Sunday, January 25, 2015

In defense of ‘male privilege’ in the church

It's been a truism in evangelical circles that leadership is in some cases "too male" and that so-called male privilege needs to end for the benefit of its female members. I don't share that view.

So what would happen if women received the very same power in the church as the men, without any distinctions? Simple — there will be fewer men in the church than there are now. There are reasons for this.

First, under egalitarian leadership only certain types of men will be belong to, let alone lead, a church or fellowship.

They will be only the type of men who were reared in the church and go along with the prevailing church culture. They will be "safe," attractive and non-offensive and know how to operate; in other words, a man has to fit a certain image. Guys who don't fit the profile will be shut down and thus shut out.

This is especially the case in black churches, whose membership is, by numerous accounts, 75 percent female; in the case of one of the black Methodist denominations that was meeting in Pittsburgh a few years ago, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that number jumped to 84 percent.

In one fellowship like that where I attended in my 20s, I was once told that a number of the women felt “intimidated” by me. That may have been a fair charge, but I never got any specifics — who felt that way and what specifically I was doing. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, I left, and the group, shrinking anyway due to a change of leadership, eventually collapsed.

Second, and more to the point, for reasons I've already mentioned, women cannot really reach out to men. Nor should they.

I'm aware of the Rev. Mark Driscoll, the embattled former pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Because I don't know the specifics, I'm not prepared to comment on what same people called his unbiblical theology and abusive leadership style.

But he did reach young men. (And, frankly, women flock to such churches when they want to be partnered with strong men.) In fact, the singles ministry at my complementarian church was a pretty big draw, especially back in the 1980s, for that reason. On top of that, we have a large number of reforming drug addicts and alcoholics, the type of people, mostly men, that good “church folks” often run away from.)

It was these men who may have been "rough around the edges" that the Apostle Paul reached out to, and his writings reflected that.

And here's something most people don't consider: How many major Christian movements were led by women, and how many mega-churches have they started? None I can think of.

I think this is a case where the issue of "power" has superseded the church's mission. We say we want good men in the church but then don't give them any reason to stay.

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