Women Are the New Women
October 19th, 2007 by Sonja

I’m not quite certain how to begin this post. It’s been fomenting for a while now. There were posts by Makeesha and Julie earlier this week that fed it. Then Bro. M. posted on EMasculinity yesterday, quite independently of Mak and Julie. I know it was independently because he’s at a Missional Order Gathering in Washington this week and had pre-loaded his posts. So … it just so happened.

Then there was the piece d’ resistance … photos of the Missional Order Gathering sponsored (I believe) by Allelon in Washington posted by Rick (Blind Beggar) Meigs. Shock and awe at the length of Bro. M.’s hair!! I’m still trying to put that first photo in perspective … because my mental picture of Bro. M. does not look like this. And I’m jealous of his hair. Whenever I grow my hair out that long it gives me headaches because it gets so heavy 😀 So I gave up years ago and keep it short and sassy … the sassy part is to go with my personality.

In any case, Rick mentioned that there were only “four or so women” at the conference. I spluttered and squawked in his comments (and later apologized). FOUR??!!!! Peggy updated that to six, but noted that since every woman is worth 2 or 3 men things were probably more or less equal since there were only 41 total people at the gathering. I like Peggy’s math ;-).

A number of years ago (maybe five or six or more), LightHusband was involved in the Wild At Heart, er, movement (not sure what to call it). He went to one of their conferences and read the book. I read it too. I guess if you take all that stuff out to the n’th degree it’s really nauseating … and it is. But there was also a lot there to value and at the time in our lives when we experienced it, there was a lot there that was really freeing too. To keep it simple, we ate the meat and spat out the bones (and there were many). This was not an ideology that we camped out on for long.

However, there were some meaty things that we both took away from it. One thing is this. Men (and yes, I’m generalizing here … not every man does this, but many men do, so bear with me here, okay?) in general, are protectors and defenders. Women, in general, respond well to this. Now … before you get all up in my face … keep reading, because I do NOT mean this in the traditional sense. I can best describe this by how it has worked out in my marriage. There are a few of you who have met me and LightHusband and we’re not what many would describe as traditional. But … he does protect and defend me. What I mean by that is this, he protects my space and my needs. He looks out for me and feels that his role in our marriage is to create space where I can flourish and grow. Now, I have that role as well to a certain extent but not in quite the same manner. I support and guide his heart in a fashion that is more feminine, but if you were to look at the “jobs” we do in the home they are often reversed.

I’m bringing this up because I think that the men who are in and of the emerging conversation have an important job to do now. Many of them have said that they value women more than their counterparts in the institutional church. But it is becoming imperative that they guard and protect those women. By this I mean that those men need to not just say the words that women are their equal, but they need to create space for women to flourish and grow. This is going to mean looking at the conferences that are planned and thinking about things such as childcare both at the conference and back at home, and when the conference is planned, where it’s planned, how much it costs … per person, and per couple, and per family, what are travel costs, etc. How many women leaders vs. men leaders are involved? It might also mean stepping back to allow a woman to take the stage or the spotlight.

More important than any of the above questions it will mean looking at women culturally to see how to include them. Women *are* different from men. We have been socialized differently. We respond to “open invitations” differently. It was pointed out in the conversation over at Rick’s blog that the Allelon conference was open to anyone who wanted to come. Yet as I reflect on the literature that was available for that conference and how women respond to those and how men do … it is very different. Women do need more of an invitation, especially in the church, they need to feel that they are indeed included and welcomed. For a woman to just “invite herself” to such an event goes against all the social norms we have been taught about being a “good girl.” Or to invite herself to participate in many of the group efforts going on is simply not done. It’s very, very difficult to overcome those social rules taught when we’re very young.

On the flip side, women are going to have to meet the men at least half way. I don’t know what any of this is going to look like. But I do know that we’re all going to be in uncharted territory. I also know that it’s terribly terribly important to the Kingdom that we’re able to represent it with a gender balanced view of who God is and we cannot do that with only one gender.

16 Responses  
  • Julie Clawson writes:
    October 19th, 20074:46 pmat

    I had the same two reactions to Rick’s post – Brother Maynard has long hair?! and Where the hell are the women?!

    I keep being told by emergent leaders that women just need to step into leadership. But how is that even possible? Unless we just plan all of our own events its kinda difficult to invite ourselves to speak at an event or to contribute a chapter to a book. Some things do require invitations.

  • Sonja writes:
    October 19th, 20075:40 pmat

    Yeah … I don’t know how long it will take me to get past the long hair 😀 that was quite a shock!

    Here’s my beef with planning our own events … that leads to separate but equal … and we all know where that ideology goes. It’s not good. Separate is never equal. We need to be together … just telling women to start our own thing is abdicating their responsibility to make room for us at the table. Sometimes you actually need to push your chair aside to make room for someone else; this requires effort and energy to overcome the inertia.

  • grace writes:
    October 19th, 20077:43 pmat

    I’ve been watching your conversation here and at Rick’s blog. I appreciate you speaking up. Concerning this particular conference, I have been wondering if it is a gender issue or a clergy issue. How many working “lay” people can really attend a Monday-Thursday conference and tack on a day or two of travel on each end?

    I was potentially interested and probably wouldn’t have had a problem inviting myself, but as a business owner and homeschool parent, this particular schedule wasn’t remotely possible. Perhaps it was intended to target vocational ministers.

    I’m not sure how I feel about the rest of it.

    (I won’t mention Brother Maynard’s long hair. ;))

  • Patrick writes:
    October 19th, 20078:08 pmat

    Maybe you all should write a book.

    I’m serious. The three of you here who have already commented have a wealth of contributions to something.

    You don’t have to invite yourselves to a conference to participate in a book writing. I’ve learned that if I have an issue on my heart I can’t expect someone else who has different issues and experiences to see my perspective.

    I spent from about 2000-2006 trying to get people to talk about the Holy Spirit. Then I stopped trying to convince people and wrote.

    Maybe the Spirit is bringing people together and raising a passion that isn’t about yet more conferences, but is about reaching out to all those, men and women, who don’t go to conferences but need to hear a view on church and women that is as fresh as the rest of the emerging conversation.

  • Brother Maynard writes:
    October 20th, 200712:24 amat

    Two quick things:

    1) I’ve commented on Rick’s blog concerning the gender subject. Anyone who’s mentioned it at all probably won’t like what I’ve said, but think about it.

    2) Amid a whole gang of people whose generation displays their rebellion by shaving off all their hair, I’m still part of a generation that displays their rebellion by growing their hair long.

  • Sonja writes:
    October 20th, 20071:00 pmat

    Thanks, Grace. I, too, was potentially interested. But the travel costs and time were prohibitive for me. Interestingly, I had considered e-mailing you to see if you might be thinking of going 😀 I wanted to know if there would be someone there I could pal around with, or at least if there would be other women there, because …. it was not clear. Sorry guys.

    I do like your point about the vocational clergy … it was something I had not considered and have been thinking about it.

  • Sonja writes:
    October 20th, 20071:04 pmat

    Nice point, Patrick. And something to give serious consideration to. What do you think ladies? It is something that I’ve been tossing around lately.

    Here’s my problem, though. I don’t want to write a book that’s all by women. I want to write one that has both perspectives because I am increasingly convicted that it takes the perspective of both genders to paint a whole picture of God. When we hear from just one or the other gender, we present a skewed picture of the Divine to the world. So … I’m chewing on that too.

  • Sonja writes:
    October 20th, 20071:09 pmat

    Bro. M. … I’ve read your comments at Blind Beggar and we’ve corresponded by e-mail. As a fellow “I” I know that being deficient in alone time can really sap one’s ability to process. That said, I think you’ve missed something significant in this conversation and I hope you’ll revisit it in a few days when you’ve recovered your equilibrium.

    Glad you’re part the older, pony-tail, generation 😉

  • Patrick writes:
    October 20th, 20072:02 pmat

    Bouncing off a little bit of my comment at Brother Maynards post I think one reason this is a needed conversation is because it’s not just a “woman in ministry” issue. I noted over there that even as woman struggle for recognition and participation, men just stop going to church. Single guys out of college are few and far between, and the ones who do attend often go to meet women, and secondarily for the spirituality.

    So women hit a wall. Men stop attending. Leaving a hierarchical clergy to again take the lead and develop an ecclesiology.

    How we understand gender issues seems then to not only be a conversation raised by discontents but a very important, and almost entirely neglected, conversation that has to take place.

    To be honest, I’m not only of the opinion this is a vital issue, but one that is entirely pneumatological. If we do not have right understanding about broader participation, gifts, and patterns of thought we are liable to replace the Spirit’s guidance with our own lesser rulebook. And in tying up the Spirit we are liable to miss out on the Spirit’s mission.

    This is an area in which the Emerging/missional church could really establish a new, distinctive pattern that goes beyond mere liturgical changes.

  • Julie Clawson writes:
    October 20th, 20074:23 pmat

    Patrick – I think the EC could be leading the way in this. But the excuse I hear over and over is that there are more important issues to deal with out there. I don’t think some of the guys (and a handful of women) realize that the gender issue is at the root of many of the conversations that are taking place (in one form or another).

  • Maria writes:
    October 20th, 20079:25 pmat

    I think you raise some very valid concerns, and I can certainly identify with that desire to be specifically invited into the conversation. Your post prompted some more thoughts…

  • Paul writes:
    October 21st, 20072:01 pmat

    sonja, i agree with you, if we’re action orientated as men and believe woman to be equal and want them involved then we should do more -we should actively invite them, we should limit our freedom that we have as men to let women speak and lead, we should go out of our way to invite you, welcome you, honour you and commend you.

  • Sonja writes:
    October 21st, 20074:37 pmat

    Patrick … I’ve been pondering your thoughts for a while now. I’m thinking they might be some of the most important written on the topic yet.

    “This is an area in which the Emerging/missional church could really establish a new, distinctive pattern that goes beyond mere liturgical changes.”

    We all, together, might have the chance to reset the church again and get back from the tangent that we got set out on a long time ago.

  • Sonja writes:
    October 21st, 20074:40 pmat

    Maria, thank you for your kind words and welcome to the Ravine! I had a chance to read your post and I really enjoyed your perspective and more thorough treatment of the subject. For everyone else it can be found here.

  • Patrick writes:
    October 21st, 20075:31 pmat

    Sonja, we do have a chance to reset. Which is why I agree with Julie’s statement about this being at the root.

    Gender, race, economics, power. Wrongly understood they are sea anchors that restrain the movement of the Spirit through our midst. Techniques or models are meaningless if we can’t catch the wind.

  • Peggy writes:
    October 21st, 200710:00 pmat

    Hello, everyone!

    I dropped back in to Rick’s blog…WOW! So I thought I’d come over here…WOW! Just a few random thoughts here:

    I mentioned to Brother Maynard that I let him off the hook for having the longest hair. One good thing about having fine/thinning hair…it’s not heavy at all! 8)

    I agree with Patrick and others that it is a foundational and pneumatological issue of “othering” parts of the Body of Christ. What’s up with that? Clearly, there has been diminished thinking going on over the millennium.

    Concerning clergy…there were a good number of them there, but not all. It was, however, interesting to see how the differences played in the perceptions. Now that I have a blog, I’ll try to process some of my perspectives each day.

    Blessings, all.

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