15 February 2009

Feminized Church Devalues Men

Discussing the issue of 'Men and Church' around the blogosphere, I'm genuinely trying to understand the following two comments.

1) The milder comment is that the church has been 'feminized' and so it is unattractive to men - that's why men are staying away from church. It was also suggested that church leadership which consciously gives thought to not being either too feminine or masculine could be a remedy for this. (Do I say 'Phew, thank goodness I'm not "too feminine"' or 'Heavens! Am I too feminine' to this idea? It's all very strange.)

2) The comment that is more painful to hear was that the church, like general society, 'devalues' men.

I don't know of any denomination in the UK or the US which is dominated by female clergy. I'm not going to cry 'anti female' at this because I realise that there is a lot of history behind this state of affairs and I also understand that history always moves more slowly than most reformers would like.

But I
am puzzled by how an institution dominated by men can be either 'feminized' or - even more strangely - have become an institution which actually devalues men. I could contemplate a congregation with a female minister as possibly being 'too feminine', but the idea that institutions dominated by men for the 2000 years could be either too feminine or anti-male eludes me.

Anyone care to explain?


DaveW said...


"but the idea that institutions dominated by men for the 2000 years could be either too feminine or anti-male eludes me."

I think the assumption is that the men in the church are not real men (I guess because they are in the church - one of those circular arguments).

They are not real men because they are feminised, because they are in the church which is feminised.

Sorry I am not good at articulating arguments for weird viewpoints :-)

PamBG said...

Dave - I think that is part of it.

I do also wonder if part (note the word 'part') of it is simply the bald fact that many congregations have more women than men in them and this just makes some men uncomfortable. Which is actually, I think, a perfectly understandable thing.

visual theology said...

For me its not about being 'feminised' or not being somehow fully a man because I am in the church. Rather I am grateful for being enabled to be as aware of gender-justice as I can be, because the critical issue at stake is surely one of freedom, responsibility, parity of esteem and equal rights regardless of gender, class, race etc. That I hold such views does not lessen my identity as a bloke any more than Jesus was somehow less masculine / not-bloke because of what he said and did over and against the Roman thugs who executed him.I don't feel a traitor to my gender or any less of a man because I follow Jesus and am in the church; quite the reverse in fact. It is through Jesus that I have discovered what being truly and fully human looks like.
Have a look Pam at my latest post which I am glad to say was triggered by you!Bless you.

Fat Prophet said...

I don't understand what it is all about either and I am tempted to say that a lot of this sounds like it is coming out of Jim Royle's favourite orifice!! (Not sure if I am allowed to say things like this but you can always edit me out!!)

David said...

Methodism has always had a strong tradition of women playing a leading role in its life. See my book "Eliza Asbury" (Brewin Books £9.95) for an example of such a formidable contribution made here in the Black Country.

Primitive Methodism pioneered the deployment of women as iteinerant preachers, sadly a practice that was soon stopped.

However I do think that there is a problem with masculinity as it is defined in society and church attendance. Way back in the 1950s I remember being told it was "cissy" to go to Sunday School.

As a young Christian male I was delighted to find that within the church there were some people one would describe as "Men's men" - something of a difficult concept to explain.

PamBG said...

However I do think that there is a problem with masculinity as it is defined in society and church attendance. Way back in the 1950s I remember being told it was "cissy" to go to Sunday School.

If you mean what I think you mean, I'm going to agree wholeheartedly with you for once.

Rather than trying to wrap Christianity around worldly concepts of 'masculine' and 'feminine', I think that we should be looking to the teachings of Christ for how we are to behave.

Yes, of course, there are biological differences between men and women and we may even live out 'good works' in somewhat different ways. But all Christians are called to be loving, graceful and peaceable and all Christians are called to stand up for what is right, to have courage and to assert the ways of God. Nothing to do with gender.

Unknown said...

I am presently reading two histories (well researched, in my opinion and not just random findings organized for the author's points) on women in the early and medieval church. What I am coming to understand in a new and different way is an underlying, cultural fear of women dating back from the earliest records of our faith. Every time in our faith history, it seems, when women claim their authority with men who see them as partners, this is slapped down and later edited out of the record. Of course, in the Roman Catholic Church we can point to Aquinas, but it is much much older than him. What is the fear?

I think now that fear has become so entrenched that you see men, like you quote, Pam, as well as Church leaders, simply reiterating an underlying fear without any examination of basis in fact. Women are different than men, which is wonderful! But why fear each other, or deny the gifts of each other?

Unknown said...

If you can't see that the church is controlled by women and women's agendas and backed up by girlie men then you are in denial.

DaveW said...


Your clear and powerful argument that you have articulated so well is completely convincing.

Where did you learn to lay out the points so clearly?

Unknown said...

I'm not sure it even needs defending from my experience. I could probably write a few thousand convincing words but am tired of trying to point it out to people who are blind to it. I'm not saying men in the church aren't 'real men' but where I am from they take on very definite characteristics. The fact, as you boldly state, that the church has been dominated by men for 2000 years is not the whole picture. Have you never worked in a job where the bosses said one thing but the culture on the ground led people an entirely different way showing that they were bosses in name only.

Unknown said...

It is something I feel and others feel too. Maybe we are wrong, insecure, under-developed, not moving forward or whatever else but church plays to womens strengths, I have seen that time and again and sometimes think it is just one big support group. I'm not talking about the church as a political tool of the state but the true church. Maybe I am imagining it, as I have been told so many times.

PamBG said...

Nathan: As a minister, I spent a good deal of my time trying to encourage congregants to start new missions and new initiatives.

In terms of "saying one thing and doing another", what it looks like from the other side is that people complain that lay people are not "allowed" to lead initiatives and when one says "OK, get out there and do it" they come up with all kinds of excuses - possibly genuine ones - about why they can't do things.

So my question is why the heck aren't the men getting out there and doing all the "manly" things you want to do? If you see "manly" things to be getting drunk, having sex with people other than your wives or getting into brawls, then no, the church isn't going to allow that. Apart from that, get out there and be manly and show some initiative and don't think that it's the minister who always has to think things up.

I'm not going to flipping apologize and grovel for being a woman. If you don't want a woman as your minister, go somewhere with a male minister.

Unknown said...

I surely wasn't suggesting fighting, adultery or drunkenness ha ha. I'm sorry if that's how it came across.
We have a male minister but I personally will still probably stop going. Everything we do is female and family orientated and I fail to see what else church is?! What are these manly things that we are supposed to be doing. Even when we suggest them we are constantly and subtly undermined by women who always are more spiritual, sensible and know better. Paul went to Greece to argue with the best thinkers of all time, when we argue or debate it's somehow immature and divisive. Are we supposed to go from town to town being nice to people and making them cake? Is that what this life or death mission is?

PamBG said...

Nathan, it's interesting that you say that it's blindingly obvious that the church is not manly, but that you have no idea what sort of manly things to do.

In the church I'm currently attending, there is a team that regularly (I think twice a month) volunteers all day Saturday for habitat for humanity building housing at cost for those who can't otherwise afford their own home. This is not strictly a "men-only" activity, a few women participate too, but it seems to be the men who have the interest in learning the associated skills to do this.

Is this "manly" enough for you? It's certainly part of the Christian commission to help others. If your church can't muster enough men to form a full team, why not get a few guys together to volunteer with an established team?

There are shelters for the homeless that require volunteers to stay overnight as staff. Typically men prefer to do this sort of thing and women don't.

Maybe there is an elderly person in your neighborhood who has a jungle of a garden that can't be cleared and who would probably be eternally grateful if it was cleared for them?

The men in my church also have a 7:30 am men's-only bible study.

I don't really see how the women in the church can stop you doing this. As a general principle, if there are 2, 3, 4, 5 people who are willing to do a project, there is no reason that this should be vetoed by other people who aren't interested. They should say "Great! What a worthwhile thing to do! We need to tell you we can't participate in this with you, but you have our support, our admiration and our prayers."

Bring a plan to the church council, PCC or whatever the governing body is. Show that you have the people and the resources to carry it through. If they try to veto you, point out that your group wants to do this on its own and that all you want from them is prayer and moral support. If they continually veto you again and again, then the congregation does not have effective leadership and I'd look for another one.

I'm still wondering what "manly" things you want to do that the ladies are vetoing?

Unknown said...

Well it took me 6 years to form a 5 a side soccer team. I understand if you are in the USA that soccer is not particularly manly but here it's quite popular amongst the average man.

PamBG said...

Nathan, I lived in the UK for 20 years and have just come back to the US in August. I don't dislike men and I really don't worry about labeling people as "manly" or "unmanly" or "feminine" or "unfeminine". In the course of life I have learned that most people of goodwill have many blessings to offer the world and outward appearances are insignificant.

It seems ridiculous to me that anyone would want to prevent a 5-aside football team from forming. Fellowship is part of being a church and any woman with any sense should realize that this is a way that some men will want to have fellowship together.

For the me, one of the main things Christians want to do is "be a blessing". There are probably different ways that men and women are going to want to do this - taking individual exceptions into account. Just as your "ladies" don't seem to understand that football is way for the men to do this for other men in the church, understand also that making cakes and dinners is an 80-year-old woman's way of being a blessing to others.

Off to work now.

Unknown said...

I guess I'm not explaining myself well. Nobody tried to stop us as it wasn't really seen as taking a lead in 'spiritual things' if it had of been then they might have wanted to have much more of a say in what was happening. The fact was it took seven years for there to be enough men in the church who liked to play. A very strange thing in England. I wouldn't expect you to really get what I'm saying and you clearly haven't but lots of people are saying it and they aren't all wrong.