continue talking about it.

  • At 8/10/2007 11:11:00 AM, Blogger paul

    here's two for your list...


  • At 8/10/2007 12:14:00 PM, Anonymous Ryan

    I am reminded of an old Tony Orlando song, "Stuck in the 50s Tonight."

    Let's just tell it like it is. Us men want nothing more than to have our women pamper us and affirm every decision we make. (The male ego requires it.) The last thing we need is someone, an "equal" no less, to call us on the carpet for hundreds (sorry, thousands) of years of what has often been stealthy, silent, and uninterrupting oppression. Not to mention how red-faced you women frequently make us men folk. I mean, seriously, can I go to a Sunday school class or a Bible study just one time without my wife having to speak up with some challenging insight, and imagine how much I want to crawl into a corner whenever she debates with one of my "complementarian" friends over the legitimacy of women in leadership roles. It's enough to make any manly man die of shame. I can just see the "you are so pussy-whipped" stares from those friends who think I am allowing myself to be beat down into submission.

    However, the truth that I had to reconcile with was that (1) my wife, or any woman for that matter, has just as much to offer as any man when it comes to leadership, intelligence, wisdom, etc. (2) In the context of scripture and with a clear understanding of the spirit of the New Testament, women can be blessed with the same gifts as men. Further, there is a very clear mandate to use those gifts. (3)And, the one thing it took me awhile to swallow as fact: those complementarian friends who swear up and down that they view the separate gifts bestowed on men and women as being completely equal but nonetheless distinct, based on gender, were lying or, at best, fooling themselves. Equality my ass! As the light became more visible to me, what these dudes were saying and what they meant were night and day.

    "Let's see, you're a man, so here's your Bible. Go get up in the pulpit and win some souls for Christ! Oh, we have a woman here...What's say the Lord has given you gifts and you would like to share 'em with everyone. Well, babe, you're missing a penis, so that narrows it down significantly. Where would we have room for you...Hmmm...I tell you what, the kids can always use another babysitter, so why don't you just assume the position in the play area and shut the hell up."

    Now, I'm not going to go so far as to say that every man who doesn't ACTIVELY defend and affirm women in ministry belongs in the category described above. Besides those who find themselves among the red-faced bunch, there are those who really don't think it's an issue in the first place. Really, some the hurdles women must jump are not visible to them. What's worse, try to point out those hurdles and the misogynists (let's just label them for what they really are) call you a complainer.

    To any man out there reading this...if you are not ACTIVELY trying to bring women to a level playing field, SEEKING opportunities for women to use their gifts as God has ordained, you are part of the problem. You heard me right. Especially to those already in a leadership position, if you are not proactive in making the traditionally marginalized voices heard, you are the oppressor. You are the one who gives the thumbs up to the torchbearers while Joan of Arc, tied up at the stake, stares at you through tears.

    And to those red-faced, embarassed comrades of mine...Let her talk. Affirm her. Add an ocassional "uh-huh" when she says something poignant. And when those "you are so pussy whipped" stares bear down on you, try returning them with a "yep, you heard right. did she stutter?!?!" stare.

  • At 8/10/2007 12:43:00 PM, Blogger Makeesha

    I have a very long rant in my head that isn't very kind...I'll email it to you hehe...all that to say, thanks Julie.

    There certainly ARE "good men" out there, my husband and yours are 2 of them...sadly though, my husband is a nobody in terms of voice in the emerging church so *shrug* I'll just have to enjoy him all myself hehe.

  • At 8/10/2007 02:28:00 PM, Blogger The Christian Heretic

    My thoughts are, why would you want equal authority on a sinking ship? I have no problem with females in positions of leadership in the "Christian Church," but I wouldn't follow a female anymore than I'd follow a male in said religion (unless they were leading the way to the doors out, then lead on).

    That said, if any woman wants to gain leadership in the church it can be done, and quite easily. All you have to do is do exactly the same as men do to gain leadership in the mess that is known as the Church. Either use backroom politics, blackmail, or break away from one church and starting your own. I don't understand why anyone would want to take part in leadership in that religion (or any religion) but that's how to do it if you really want to. Personally I'd suggest just getting as far away from it as possible though, it's beyond reformation and I wouldn't want to be caught in the middle of it when it blows up.

  • At 8/10/2007 03:34:00 PM, Anonymous Ryan

    True enough; however, women are having just as hard a time in the emerging conversation. While I would agree that one should not even waste her time on a sinking ship (though many of us still feel that the Church, with all its scars and deformities, is still worth redeeming), what many of our women are having a problem with is simply being taken seriously on this "conversation" of ours. Many of our men, in all their go-get-'emness, are inadvertently leaving women's perspectives out in the backyard.

    Though I can't accuse our male emergent leaders of setting Joan of Arc on fire, by their very ignorance, or nearsightedness, they are contributing to the oppressive dictatorship of endless, one-way chatter.

    It's time for a regime change :)

  • At 8/11/2007 07:10:00 AM, Anonymous becky

    One way we (meaning men and women) is to simply not attend events where women aren't adequately represented as leaders and speakers - and make it known why we aren't attending. I just finished a book for Church Publishing and almost half the 30+ people I interviewed were women (three were women of color). Now my focus was broader in that I was talking to worship leaders from mainline traditions, who were "reaching those for whom church is not in their vocabulary). Hence I included some voices who do not self-identify with emerging church. But still, there are a number of women in this book who have just as much experience (if not more) than some of the men serving as emerging spokesmen. Along those lines, I know of one Hispanic emerging cohort here in NYC.

  • At 8/11/2007 08:04:00 AM, Blogger tony

    Julie: I mean no disrespect. Really, I don't. But you're misreading David's post. He's NOT arguing against equality. He's saying that the Enlightenment liberal value of "unalienable individual rights" is not a biblical value. Basing the full value of women and men on biblical values will be something else entirely.

    And, let me say here what I've said before: I didn't grow up evangelical. I grew up in the mainline, with women pastors. I realize that for those of you who grew up evangelical, women's leadership has been a hurdle. It never has been for me. I have always (and still do) believe that women should be full leaders in the church -- and, for that matter, in all spheres of society. I think that the "egalitarian" vs. "complementarian" debates of evangelicalism are ridiculous.

    And, I don't know how I can make this more clear: Emergent Village is fully inclusive of women.

  • At 8/11/2007 08:06:00 AM, Blogger tony

    One more thing: Emergent is an open source network. What do you want to do? Plan a conference? Write a book? Blog? Be a public speaker?

    You name it.

  • At 8/11/2007 09:32:00 AM, Blogger Makeesha

    I personally DID understand David's article and still disagree with his assessment of egalitarianism.

    also tony, I don't think any of us are leveling accusations against Emergent Village, I think though, what many of us are seeing is a continued complementarian attitude even if people who are, in many other ways, progressive and emerging. It's the nature of the beast and it is what it is but that doesn't mean we can't get frustrated about it.

    And julie has done those things so there you go :)

    I'm so thankful that these conversations are going on - - and by men none the less. So don't get me wrong. But that doesn't lesses the frustrations I have when I'm turned away or ignored in my local sphere.

  • At 8/11/2007 01:46:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

    Part of the issue may be with the very fact that the emerging church is so "open source". That means complementarians can be part of the conversation too.

    However, it seems to me that if the emerging conversation starts to become more and more about issues of justice (as I'm glad to see it is) it's going to be harder and harder to be inclusive of a position that denies justice to half of the human race. I'd still want to welcome complementarians to the convo, because we're all still in process with these new ideas and need room and time to grow. However, I would hope that the conversation would start to make them uncomfortable in their positions real fast... that they wouldn't just be able to stay where they are unchallenged.

  • At 8/11/2007 02:18:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    wow... bad idea to create a post and then not be able to get online for a day...

    Erin - talking about Mike made me laugh. When he read my post, he looked up at me and asked, "do you want me to write something?" I told him no, he doesn't count because he's my husband. I'm sure he loved that! :)

    Ryan - thank you. Its the active thing that gets me. Its going to take awareness and active involvement by men for women to ever be seen as "equals" worthy of respect.

    CH - I'm not entirely for sure the entire ship is sinking. Part of the fleet perhaps, but I'm not abandoning the whole christian endevour quite yet. Working alongside and within is still a goal because change is most likely to occur from that vantage point.

    Tony - While Dave might personally mean one thing by his words, they echo way too much the typical complementarian stance to be helpful. Unless he defines clearly what those "biblical values" are, the general assumption will be that he is merely repeating cultural stereotypes that a vast majority of the evangelical church assumes to be Biblical. He is on very dangerous ground. If he wanted to be helpful in actually advancing "equality" he could do more than just parrot complementarian ideas.

    While I fully understand that the background of evangelical and mainline women is very different, it is from both groups that I am hearing the dissatisfaction with the emerging church on the issue of women. The evangelicals generally want to know that they are welcome. They want an invitation to belong and an affirmation of who they are (what has been denied to them in the past). The mainliners are shocked that something they can resonate with on so many levels is so male dominated (leadership, authors, speakers, gender language...) and not apparently doing anything proactive to change that.

    I identify with the emerging church. I own the emerging/emergent label. And at this point, I generally encourage women to just start to make things happen. Don't wait for permission or for others to have a voice for you, but just go ahead and do it. But I still get asked over and over (as if I know the answers) what's the deal with men in the emerging church - why don't they support women? I think I lot of women won't be happy until there is a clear affirmation of them as people in the EC and active work being done to include them.

  • At 8/11/2007 06:35:00 PM, Anonymous Brother Maynard


    I'm not trying to pick a fight, but I'm not really getting it here--I thought I was on your side, but I'm honestly not sure where to go with your post. You're lambasting all men in the emerging church as unsupportive, challenging just one to say they support women. I for one am in favour of men, women, and children in the emerging/missional church. Individually, corporately, whatever. Let them each and let them all do their thing, and in no particular order. 'nuff said.

    I confess though I'm feeling a little dissed by the accusation. Two years ago I wrote publicly asking where the women voices were in the emerging/missional conversation. Many people responded and we compiled a list of women's voices at that time, and it proved more than we'd thought once we actually started looking. In the midst of the conversation, it was suggested that women's voices sound different (duh!) and if they don't appear to dominate the conversation or sound like men's voices, well, fine. We can say we're different without saying were not equal. Women's conversation sounds different and your words and contributions are necessary to the whole mix.

    Now, for a while I've had one of these "Friend of Emerging Women" badges on my blog because I'm trying to be supportive and encouraging, and have been long before the Emerging Women blog was formed. At this moment in time, I would say that some of the best emerging/missional bloggers are women (lately I've been thinking an almost inordinate number!) and I put your blog in that category. After pulling off what I understand was a pretty rockin' gathering just recently, I thought you might have more support than most women in the e/mc, but since you're the one spearheading the complaint... I guess I'm a little surprised.

    I guess what I'd like to see are some specifics... rather than "all" men in the e/mc being evil and unsupportive, tell us just what it is you would consider as qualifying. Geez, we're trying--at least some, or many of us really are. If it isn't what you want, you'd better tell us, because I can pretty much guarantee if we haven't got it yet, we aren't too likely to luck into it on our own overnight. You've got some examples (Mike, Makeesha's hubby, and others I'm sure) who are identified as supportive... what is it that they're doing right that the rest of us inadvertent oppressors aren't doing?

    I thought that women had a lot more freedom in the emerging church... that's been my experience and observation, so if it's formally not true, just slap me... but I need an explanation. (One that doesn't refer to Mark Driscoll as being representative, please.) Is it real or just perception? Is it widespread, or is it mostly women from mainline backgrounds still finding a comfort level in the emerging church?

    I know this is a hot issue, and sorry for sounding so snarky (I'm still feeling dissed, but now a little baffled as well). Just like our complaints about old models of church that weren't always helpful, we need to see the description of what the "right" response is supposed to look like. Really, we want to know. You and others have a reasonable-sized platform on your blogs, and we're listening... but we need something we can get our heads around. I gather that if I said, "Okay, I'm not a complimentarian," that wouldn't be what you're after. So....?

  • At 8/11/2007 08:03:00 PM, Blogger Makeesha

    perhaps now would be a good time to remind people that Julie is intelligent and fair and I strongly doubt she means ALL MEN in the emerging conversation. Rhetoric and hyperbole are pretty commonly used in frustrated rants of this nature and I would assume that would be clear.

    if her comments don't apply to you then you're pretty much excluded right? Bro. Maynard, as you said, you're not being dissed because you're not in the group of men Julie's speaking of :)

    I personally again want to thank all the men in the Church universal who have taken big risks to advocate for gender justice. There are many of you and your numbers are growing and for that I personally am thankful.

    I am sure Julie and others have very warm feelings toward all you men who are speaking out on behalf of women everywhere.

    I apologize if anything I have said has made any of you men feel "dissed".

    I think maybe some of the frustration is coming from the fact that many of us women have "escaped" conservative evangelicalism because our voices were suppressed and then we lend our voices to what has been dubbed the "emerging church" or to groups that are more progressive and then we read thing from people calling themselves "emerging" or "Emergent" who are just as complementarian as the places from which we escaped.

    at least that's the frustration for me. But right now, my beef is with a few people in some current conversations in blog land - you're in the clear Bro. Maynard ;) as is Tony and Paul ;)

    and lest we just seem like angry women, please extend some grace, we all should have a right to do some venting without people putting their big feelings on us - own your own feelings.

  • At 8/11/2007 08:26:00 PM, Anonymous Brother Maynard

    Thanks, Mak. Really just a counter-rant on my part, sorry if it was too strong. To be fair, I think Julie said in the comments that "all" wasn't supposed to mean "ALL". ;^)

    I appreciate your mention of the escape from conservative evangelicalism... I wondered if there might still be raw nerves.

    "Equality" in general is a tough thing to argue for. I think there are a lot of people who have no issues, but honestly don't know what behaviours are construed as unhelpful and what they could do differently. On that count, I think there are several of you that could illumine a lot in a very helpful way here.

    As things shift during the quest for equality, there are awkward moments when people feel like they have to overcompensate and be unfair in an opposite direction to placate those previously wronged. Sometimes you just don't know what to say to not cause offence.... can we call you "gals" or "girls" but not "chicks" or "guys"? Or is that the other way 'round?

    Thanks for letting me off the hook... but I'd still really like to see some constructively diffusing commentary. If 70% of the men in the emerging church suddenly said, "Okay, we we've been unfair--but how do we fix it?" what would you say? How would you answer? Being much more concrete, the answer to that may be much easier to consider and respond to.

  • At 8/11/2007 08:59:00 PM, Blogger Erin

    From where I sit the problem isn't with ALL "emerging/missional men", just those who still have a tight grip on the "Yes...but..." attitude. "We support women in ministry, but..." "We believe in equality, but..." In other words, those who feel it necessary to put "qualifiers" on any statement about gender issues in the church. Equal but different isn't exactly equal, if you know what I mean.

    In any case, Brother Maynard, I have always felt you to be a part of the solution - I won't forget a recent post on your blog that was commented on by nothing but women (initially) and then a man asked if the issue you had written about was primarily a women's issue. You were nothing but supportive of us and made it clear you didn't think that was the case.

    Like Mike said, as we focus more and more on justice issues, it's hopefully going to become more difficult for those in the E/M Church to hang onto gender inequality in the church.

  • At 8/11/2007 09:09:00 PM, Blogger Makeesha

    I think that's a great question bro. maynard...and since I'm harping on Fitch to give me some practical solutions to his gripe with egalitarianism, I will take your challenge. Give me a few days and then remind me if I haven't posted my thoughts on my blog. And I'm sure many more of us women could take up the challenge of proposing constructive practical solutions as well.

  • At 8/12/2007 08:34:00 AM, Anonymous Brother Maynard

    In the interest of disclosure, I should say that I do have a "yes, but" item, though I don't think it's that big an issue for most. In my view, true justice must be brought without causing injustice elsewhere... and a lot of what we've seen as "affirmative action" and the like actually caused injustice on the other side. Opposite unfairness to make up for unfairness isn't justice... but then I never thought that's what you were asking for anyway. ;^)

  • At 8/12/2007 02:38:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    Great discussion here. And thank you Brother Maynard for the good questions and challenge. as I wrote my reply, it got really long, so I put it up as a full post instead of here in the comments. I hope it helps clarify what I meant with this post.

  • At 8/17/2007 11:06:00 PM, Anonymous Peggy

    Hello, All.

    I know many of your names from different blogs, and I just wanted to add my husband--even though he doesn't count inthe same way the other husbands don't count ;) to the list as well as Alan Hirsch.

    Alan's blog, The Forgotten Ways is my "first home" blog, and Jesus Creed is my second home--where I have found Scot very supportive. When it gets too tense over women's issues at Jesus Creed, I vent a little at TFW and the crew there are always supportive.

    I hear and resonate with all your stories--mine has been a life-long struggle as well. I guess I fit into the category of "start your own conversation"--having been a staff pastor before looking to find a way to implement my vision for using my gifts to help advance God's mission.

    Just my two cents....

  • At 8/18/2007 03:05:00 AM, Anonymous Kirby L. Wallace

    To begin with, there is no such thing as the "emerging church." The Church of Jesus Christ is, as it always has been, exactly the same as it was when Jesus Christ initiated the first person into it. The church cannot "emerge" as it has not ever been "hidden." It is not lost. It is not apostate. It is not saddled with sin, iniquity, deception, delusion, oppression (as you say), heresy, false doctrine, it is neither defeated nor downtrodden.

    The Church of Jesus Christ is just perfect right now, as it always has been.

    The problem is that what you are calling "church" is nothing of the sort. What you are calling "church" is nothing more than social clubs, self-help, twelve-stepping, self-esteem building community centers or political action committees that have no interest or desire for living godly lives in the presence of men as a witness of and for Jesus Christ. What you are calling church is a thinly veiled self-worship.

    Paul made it quite clear in the New Testament what the role of women was to be - helpmates to their husbands. Co-labourers, not co-managers. Jesus, the Apostles, and especially Paul are all very clear on the role of women in the church. And beyond that, YOU already know this and you already know what that role is. You could SAY it right now if you chose to. We all know the scriptures - the "hard sayings". Arguing that they are a result of a different culture and that Paul was addressing the matters of a culture that is long gone is a misdirection because Paul was the first to say that in Christ, there IS NO CULTURE. That culture matters not one whit and your culture, like your money, perish with you.

    I am married twenty years, now. I have six kids, and the unbelievable blessing of a GODLY WIFE that I would not trade for anything in the world - not even any of my six kids. If I had to choose between any or even ALL of my kids, and her, I'd choose HER. God has blessed me with a wife who is at the very least my equal, and in many respects my better. When we are engaging in conversation in mixed company I have absolutely no worry about her stepping in and engaging the other party - absolutely ZERO. Why? Because I know ahead of time that she will speak the same word of God that I would. She will say the things that I would say. She will speak the word of God boldly and with great effect, and I am perfectly content to sit back and let her go. If you are debating with us, you need to fear her more than me.

    And my wife will be the very first person to remind you that in the church, women should remain silent and defer to their husbands because the plain demands of scripture require it whether she (or I, for that matter) understand why. And she doesn't do so grudgingly because she knows that by doing so she glorifies God, and she cares more about glorifying God than she does about being seen as a "contributor" or a "leader" or having "input" or keen insight. Let me put it to you straight: she cares more about doing those things that glorify God than she does about the loss of your soul. She will gladly let you go on your way to hell before she will do anything that besmirches the reputation of her Lord or causes men to blaspheme or defame Jesus Christ. She cares nothing about "relationship." She will sacrifice "relationship" before she will compromise one stitch of truth. Why? Because so will I. And because so will God.

    When she reads the "hard sayings", she doesn't try to contort them to mean something else. She takes them at face value and treasures actually doing them because she knows that her obedience to her husband glorfies God and she flat doesn't care what your empowerment movement thinks of that. This will sound hard, but it is true: we both will say, in unison, to hell with your "empowerment," we are followers of Jesus Christ, and he esteems those with a contrite and obedient spirit.

    I've said all this about my wife to make a point: I believe and do all the same things. Everything I've said about her is true, and she will say the same things about me. have you ever heard about that union between the Father and the Son - perfect from all eternity? Have you ever heard that marriage is the model of that relationship between Father and Son? Jesus said "I have not come to do my will but the will of my father. I do only that which I see Him doing." My wife is the same way with me. When she hears the Lord say "If you love me you will obey me" and she knows exactly what that means to her personally as relates to me.

    My wife and I, while not equal, are equally at rest. As she fulfills her responsibility to me she experiences the same fulfillment that I receive when I am responsible to God. And then TOGETHER, we can come before the Lord as "one flesh."

    "Gather" all you want, but you will NEVER touch this level of intimacy until the women learn obedience to their husbands, and husbands learn obedience to Christ. It really is just that simple because it has been stated that simply in the scripture.

    We believe the scripture and the Lord who wrote it.

    There's more - LOTS more that could be said. But I think I;ve said enough. If not, I can send my wife in here, and trust me - you don't want that! ;-)

    I have a tee-shirt. On the front, it says "I'm a fool for Christ...."

  • At 8/18/2007 10:05:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    Kirby - does it get you off to go around insulting people and pretending you know more than they do? Does it give you a power trip and boost your male ego to proclaim that you've got it all figured out? Is it just easier for you to shut down your mind and ignore reality? Do you really believe that the system of church the American protestants created a couple of centuries ago is the way it has always been? If so I pity you and say you really need to read more.


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