Looking for Woman-Friendly Churches

by Ericka Stephens-Rennie

Happy International Women’s Day!

In honour of this special day, I have a question. In response to my last post about feminism in the church, there were a lot of great comments about Christian feminism being about seeking justice for all, and specifically for women. Liz commented that Christian feminism can be – must be – rooted in the body of Christ. She writes:

We’re called to be revolutionaries, prophets, voices of justice, activists, and even (gasp) feminists!

I certainly identify with this statement, and really feel that God made me / gave me experiences that made me a Christian feminist.

My post – and some comments – spoke to the idea that God can use anyone for God’s own purposes. As God’s children, we should be open to hearing that call, and even actively listening and looking for it. So, here’s a question: how can we ensure that we are putting ourselves in situations where it is both more probable that we will hear, and more possible to follow? What do I mean? Well, Liz writes this:

I’m concerned with areas where, as women, we allow our voices to be subjugated, where we tell people that we are meant to be seen and not heard. Why do we work in the nurseries and teach Sunday School classes but don’t host the Saturday morning theology breakfasts that our male counterparts do, or preach in the main service?

How often have you been in this position? I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been asked to make a cake instead of lead prayer. Don’t get me wrong, I love baking and cake decorating, but I don’t want to just do those kinds of things.

Of course, if you go to a church that, either by doctrine or by culture, puts women in the kitchen / nursery / Sunday School, there are things you can do. In these situations, Andrew and I have purposely remixed gender roles (eg. he works in the kitchen, I stack tables and chairs).

But here’s the thing. Andrew and I are moving to a new city in the next couple months, and have an endless array of churches we could choose from. When you’re in that position, do you consider the church structure, church doctrine, and church culture with regard to the status of women?

Ericka Stephens-Rennie

4 Responses to “Looking for Woman-Friendly Churches”

  1. Tom Froese

    “…do you consider the church structure, church doctrine, and church culture with regard to the status of women?”

    I may be old fashioned, but I think Christians are challenged to think of it the other way ’round: Consider the status of women (or anybody) with regard to church structure, church doctrine, and church culture.” After all, this is certainly how we Christians approach many other areas of life. In fact, I think this is exactly what Liz was doing when she described about what “we are called to”. The tradition of justice in the church is shaped not by surrounding culture (which history tells us tends to be unjust) but by our scriptural belief that God is just and demands that we be too. Of course, I could be thinking of “church” in the catholic (not necessarily Roman) sense, not local.

    Local church culture is shaped by the vernacular, and today, it is often the case that the vernacular is shaped by mainstream culture. Sometimes this is inevitable and even beautiful. But a church, in how it and its members approach the role of gender, should recall that we take cues not from mainstream morality but from the tradition of the Church.


  2. Ericka

    ahhh, Tom, thanks for the comment. i definitely agree with your phrasing, and think it’s definitly and improvement on mine. (teach me to post early in the morning on a saturday…)

    basically, i think i just want to go to a church where the structure, the doctrine AND the culture are just towards both sexes. …a pretty tall order, no? i suspect that it’s more likely to find two of three. for instance, i’ve attended churches where the structure, and the culture of the church were such that women were treated as equals (to overspimplify, women were in leadership, not just in the kitchen, etc.); yet, that church existed within a denomination that would not ordain women.

    ladies (and gents), have you ever been to a church in whcih all three – structure, doctrine, and culture – allowed for women to be treated as equals?

  3. lizivkovich

    Wow, the original question- how to pick a church- that is tough. I’ve grown up in fundamental evangelical churches and now attend Catholic church, both of which could receive some well-deserved criticism about the underplayed role of women. What is it like in the emerging church movement? Is this being addressed?

    I like what you shared about being intentional, both you and Andrew, about remixing the roles. That remixing voice of prophesy is often more for the church than for the rest of the world. So I think living intentional respect for women in a tradition (or capital “t” Tradition in some cases) that does not yet ordain women is an authentic way to live as a feminist in the church.

    I would base my decision on the spirit of the community. What is their way of being? What draws you there? And what are the structures for holiness in that community? Finally, what voice can you bring to the community… and it will probably always be the ‘squeaky’ wheel of change as relating to feminism?

    In short, it looks like my answer is church culture… but only insofar as you agree with most of the church doctrine.

  4. Kathy

    I simply love God and know for starters that God is not my farther, God is above gender. I beleive the main problem with equalitie lies here. As for the role of Women read John 2. I have been to hundreds of churches and have never found one yet that treats me as an equal to Men hence i no longer go to any. Its not good for anyone, we all need to give up control.


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