Here’s this week’s installment in my What If... series. I hope you’ll add your thoughts to the conversation. Together we can ask What if as we seek to reimagine a church of the future.
In Jim Henderson’s new book, The Resignation of Eve, he begins with this fictional scenario: a pastor arrives to church to get things ready for the Sunday service when he realizes something isn’t right– Where are all the women?
The women have decided to stop coming to church until they are given more opportunities to serve and use their gifts. “…rather than trying to get you to debate, we decided it would be more effective if we simply didn’t show up one Sunday. We call it Sisters Solidarity Sunday, and we plan to do this kind of thing until you become comfortable opening up more opportunities for us to serve.” (from Linda, a character in the short story)
I think I heard Jim refer to this one time as women going on strike. What would happen if women in the church decided to go on strike?
Women are already quietly leaving the church already (apparently in droves according to this blogpost that cites a Barna study claiming that the presence of women in the church is down 11%…) But what if churched women collectively decided not to show up for a Sunday or two?
What if Adam’s rib was no longer willing to be the church’s backbone? This is the question that is the subtitle to Jim’s book. Put another way: What if women didn’t show up for church?
There would be a host of issues that would quickly become apparent.
- Unmade coffee
- Missing Sunday school teachers
- Nursery workers MIA
- Unprinted church bulletins
- Absent children
Women are the unsung workers of the Sunday production, both at home and in the church. It is women who get the kids ready and get everybody out the door on time. It is women who ready the Sunday school classrooms and get the hospitality center humming with coffee and creamer. It is women who serve doing the obscure Sunday chores that keep the church production running smoothly. (of course I am speaking in generalities)
Here’s what likely would NOT be missing : a preacher to preach a sermon. A choir director to direct, though granted a choir absent of women is going to be a pretty small if not non-existent choir. There also would likely be no issue of a missing Announcer. You know. That’s the guy who gets two minutes of mic time to basically deliver the commercials before the service begins. Most churches have some kind of announcer and in nearly every church service of my entire life this announcer (the announcer!!) is male and not female. And that is the point of this post, of this week’s What If question. What if women stopped showing up. Would the patriarchal system of most churches come to a grinding halt? Would it make men who dominate positions of leadership realize that women are doing much of the work yet their is a wide gap in the inclusion of women in church leadership?
What if Adam’s rib was no longer willing to be the church’s backbone?
I am not anti-male. I love men. I married and I am raising a man. Men are wonderful leaders. So are women. My issue with the world of church is that despite more than 2000 years of spiritual and social development, the church continues to indoctrinate it’s people that men lead, women submit. Many faith communities determine that this is profitable for God’s people because it has been determined to be a biblical virtue. Many Christians go so far as to say that it is God’s created divine order, that men were created to lead and women created to submit. Some soften this misogynistic posture by describing the complementarian view of gender as “separate but equal.” The idea being that men have preordained roles and so do women. I understand roles and I certainly hold a few roles in life that change from time to time (like I used to have the role of stay-at-home mom. Now I play the role of working mom.) But does the Creator relegate gender roles that are meant for every culture and every time period in every arena of life? I think not.
Women and men together are meant to occupy the roles we are gifted for. The church would be all the more rich if women were not barred from all areas of leadership and influence. Men would be the better for it, and so would women.
The church is crippled and hobbling in a broken world. Instead of working together and Being Together in all roles within the body of Christ, half our members are shut out and marginalized to service positions. I know all about service positions as this has been the story of my entire adult life, in both vocation as well as volunteerism. Serving is noble and God knows we all need to have a servant’s heart for each other. Yet women are thrust again and again into service positions to such an extent, that if they did not show up on Sunday morning, we’d have houses of worship neglected and impaired.
I like the fictional story in Jim’s book. I like to fantasize about Sisters Solidarity Sunday actually taking place. What would that look like? What if women didn’t show up for church? That would be a most unladylike trick to pull on the biggest day of the week for the tribe known as Church.
I intend to write a review of The Resignation of Eve next week (finally!) I had a small role in the development of this book and I know some of the women that Jim writes about within it’s pages. Because of this, I am included on the list of Women of ROE that you can find HERE.