Battle of the Sexes

In Caryn Rivandeneira‘s article, The Gender Revolution (from Neue Magazine) she questions the viability of both men’s and women’s ministries within the church.  As I have wrestled with the same issues surrounding these super-specialized ministries, I appreciated her honest look at this sometimes taboo issue.

She states, “Because while there may be appropriate times and reasons and seasons for segregating ministries, defaulting to “for men” or “for women” leaves some gaping holes in our ministries—and in the hearts of those we want to serve” (33).  Interestingly enough Caryn goes on to show how the joining of both male and female within a biblical community, creates a more holistic and accurate reflection of the Creator writing, “Our being together bore more of the image of God than our being apart” (35).

I found her last statement interesting, as it reminded me of how we tend to forget that there is something very theologically important to the fact that God created both male and female.  Usually, our theology simply surfaces how the creation of man bears the image of God.  But it may be more appropriate to ask ourselves the question, “What does the creation of both male and female say to us about the ‘image of God?’”

In many ways it reflects to us an even deeper picture of God’s diversity in the midst of unity and the interdependence of the Trinity.  And so the more we separate genders for ministry (or the more we exclude a certain gender from roles of leadership and direct influence on the strategic direction and spiritual formation of growth environments), the more we present a one-sided, short-sighted approach to church and God.

So, here are some positional points regarding same-sex ministries that I currently have, with greater room for growth and refinement:

  • The best platform for intimate & intentional biblical community is within a mixed-gender group (yes, there are exceptions, but this should be our first priority if possible.)
  • A pastor I serve with recently stated, “Ministry is God meeting others’ needs through me.”  So maybe a better word instead of men’s and women’s “ministry” is men’s and women’s “fellowships?”  (A distinction made by a friend of mine a few weeks ago).
  • Men’s and women’s ministries (or fellowships) are situational depending not only on the season of an individual’s life, but also the season of the church.  Within my church community, I personally don’t see the need for a specialized “men’s ministry” within such a male-dominated leadership structure, though I am all for sporadic men’s groups and “outings” forming out of their existing mix-gendered communities (as long as these outings aren’t camping, hiking, and shooting guns!…I prefer hotels and concrete.) However, I do see the need for a women’s ministry due to the appearance that there is the absence of a female voice(s) within higher-level leadership roles and within the formation of our mainstream teaching and worship environments, creating a possible one-sided, male-dominate communication and experiential avenue.
  • Women bring a needed and unique perspective on life and God that must be better elevated and freed within the church.  (Some may take this to the “ordination” level, but I would say let’s just first deal with the issues of simply allowing our women’s gifts and perspective to have a significant (if not equal) influence on the shaping of its churches environments and direction)

Again, these are perspectives still in formation, so add to the conversation if you feel so led.

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~ by Dave Smith on May 28, 2010.

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