Sunday, August 12, 2007,2:05 PM
Women in the Emerging Church
To clarify my post below and to address (some of) Brother Maynard's good questions (since this is way too long to post in the comments). Yes, the last post was a rant and therefore did make use of hyperbole. I know that there are men in the EC who do support women (and there are some who don't). But nevertheless there is still an ongoing perception by women that the Emerging Church doesn't support women. I've somehow stumbled into a strange position where I think I hear more about that than many people (which of course influences my perception). Because of my involvement with Emerging Women a lot of people seem to think I'm an authority on women in the emerging church. So I get emails, questions about women in the EC, confused inquiries about what is going on, and complaints, lots of complaints. Responding to the women who contact me is weird because I am not the authority (not that one exists) and the EC is such a fluid thing that one can never give a definitive answer for why things are the way they are. That being said, I do try to respond, but often in responding I feel torn. Half the time I do my best to defend the EC and explain that anyone who wants to step up to lead is more than welcome to and all that. But the rest of the time I find myself sympathizing with the frustration and confusion these women are expressing.

So what am I hearing and who am I hearing it from? First I should say that I have had good conversations with women in leadership within Emergent (all from mainline backgrounds) who don't think there are any problems at all. I respect their experiences, but also hear too much from women who do think otherwise. From other mainliners who have already been through the fight to gain respect as women in the church and who have pushed for inclusivity in the church, I hear a good deal of shock at how patriarchal the EC is. They only see male figureheads, male authors, male bloggers, male speakers, and worse yet only hear male language used in reference to believers and to God. To them that is really offensive and implies that women are not wanted or valued. They have been through the struggle before and as much good that they see in the EC, they aren't sure if its worth it to join in with a group that is so far behind in regards to women. Why go where they are "obviously" not wanted? Then there are the evangelicals. Many of those women are just beginning to believe that they can have a voice in the church and are still being met with much opposition in their churches and families. They want to find a place to belong in the EC because it has helped them so much, but are often afraid to join what looks like the typical boys club they are used to experiencing or are unsure if they are even welcome in that world. They want to know before they sign on that they will be accepted for who they are (and not condemned because they are female) and that the invitation to join is for them as well. So while the official message may be that yes of course women are respected and welcomed, if they do not hear that message or see it displayed (actually lived out) then they do not feel like they are wanted. This of course does not apply to all women interested in the EC, but is a theme I've heard too often to ignore.

So why isn't the message of welcome and inclusion being heard (if it does exist)? The most common answer still is because most of the authors and speakers are male - they are the voice that gets heard no matter who else is out there. Even at the recent Midwest Emergent Gathering where we attempted to be very deliberate about giving women a voice, the upfront presence was still predominantly male. And we got flack for it, big time. It's not that there is anything wrong with the male leaders, they are great guys who have taught us wonderful things and have helped us along on our faith journey. I personally greatly appreciate the work they have done and the contributions they have made. But as popular as they are and for as many people who are desperate to be mentored (in even the smallest ways) by them, we women don't have a place. We don't fit in with the boys clubs and the male bonding experiences (which is what even many public events seem to be). There are no female "heros" that self-identify as emerging that we can look up to and be mentored by. The names that women in the EC look to in respect like Anne Lamott, Phyllis Tickle, Sue Monk Kidd, and Diane Butler Bass do not (to the best of my knowledge) label themselves emerging. So if there is no one to mentor us in the EC (or even to guide and open the doors), then women begin to wonder why they should even want to be a part of it at all.

Then there are the negative messages that (often unintentionally) get sent. And yes like it or not, there are a number of people who still think Mark Driscoll is part of the EC. They hear his sexist comments and assume that the entire EC agrees with him. But less radically there are constant messages that tell women you are not wanted here (even when they do not intend to do so). When the two most popular blogs on the Emerging Church (Jesus Creed and TallSkinnyKiwi) have ongoing debates on not only whether or not women are permitted in ministry but which also imply that the jury is still out on whether women are inferior to men or if we are even made in God's image, the message gets sent (loudly) that we are not respected, valued or welcome in the EC. When, like at last year's Gathering (and I've heard of similar occurrences elsewhere), women plan a workshop and then a big name male plans the exact same workshop at the exact same time (which then everyone goes to), the message is sent - your voice is unwanted and worthless. When at the Off The Map Conference last year the panel of women leaders were set in front of the crowd so that they could publicly ask questions of the male experts the message is sent - you women are inferior to us men (and granted the conference planers there admitted what a disaster that session was). And when at just about every single emerging event, it is extremely rare to hear gender inclusive language, women who have become used to being included in the broader culture are left feeling very alienated. And I don't think anyone intends to send the message to women that they aren't welcome, but that is what is perceived at any rate.

And what helps complicate the negative (albeit unintentional) messages is the silence by the men, the "yes,but..." excuses, the vague talk about Biblical gender roles, and the lack of positive action. When certain prominent leaders take a stand against women, it takes other popular leaders speaking out against hate language for that message to be overpowered. Then, saying "yes, but..." to women is like sending the message that we aren't worth your time or energy. You want to help us, but it's too complicated and might take too much work. Instead of dwelling on all the problems that might possibly arise and using that as an excuse to inaction, could you please just give us your unequivocal support for once? And when you mention "gender roles" most women mentally download some version of the barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen scenario that has been drilled into us for years. Define what you really mean. And by the way most women do not want to be told what they should be like by a man. We want to be accepted for who we are no matter how closely we fit some system of culturally defined roles. Using language like that is patronizing and demeaning.

So what would actively working to improve things look like? A few biggies that might help - Make sure that women are asked to speak at your events. Get women publishing contracts. Work jointly with women on the big writing projects and event planning teams. Get used to using gender inclusive language. And don't always refer to God as male (not that you have to go so far as using the feminine names for God, just that you don't always default to the masculine). Add women to your blogroll. Discuss the ideas women are talking about on your blogs, in your sermons, and in your books. Stick your neck out and publicly stand up against sexism and demeaning language. Publicly admit that you respect women and support them in ministry for that matter. It isn't "affirmative action" or "lowering your standards" as I have heard it described. And some of it might sound silly if you do it already (but it obviously hasn't been heard). But it does involve being deliberate about being inclusive. And I know that there are a lot of guys out there who are doing this already. But when there is still an overwhelming perception on the part of women that they are not welcome more obviously needs to be done.

And I will say again, I am not the "authority" to address this issue. I'm just reflecting on my experiences and my somewhat unique position of hearing from a wide spectrum of women involved in the EC. Not all women feel this way or think there is a problem. I know that. But it is for the many that do, that I made the plea to the men of the EC to loudly and without reservation demonstrate their support for women in the Emerging Church.

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posted by Julie at 2:05 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 8/12/2007 03:10:00 PM, Blogger Erin

    Can I add one more?

    Stop defending or supporting, either verbally or with your silence, those who clearly do not support womens equality.


    Excellent, amazing and wonderful post, Julie. Thank you, thank you.

  • At 8/12/2007 04:26:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

    I agree with Erin's addition. Whenever prominent male leaders in the EC respond to Driscoll's latest anti-woman rhetoric with a "well I disagree with him (or at least with his tone) but he's still a nice guy when you get to know him" it still really comes across as if you're making excuses for him.

    And of course, it's not just Driscoll, but he's the most obvious example. Frankly, he doesn't pull his punches when he's attacking the EC, so I don't see why we should still keep making excuses for him as if he even wanted to be our friend.

  • At 8/12/2007 05:27:00 PM, Blogger Erin

    Hahaha Mike, haven't we had this conversation before?

    You said it better than I. Exactly.

  • At 8/12/2007 05:32:00 PM, Anonymous becky

    Excellent insights Julie. This is why I don't self-identify as emerging because I come from the Episcopal church tradition. Right now, there's another crisis that's demanding our attention.

    If men want to engage in frat boy behavior, then it should be labeled as a "men's retreat" not an emerging gathering.

  • At 8/12/2007 06:09:00 PM, Anonymous sonja

    Julie ... this is EXCELLENT ...

    I've kind of given up on going to EC gatherings ... because here's what happens. The men stand around talking to one another and when a woman (me) tries to get involved in the conversation I feel as if I'm about to get patted on the head and told what a good girl I am. I'm forty-six years old and that's damn demeaning. I'm not a good girl or a smart girl ... I'm a woman and I have just as much to contribute the conversation as they do.

    Here's the problem though, they can't hear me. They can't hear me because I don't use the same language that men use, so instead of stretching a little and attempting to understand me (which, btw, I have to do to participate in the conversation) ... they just don't hear me. Now ... these are men who are good men and who strongly desire to be gender inclusive. I'm at a loss to explain it ... but there it is ...

  • At 8/12/2007 07:21:00 PM, Blogger Erin

    I think we do have to Brother Maynard alluded to in Julie's previous post - that we can tend to swing too far the other way.

    Like at Convergence (the Emerging Women gathering) in January - and I'm not sure you got this impression, Julie, but I got a distinct "Rosie the Riveter" attitude off of it. I am woman, hear me roar. It wasn't anyone or anything in particular, that was just the taste I had in my mouth when I left. Granted, there is a rising up going on, I think, and maybe in some ways we have to be loud as women in order to be heard, but we don't want to end up with a matriarchal church, either (I know that's unlikely - but that was the battle cry I heard). So i guess what I'm saying is if we want to be taken seriously, we have to be mature and even-minded about it.

    As far as being heard at conferences, that women's panel at Off-the-Map last fall was a disaster - the women were asking questions of Brian McLaren and George Barna (and someone else? I can't remember) and they didn't receive any straight answers, or the answers were condescending. But at that conference I did have some great intelligent conversations with some male pastor-types, and I do have hope that this dialog will continue to improve.

  • At 8/12/2007 10:25:00 PM, Anonymous Brother Maynard

    Julie, thanks for this -- and Erin, thanks for your comments on the conference... it is what I was getting at. I don't attend those big men's gatherings either, for the much the same reasons.

    I've got a couple of concerns though, not restricted to Julie's post but extending into the comments.

    1) Scot McKnight and Andrew Jones are supportive of women in the EC, so I was quite surprised to see their names as indicative of "the problem." If there's a debate going on or if they post a question about women and then provide their answer, it's because the question is being asked by people in their audience. This, I would say, is especially true of Scot's writings, where in addition to the EC, he has conservative evangelicals reading his blog as well. You can't criticize the blogger because a debate takes place in their comments... if anything, they should be credited for confronting the issue as people in favour of women in ministry. I think the criticism of these two is misplaced, and to suggest that either of them question the fact that women are created in "the image" is quite unfair.

    2) It sounds like I have to refer to God as "She" once in a while in order to prove I'm supportive of women... and I don't buy that. I'm in favour of gender-inclusive language in the Bible, but where God is concerned, I've no issue with using male language and am happy(-ier) with masculine language for God in the Bible. I've stopped being offended when people refer to God in the feminine, but I always refer to God in the masculine, and see no reason why women can't hold equal leadership goals even if God is spoken of as male. This one, to my mind, is a herring that if insisted upon will simply prolong the quest for equality.

    3) Regarding others' beliefs and statements, I don't feel it's my duty to go out of my way to correct people. In the context of the conversations I'm engaged in, I can make a point of it, but if someone outside that context says something demeaning I won't necessarily feel it's appropriate or helpful for me to jump in. This is not limited to women, but to any issue about which I'd disagree... so if someone says something I disagree with about women or about the divinity of Christ, I may just let it lie and carry on the conversations I'm already engaged in. The alternative is no better than the "heresy hunters." People in conversation closer to the "offending view" can and should engage it instead. My silence in response to Driscoll or anyone else cannot be construed as support or opposition -- *never* exegete silence, it's impossible to come up with an accurate reading! And if someone is a "nice guy" despite a view on, oh, women, or Calvinism, or infant baptism, or annihilation instead of hell, I have no problem saying so. I know a lot of people nice enough to comment upon who still have horrid theology. Heck, I could be one of them.

    I really liked Julie's EC-supportive comments that women are welcome to step up. That's good advice -- it sometimes looks like (some) women want to be "handed" a position; that doesn't happen for men, and there have been times that complaints are levied that people aren't doing something that nobody is preventing them from doing. I want to try and ensure that women are involved in panels or committees or whatever, but there are times when there are simply fewer women speakers to choose from. If only 30% of the speakers available are women, do we have to insist that 50% of those booked must be women? We're still grappling with an issue here, and I would say no, 50% is not yet a requirement and won't be until there are more women available for it. Not that this is a catch-22, because at the same time, we're advocating the creation of space for women to step into. If they don't, things won't change -- so there are two parts to play.

  • At 8/13/2007 06:01:00 AM, Anonymous Jonathan Stegall

    First, I want to make it clear that I strongly agree with the overall points expressed in these threads, and others that have been present in the emerging church and other streams of more alternative Christianity, like JPUSA and so on. Women have a powerful voice, and it should be heard as much as possible.

    That being said, in light of Brother Maynard's comment below, I am reminded of the similar discussion that has been happening in the web design community for the past few months. An example of this can be seen at this link on Eric Meyer's blog, and he links to several other examples that give a snapshot of what has been occurring. In essence, though, the idea is similar to ours. Women often feel as though their voice isn't heard, because the majority of the major authors and bloggers and visible event personalities are male.

    I feel that often, things that the emerging church deals with can parallel things that similar parts of "secular" society deal with. Many of us are involved in the web, whether we're actually web "professionals", or bloggers, or whatever, and I think it's beneficial for us to be aware of what's going on there, especially in an issue like this.

    While I'd like to be able to say, "Hey everyone! Look at the web designers! They've figured out how to let women have the voice they deserve!", that isn't really the case. But as we deal with these issues, let's watch how they deal with them, as they do care passionately about these things and have a similar situation to ours, and if possible let's engage with them. I'd love to see the web design field and the emerging church dialog with and learn from each other about how to be faithful in such an important issue.

  • At 8/13/2007 07:05:00 AM, Blogger Helen

    As women who want to follow Jesus, how do we be like this...

    Phil 2:1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

    Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
    Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
    but made himself nothing,
    taking the very nature of a servant,

    ...while pushing for our own equality?

  • At 8/13/2007 09:52:00 AM, Anonymous Ryan

    "And what helps complicate the negative (albeit unintentional) messages is the silence by the men, the "yes,but..." excuses, the vague talk about Biblical gender roles, and the lack of positive action. When certain prominent leaders take a stand against women, it takes other popular leaders speaking out against hate language for that message to be overpowered."

    If I may play devil's advocate for a moment...When someone prominent, whether from book, pulpit, message board, or blog, speaks out against women or says something degrading, I find myself asking, "Why should we waste our time responding?" (Now I feel it's entirely different when that figure helps determine the course of the "conversation.")

    To have to stand up against these hillbillies and spend my breath trying to defend a woman's place in the body of Christ is tantamount to explaining the law of gravity to someone who disagrees with this basic scientific law.

    The Bible is pretty clear on the topic-as long as you're willing to read all of it-and church history isn't that vague. Women have been/are ordained to be everywhere men are.

    You want to argue why women don't belong in leadership (or are not made equal in the image of God.) You might as well be arguing that the earth is flat. Or that 32 degrees Fahrenheit isn't the freeze point of water. Either way, I have too many other important things to think about, and discuss, and act upon with other folks who "get it." Your brazen ignorance isn't going to slow us down.

    Tell you what we can do, the next time any of us reads a post from one of these slack-jawed, Busch Light drinking, third grade dropout wife-beaters wanting to discuss the inferiority of women (or why a woman should refrain from a man's world in any way), you can paste the following response:

    "I'm not sure what shocks me the most: that a DF like you even knows how to use a computer OR that you feel it necessary to waste everyone's time with your head-up-a-horse's-ass worldview. Go back to your End Women's Suffrage campaign and allow the rest of us to move on. With only the utmost respect...Ryan"

    Don't waste any more words than those, which might be too many already. Do you think they will eventually get the hint?

    Hope I didn't offend anyone :)

  • At 8/13/2007 09:54:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    Erin - I like your addition as well. And I know what you mean by the ultra-prowomen attitudes at some conferences. Sometimes that goes over the top, but other times that is what some of the women need. I noticed at the Portland gathering that there were a number of women who had just recently (or had yet) had to awakening experience to see that they are valuable human being as women. They have derided themselves as only seen themselves as an extension of other people for so long that they needed the really over the top encouragement. It's all about context.

    Sonja - we had that same issue at first with our Emergent cohort. It was basically a group of guys all trying to sound cool and relevant who always talked over the women. most of the women ended up leaving and the group nearly died. Its a tad better and a lot smaller now.

    Brother Maynard to address your concerns. -

    1. I think I mentioned that the Scot McKnight and Andrew Jones are not intending to support the problem. I know that they support women, but the perception issues still exist. And I probably should have added The Ooze to that unintentional issues list as well. And yes I did mean the conversation there. When people read the conversations there and assume that whatever is said there is indicative of all of emergent (and while Andrew generally gives his opinion, that is not always the case with Scot and never the case on The Ooze). So even just the idea that all of those questions are up for debate doesn't sit well with women researching if this is a "safe place" to belong. Add that to the fact that it is usually just the conservatives telling us women that we are inferior or not image bearers who who up to debate, and the tone of the conversation is very anti-women no matter what the blogger actually think. And so women see that this is the type of conversations that take place in the EC (and don't see alternate statements in support of women). If your only experience of a group was that they had ongoing conversations about whether or not you are a full person would you want to join in?

    2. The God-talk issue. This is a huge issue for mainline women looking to join the EC. The fact that most men haven't even thought through the implications of insisting God has a penis or care more about their personal comfort or happiness than about correcting bad theology or including women is generally offensive. And this issue is becoming one of the big ones that evangelical women who are working through their gender identity wrestle with as well. And the men are just ignoring it or brushing it aside as insignificant. It is controversial, it isn't something all women are talking about, but for a theology issue that holds huge emotional weight for women to just be dismissed because the men don't deem it important exacerbates the problems.

    3. Silence with pats on the back is approval. Men just don't get why women are so offended by the hate speech that is constantly dumped on us. This isn't about theology it is about oppression and hate. I see it as the role of Christians to stand up against that oppression. we speak out against Darfur, against slavery, but can't be bothered to defend women. There is a very very loud message sent in silence.

    4. Sorry to say but yes men generally are handed positions. and in the world of speaking and publishing that is the way it works. There are a lot of women out there studying and talking about the same things as the men, but they do not have the "name". So yes it will take intentionally seeking them out, offering them gigs, and realize that for them to accept them means different things than for men to accept them. It is harder to say provide childcare for a speakers kids than to just book a guy who can leave his family with a second thought. One would really have to care enough about learning from a woman's POV, respect her as a person, and be willing to change the system to help make things work before the numbers approach balance. so yes of course the women have to be willing to step up, but the men have to be flexible enough to help make that happen.

  • At 8/13/2007 11:26:00 AM, Blogger Erin

    Julie - OK, I agree with you about the conference. You are right.

    Brother Maynard, first I wanted to say I appreciate you engaging on this subject - it's a bit of a firestorm here, and I value you and your opinions. But I have to disagree with you on your third point, and I'm going to be a little outspoken here, forgive me. ;-)

    The other issues you listed - Calvinism, infant baptism, annihilation - those aren't of the same caliber of debate in my eyes. We're not in the habit these days of telling Calvinists or Lutherans that they can't be Pastors. Even if we did, that would be based on an issue of their choice of beliefs, not their genetics. I just can't accept that it's the same thing.

    I don't care if someone who has a more *traditional* or *conservative* view of women IS a "nice guy", he's sexist, too. If he were vocally racist people would likely call him on it at every opportunity. That's what we feel we deserve on the subject of gender equality. It's genetic, so it's about justice, not theology. BIG difference. I wish more people could begin to see it that way.

    I think it's well worth male leaders "wasting" their breath and time and blog space on this if they believe in it. We want it to be important enough to enough people so as to initiate real change.

    I do think some male leaders are afraid (either consciously or sub-consciously - and please don't think I mean you Brother Maynard, you are NOT who I have in mind here) of being seen by their counterparts as "limp-wristed" if they are too vocal about it. But I think being outspoken on gender equality requires a strength and bravery that complementarian men simply don't possess.

    Ok, I'm done.

  • At 8/13/2007 12:05:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    hey, Brother Maynard. Re-reading my last comments, I sound more argumentative than I really intend. I really appreciate your questions and concerns and willingness to dialog about this. Thank you for how you do support women and for lending your voice to the cause. I think really getting some of these issues out in the open is a good step forward.

    There are some other good questions here as well, that I will try to address later. Thanks all.

  • At 8/13/2007 12:38:00 PM, Blogger Christy

    Julie -

    Really, really, really good post. You just explained why I don't identify as emerging - it's simply not worth it to me. I've been through enough at the hands of patriarchy, and I hate having to spend time and energy explaining the same things over and over again, when there are other things I'd like to spend my time on.

    But blessings on you as you do so - I know it's not easy. I'm glad someone is willing to do so.


  • At 8/13/2007 12:48:00 PM, Blogger Amie

    I'm so glad that you shared this. I'm new to the Emergent Church scene and have been wondering where all of the women's voices are.

    I still wonder if the EC is different than the traditional church for women.

  • At 8/13/2007 01:22:00 PM, Anonymous Brother Maynard

    Erin and Julie,

    Thanks for your responses to my last.

    On "point three," speaking out -- Erin, I think you make an excellent point about the theological points not being oppressive to others in the way that a view of women can be. My thinking was largely on theory when the results are in practice, so you (both) are right on that point -- it doesn't work the way I outlined it. Maybe it's more akin to those times when you're in the grocery store and witness a frazzled mother berating a fidgety child... and you want to just slap her and ask if she has any idea what she's doing. Not the best response... sometimes you just stare helplessly and sometimes you might actually say something -- but deep down, you know it isn't going to change anything unless there was more relationship within which to hold a conversation about how she treats her child. If anything, sometimes in the worst case, the mother may get more irked and take that out on the poor kid as well.

    On Scot and Andrew's position in the conversation, I thought the original post painted them fairly clearly as being part of the problem. I know they've written in favour of women, and I would prefer they not delete comments that disagree... so what are they to do? By talking about it, they help the cause, but by letting dissenters comment, they hinder it? Whether or not the question is up for debate is moot... the simple fact is that in some quarters, it is being debated. If their blogs can reach into those quarters with their statements in favour of women, so much the better, I would think. I'm not sure what you'd have them do. I've never or rarely (not sure which) posted on this subject on my blog, though it has come up... but if Scot and Andrew are doing it wrong, I'm not really inclined to post on it at all. Perhaps you could help me out on understanding this one.

    On the God-pronoun, Julie I read your response to that a couple of times and didn't quite get what you were saying... maybe I'm a bit thick ;^) I would say though that God having an actual gender as we imagine it is something of a pointless debate, almost as pointless as trying to figure out what if any genetilia he has... this fundamentally misses the point. If God were male, I should think he'd still be easier for a woman to relate to than is a husband or a father... but I'm a guy and I'm not qualified to make much of a guess on that one, as the best "understanding" I could ever reach would simply be taking someone else's word for it. If one person imagines God as male, another imagines him as female, and someone else imagines him as black, I've still no major issues... the important revealed parts of his character are not constrained to any of those. True, Jesus appeared as a man and spoke of his Father... but we shouldn't over-interpret. On the whole issue of God's gender, if you've read McLaren's ANKOC, we need to stop at this point and say that the question is here (left index finger on table) but the reality is here (right hand circling horizontally 10" above the table). We (and I mean all of we) just don't get it.

    Lastly, on men being handed positions -- I've not been handed any, and I've seen women get positions more easily than men at times, so I don't think this is at all universal. In the world of Christian publishing, it's all about how big your "platform" is... so if you or I were to want to publish a book, that question comes long before our gender. If we're talking about patronage, the "old boy's club" is just as hard for a Gen-X male to crack as it is for a Baby-Buster woman.

    Oh, and Ryan -- I don't think I'll be copy/pasting your response... somehow I don't think it would be received as constructively helpful! ;^)

    Know of course that I value the voice that you gals contribute to the conversation... I do mean to underscore my 2-year-old statement that the female voice is a requirement for balance. (And if can I get away with calling you "gals" in the middle of a gender-equality conversation, I know we can still be lighthearted enough to smile at one another!)

  • At 8/13/2007 01:50:00 PM, Blogger Amie

    Brother Maynard,

    You wrote, "On Scot and Andrew's position in the conversation, I thought the original post painted them fairly clearly as being part of the problem. I know they've written in favour of women, and I would prefer they not delete comments that disagree... so what are they to do?"

    As I said before, I'm new to the whole Emergent thing. Do "Scot and Andrew" pose a position? Or a question? I think that might make a difference.

    You wrote, "If one person imagines God as male, another imagines him as female, and someone else imagines him as black, I've still no major issues... the important revealed parts of his character are not constrained to any of those. "

    I disagree. Because of gender as a societal construct, there are characterizations associated wholly with being masculine or feminine. God's feminine attributes are often overlooked via assigning gender to a spirit.

    I'm interested in what positions you see women getting, and why you think it is that publishers see men as having bigger platforms within the constrains of Christianity?

  • At 8/13/2007 02:12:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    On the Scot/Andrew/Ooze issue. It is hard to say what would help. They are not the problem (they are supports), but the impression from open conversation creates problems. No I wouldn't stop conversations or delete comments. I would balance the ongoing debate about women with some unquestioned statements of support. Instead of sending the message that we are just an issue to be discussed, affirm that we are people to be heard and respected.

    On the gender of God issue. I'm not going to address that right now. It deserves a separate post which is something I've been meaning to do for awhile now but have honestly been too scared to actually do. But since the topic s out there, I might as well. Give me a couple of days.

    and Helen - you bring up a good question that I hear a lot. That it isn't humble or Christ-like to seek equality, or recognition, or power. And it is easier to fight for justice when you are focusing on a group you are not a part of, then those accusations of seeking power don't generally arise. But I think the desire for liberation and respect (be it for the poor or women or whoever) is different than glory. Giving voice to the voiceless is different than greed. Standing up against injustice is not antithetical to being a servant. Being humble does not mean accepting oppression. Take Jesus in the Temple. He (a poor Jew) saw how the rural poor Jews were being oppressed by the money changers and animal sellers in the temple. The systems that were suppossed to care for the poor were broken and they were being taken advantage of. Did he say, oh well, I need to be humble since if I protest I will look like I'm making a power play? No, he got pissed off and wrecked the place. One can be humble and still seek justice.

  • At 8/13/2007 02:45:00 PM, Blogger Erin

    Brother Maynard - I just want to say thanks for being constructive and fair and willing to continue this conversation. It really is a can of worms.

    I agree with what you say about needing relationship to create change (your example with the child). We as women just want so badly for this to change that sometimes we cry out in complete frustration for SOMEONE to do SOMETHING, even though there are only certain kinds of things and certain voices that can really effect change. I know I make generalizations and point sweeping fingers simply because I don't know what else to do. But I think by sharing our frustrations and what we would like to see happen ideally, we might just cause some male leaders to think about it just a little more. I think it's about erring on the side of overkill in order to get *any* results at all.

    I would like to ask you...with the new Wikiklesia thing there does seem to be a shortage (although not absence) of female voices. Is that because not enough women were invited, not enough accepted the invitation or not enough volunteered to participate? Not that I think it has to be all equal...but about 15% women does seem a little skewed.

    I'm just asking because this seems to be (although I could be wrong or misunderstanding in using this example - please correct me if I am) an example of the frustration Julie was expressing. I can't help but wonder how many men in this project stood up and said "we really need more women's voices on this"...anyhow I think what we are asking for from the men who *truly* believe in gender equality - simply to show it by noticing when things are clearly off balance and saying or doing something about it.

    Thanks again for showing your support by being willing to talk with us about this.

  • At 8/13/2007 03:00:00 PM, Anonymous Brother Maynard

    Scot McKnight (Jesus Creed) and Andrew Jones (Tall Skinny Kiwi) are two of the most prominant bloggers in the emerging church at present. Jones has been blogging roughly forever, and McKnight is a prolific writer and NT professor. Taken together they're both practical and theological. I think they've both probably written too much on the subject (Scot McKnight particularly) to be able to point to a single post. I think in general they address it as a question that has been posed by some, but then provide their own response. I figured that the fact they answered the question made it clear it wasn't a question they themselves were asking, but to be honest I haven't followed all of their discussion threads on the subject.

    You are correct that the feminine aspects of God's character as he's revealed them are often glossed over, to our detriment. His gender is, I think, not a very good question because our understanding of it is going to be limited by our humanity. If we're honest, this means not only that may be hard to conceive of God as female, but that should be equally hard to conceive of him as male. I'll give Julie a few days thinking through a longer post on this so I can understand better what she's saying here; maybe I'll even come up with a better way of explaining what I'm thinking (or change it) in the meantime -- no guarantees either way!

    wrt publishers and platforms, maybe this is a chicken-and-egg thing. Because women have had a harder time finding a "place" overall, those that do are fewer and have a smaller "platform." The publishers may be a reflection rather than a cause... it would be nice if they could help turn the tide, but they've got economic realities to deal with too.

  • At 8/13/2007 03:06:00 PM, Anonymous Jim Henderson


    now you know how to get people to post- go with the provocative.

    I agree with you about lasts years OTM wormens forum being a joke and I organized it.

    I agree with the vast majority of your observations and appreciate your courage.

    I like working with women and have tried to take as many public as possible over the years and will continue to do so.

    While I dont consider OTM to be part of the EC but neither do I care about distancing us from it.

    The issues you highlight are part of culture and evangelicalism (of which EC is a subset in my mind)

    This year at Off The Map Live Diana Butler Bass and Ruth Padilla De Borst will share equal stage time with BMac (I love that new nickname for Brian, a true sign of making it in public is when "the little people" feel free to mock you) and Richard Twiss and Todd Hunter. AND lots of cool musicians (including several women)

    Come and bring your women friends and cheer them on.

  • At 8/13/2007 03:20:00 PM, Blogger Erin

    P.S. Julie and Brother Maynard - sorry for ranting. Got me in a twist over this one...

  • At 8/13/2007 03:58:00 PM, Blogger Helen

    Julie thanks for your response - I understand what you're saying.

    If you get pissed off enough to wreck anything send me the photos :-)

    Since people complained about the MEG and women, what would you have done differently regarding women if you could have done it again? Or do you not have any particular answers to that at this point?

  • At 8/13/2007 05:59:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

    Regarding the MEG, the problem was partially that the secondary mainstage speakers (e.g. the interviews and the missional highlights) were planned a bit later than the main speakers. So while we had roughly 50/50 male female for the mainstage speakers (would have had exactly 50/50 except Alise Barrymore insisted on speaking together w/James King), all of the secondary presenters were male. That was totally unintentional. It just sort of worked out that way (and some of it was really last minute).

    The same with the workshop presenters. For a long while we were roughly 50/50 on male/female workshops - however, some male presenters signed up last minute, and some women that we had invited backed out (or sent their husbands instead). So anyway, we tried to be as inclusive as possible, but unfortunately the perception (by some, I think actually only a few) was that we were still too male dominated.

    Part of it also might have been the fact that I MC'd the whole thing. If we had had Julie or Sarah or Kristine up front in my place a few times, that might have helped. However, none of them really wanted the job so it just kind of fell to me.

  • At 8/13/2007 06:02:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

    oh, and Jim, I was really impressed at how quickly you and the other OTM folks (Rich & Rose especially) realized that the Women's Panel at the Revolution Conference didn't work out well. I got the impression that the mistake was entirely unintentional, that you all were very sensitive to the problem right away, and would have gone back and done it differently if you could have. That humility & sensitivity really spoke volumes.

  • At 8/13/2007 06:16:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

    I think Julie and Erin really hit on a key perspective issue with this whole thing. Some men, even egalitarians, still treat the women's issue as if it's merely an interesting but abstract theological debate, not realizing that for women this is not just abstract theology, this is real life. It is patronizing to have their real world struggle for justice bantered around as just one more academic debate upon which Christians can "agree to disagree".

    I liked your second analogy regarding this Bro Maynard. When I see a parent treating their kid badly, I don't want to just debate differing parenting techniques with them, I want to help the kid. But as you say, it's hard to know how to do that unless you're in relationship to them in some way.

  • At 8/13/2007 08:44:00 PM, Blogger Helen

    Thanks for your response, Mike.

    I expect it's a little frustrating to put effort into including women equally, then have last minute changes, then have women complain that you underrepresented them!

  • At 8/13/2007 09:23:00 PM, Blogger Amie

    Brother Maynard,

    Thank you for being so open, I truly appreciate it. I'm certainly not questioning what gender God is. God is a spirit. I think in examining his attributes, that to include both male and female would be beneficial. Isn't doing so the same as considering God genderless?

    Of course, there would be the issue of cultural influences on any gender definitions.

    Just some thoughts, thanks again..


  • At 8/14/2007 10:24:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    If you get pissed off enough to wreck anything send me the photos :-)

    will do :)

  • At 8/14/2007 07:18:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

    "these slack-jawed, Busch Light drinking, third grade dropout wife-beaters"

    Ryan, I think this would be a great come-back anytime Driscoll and his cronies starts mocking us emerging church guys as "limp-wristed, latte-drinking, chickified dudes". :)

  • At 8/14/2007 09:50:00 PM, Blogger LietoFine

    Hi Julie, I liked your point too that accepting women as speakers and such is different than accepting men. There are the issues of daycare and other things while it's true that most men I've seen can leave their family behind for something like a conference without a second thought. Right now, I'd love to be able to attend an Emerging Conference or something like that, but it takes a lot more effort with a 1 year old and would also take my husband's 100% support and not just support but almost excitement to care for our son while I listen.

    One of the things that Dan Kimball talks about in his books is this generations desire to have church as a family event instead of everyone being broken up into age and gender groups. I think this could definitely help women have a more prominent voice in the EC and not feel like they have to be just like men and give up some part of their family in order to participate. That's definitely the way I feel at the moment.

    Cristi :]

  • At 8/15/2007 12:07:00 PM, Blogger PrincessMax


    You clarified a couple of times in this post that you are not an authority on this and that it is simply your experience that leds you to these views.

    What is authority if not experience that leads to good instruction?

    One of the hardest things for the feminist movement to combat is the socialization that causes women to qualify their opinions, knowledege and wisdom with, "You may not agree with me but . . ." "I haven't been here long but . . ." "This may be just me but . . ." "This is just my opinion but . . ." There are lots of theories for why we do this but every woman reading your post should be cringing in recognition. (Myself included despite my awareness of the issue.)

    Now, I know that there is power in owning what makes us distinctly feminine. I also know that a flattened social structure is an ideal of the emerging movement.

    But if we want female leaders, Julie, you have to step up and be one.

    You are not the type of authority that tells people what to do but you have the authority to put your experience, intelligence and rhetorical skill out there as valuable, without qualifications.

    So, be a leader.

    Write the book.

    I know you've got one in there.

    I'll buy it.

    So will my friends.

    Then, speak at the conferences.

    I'll attend.

    So will my friends.

    Change the EC by attracting the folks that already think in justice ways rather than wasting time trying to change the folks that are already here. Form a mob and let the mob lean on them.

    It would be nice if men would make room for us at the table and it sucks to have to be someone other than who we want to be in order to elbow our way in. But until some of us are willing to sacrifice that way, both men and women will be stuck in these roles.

    I think you can do it. I'll join you in any way I can.

  • At 8/15/2007 01:53:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

    Thanks for saying this Rebecca. I've been trying to convince Julie to turn this and her "Speaking of God" post into a book too. :)

  • At 8/16/2007 09:07:00 AM, Anonymous kathy

    hey julie, thanks for the conversation. i try to read when i can but am a lame commenter, but feel compelled to jump in here because this is the place that i live daily. i never planned on being a pastor. it wasn't on my scan, honestly. God sort of just put it all together in some wacky way and here i am living as a co-lead pastor in an evangelical world. what seems so natural to us is so foreign to others and yet it feels on a daily basis "how it is supposed to be"--men and women working alongside each other, living out our faith, learning what it really means to love God, love others. so while i appreciate the theological discussion (i just attended cbe conference in denver, such a great group of people) i think the place that is missing is just practical "go and do what God is asking us to do." now i can say this so easily but when it comes down to it, there are many days i just want to give up, throw in the towel, and quit because there are so many subtle, weird things that happen to women pastors/strong women leaders. here's what i wanted to toss out on the table: i would love to see in the Kingdom a movement toward interdependence between men and women in ministry. i have become really against the senior-lead model in general, 1 person with all of the power (whether it was a man or a woman) and expected to have such incredible giftedness that it is just too much pressure for what we all are--average people. this superhero thing is so rampant in all churches. when we were forming the refuge last year i looked at 200 "emerging" websites and what was so sad to me is that really, most of the structures appeared to be so similar to all of the old models. i know your community is structured with shared leadership, too, so i know you know what i am talking about. what also made me so sad when i did that research last spring is the obvious and apparent lack of women (or people of color or age diversity, too, for that matter) most anywhere in leadership--in emerging was kind of bizarre and surprising. sure, there are some of us out here doing it no doubt but the truth is, not that many of us, in this way. most of the co-pastors i know are married, and while that is wonderful and i wholeheartedly believe in it, it leaves someone like me who is married to a great guy who has no desire to ever pastor, sort of in the dust. i believe there are a lot of women out there who would love to team up with some others but honestly, men and women working alongside each other who aren't married, isn't very popular (we need to begin to understand it is possible to do without having an affair, i really think that is one of the things everyone is afraid of...) what this shared leadership thing takes is men giving up power, women willing to step up to some. it is hard for me, i admit it, to lean into who God made me to be. sometimes it feels 'wrong' and that is just the crazy masogynistic evangelical culture i was in for so long. but if we are ministering with friends who fan the flame, call out the goodness, actually have strengths where i have weakness, oh what beauty can happen. but where all this leads is the laying down of power. and i think it also means being intentional about diversity. our team isn't just about men/women, although we are equally represented. it is a mix of young and old, single, married, divorced, widowed, educated, uneducated. the only thing that is missing from our team is racial diversity but for the moment, that's just where we are at but we recognize it and deeply desire to shift that over time. see, equality in the "church" (i have come to not be crazy about the word) is more than just for women. it is really about all the underrepresented/marginalized folks who never, ever, get power naturally. power always defaults to the talented & strong (and usually white & male but i want to be careful about tossing out such generalizations) that is absolutely not a Kingdom principle. oh i could ramble on for volumes, but i would personally like to say THANK YOU to all of the amazing guys out there who have advocated against this injustice toward women in the church with more than just words. you have made room, seen in us what we sometimes can't seen in ourselves, and are laying down some power. i am grateful and my hope in the years to come is that more and more brave & discerning men and women listen to God's call to give up the old dumb ways and live out what they believe in their core about the Kingdom, equality, diversity. i know everyone on this blog knows this but those outside the "church" looking in are frankly disgusted that women are so oppressed in the church--my friends who have no desire to be part of the system have rallied against the injustice against me, sometimes more than those on the inside. the world is watching, looking, pondering, and they can sometimes smell injustice far better than we sometimes can. well, thanks for your commitment to blog about these hot topics. i wish i could participate more but thanks for all the time you spend advocating for something better...i do not want my daughter to be stifled by the craziness in the years to come. i want her to have complete & utter freedom to live out all that Jesus created her to be.

  • At 8/17/2007 11:57:00 PM, Anonymous Peggy


    While I can't speak for Len and John, editors of the Wikiklesia book, I can speak for how I got to contribute a chapter. I saw Scot's blurb at Jesus Creed and thought to myself, "wow, I have things to say on this topic...but I don't know anyone and how would I even approach this...never mind, I've got too many other things going." Within 10 minutes I got an e-mail from a friend of mine who was one of the ones invited to write a chapter. He is a very vocal supporter of women and said that he was really hoping that a number of his women friends would submit a proposal...and he asked John if he could pass the invitation on to them. John agreed and my friend sent the invitation to me. I was shocked for about a minute, then fired off the proposal for what kind of chapter I would like to contribute. John responded immediately and said "please write a chapter in our book."

    I do not know how many women send in proposals...but I do know that Len and John were careful to keep the topic of the book focused on technology. I know of a number of proposals that just didn't make the cut because their main focus just wasn't on topic strongly enough.

    I also ended up asking John how he was going to do things like lay out the book and format things...and ended up working with John and Len through the entire production of the book. They were more than inclusive, they let me question them about everything they did and considered every suggestion I made...and we worked everything through with complete consensus. It was an amazing experience. And no, I'm nobody to them...just like I'm nobody to most who will read the book.

    And the other women who wrote chapters were way more high powered than mine...but I still got the chance to say my peace.

    It is possible, friends....

    And Kathy,

    What you are yearning for is exactly what I have been working on during the past 18 months. It is a terrible thing to have to be patient, but I can only say that the Holy Spirit is on the move and doing amazing things. It is never as fast as we want it, but God is working in spite of and through all these things--if we will believe.

  • At 8/18/2007 12:17:00 AM, Anonymous Peggy

    ...and one more thing.

    Scot McKnight has posted 61 threads on Women and Ministry on his blog. I think if would be encouraging to go and read them, now that the comments are closed, and look for the voices that are clearly standing up for the women. There are MANY men who step up to it.

    And do you best to not get entangled in the rants of the clueless ones...

    Look for comments by Michael Kruse and John W. Fry will be rewarded and encouraged by what they have to say.

    Be blessed, all.

  • At 8/18/2007 12:14:00 PM, Blogger Erin

    Peggy - Thanks so much for responding to that - I really was curious as to how the participants were formulated. I didn't want to think that it was as one-sided as men choosing to invite other men, because I have great respect for a number of the participants and I know many of them support women. But I needed to ask for peace of mind because I couldn't help but notice the uneven-ness.

    I haven't got a copy yet, but I look forward to reading your submission.

  • At 8/18/2007 09:57:00 PM, Anonymous Peggy


    I am happy to help with your peace of mind, sister!

    Paul Walker is blogging through a chapter a day of the book. His post on my chapter can be found here:

    Be blessed...

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