30 June 2006

'Women are a turn-off'

There is an interesting side-bar article by Christine Miles in today's issue of The Church Times (link here) entitled: 'Women are a Turn Off'. In other words, many men view the church as being a pervasively female-dominated culture, even though most church leaders are still men.

There are too many mother and toddlers' groups, too many children's groups and too many women's groups. The songs we sing are subjective and declare our feelings about Jesus as our lover. (I have to admit that some of the 'Jesus is my boyfriend' songs really make me want to gag too.)

According to this article, many men are motivated by money, sex and power and they think that they are going to find life's answers in these things rather than in church.

Men apparently don't want feelings in church, they are apparently more likely to relate to objective truth, declaring who God is. They want the church to support and enable them in their work-place and to support and enable them to have friendships outside the church. The article links to the The Christian Viewpoint for Men website.

I have a lot of questions about the viewpoints that this article highlights from The Christian Viewpoint for Men; as a woman, I'm in no position to dispute their findings and some of them ring true to me. I'm also reminded of a conversation on Ship of Fools by a young man in his 20s who said many similar things.

A big question that it raises for me, however, is how far does the church go to accommodate some of these 'needs'?

'How to apply Christian principles in the workplace' sounds like something we should definitely do for men and women; applied theology at it's best.

Enabling people to have friendships outside church seems right too although I remain confused exactly how the church 'makes' this happen.

But 'motivation by money, power, and sex'? OK, I accept that a lot of non-church going men buy that they can find the meaning of life in these things, but I don't see how Christianity can pander to that philosophy without being untrue to itself.

And 'objective truth declaring who God is' - I'm not sure what that means? If it means 'theology my way or the theology highway' well, then again I have a problem with that. If it means more theology in church than we have now, bring it on!


David Faulkner said...

Hi Pam,

My turn to appear on your blog! I think this is a very thoughtful post. About twenty years ago an Anglican college friend (I did my first theology degree at Trinity College, Bristol did some research into the different ways in which the sexes responded to the Gospel. He concluded that a message of forgiveness was more likely to resonate with women but one about the Gospel giving true purpose in life was more attractive to men. Whether this is about 'meeting needs' (in which case we can make the Gospel anthropocentric and it's no longer Gospel) or accepting that the Gospel is like a diamond with many facets, and we need to see which facet shines on which outside source is perhaps a worthwhile debate.

As to the thing about men and wanting objective truth about God and theology, well that could be a modernist mindset and I understand your reaction to it. But it could be part of the male reaction against 'touchy-feely' stuff. And I would suspect that the way we have couched our concept of ordination (yes, I'm off on that subject again!) tends to be in 'nurturing' roles which are perceived rightly or wrongly as more feminine. So although more men (such as myself) are in church leadership, we are probably not perceived as manly by men outside the church.

With regard to theology for the workplace, the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity has some useful material. You might not dot every i and cross every t with them, but if you search for 'Workwise' on their site you might find some helpful resources.

PamBG said...


Lots of interesting comments, thanks. The issue of 'giving purpose to life' was mentioned in the main article in The Church Times - as far as I could tell, that was the article's only point which is why I didn't cite it.

I totally agree with your point about going down the 'slippery slope' (if I dare use the term!) toward androcentric worship, but I'm still doing a lot of thinking about where the balance might be (Have Marva Dawn's book 'Reaching out without Dumbing Down' on my 'to read' list.)

I've not seen your remark about ordination, I'll check your blog. Were you the person who wrote the letter to The Methodist Recorder about the gender balance of people coming through to ordination? I did largely agree with that letter if it 'meant what it said'; people seemed to react to it, though, as if it said 'no women ministers'.

Thanks for the LICC link; I've come across them before. I don't have a big problem with where they are coming from although you are right in suspecting I'm not totally on the same page.

PamBG said...

Dave, I've gone to your blog and I see I have the wrong end of the stick on 'ordination'.

Sally said...

I have read the article and have a few thoughts on the subject. I don't think that it is women in leadership who are putting men off so much as it is the culture of the minister does all and the layity find themselves de-skilled, men find it harder to play a passive role and need to be involved- I believe that the culture built by predominantly male leadership which deskilled their layity is more to blame than ifemale leaders... in fact women are more likely to be facilitators so maybe through female leadership the blance will be restored... these thoughts flow from conversations with men who have left the church in sheer frustration at not being trusted/ involved in even simple things by know it all ministers!!!

PamBG said...

Sally, it's an interesting comment.

I do wonder there isn't something more broadly cultural going on here in terms of social roles / perceptions. I.e. perhaps that, in the past, going to church was seen as good and active involvement in the community and now it is not?

My "worry" about female ministers is that I suspect it's a symptom of the general devaluation of church, in the same way that being a teacher has been devalued. I suspect that's probably a rather sexist thing to say. (I got myself in trouble somewhere else over allegedly not having a sense of humour about gender differences, so maybe I ought to lay off these sorts of comments!)

I do also feel that male role models in church are important.

see-through faith said...

I think we need to present all the many different aspects of God and His character, make sure we make room for both male and female leadership in our churches, & encourage discipleship.

I've been reading about the different love languages of God - and that's helpful in our own walk to and with God, but also in understanding why some people (irrespective of gender) might be put off by things that I can relate to etc.

In local churches I long to see more team leadership, fewer in paid ministry (more bivocational pastors) and a lot more lay leaders coming through. Eph 4 is about having leaders to EQUIP the body of Christ - not do everything for them!

see-through faith said...

sorry, I see that Sally said more or less what I wrote. But I hadn't read her comment - only David's and Pam's exchange when I posted