“We women are too emotional, that’s why we can’t be leaders.”

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“We women are emotional, that’s why we can’t be leaders.”

According to the senior pastor’s wife at a Calvary Chapel (a gender-hierarchical church influenced by New Calvinism), “we women are emotional, that’s why we can’t be leaders.” This was in the 1990s, but today emotiveness is still used to disqualify women from leadership, even in egalitarian churches that have been heavily influenced by the gender-hierarchicalists and New Calvinists such as my church, Willow Creek Community Church.

At my church, emotiveness has been used to disqualify women from leadership, but not men. Egalitarians are known to be passionate about their mission to dismantle patriarchy and this passion is easily mistaken for bossiness, emotiveness, anger, bitterness and the like and are quickly dismissed for leadership. Passionate egalitarian women in my church have been advised to get mental health therapy.

We currently have a teaching pastor who has a strong and passionate voice projection. Many people are actually turned off by it because it is interpreted as scolding, demeaning and emotive. However, many more people are attracted to it because he sounds authoritative, not bossy, emotive, angry, or retaliatory, but strong and authoritative.

Many a person in my church who is turned off by a passionate egalitarian during a one-on-one conversation is drawn by a strong, loud voiced preacher from the stage. When an egalitarian principle is taught, the teacher is accused of pushing a political agenda. Ultimately, for the patriarchalists and pseudo- and neo-egalitarians the offense from the egalitarians is not in the voice projection, format, or medium of the message but the offense is in the message itself, in the message of mutuality and equality between men and women.

Back to the subject of women and emotiveness…

Gender-hierarchicalists encourage and even enforce women to be “gentle in spirit”, that is, gentle and soft spoken in word and attitude and personality—so they won’t be judged as emotive or bossy or incompetent or threatening. The hypocrisy and double standard of this belief is that at the same time, they encourage and value the strong authoritative voice of men, which they recognize as an essential trait of leadership and do not perceive as emotive, bossy, weak, or inferior. Therefore, women are disqualified from leadership because they are expected and required to be gentle and soft-spoken, which automatically prevents them from possessing the strong authoritative projection expected from a leader. Therefore, the requirement imposed on women to be gentle in spirit becomes a tool to keep them from leadership. (See article in Psychology Today on the “soft spoken” woman. See also article with endnote links, “Research Reveals How Stereotypes About Leadership Hold Women Back“)

There is one exception when [some] gender-hierarchicalists accept a woman with a strong voice—whether she’s preaching the gospel to the non-believer or running as a Republican vice-presidential nominee—when the woman PROVES HER SUBMISSION TO HER HUSBAND , or to her male authority figure, and she must do so prior to approval to speak by the [male] gender-hierarchicalists. At the Calvary Chapel I attended, I observed egalitarian women with a strong voice be categorized as non-submissive and even bossy. At the same time a gender-hierarchical woman with a strong voice was permitted to do ministry and even lead ministry as she pleased—that’s because she had proven her submission to men by verbally acknowledging that the men are the leaders who have authority and that she herself as a woman has no authority except the authority given to her by the male leaders. The egalitarian women had not made such a confession of the trickle down man-to-woman model of authority. Even though the egalitarian women believed in submission to authority and practiced it, because they didn’t confess to the trickle down man-to-woman model they were either barred or limited in their leadership involvement, in addition to being ostracized by the leadership team. During this season of events and due to the treatment of [some] egalitarian women, in solidarity over five egalitarian women and their families left the church. All of these women and most of their husbands who left had been in significant leadership roles.

To require a strong authoritative voice as a key trait of leadership disqualifies mature* women from leadership and enables churches to replace these qualified women with immature men who are not qualified to be leaders nor teachers.

*Mature/maturity is defined as the wise application of biblical knowledge and understanding; a person’s character that reflects the fruits of the Spirit and the aspects of righteousness of God, and builds up the church and facilitates life into the community so the church may fulfill its intended purpose set by God.

The following event took place at my church, Willow Creek—a church founded on strong egalitarian principles but in recent year has been strongly influenced by patriarchal infiltrations. The names have been changed to protect the identities of those involved.

Janet and Dana are both active members and volunteers at my church, Janet was telling me that Dana has the gift of teaching. At the time, I had not met Dana so I asked Janet to explain to me what it is that makes her say Dana has the gift of teaching. Janet never mentioned Dana’s understanding of scripture; she only described Dana’s strong voice projection. I immediately realized that Janet’s understanding of teaching and leadership requires a strong voice projection—a requirement many people expect from a leader to the extent that understanding of scripture is secondary or not required at all.

We shouldn’t be surprised at the current practice of placing a man with a strong authoritative voice in a position of leadership or teaching even though he consistently shows a high degree of misunderstanding, misinterpretation, and misapplication of scripture that is hurtful and destructive to the life of the community. To require a strong authoritative voice as key trait of leadership disqualifies mature women from leadership and enables churches to replace these qualified women with immature men who are not qualified to be leaders nor teachers. Such a practice is extremely dangerous for Christian community and biblical understanding because such a practice enables immature leaders to create their own ‘gospel’ —which is no gospel at all.

The teaching pastor at my church once stated, “God does not call the qualified, he qualifies the called.” Jesus had followers who were peasants without formal biblical education and he prepared them both on 1) scriptural understanding and application and in 2) God-ly character and he did so with his disciples in silence before his disciples were released as leaders to speak about Christ and the gospel. Later and still today, the Holy Spirit continues what Jesus started to help the believers understand and apply scripture and reflect God’s character. God does not place in leadership a person who is arrogant or weak in scriptural knowledge because these traits are clear biblical dis-“qualify”-cations for leadership and teaching. Sure God qualifies the called, but the called is not placed in a position of leadership until he or she has met in silence the qualifications required to be a leader who speaks about Christ and the gospel.

A called person in a place of leadership is someone who has already met qualifications on biblical understanding and application and God-ly character. Paul’s ministry trajectory is another example of learning in silence before being released to speak about Christ and the gospel. Even though Paul was a highly respected biblical scholar as a Pharisee, after he converted to Christianity he spent three to fourteen year in quietness before he was released as an apostle. Paul, who wrote two-thirds of the New Testament, had to meet the biblical understanding and application and also the God-ly character requirements before he was released to speak about Christ and the gospel as a leader in the church. All leaders in the church have to meet those two requirements before appointed as leaders.

Mark Driscoll’s ministry trajectory is an example of the devastating effects a leader and his church has on the community when one or both of those requirements are not met. The subject of character, specifically in the form of arrogance and deceit, has been highlighted as the main reason for Driscoll’s fall in ministry. Unfortunately, his own elders didn’t consider Driscoll’s character flaws valid reasons to remove him from leadership. In many Christian circles arrogance is not considered a character flaw deserving the disqualification of a man from leadership, even though arrogance/pride is what made Lucifer and one third of the angels fall from heaven. Regarding Driscoll’s theology, his theology is patriarchal and misogynistic which provides the food and nourishment to his arrogant, prideful, and deceitful character. (See Paul’s first letter to the Christians at Corinth, 1 Corinthians, to read on how Paul addresses leadership, maturity, scriptural and gospel knowledge and aspects of character among the members and the leaders.)

Patriarchalists like to use Kind David as an example of a man weak in character who was used by God in a leadership capacity to show patience and acceptance of a man in church leadership who has flaws in character. What these patriarchalists fail to recognize is that King David would have failed Paul’s qualifications for ministry. King David’s 500 wives is one reason he would not have qualified to lead a church. We cannot point to the character of an Old Testament leader who has been highly influenced by the patriarchal practices of his neighbors and make that character the source for comparison or approval of church leaders with flawed character. The New Testament leadership qualifications have higher standards and are free of patriarchal influence, in many respects they correct Old Testament character flaws that infiltrated into the people of God when the people embraced the practices of their patriarchal neighbors. By the way, King David’s character flaws and the similar character flaws in his heir son, King Solomon, facilitated the breakup of the kingdom, so his character flaws eventually did have grievous consequences for the people of God.

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What are some ways that we can address leadership trait expectations among members of our congregations and leadership in order to expand the church’s embrace of mature women as leaders in all capacities and avoid the danger of placing immature men in leadership?

Edited: 6.15.2015

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Smart, Not Smarter

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After a movie, two single friends, Robert and Elsa, are having dinner at a restaurant (their names have been changed to protect their identity):

Robert: Women today are so dense! I would very much like to meet someone with half a brain.

Elsa: Would you like to meet a woman with more than half a brain?

Robert: [puzzled by Elsa’s question] But, of course. I meant to say AT LEAST half a brain.

Elsa: How about a woman with a full brain?

Robert: [even more puzzled and unsure where Elsa was going with her line of questioning] Uhm, sure. I would like her to be smart, if that’s what you mean.

Elsa: How smart?

Robert: [casually shrugging his shoulders] However smart she is will be fine by me.

Elsa: How do you see the two of you interacting when an important decision would need to be made?

Robert: We would talk about it and together we would make a decision.

Elsa: If during the discussion she would make a suggestion about the final decision and you found her suggestion to be wise, then you would go along with it?

Robert: Oh sure, absolutely!

Elsa: What if you two found yourselves making more decisions based on her suggestions than on your suggestions? Would you be ok with that?

Robert: [pensive and after a few seconds] No. I wouldn’t.

Elsa: Why not?

Robert: Because that would undermine my role as the leader and it would emasculate me. As the leader, I need to be the one doing more of the decision-making for us.

Elsa: So, you would like to be with a smart woman, but she can’t be smarter than you?

Robert: [with a deeply pensive and sad and disappointed and shocked look on his face and facing downward toward the table] No. I guess not…

“So, [Robert] you would like to be with a smart woman, but she can’t be smarter than you?”

Elsa was able to get Robert to confess what so many people, men, pseudo-egalitarians, neo-egalitarians and even some egalitarians are not willing to acknowledge. A smart woman is preferred over a dense woman, just like a smart man is preferred over a dense man. The difference is that society places limits on women’s—but not on men’s—intellect in dating, marriage, and the church, both consciously and subconsciously. This limit is one that girls learn to “submit” to at an early age when they start to become interested in boys. A limit that women place on themselves as adults when they dumb themselves down in order to accommodate men like Robert. A limit in intelligence, wisdom, and giftedness advocated by gender-hierarchicalists who instruct women to “step-down” so the men can “step-up” both in the home and in the church.

A smart woman is preferred, but she cannot be smarter than the man.

In order for the woman to accomplish such a feat she must regularly monitor herself to not surpass the man who is the reference point of her limits. Sadly, far too many women find themselves in this predicament in dating, in marriage, and in the church. In fact, women carry this self-monitored debasement with them into the workforce and society at large. Not to mention, the media does a superb job in reminding women and setting expectations of their place as the inferior sex and serving as partner to the patriarchal church in debasing women so that men may rise and remain dominant.

At the time when Robert and Elsa had the above conversation they were attending a gender-hierarchical church, a Calvary Chapel in Los Angeles county, where the following event took place. A male member of the church, who was also an elder, just graduated from a well known university in Southern California where he received the honor of the top student in the school of engineering. The senior pastor dedicated a Sunday service to teach on the value of this man’s accomplishments and the significance of his witness and evangelism as Christians live out their faith before the world. The following year, the same honor of top engineering student from the same university was awarded to a member of their church. What are the odds of that?! Certainly, the senior pastor would have topped his sermon from the previous year now that two of their church members had received the top engineering student honor. However, there was no sermon. There was not even a mention from the senior pastor or from anyone on stage during the church service of the second student who had received the same scholastic honor. There was only a quiet celebration party for the second student at a nearby coffeehouse and the senior pastor and his wife showed up for a few minutes. Why the disparity?

The second award winner was a woman.

A double-standard of praise was clearly at work, and even research on the subject confirms that society’s patriarchal conditioning leads people to give praise to men and deny it to women even on identical accomplishments.

This gender-hierarchical church has a history of struggles with educated and intellectual members on many fronts. First, women could not be “smarter” than men because the men would feel “emasculated” and their authority would be at risk of being usurped by the women. Second, intellectual women could not be publicly praised because other women in the church, particularly stay at home wives and moms (many of whom had no education beyond high school—if that) would “feel bad about themselves”. Third, educated and intellectual men and women, were advised to not freely discuss their backgrounds when meeting new people because “people’s jobs do not define who they are”. This principle is a great point, but the underlying reason was to avoid making the non-educated members and visitors “feel bad about themselves.” Of course, this advice was selectively dismissed by the pastor when he publicly praised the male honor student, then chose to abide by it one year later when he kept silent about the female honor student.

Perhaps, the pastor did not intend to practice a double standard of praise and chose to not publicly praise the female honor student for numerous of valid reasons. Perhaps after his public praise of the male honor student he received negative feedback and was reminded of the principle to not make people “feel bad about themselves” on the subject of education and intellect. On the other hand, members in the church practiced various forms of double standards regarding education and intellect between men and women as already mentioned above, such as the requirement that the women could not be “smarter” than the men in order to avoid emasculating the men and avoid usurping the leadership of men, such were the concerns of Robert and he was not unique.

Consider this detail that indicates the senior pastor in most likelihood chose to practice a double standard of praise. In fact, this additional detail, to some extent, aligns the senior pastor with Robert. Both the senior pastor and his wife attended the quiet celebration party for the female honor student. The senior pastor’s wife showed up thrilled and her bright smile made it clear she was a proud ‘mama’ of the female honor student. She stayed for an extended amount of time in joyous fellowship with the party attendees. The senior pastor, on the other hand, did not have the same enthusiastic and proud smile. He greeted the attendees, congratulated the honor student, and remained in the party only a few minutes not interacting much—which was not his typical personality. Maybe he had other business to attend to? Maybe he felt guilty because he had not publicly praised the accomplishments of the female honor student as he did the prior year when he praised the accomplishments of the male honor student? Maybe, he felt awkward in comparison to such a brilliant woman? Actually, that is quite common among men particularly in gender-hierarchical churches, including male pastors in comparison to their female congregants. It is that awkwardness in men that drives women to debase themselves. It is that awkwardness in men that requires women to not be as ‘smart’ as men. By the way, the female honor student went on to perform even greater accomplishments in the field of science…and she no longer attends that church.

Now what?

People in marriages and churches frequently navigate educational and intellectual differences in a healthy way that does not create separation, division, or inferiority. Instead, they practice mutual praise, admiration, and support. Unfortunately, others do not navigate educational and intellectual differences well and as a result, division and even antagonism is fostered.

What are the key character traits that help us stay in loving community with people who are different from ourselves and allow us to foster an environment where everyone in the group is valued?

Edited: 6.15.2015