2. Some of the music reflects, supposedly, a femininity that men cannot identify with. This, in my mind, begs the question of what masculine music sounds like. I think we’re in safe territory questioning the theological depth of much of our worship music, or the quality of the music as art. Are we to identify the masculinity of music as that which lacks a supposed level of sappiness that is wrongly construed as feminine? Are songs such as Change My Heart Oh God and As the Deer considered feminine whereas songs like He Is Exalted and Blessed Be Your Name might be considered more masculine? I’m not even sure if these would be considered masculine, but they often differ (depending on the worship leader) from the former in tempo and key. If, indeed, tempo and style, speak anything about masculinity or femininity, I fear what might be said about some of the greatest classical works like those of Brahms, Handel, and Haydn.
3. Women in leadership. This is an area where I part ways from many of my friends. I’ve settled on the complementarian perspective, that Scripture does not permit women to be elders, thereby preventing them from the role of senior pastor. This, however, need not be a limitation for women with leadership gifts to serve the church in areas of teaching other women and coming alongside the male leadership in a consultancy capacity. There is a great deal that women have to contribute to the health of the church in addition to teaching Sunday school. It would serve the church well to respect the intellectual gifts of women. As men are discussing the feminization of the church, it would serve them well to be in dialogue with thoughtful, theological women in this process. More men might also consider taking on the role of Sunday school teacher. Teaching children should not be a concession to women (as it seems to be), children should be viewed as the greatest resource of the church to make an impact on our culture in future generations. If the church has been feminized because of anything women have done, might it be because so few men are involved?
In the context of a church with a complementarian culture, the issue of women in leadership is a moot point. This cannot be the blame (if that’s the term we are using) for the feminization of the church. As has been attributed to Phil Johnson at a 2007 men’s conference, the feminization has been caused largely by the abdication of Christian men.
Nancy Pearcey quotes Ann Douglas from her book The Feminization of American Culture, that
"ministry lost a toughness, a sternness, an intellectual rigor which our society then and since has been accustomed to identify with masculinity” and instead took on 'feminine'” traits of care, nurturing, sentimentalism, and retreat from the harsh ethos of the public arena” (Total Truth, 335).
I’m terribly bothered that intellectual rigor is considered a masculine trait by default. The seeker movement and the therapeutic Christianity that has come to dominate the culture of so many publishers and churches is the product of male leadership and lacks a great deal of intellectual rigor. I’m quite sure that having more men in the pews will not repair this epidemic, and I’m not sure that a church with a female majority is really the problem. More and more women within the evangelical community want to do the challenging work of theological reflection and are bored to tears (pardon the pun) with talking about their feelings and only allowed to do church in the form of parties revolving around cosmetics and chocolate. They want more, and a great deal of male leadership has pigeon-holed women’s ministry as a place to be emotional and fluffy, perpetuating the problem.
Looking at feminization through the lens of history, however, perhaps we can better understand it by considering the role the industrial revolution played in taking husbands out of the homes to work in factories, placing women in necessary functional leadership roles in the family. And in this sense, perhaps we can suggest that it was the industrial revolution that sparked the feminist revolution and the feminization of church and culture. Progress may have more to do with feminization than anything else.
As a Christian woman with a passion for theological precision, and coming from a Reformed perspective, I think that this whole discussion about the feminization of the church has been without concern for how it affects women. Because certain traits are regarded as masculine and feminine, it’s as if the rug has been pulled out from under women who might be hurt by the tone of the discussion. I say this, because if “hurt” or “sensitivity” are considered feminine “feelings,” then by virtue of the topic, a negative response to it by a woman would probably be considered evidence of the problem. Setting the topic up this way, in itself, lacks virtue and logic. I hope more women can be brought into the discussion, because this is much deeper than masculine or feminine, it’s about Christ-centeredness or human-centeredness, the latter which is typified through the therapeutic subculture of the church.
I have SO MUCH MORE to say on this topic, but I will conclude for now with the place of women in the biblical narrative. I wonder if the disciples thought Jesus was feminizing their new movement by engaging so many women….Mary and Martha of Bethany, the woman at the well, the prostitute who anointed Jesus’ feet, the women he appeared to at the resurrection. We read a great deal about how Jesus interacts with women and cares enough to bring them to theological maturity. In this sense, I find this aspect of who Jesus is absent from so much of today’s male leadership in the church. I expect more. And I know women need more.