**This is An Unladylike Week in the Blogosphere as inspired by Rachel Held Evans Week of Mutuality with a post everyday on the issue of women and equality in the church. Follow #mutuality2012 on Twitter to keep up with the storm of blogging!!
A new friend recently made the painful decision to exit her beloved faith community because of it’s treatment of women. She was honest with her friends, her community group as well as the leadership, explaining with dignity and grace that she could no longer align herself with a church that tells it’s women “you are called to submit to male leadership.”
It pains me that my sisters of the faith who know these things and yet continue to serve a system of Christianized sexism, have become complicit in their own oppression. I say this because for many years that was me. I was the one aiding the polite oppression of women every time I submitted myself to silence. I may have been noble in my attitude wanting to avoid being divisive, but I blindly divided my voice and myself. This is not becoming of a spirit of reconciliation, but furthers the disunion of women with men. Unladylike: Resisting the Injustice of Inequality in the Church
As she exerted tremendous wisdom to disengage from her long-time faith tribe, she was challenged by a leader who accused her of being divisive. His accusation is troubling; not just because it is inaccurate and calls into question the integrity and character of this godly woman, but because it reveals an insidious attitude in the culture of her former church.
My friend, blogger and author Kathy Escobar, explains it well in this recent blog post:
…so many of us (men and women) have struggled in the church with not wanting to be divisive. there’s been a subtle and sometimes very direct message that any kind of conflict or dissonance equals being divisive and a challenge to unity. really, it’s usually not about divisiveness; it’s about control. unhealthy systems will not tolerate any kind of pushback or challenge or questions. healthy systems will.… kathy escobar
It is an old trick of the spirit of patriarchy to accuse women of causing trouble whenever they dissent with the doctrine of complementarianism – which I maintain as do many others that it is not a doctrine of truth but a mantle of oppression, or a “polite oppression” as I like to call it. The threat of being labeled as divisive is enough to intimidate many women of faith into silence. None of us want to cause a church split or a rash of malicious gossip.
I am inspired by women who do choose to speak up to those in power in their faith structures. It is not easy. God knows that there have been many times I would not or felt I could not. A big reason for this was the lack of confidence in my own voice and personhood. Lacking the strength of identity to buck up against the system kept me a closeted egalitarian for many years.
My new friend is a seasoned veteran of the faith. I don’t think she internalized the elder’s accusation of her being divisive. I imagine that she took it in stride yet also in sorrow, as his patriarchal bullying demonstrated a misogyny that colors his leadership. His influence is felt by many men and women in that church. And yes, of course he has a responsibility to ensure that controversial issues don’t threaten the unity of the community.
What is lost on him and the leadership of that church is that women ought not to be a controversy in the first place. There ought not to exist a debate nor a culture of Christianized discrimination that pushes women to the margins or out the door. Who then is moving in a divisive spirit?
Women of faith are rising up at increasing speed to be the women God created us to be. There may come church splits because of it. There may come congregational scandals and gossips fests that keep the prayer teams up all night. But be assured that it will not be because of women who question and agitate. These women are our prophetic ones, voices crying out in the wilderness, Let Our Sisters Go. And in the wilderness travail, there comes liberty for those who are doing the crying. Not divisiveness, but holy unity of body, soul, mind and spirit for a woman to be all she is meant to be.
Tennesse Claflin: “The history of woman is the history of the continued and universal oppression of one sex by the other. The emancipation of woman is her restoration to equal rights and privileges with man.”