Last week I received a sensitive letter — a letter that made me more sensitive. Here’s the issue that the writer pressed into my mind: when we talk about “women in ministry” we need to understand that, regardless of what we think, there are women who genuinely think they have been called by God into a ministry and treating such a topic neutrally threatens their sense of vocation. Furthermore,
Even those who don’t think they are called to some kind of special kind of ministry can sense that “women” are being objectified — as if they were a piece in a museum or a cadaver on a gurney — with (mostly male) inspectors trying to figure out the cause of death or the quality of life previously enjoyed.
So, let’s make sure we keep these sensitivities in mind when we write — and I’ll try do this as well. Here’s a good question: Do you really think men and women are equal in value? Do you tend to see women as inferior? Do women really believe they are equal? Or, do we say things and do things that make women feel they are inferior?
Now here’s the big one: What specific behaviors do we find in Christians that create a sense of inferiority in women?
Which leads us into Sarah Sumner (Men and Women in the Church), chp 6, “Women and Personhood.” The chp begins with a “Lydia” who went after Sarah for not being committed to helping the Church see that secular feminists had a case with the Church. Sarah admits she didn’t care about secular feminists; she wanted to be respected by conservative Christians more than follow Christ.
At a conference with conservative Christian women Sarah asked six women this question: Are women inferior to men? Results: 2 said “not inferior”; 3 said “unsure”; 2 (both under 30) said “men are superior.” She told this story to a national leader who pulled Sarah aside to say that she, too, had been holding back.
The Church is mistaken, Sarah argues, in conditioning women to think of themselves as inferior. Sarah probed her own conscience: she, too, held men in higher esteem than women. She asks this question sometimes when speaking: “Why are you thankful to be a woman?” (She’s often confronted with women who struggle with an answer.) Sarah confesses that many times she has tried to transcend her womanhood by being exceptional. The problem is not trying to be exceptional, but in so striving to do so in order to transcend being a woman.