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Yet they are desperate to have clear rules that apply to the sexes, rather than seeing individuals as unique images or expressions of God. In fact, in a recent national survey evangelical Christians were significantly more likely to hold stricter gender beliefs than even fundamentalist Christians. This indelibly impacts women in ministry, who face a double-edged sword of both lower and higher expectations. These often unconscious assumptions are cultural, not Christian. And they create two primary forces that work against women in ministry.

The first prevents women from going into ministry at all. For many evangelicals it is simply understood that God does not call women into ministry. The second is how women are treated when they choose to go into ministry, and even how they are placed in directorships, for example, rather than pastorates. Women in ministry are sometimes perceived as bitter or angry. But this is often a response to the fact that they are not accepted in their vocations.

Or they are allowed to lead, but not too much.

Women in the secular world have free reign to pursue their callings. So are we saying that women in the church are inferior to those from without? Today the debate is not whether women can be full-fledged Christians, but how or if women can use their callings and gifts in the presence of the full congregation. Sumner relates another story of how at a conference of mostly male pastors women were consistently made the butt of jokes. How much of what we understand about women in the church comes from culture, rather than Scripture?

Men and women in the church : building consensus on Christian leadership

How many of us are guilty of giving partiality to men? The Great Commission gives a command to all believers to go and make disciples of all nations. Paul tells us that some are to be apostles, prophets, and teachers.

Are these directives only for men? For many evangelicals, the answer is yes. There is, however, good news to report in the evangelical gender battles. First, in the s, many evangelical writers started to back off their previous stances against working mothers and women. Had their biblical precepts changed?

Had their theology on gender roles changed? Gallagher points out in Evangelical Identity and Gendered Family Life Rutgers, , theological truth did not precede this shift. Rather, with more than three-quarters of all mothers participating in the labor force, evangelicals changed their language. Another encouraging sign is that although many evangelicals believe in male authority and female subordination, they practice more equal relationships.

Finally, there have always been some evangelical voices espousing gender equality, and they may be getting stronger. For older folks, this will be no surprise. But for younger generations, gender equality has been tainted as liberal theology, and is thus discredited as not being scriptural. So there is still a long way to go.

Evangelicalism thrives because it is distinctive. If evangelicals embrace gender equality, how will they resist blending into the larger culture? Gallagher suggests we try to do gender equality better than the larger culture. Women in America still lag behind men, earning only 75 percent of what men earn even when we control for occupation.

Should evangelicals seriously practice gender equality, we would definitely be distinctive. Perhaps the most important thing we can do to advance gender equality is to encourage more women to become pastors. Social scientists have demonstrated that people are drawn toward what is familiar. As more women become pastors, laity become more familiar with them.

Sarah Sumner |

This will increase our comfort with and appreciation for women in the pulpit. Previous Article. Next Article. Perspectives Evangelicals and Gender: Culture First. Miller Topics: Theology. Latest Popular Topics. Biblical Studies. Christian Ethics. Christian Formation and Discipleship. Christianity and Culture. Church Renewal. Preaching and Pastoral Leadership.

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Catalyst is a project of AFTE, which is committed to the revitalization of theological education for United Methodists. Current research, summarised in books such as ' Through the Labyrinth ' book of month April 08 shows beyond doubt that women are effective in leadership but still encounter more difficulties in traditionally masculine settings.

There are some provisional conclusions from research in the Church for example, by Bob Jackson, in The Road to Growth , that women are proving to be effective leaders and are leading growing churches. Women in the Church, as in wider society, are aware that there seems to be stained glass ceiling to be broken — or a labyrinth to be navigated — when it comes to senior posts, leading larger churches, or sometimes even in finding a stipendiary post at all.

Research in the Church echoes what has been found in professional and business contexts, including:. Read more in articles on Women clergy and deployment March and Women and senior church appointments. March Where men and women are seen as fellow-workers together and fellow-servants of each other. I dream of a church which is seen by outsiders as one where women are affirmed, encouraged and fulfilled in their God-given callings;. Where men and women working together reflect the image of God, and, in Christ, overcome the 'battle of the sexes'.

I dream of a church which proclaims to women and men the good news of true liberation in Christ. Annotated resource list for women in leadership covering business books on leadership; Christian books on leadership; women in leadership; Biblical and theological studies and mentoring. A discussion paper for churches considering the appointment of a woman as incumbent. Please print double-sided to make an A5 booklet. This site uses cookies. Please click here to find out more about how we use them. You are here: Home Advice and support Women in leadership advice Developing women leaders share this page.

Developing women leaders We long to see women leaders exercising leadership in the Church with confidence, competence and courage. Many women leaders in the Church face discouragement or opposition. Challenges for women leaders in the Church Research into women and leadership Do women lead differently? Are women effective as leaders? What are the barriers to women's equal deployment? Identifying women as leaders Developing women as leaders Our dream Links to other sites Challenges for women leaders in the Church Women in leadership in the Church today face a variety of challenges, even if their denomination allows women to hold positions of leadership.

These are some of the key challenges for evangelical women leaders: Is it right to have women in leadership? Is it biblical? To read more, click to go to the following articles: The Bible and Women's Ministry and Women Leaders in the Church: a discussion paper — designed for churches considering whether to have woman incumbent. What difference does women's leadership make? Do women lead differently from men?