I hesitate to even use it given the fact that to younger women, all of this is a non-issue. They have moved on. The disconnect between the church and their real lives was just too jarring. And without good explanation and satisfactory answers, they simply stopped asking questions. Younger women either “rolled their eyes” and stayed in the church (it's hard to turn away from Jesus) or quietly one-by-one left it altogether.
For older women of my generation, we've always felt that disconnect in our guts, but never questioned it. Hardly ever seeing a woman upfront, we didn't even think to question it. Or at least I never did.
I really was told at home that I could do anything and be anyone I wanted, and for the most part, I believed it.
But this never carried over into the church...which was fine by me.
The truth is, I had absolutely no interest in becoming a pastor, elder, or deacon.
I had seen “behind the curtain” of the church. (You don't want to see sausage being made either...)
I kept my distance for sanity's sake.
So, growing up, it was "status quo."
It wasn't until college that this disconnect began to catch up with me. I studied both sides (and all the variations in between) of the issue of women leadership in the church. And I know the arguments. I still remember a quite heated discussion in class. What was God's true intent for us? What if the fall had never happened? How were we originally created to relate? How did that change post-fall? Those were new and life-changing thoughts for me at the time.
I've never had a problem with women serving in church leadership (including the pastorate)...but over the years, I've kept that opinion mostly to myself. Safer for me. And existentially, it just didn't matter. In fact, whenever the issue came up, I would think, Thank God I'm not called to be a pastor, so I don't have to deal with this.
Truth is, that was a cop-out on my part. I apologize and repent. It's about time. It's past time.
This is an important issue with far-reaching consequences. It not only affects women. It affects men. It affects marriages. It affects families. It affects those who have already left the church, who are thinking of leaving the church, and who may be attracted back. It affects the overall wellbeing and health of the church itself.
Without women in leadership at least at some level, the church is limping.
In fact, we're so skilled at limping, our remaining “good leg” has learned to function quite well (by some estimations)...albeit over-compensating, carrying twice the weight it was meant to carry, and being simply worn-out tired.
I remember the first time someone (okay, my father) used the term "feminization of the church" in a conversation with me. I started laughing...out of real surprise. My response was, “How can women have taken over the church? We don't have any power.”
Don't get me wrong here. I love the fact that women are involved in nursery, in children's church, and in providing food. Those are real, valuable, and much-needed gifts from God. (They are also gifts that I don't have, so some of this may indeed be sour—green with jealousy—grapes.) But seriously, what do we do with women who don't fit into that particular mold? What do we do with women who are called into leadership, even the pastorate itself? Do we negate God's calling? Do we simply send such women away...and ultimately away from the church itself?
These are important questions...that beg for answers.
This issue is not a "power grab" (although it's often simply dismissed as that); it's one of equal representation in all areas of the church. If men and women are both created in God's image and half are excluded, then the church as a body is weaker in power and service...and that is a tragic loss to the church and to the world.
Bottom-line, I just cannot get around Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Nor do I want to. I don't want to stand in God's way.
A few books that gave me fresh air to breathe in this area:
Half the Church – Carolyn Custis James
When Life & Beliefs Collide – Carolyn Custis James
The Resignation of Eve - Jim Henderson
Wicca's Charm – Catherine Sanders