Swinging from the Vine / 845 posts / 2,909 comments / feed / comments feed

the world handicapped by half

This came in my reader today, it’s fantastic and I encourage you to read the whole thing. 

A world whose favored thesis just a few years ago read, “the personal is political” is now chasing the idea that “the global is local.” Conferences on global change, global development, global needs, global politics, global economics and global agendas swirl around the planet.And yet, little changes.

The question is why? And the answer is hiding in plain sight.These conferences will never solve the major problems facing the human community because half the human community is being left out of the conversation. Half the wisdom of the world is being ignored. Half the concerns of the human race are not even being taken into consideration. Half the resources of the world, women, are not being tapped to solve the problems that face us all.Both halves are suffering from our failure to approach both problems and solutions from the vantage point of the entire human race.

The fact is that the experience and insights of women are glaringly and regularly absent from global conferences that purport to be concerned with both the problems the world faces and their possible solutions.

We are not going to change the world by repeating old and ineffective answers over and over again while leaving new ones out of consideration.

The world’s greatest, untapped alternative resource: women | National Catholic Reporter Conversation Cafe

* note: when I say “church” in the following piece, I mean the church with which I have experience, the conservative, evangelical church in America.

I have had women ask me why I care so much about women being in leadership positions in churches, they often will say things like “we should be humble and we shouldn’t care about titles anyway”.  So I will say that this is the main reason why I insist on continuing to push back the patriarchalism (aka complementarianism) that still dominates the American Christian landscape.

We as Christians should be the loudest voice for justice and mercy, we should be the loudest voice in ensuring that women around the world give their voices wings, we cannot do this when our churches are run by elder boards that are 100% male, when the person “up front” is always male and when 99% of what goes on in the church is ultimate determined by those “lucky” enough to be born with reproductive organs on the outside. In the best case scenario, those men will at least pay attention to the women in their congregations, the Sunday School teachers, the wives of the leaders, the singers, etc. But more often than not, churches are crippled by losing the input, leadership and gifts of half of their population.

Ultimately, it’s more important to me that women around the globe are heard so they and their children can receive humane treatment, clean water, shelter and property rights, decent health care and enough food to sustain them and my little annoying experiences in the American church pale in comparison to those issues -  however, in order to care about those issues, I must also address the manipulation of Scripture for the benefit of male power in my local area of influence - the Christian church, so that women here can help women there.

I genuinely believe that one of the major reasons women and children concerns across the globe are not given proper attention in our local churches is because the decisions about where the money goes and what the preaching is about are made by primarily and often exclusively by men. I believe this is a major reason why the mainline has been better at addressing these issues esp. in the last couple of decades - they have had more of a female presence in the decision-making processes.

I have also had women ask why I don’t just leave evangelicalism for good and join a group that embraces women more fully and then leave conservative evangelicals to their own devices - that’s a very simplistic question in a very complex issue. The main answer to that is because, as in politics, I’m not a one issue voter. But trust me, if it weren’t so hard to get ordained in most mainline denominations, I would probably do just that.

In this week of women, I want to challenge my women readers to give their voice wings, to find a cause where they can help other women find their voice and I want to challenge men to critique their own views of women, power, leadership, etc. in the religious and secular world as well as the home.

And to my fellow women - SHINE ON!

Tags: feminism, women, joan chittister, equity

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  1. Ericka — March 6, 2008 #

    well said!

    i just recently posted about this as well. it bothers me that even suggesting that i might be a Christian feminist closes doors, and often - sadly - conversation.

    at the root of it, i suppose i just reject the idea of putting constraints on who God can or can’t use in our churches, our communities, our relationships, and our homes. i wonder how many women continue to push aside a call to leadership, or missions because “God can’t / doesn’t call women to those things.” sad…

    keep writing, mak. and let’s all keep talking.

  2. Mak — March 6, 2008 #

    thank you ericka, well said

  3. Carlos — March 6, 2008 #


    My wife & I share something in common with you; last November we were resigned from leading a community group at our church here in st. Louis (the Journey) because we took issue, in a submissive manner with their patriarchical (they’ll say complementarian) position on women elders; the sad part is that 60-705 of attendees are female undergrad and grad students from Wash U, St. Louis U, other areas school that are preparing future surgeons, lawyers, and businesswomen, and leaders in our communities, andd yet they can not exercise the gifts the Father gives them within the local church; for this I grieve greatly.

    thanks for venting, I mean expressing yourself…keep it up.

    Tu hermano en Christo.


  4. Tia Lynn — March 6, 2008 #

    YAY! Mak is back with a vengeance! :)

    I couldn’t agree more. While I find myself drifting further and further away from complementarianism, I don’t necessarily want to leave my evangelical heritage either. I am finding that many complementarians do not even know why egalitarians believe what they believe or how they came to that conclusion other than “they ignore scripture” or “find loopholes.” They have never given a fair listen or have never even been presented with the full perspective. That’s part of the reason why I started the women series over on my blog, because even though there are those who will never change their mind on this emotional topic, I want to present all the information. Afterall, it wasn’t THAT long ago that I was unaware of why egalitarians believe what they believe. And know that I know, I am rejoicing. It has confirmed what the Holy Spirit has been whispering all long. Keep fighting the good fight sister.

  5. kathyescobar — March 6, 2008 #

    great post makeesha. preach it girl! i do believe that one of the reasons “the church”in america** is in such a mess is because 100% of the time we only hear from 50% of the population. so much giftedness, passion, wisdom, creativity out there untapped. my hope is that over time around the world, across every tribe and nation and denomination (and lack thereof) more and more women find their voice, press into who God created them to be, break free from oppression and use their voices in powerful and creative ways to make this world a better place. we have to keep our eyes on our daughters and keep paving the way for them to be free-er and free-er…

  6. Mak — March 7, 2008 #

    carlos - you were at the journey? well good for you for taking a stand.

    the sad part is that 60-705 of attendees are female undergrad and grad students from Wash U, St. Louis U, other areas school that are preparing future surgeons, lawyers, and businesswomen, and leaders in our communities, andd yet they can not exercise the gifts the Father gives them within the local church

    this is a lot of what I find odd, I can at least respect the extreme fundies for their consistency and not allowing women to do anything but be at home.

    Thanks Tia and Kathy - keeping my eyes on my girls is I think what makes me even more passionate about this (David as well) than I ever was.

    I’m so glad for you ladies and my male allies!

  7. ed c — March 7, 2008 #

    Mak. How ironic that you wrote this today. Just this morning I was engaging in a deep theological debate while brushing my teeth over the importance of arguing for egalitarianism in Evangelical circles.

    Specifically, I was thinking about explaining my reason for including each chapter in my study guide on contemporary issues for my upcoming Coffeehouse Theology book. So I was thinking about your contribution to the egalitarian chapter and I couldn’t shake the notion that many evangelical congregations are operating with only half of their membership in play. Of course women often serve in administrative and children’s church areas–and they have an important place–but I think it’s such a tragedy that women are excluded from some key positions based on the interpretation of a few passages.

    Thanks for confronting this with seriousness and grace.

  8. Jamie Arpin-Ricci — March 7, 2008 #

    Well said! I’ve passed this on to several people already. Thanks Mak!

  9. Mak — March 7, 2008 #

    I often have deep theological debates whilst doing things like brushing my teeth hehe

    thank you guys - I’m so glad to have such awesome men supporters :)

  10. grace — March 7, 2008 #

    Great post.
    I find the theology behind all of this so fundamental to our understanding of the nature of God and relationships that I have a difficult time extending room for alternative beliefs about this issue.

  11. Mak — March 7, 2008 #

    that’s a good way to put it grace, I share you difficulty

  12. Carlos — March 7, 2008 #

    Great comments everyone. Since our exclusion from leadership, my wife and I’ve spent significant time reading and studying to isnure we were not going on tthe wrong path and our convictions became even stronger. I’d suggest:

    1 - William Webb’s (Dallas Seminary) “Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals” - great framework and structure support for the ultimate biblical ethic of female/male equality.

    2 - Miroslav Volfe’s “Exclusion and Embrace” - great chater on gender and great help to making me embrace more. By the way, Miroslav will be the keynote speaker at Wheaton’s Theology conference coming up in April.

    3 - My wife and a friend are leading a small study group of young women using Sarah Sommers (sp?) Role of women in church. Sarah was the first female PhD in Theoloogy from Trrinity in Deerfiled IL.


  13. Pam Hogeweide — March 7, 2008 #

    you’ve inspired me to remember that gender inequality is not a theological issue, but an issue of justice.

    i’m adding you to my google reader.

    and i love your junk drawer

  14. Pingback - International Women’s Day — March 8, 2008 #

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  15. Nitika — March 9, 2008 #

    I applaud 100% participation, buy I caution against trying to achieve that by promoting ONLY female voices, especially on the international scene. Promoting female participation in America (where the cultural value of individualism is off the charts) often has a positive net result. But doing the same in other cultures will not necessarily follow suit. Women will fork over their entire paycheck to their father-in-law, while their husband drinks the days away because all the new jobs are reserved for women. If you want to help women, please do it by building on the strengths that are already present in the culture, in America that is individualism, many other places it is family or community strength. Programs that promote a woman’s individualism in places where community is a much higher value can be destructive to women as well as the culture as a whole.

  16. Pingback - igniting the ember: emerging women finding their voice « the carnival in my head… — March 9, 2008 #

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  17. Rev. Vaughn W. Thurston-Cox — March 9, 2008 #

    My challenge is not for the many women who will read this post, but their husbands, fathers, brothers, and (male) pastors. Too many wonderful Christian men I know consider this a woman’s issue. It’s something a small group women might ask about but lacks relevance for the congregation at large. This, though, is not a “woman’s” issue. This is Kingdom issue. This is an issue for us to raise before the people in order that they might better reflect the glory of their God here. We have the opportunity to stand up as men and tell the world, “Our sisters are no less God’s children than we are.”

    Two years now I have set aside a day to preach on the question of the ordination of women. This has not only been important in order to combat the popular theology going out over the airwaves but to open doors for our young women who may become pastors, evangelists, superintendents, missionaries, or theologians. What gifts have we robbed ourselves of saying nothing?! What souls might have otherwise been saved?!

  18. Mak — March 9, 2008 #

    Nitika - your caution is well taken but I want to make it clear that women’s voices being heard is not about individualism - just the opposite, the point is that we all need to be in community and function well there and that the community loses when women are not heard (their voice, their gifts, their leadership, their decisions). This will look different in every culture but women everyone are talking about the importance of this and the value. If you read the article by Sr. Chittister, this is discussed in the context of India.

    Rev. Vaughn - AMEN!! Thank you brother, it’s an honor to serve alongside men such as you.

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