44 thoughts on “Women In The (White) House

  1. michael lee

    I’m sure Gretchen would have some good thoughts on this, but I don’t allow her to read anything other than Christian Homemaker magazine and the Focus on the Family newsletters.

    I’ll summarize it for her though, and post her thoughts back here.

  2. Chad

    Could you have her bring a beer, too?

    This blog was more fun when you could successfully bait the girls into completely justifiable feminine rage.

  3. Sharolyn

    First (to men), just as a favor to me, imagine hearing a lifetime of preaching by women, having your church be run by women, told that men cannot be elders, etc. Men, you are free to lead, in terms of potlucks and nurseries.

    As far as the article:
    1) I have no issue with Lifeway Christian Bookstores pulling the magazine off the shelves that featured women pastors on the front. This is EXACTLY freedom of speech. They have every right to bury their heads in the sand and live in fear when Christianity becomes a little progressive (aaack!!).

    2) It is just weird to me that Richard Land (in the article), because of the way he interprets scripture, has a problem with a woman working outside the home, but has no problem with Sarah Palin leaving her baby with a nanny to be the Vice President of the United States. “There’s no disconnect or inconsistency whatsoever,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.” Huh? Oh, I guess it helps that Todd Palin is letting her. (I’m not joking.)

    3) The last two paragraphs of the article are especially moving:
    “The Rev. Carolyn Hale Cubbedge at First Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia, said the Southern Baptist Convention fails to consider the New Testament’s entire story, including the social context of the patriarchal society when it was written.

    “I shed a lot of tears over this,” said Cubbedge, whose church is now part of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a group of Southern Baptists who have separated or distanced themselves from the denomination. “I felt like this convention that had nurtured me had really abandoned me. That was painful.”

  4. harmonicminer

    I attend a Southern Baptist church. It’s my first, and we’ve been there about 6 years or so.

    It is a bit quaint, to me, that they only have male deacons, and only men take the offering.

    But women sometimes preach or share after a missionary trip, in lieu of the regular pastor. And in church business meetings, I think the women speak more than the men, quite often. There have been women teaching adult sunday school classes in the past, not just kids, though currently the adult teachers are men. Any deacon who condescended to a woman in a business meeting would probably be run out on a rail, or just laughed at… not sure which.

    Men tend to run traditionally men’s ministries, and women tend to run women’s, but that may just be a natural self-selection. No women seem to feel excluded by the men’s prayer breakfast, and I haven’t noticed men clamoring to attend the monthly women’s luncheon. When men and women show up on church “workdays” the men tend to chop wood for the firewood ministry, and do the heavy lifting, and women tend to do the cleaning and painting. No one would complain if a women came over and picked up an ax.

    Many women in the church are employed outside the home. No one thinks anything whatsoever about it.

    Bluntly, as far as Southern Baptists go, this election is about abortion and gay marriage, socialism and national defense. Sarah Palin is just so obviously a MOM that she doesn’t push any negative button for any woman I’ve heard discuss her. And the men are simply proud to have a strong spokesperson for their point of view, which they haven’t always felt they had in McCain.

    Outside of the very specific issue of male pastors and male deacons, I’ve seen no significant difference between how this church runs and how the local Lutheran church runs (where we went before). I think this article is an attempt to make something out of nothing, in all honesty.

  5. Sharolyn

    This past Sunday, our pastor read aloud from a book written by a woman. In my 33 years of attending church, that was the first time I can remember that happening.

  6. harmonicminer

    Honestly, our pastor almost never reads from anything but the Bible, and very, very rarely anything else. He occasionally recommends something, like twice a year, maybe.

  7. Sharolyn

    Funny enough, Phil, same with my pastor. My intention is not to attack your church specifically, just to point out the obvious lack of leadership roles and opportunities for women. We all have our perspectives. Mine is that Jesus doesn’t place a high value on anatomy. I am not the most progressive woman I know, I’m just saying there’s some room to grow in this area.

    Mike, what would we do without your comic relief?

  8. Sharolyn

    It bums me out when our Christian world is 10 years behind every one else, for example in psychology or music or… women.

    By the way, I would make a terrible elder. There is a woman in our church, however, who I think would make a great one. She is slow to speak and wise, a good listener, and although it’s not a requirement, has a great sense of humor. She would make a great addition to our already-wonderful male elder board. She is an empty-nester. I would love to vote for her to become an elder. We have yet to see if that can ever happen.

  9. Sharolyn

    Phil, there is no way I will win a debate with you, so I am a little timid to ask anything. But I have to wonder (going back to the article), isn’t it putting the cart in front of the horse to support a woman with small children in the White House, but not allow her to preach or be an elder?

  10. Chad

    I, for one, am a little old fashioned, in that I think there should be a male at the head of a church. Strangely, I would have no problem with a female president or vice president. Rendering to Ceasar and all…


    I think every church in America is foolish (and unBiblical) not to put women in significant roles of leadership. I think we need more women elders, and more elder couples. I absolutely do NOT think that a woman should have to be married to be an elder. That is an absurd idea, totally contrary to many of Paul’s teachings about the prominence and value of single people in the kingdom.

    Ladies are smart, fellas, and sometimes ya’ll are dumb when left alone. Really dumb.

  11. harmonicminer

    Hmmm.. I think it’s just apples and oranges.

    I would be the very first in line to demand that women have every opportunity in business, government, etc., that men have. About my only reservations are jobs requiring upper body physical strength, like firefighting, police work, etc., where standards were simply lowered to let women in. I don’t think any woman is likely to be able to carry me out of a burning building… ;-) Or even drag me, for that matter.

    Not that I want to be dragged. But I digress.

    As I said, I think the Southern Baptist male deacon policy is a touch quaint… but as far as I can see, it seems almost to be a traditional holdover, not some kind of thoroughgoing attitude towards women, given the rest of women’s participation in our church work and governance.

    Nevertheless, religious dogma and practice isn’t something that should be imposed on society in this way. Further, the Bible has plenty of examples of women in governing roles, especially in the OT, who weren’t necessarily religious authorities. And with women political leaders, the priests were still male.

    So, short story: it’s a religious judgment about church leadership roles, but it is a civil democratic judgment about political leadership roles.

    For the record, my personal preference would be a gender-blind pastorate, in some ideal world.

    I report, though, that the churches most likely to have lots of women ministers, especially in top leadership roles, are also those most likely to be great fans of abortion on demand, happy enough with gay marriage and gay clergy, never saw a leftist dictator they didn’t like (they only dislike so-called “right wing” dictators with any enthusiasm, but Castro and Chavez and the Sandinistas are just fine, and they aren’t too upset by China, either), and would like the USA to become a completely socialist enterprise, with no significant military, and no real ability to defend itself. They tend to teach a moral equivalence on a great many matters that is repugnant. They tend to be in mainline denominations that are dying by inches (because they feel very sentimental about children, but don’t have any, and don’t mind suggesting you could kill yours, if you want, as long as they’re still in the womb).

    There seems to be something about people who are deeply committed to women in high leadership in the church, regardless of other considerations. They tend to be immoral. Please read carefully. I didn’t say they ALL are. But, bluntly, they tend to be. I don’t know why. But it’s impossible to deny the correlation. I’m not describing the cause/effect relationship, because I don’t understand it, but it is there, somewhere.

    Sigh, reading back, I just KNOW someone will misinterpret, and I don’t feel like rewriting at the moment. So: read the first two sentences in the last paragraph carefully. They mean, to me, exactly what they say, no more, and no less.

  12. aly hawkins

    Hey, Shar. Maybe this conversation has petered out and doesn’t need reviving, but I thought I’d jump in anyway (shocking, I know). I think affirming a woman in government leadership while limiting women’s leadership in the church (or home) is cognitive dissonance only if one’s reason for the limitation is that women are “more easily deceived” than men. There are certainly those who hold this view, though I don’t believe they are in the majority any longer among those who read a biblical prescription for discrete gender roles. If one believes that women are more easily deceived, it doesn’t make sense to support a woman in high office, within or without the church.

    As to leadership within the evangelical church, I don’t find the exclusion of women “quaint” in any way (I know…also shocking). I too recognize the correlation identified by Phil, but I believe that some of the onus for these wrongheaded extremes must be laid at the feet of the conservative church. When you shut people out they have a tendency to go where they’re wanted, even if the place they’re wanted is wrong. A sense of belonging matters — for many people, it matters as much as being right. (I know this will be terribly difficult to understand for the more left-brained among us, but you’ll have to trust me: Relationship trumps reason almost every time. See: extremism of all stripes. See also: recruitment strategy of the Democratic Party.) The evangelical church must wrestle with its varying theological views on this issue in a more effective way. (And by “more effective” I mean “with more obedience to the Greatest Commandment.”)

    I’m not really interested in rehashing the theological opinions on either side of this matter, but I think I may have just M-80′ed the can of worms. Gah.

  13. Sharolyn

    Aly, thanks for chiming in.

    I guess for me, a woman, it is more apples and apples.

    I have found this to be true as well….

    “There seems to be something about people who are deeply committed to women in high leadership in the church, regardless of other considerations. They tend to be immoral. Please read carefully. I didn’t say they ALL are. But, bluntly, they tend to be. I don’t know why. But it’s impossible to deny the correlation.”

    …but for me it is all the more reason to be open to women in leadership and keep my morals in tact.

  14. harmonicminer

    Aly: “If one believes that women are more easily deceived, it doesn’t make sense to support a woman in high office, within or without the church.”


    Thought experiment: imagine MEN choosing to go to some church where they felt more valued for whatever reason, and were then so led into immoral perspectives to which MEN are more prone, and women less so. (Revealing my judgment of the reverse situation now obtaining, of course.)

    How understanding would women be that the men were just going where they had a greater sense of belonging, even if it wasn’t right?

    I think not much, if that greater sense of belonging made them feel more comfortable being casually violent, or casually promiscuous, or…. you fill in the blank.

    As I said, in general, I’m happy enough with women in leadership roles in ANY organization or context (except maybe leading the charge out of the foxhole, or something similar in physical demands), including the church, worship, etc. I am a feminist in that regard, I suppose. More, I think I’m a humanist… while the natural variability of the race will produce some women who are natural in those roles, it will produce more men. Which is no excuse to suppress those women who are natural leaders for whatever context, of course.

    A humorous sidebar: I have taught quite a few people how to shoot, handguns and rifles. My observation: women learn faster, are generally just a bit more safety conscious, follow instructions better, and generally shoot tighter groups sooner. But they don’t like the recoil of really big guns.

    A less humorous sidebar: Two reasons the Israeli army moved away from commonly putting women in combat roles were 1) the women, though often better shots, were less likely to quickly shoot BACK than men, and 2) men made irrational decisions on the battlefield to try to save women, when they would have let men take their chances.

    Some of that is just hardwired, again admitting variability within any given population.

    In general, women ARE different from men. That means the same proportions of each gender just aren’t going to gravitate to each field of human endeavor, but some of each will certainly wind up virtually everywhere.

    If I was a woman, I would pursue this strategy, more or less borrowed from Martin Luther King Jr. Shame the organizations into living up to their own standards. Every Southern Baptist seminary, for example, will SAY that the Bible must be interpreted as a whole, that you can’t hang huge doctrinal decisions on only two or three verses, but must look at the context of overall biblical teaching and example. So what’s needed is for some women to lay it on the line, to quote the seminary professors’ statements right back at them, and make them attempt to prove a “men only in leadership” perspective using the hermeneutics they claim to espouse, and not just key on a couple of verses from Paul to a single church in a single context.

    In other words, beat them at their own game, and shame them into admitting their own biases. I think that’s what MLK Jr did, and I think that strategy still works, though the people who employ it may pay a personal price, as he did…. hopefully not being shot by enraged theology profs, but you get my drift.

  15. Chad

    I’m really curious, Aly and Sharolyn, as to how the “Men are just inherently different than women,” line of reason resonates with you, or any ladies who read this blog. Is it offensive? Do you agree?

    My position… because I know that EVERYONE cares… is that since men and women ARE so different, that we simply must be more purposeful about including men and women in making real leadership choices be they in politics or church or the home or workplace. I think the only way to make decisions that make sense for the whole of any population is to make sure that… oh, I dunno… BOTH halves of the human population are well represented.

    Seems pretty intuitive to me.

  16. aly hawkins

    Chad – I think men and women are different. I also think it’s really, REALLY difficult to quantify in what ways they are different much beyond fairly unhelpful generalizations (upper body strength, as Phil cites, is an obvious one — but even that’s a generalization with some pretty outstanding exceptions). I think gender is more of a continuum than an either/or, and that the majority of people have a mix of “masculine” and “feminine” characteristics. (I’m a pretty good example of someone hovering in the middle of the continuum: I’m intuitive, mystical and tend to value relationships over winning; I’m also blunt, independent and tend to be a leader. Female? Through and through. Feminine? Well…)

    I think your suggestion (being deliberate about including both men and women in leadership) is a good one, for pragmatic as well as theological reasons. If, as the Scriptures say, “male and female he created them” in His image, it seems to me that we need both in the mix to reflect the image of God most fully.

  17. harmonicminer

    Aly, you should have warned me about the link. I clicked it. Aren’t steroids wonderful things? I didn’t know you had a collection of East German Olympic Team women.

    I said: “That means the same proportions of each gender just aren’t going to gravitate to each field of human endeavor, but some of each will certainly wind up virtually everywhere.”

    I was trying to point out that differences between individuals matter more than differences between gender averages, and so when people exhibit characteristics that make them appropriate selections for particular roles, they should be encouraged to fill those roles.

    What you both seem to have suggested is a quota system, if I read you correctly. Is that what you have in mind?

  18. Chad

    I’m not sure where you’re getting a quota suggestion. I felt like she was echoing and affirming what I said, which was about being deliberate about actively seeking the input of both genders.

    Deliberate isn’t a quota, at least in my mind. Quotas are just numbers. Leadership must be relational to mean anything.

  19. harmonicminer

    Chad, you said: “I think the only way to make decisions that make sense for the whole of any population is to make sure that… oh, I dunno… BOTH halves of the human population are well represented.”

    Aly, you said: “we need both in the mix”.

    It is that slippery phrase “well represented” that is the problem. How will you measure that? Do you mean merely by able representatives who have made their way into leadership in the usual way? If so, I agree.

    If you mean, “by adequate numbers to insure an equal voice”, you’re in quota territory, like it or not.

    Go scan the leadership of nursing organizations, and tell me what percentage of men you see. It will be small. Very small. Go scan the percentage of men in nursing faculty of universities. It will be small, as well. I suppose the question is, how many of each do we have to have to qualify as “both in the mix”? In the nursing example, which I have brought up to nursing faculty before, the usual response is, “But, there just aren’t as many men going into nursing! We can’t possibly get equal numbers of men into leadership roles without lowering standards.” When I point out that if more men were more visible in leadership roles in nursing, they would attract more men into the profession, and things would equalize, I’m told that the problem is that the transition would require putting less qualified men into positions for which more qualified women exist.


    And something like that is exactly the argument that has been made in the other direction for years. Where, I’d point out, it is rarely allowed to fly.

    None of this, of course, is directly on point for organizations like the SBC, which have an ideological commitment against women in pulpit leadership roles. And as I suggested, I think the solution there is for women to take men on and beat them at their own game. Prove to them, using their own exegetical rules, that their stance is not biblical. Force them to publicly debate the matter, and shame them. That, in essence, is what MLK Jr did, but using the Declaration and Constitution, instead.

    SBC would really not have an option here: if they refused to publicly debate the matter, with strong representation from both sides, that would be a sign of weakness itself.

  20. Chad

    I am not in favor of quotas. Ever.

    I am in favor of (speaking about churches, now) men collectively getting their heads around the idea that they would be better off if they were taking some serious leadership cues from talented, godly, wise women.

    This cannot be measured or quantified. This is a relational issue.

    Which is why, precisely (well… a precise generalization), men don’t like it. We tend to want to measure things, write them down, have a playbook, etc etc etc. I have witnessed firsthand the utter and repetitive failure of this style of leadership in a church context.

    We need women in church leadership for this very reason, to frustrate us and challenge us and make us think and justify ourselves. We need women in church leadership because it WILL make us profoundly uncomfortable, and we will have to put on our big boy pants and actually DEAL with 50% of the population.

    Our church puts a huge value on communal food. We eat together on campus. A lot.

    However, we don’t have a kitchen on campus. The church has been there for 40 years. Know why? It never fits the budget. The bean counters who can only count to 1 because that’s the number of objects swinging between their legs can never quite wrap their brains around the intangible benefits of something as painfully obvious as a kitchen on campus.

    Allow me to restate here, that in the end, I do get a little old fashioned. If there’s a bad guy coming into the house, I think I should be the one to kick his ass, although if he gets through me, he has a terribly unpleasant surprise coming his way, as Erica actually does have freakish upper body strength. I DO think that the Bible (and natural law) places men in a role of leader, protector, and (yeah… I’m gonna say it…) decider.

    I am not comfortable with a female senior pastor, or head elder. I’m just not. I realize this statement may not win me points, but it’s the truth. My egalitarian comments and beliefs are rooted in the idea that the men are just so hopelessly incompetent when left to lead by themselves, present company included. We’re pathetic, really. It’s a good woman that teaches you how to even be a leader, how to be a man. The idea that we can exclude them and still become real men is just fantasyland.

    Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes. -Whitman

  21. Chad

    I think it sounds like I’m arguing with Phil, and I don’t think I mean to. I think I’m just narrating from a different perspective. I like, very much, your 2nd to last paragraph. I am in favor of women winning on their own merits, but then there’s also the whole “Old Boys Club” thing, too.

    What do I know? Poop on the Phillies. That’s what I know.

  22. Chad

    AAARGH, I need my editing tool!

    Ok… so… look. I said something mean about the bean counters at our church and I don’t like what I said. The aforementioned bean counters are really good at what they do for the church. Our church is debt-free, financially sound, and always has been. They do a really, really great job.

    What I meant to say, was something like this:

    The fine gentlemen who manage the church finances always make what seems to be (and surely is) a prudent financial decision. I am certain that there are excellent reasons why there has never been a kitchen installed on campus, reasons of which I am not aware. They are smart guys, and I am hopeless with money. I can make it pretty good, but I can’t manage it. That’s why God gave me a smart wife.

    With that re-stated… the idea that, for decades now, we have prepared thousands of meals for hundreds of people with a sink and a microwave in the multipurpose room is… just… koo-koo.

  23. Chad

    Apparently now that I’m logged in, the editing tool reappears.

    That 4 run Phillies 8th inning has scrambled all my inside parts. I’m going to bed now.

  24. sharolyn

    Thankfully, I don’t think many churches are headed in the direction of a female senior pastor or head elder. AND WHAT A RELIEF! (Kidding.)

    Phil, I am not for a quota system. I’m not thinking as systematically or specifically as you are. It’s just that I see our country’s white male Presidents, then I go to my classroom and see white male composers on the wall, see white males in History books, Science books, etc. and eventually wonder, “What would we have if the women were given the same tools and encouragements as those guys? And what if we started that now?”

    Not very deep, I know, but for now, that’s about it.

  25. June

    Oh man…I sooo want a shirt that on the front says “I love you,” and on the back says “agape…the kind that doesn’t count.”

    I think that, based on this idea alone, Sharolyn should be the next president. I may write her in on my ballot.

  26. harmonicminer

    Sharolyn, you said: ‘“What would we have if the women were given the same tools and encouragements as those guys? And what if we started that now?””


    But we have to be willing to accept the consequences when we give that encouragement to girls and young women in school, and they simply don’t do with it what some people might wish they did with it. School should be gender blind, academically.

    But the results of that will probably never be that 50% of mechanical engineers are women, unless we deliberately make it come out that way with quota hiring practices. And that will probably mean that, on average, our mechanical engineers aren’t as good as they used to be, because there just aren’t as many women who want to do that from which to choose.

    My wife told me to say that.

  27. Sharolyn

    Phil, I dealt with a similar issue today while casting the Fall play. If I only had boys play boy characters and girls play girl characters, the boys would have something like a 40% chance of landing a role, where the girls would have a 3% chance.

    The result of gender blindness is that we will have to use some creative make-up for our girl Captain Alfred Bulltop Stormalong.

  28. Leonard

    By the way, my wife works at Starbucks. And she is an excellent leader and we have women on our board and our staff.

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