Church Business Meetings And The Feminization Of A Culture
But having read what I’ve written up to this point, please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying! I am not arguing, as some might think, that it is right for a woman to be in a “men’s business meeting.” I have argued, and will continue to argue, that a men’s business meeting can not only be a lawful expedient, but it can be a loving one as well. In other words, I do believe the Bible teaches that both men and women can come together to discuss the business of the church. But I also believe that current cultural conditioning has made this a very thorny issue that is fraught with dangers.
The feminization of Western culture, and today the primary focus of this culture is America, is in full bloom. Radical feminists bent on nothing less than the destruction of patriarchy have, with few exceptions, won the battle. As a result, a family structure where the husband/father is accepted and honored as the head is practically nonexistent or seriously diminished. The home and workplace are now almost totally egalitarian, and the patriarchal nature of religious structures are changing with more and more women being ordained as clerics, whether it be bishops, priests, pastors or various other “ministers.” It is fair to say that the times are not just changing, they have, instead, already changed.
Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. The burqa, that “shuttlecock” outfit that Afghan women wore under the repressive regime of the Taliban is not, it may surprise you, a Taliban invention. It is worn many places in the Muslim world. It is an interpretation of Shari’ah (Muslim law) that requires the woman to wear a hijab (a covering). Even so, this covering was used by the Western media as a symbol of the oppressive rule of the Taliban. Many Christian ladies were probably appalled by the thought of the oppressiveness of being forced to wear such an outfit. But I am afraid Paul’s teaching concerning the head covering the Corinthian women were required to wear would seem equally oppressive to many Christian ladies today. After all, women who are liberated in the market place and in the home will not take kindly to a symbol of authority in the church either. But Paul told the Christian women of Corinth that they could not take their head coverings off in the assemblies of the church. Of course, the women of Corinth were not liberated socially and a head covering was mandated as a symbol of their subjection. But because the women were “all one” in Christ Jesus equally with the men, they evidently thought it would be okay for them to take their coverings off in the assembly of the saints. Paul said “No,” they could not.
The apostle gives several reasons, one of which was to remind the woman of the role she was originally created to play, i.e., a helpmeet, in that man was created first and therefore the woman was created for man, and not the other way around, and this no matter what some women seem to think. Paul uses the primacy of man as one of his arguments for a woman not teaching over nor usurping authority over a man in 1 Tim. 2:13. Therefore, if our culture mandated the wearing of a head covering for women, Paul’s teaching would require that Christian ladies not take their coverings off in our assemblies. But because it is not culturally mandated, I do not think a woman ought to feel obligated to put one on when she comes into the assembly. But if she thinks she should, then she must not violate her conscience.
But just because a woman in our culture is not required to wear a covering to show her subjection to man, and therefore is not required to wear a covering when she worships in our assemblies, does not mean that the points Paul made about the roles of men and women can be disregarded. On the contrary, women are to be in subjection. As such, they cannot teach over nor usurp authority over a man. This does not, as we’ve seen, prohibit a woman from being in a business meeting, but her participation would have to be consistent with her God-ordained role. Therefore, a woman could not take a leadership role in a business meeting, but would need to conduct herself consistent with the obligation placed upon her by God in His divinely revealed word. To disregard this would be to forfeit who we are as a people “in Christ.”
So, as we study this subject we must do so carefully and prayerfully. As a male, I do not intend to look down my nose at a female spiritually or otherwise. At the same time, I do not want to do anything that would cause a woman to get out of “her place.” By this expression, I do not mean the place where I want to keep her, but the place where God put her. Therefore, with the egalitarian spirit that is wreaking havoc with many peoples’ thinking today, the decision to have a business meeting with just the men of the church may not be the crass chauvinism some think it to be. On the contrary, and commensurate with man’s leadership role, it may be both the most loving and wisest thing to do.
The Feminization Of America
In the preface to The Feminization Of America, written in 1985, Elinor Lenz and Barbara Myerhoff, write of “head-spinning changes now occurring in American life as a result of women’s transition from their historic domestic world to the public world of business, industry, and the professions.” “These changes,” they claim, “are truly revolutionary; some of them could not have been predicted even a decade ago.” “They represent,” they said, “nothing less than the feminization of America” (p. 1). On page 14, describing chapter 6 of the book, they said: “The feminizing process is altering the family in ways that could not have been imagined even a few decades ago. As the family is redefined, we are seeing new attitudes toward mothering and fathering and the reordering of relationships all across the social spectrum.” On page 141 they note, “The God of Israel was a chauvinistic deity….” Then on page 146 they say, “The cult of the Goddess is a dominant motif of the recovery of women’s religious roots.”
In the closing remarks of When God Was A Woman, the writer says: “It is time to bring the early facts about the early female religions to light… With these facts we will gain the historical and political perspective that will allow us to refute the ideas of ‘natural or divinely ordained roles’… When the ancient source of the gender stereotyping of today is better understood, the myth of the Garden of Eden will no longer be able to haunt us” (pp. 240-241).
In her book, Changing of the Gods: Feminism and the End of Traditional Religions, Naomi R. Goldenberg wrote: “‘God is going to change,’ I thought. ‘We women are going to bring an end to God. As we take positions in government, in medicine, in law, in business, in the arts and, finally, in religion, we will be the end of Him. We will change the world so much that He won't fit in anymore’” (p. 3).
In her book, The Skeptical Feminist: Discovering the Virgin, Mother and Crone, Barbara Walker starts out by saying: “A feminist believes a world where socioreligious and legal systems are governed by women would be a more humane world than the present one, which is governed by men. There would be less greed, injustice, exploitation, and warfare” (p. 1). She went on to write: “We are barely beginning to understand the enormous tragedy of the historical clash between the archaic mother religion and the new, aggressive father religion, which took place from approximately 1000 B.C. to A.D. 1000, and which drastically changed the world. The sexist attitudes, injustices, and outrages that plague our society today have their foundation in religious imagery. The reason a feminist needs a skeptical view of father religion is that sexism is the product of that religion, and will remain so as long as God is assigned a masculine gender” (pp. 5-6).
Neanderthals Aren’t Cool
Things have changed. In today’s society, if you hold to a traditional understanding of men and women in the family and the church, you are an “uncool Neanderthal.” If you believe God has assigned to men a unique calling to authoritative leadership, where they alone are appointed to “oversight” in the church and they alone are the heads of their families, you will be seen as backward, fearful of change, and a misogynist. You hold such a position, it will be thought by many, because you’re just another insecure male frustrated over the loss of your cultural superiority. Furthermore, either you’re not married (it figures!) or your wife (for surely you are male) is a shriveled doormat of a human being, who has low self-esteem and wears heavy make-up to hide the welts where you have beaten her into submission.
Additionally, it doesn’t matter what kind of “traditionalist” you are. You may believe that women are created in the image of God and are deeply loved by Him, and have been given talents that should be encouraged and developed for use in the local church. And you may believe that women are essential and valuable partners in their families as wives and mothers. You might respect women, work in partnership with women, and even learn from women. But if you believe it is God’s will that men have been given certain unique positions of leadership in the church and family—even if you believe this leadership ought to be exercised in a humble, servant-like fashion—the “cool” people will still see you as anti-women. It also doesn’t matter that your belief regarding the sexes has been the normal position held by the majority of all people, everywhere, over all time, up until about 1960. Why? Because the current cultural propaganda brushes aside all history before the rise of modern feminism as uniformly oppressive to women. Exclusive roles of the sexes are to be outgrown just like witchdoctors, horse-drawn carriages, and rotary telephones.
In the epilogue of the book shown above, Robert H. Rowland, a Christian, wrote: “Visualize with me an unusual, but not unscriptural scene. It is Sunday morning and we walk down the hall of the educational wing of the church.” He goes on to describe several scenes:[In one room] the minister and his wife are team-teaching a mixed class on family relations. Across the hall, an older lady, who spent 40 years in the mission field in Africa, is teaching a mixed college class about mission work … In another classroom, a sister who recently graduated from a Christian university with a major in Biblical Languages is teaching a dozen men and women New Testament Greek. Down the hall, a Christian woman, who is a trained psychologist, is teaching a group of recovering alcoholics and their mates. In the auditorium, a Christian woman who is head of the music department at the local Christian university has a large group of men and women studying worship and is training them to read music and blend voices to more effectively teach and admonish in song. In the family room, the new youth minister is teaching teenagers to resist Satan and live for Christ in this sin-pressured world. She recently graduated from a Christian university. The teenagers have already learned to love and respect her.
After the congregation gathers for worship in the auditorium, he writes, “the lady who taught the music class encourages the church to join her in two songs of praise.” After a brother reads scripture, “a sister asks the church to join her in the offering of prayer and thanksgiving.” After the preaching, which was done by a man, “three men and three ladies wait on the communion table and serve the church. One of the ladies offers thanks for the bread and a man offers thanks for the wine.” During the announcement, an elder announces “that Sister Jones, from our favorite Christian university, and professor of Biblical Archeology, would be preaching for us next Sunday morning on the subject ‘Archaeological Evidence That The Bible Is True.’” “The bulletin reports the activities of deacons and deaconesses who are involved in dozens of ministries within the membership and in outreach.” Rowland then goes on to lambaste those who would find this whole thing “shocking.” Shocking, indeed, but such is the vision of some among us.
The website above (www.gal328.org) is maintained by a group of Christians who are touting just such a vision. On this site under the title “Hearing Women’s Voices At The Stamford Church Of Christ,” it is said:Where I worship God I hear women’s voices. I hear them read Scripture, sometimes with an interpretive passion I’ve rarely heard from men. I hear them pray in ways that stir my soul and awaken places in my heart that were dormant and undiscovered. I hear them bring a woman’s sensibility to their reflections on the suffering of Christ as we commune together at the Lord’s Table. I hear announcements that make sense because they are directly given by those most familiar with the real needs of our church family. And I have sat in, and greatly benefited from, classes taught by female social workers or Bible scholars. In fact, where I worship God we understand that distinctions of roles, privileges, rights and status on the basis of birth (that is, on the basis of race, gender and class) are ended in Christ (Dale Pauls, minister of the Stamford Church of Christ in Stamford, CT).
The Feminization Of A Culture And Its Results
I would like to think that reasonable, God-fearing men and women would easily recognize the folly of such radical feminism. I would like to think that you are appalled by these shenanigans. But, experience has taught me that this is not always the case. Some of my worst critics concerning gender roles have been Christian women. Depending upon their own perspectives, some have thought me too conservative while others have considered me to be too liberal. Gender issues are extremely volatile, even among Christians. One of the reasons for this is that the feminization process feeds off the real injustices that have existed—and in some cases still exist—in our culture concerning women and equality. I understand this and try to be as sensitive as I can without sacrificing what I believe the Bible to be teaching on this subject.
I do not wish to ignore or diminish the legitimate concerns off of which feminization feeds. But if you want to know why men today are acting more like women and women more and more like men, it is because feminist propaganda reigns supreme in our society—a society that encourages, even admonishes, men to get in touch with their feminine side and be, you guessed it, more sensitive. At the same time, women are taught to be more aggressive and authoritarian. It is exactly this role reversal, or interchangeability, that is touted by our feminized culture. In The Feminization Of America, the chapter that deals with “New Men, New Women” ends the section on the new man with this paragraph: “The new man, it appears, is a fit companion for the new woman who, as his mother, lover, wife, coworker, has helped him become the expressive, open-minded, vulnerable, empathetic man he is today” (p. 208). How sweet. Isn’t that just precious. Let’s all get in touch with our feelings so we can act like “girly-boys.” God forbid!
Where is that man that God created to be male, not female? Where is that man who is a leader of and provider for his family? Where is that man’s man who exhibits those qualities that will make him desirable to God’s woman? He is, unfortunately, an endangered species! But if he can’t be found in society, then surely he can be found in the church. Sadly, this is not always the case, for instead of the church being the salt and light it needs to be to a lost and dying world, the world has risen up to force its image upon the church. Too many Christian men act neither like Christians nor men.
But the image is not faded altogether, for there is Jesus, the personification of what real manhood is all about. There is Peter, Paul, Timothy, Titus and the others. And there are those qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 that speak to the fullness of Christian manhood:without reproach or blameless, given to hospitality, good testimony from without, a lover of good, no lover of money, not greedy for ill-gotten gain, temperate, self-controlled, orderly, gentle, not contentious, not a brawler, soberminded, apt to teach, not a novice, children in subjection, able to rule his own house, the husband of one wife.
This is true manhood and it ought to be what we strive for. Such a man is the “head” of his wife, as also Christ is the head of the church. “Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything” (Eph. 5:23-24). The man of God is not a neutered wimp who has emasculated himself at the altar of an anti-God, anti-Christ, anti-Biblical feminism. The true man of God is not willing to relinquish his leadership role in the family or the church, and God’s woman does not want him to do so. This may make us “peculiar” to those around us, but it must be remembered that this is precisely what God created us in His Son to be (Titus 2:14; 1 Pet. 2:9). May God help us to be true men and women, and may we glorify Him in these efforts.
Lawful, But Not Necessarily Expedient
I have frequently thought that if we’d just get ourselves taught on this issue, emphasizing what the Bible says about the male and female roles, then a meeting of the whole congregation could be conducted in such a way that no one, male or female, would get out of line, and ultimately no one would feel left out of the process. But congregations that have tried this have not always met with positive results. Why?
Because although it is certainly lawful for a woman to be in a business meeting of the church, it is not always expedient. The apostle Paul addressed this principle when he said, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful; all things are lawful for me, but all things do not edify” (1 Cor. 10:23). What this means concerning the subject at hand is that although a combined meeting of men and women called to discuss church business is authorized, this does not mean it is mandatory, or even desirable. It all depends upon our attitudes, dispositions, and of course, our understanding of God’s word. I’m speaking to both the men and the women here. Is our collective thinking up to speed? In other words, are we sure we have a “thus sayeth the Lord” for it, congregationally? I doubt it! But if we all conclude that we do have authority for it and that this is what we want to do, is there reason to think that some of us might have a tendency to get out of line? And if someone does get out of line, are the rest of us willing to rebuke such an individual, and take the necessary action if one doesn’t repent of their ungodly behavior? Or, might not a husband try to defend his wife even when it is clear to the rest of us that she has gotten out of her place, and vice versa? I hope you’re getting my point here. Yes, I believe the Scriptures teach conclusively that congregational business meetings are authorized and, therefore, can be conducted—and I personally would like to see it happen—but the pertinent question still remains: Is it expedient for us to do so? Remember, just because something is lawful does not automatically mean it’s expedient, or that it edifies (1 Cor. 10:23).
I’ll have more to say about this next month.
Allan Turner is a preacher, writer, editor who lives in Corinth, MS. He has his own web site located at http://allanturner.com and is the editor of this on-line magazine. You can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.