As questions of Christianity and gender are placed within the deeper context of ecclesiology (what is the Church and what is it supposed to accomplish) and "missiology" (what is the church's present context), the conversation will change substantively. Where the former dialogue has centered on equal gender influence within the top-down, institutional systems of modern Christendom, the new conversation reframes questions of gender outside of those systems. In the flattened, post-institutional realm shaped by the equalizing forces of digital communication and globalization, the focus must move to the people of God dispersed, a displacement more absolute than that of the first century. And in this new landscape of radical dispersion - beyond buildings, beyond programs, beyond pedestal personalities - what leadership qualities are most needed? What are the practices and gifts of those who minister well within such a context of deconstruction, chaos, and uncertainty?
To be certain, this reframed conversation is not for the faint of heart or closed of mind. The new frame of reference most needed may indeed be skewed toward the feminine. And if that skew is accurate, traditional gender conversations in the Church, i.e., the inclusion of women in essentially male systems, will seem like preschool banter compared to what it means to shift out of those systems altogether.
The encouraging news is, this new conversation is happening - perhaps at decibels audible only over quiet coffee tables, but it is happening.
Even a few pastors are acknowledging that their patterns of dominance and control are getting in the way of reaching a waiting world, and they are looking to women and "type B" men who can help them learn new ways of functioning. At a recent workshop on collaborative leadership, one leader admitted, "I've never had a problem figuring out the game plan all by myself. I just find that, increasingly, I'm playing the game and no one else is remotely interested."
Ideally, what may now be viewed as feminine practices of leadership and ministry in the postmodern turn will ultimately be seen as what humans do when they are at their best: fully present, aware, and participating without ego in God's transformation of the world. Because, in the end, ministry effectiveness in the postmodern turn is not the result of a leader's gender, but the degree to which they are embedded in the new world, how little their personal identity is tied to power and position, and how clearly they get what needs to happen now that the show is over.