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The “Gender Ghetto” in the Church

In a world of hurt, is fighting for a place at the table worth our time?
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In a recent article in the Huffington Post, Cathleen Falsani asks readers to list three of the top evangelical women leaders under sixty. Falsani contends it's hard to do and the title of her post suggests the reason why: "Jesus is Still Surrounded By Too Many Men." To lend readers a hand with the question, Falsani suggests that author and speaker, Margaret Feinberg (also a Gifted for Leadership blogger), should top the list. After all, Feinberg is a prolific writer who speaks at many large events throughout the country and was dubbed as an upcoming leader in American evangelicalism by Charisma Magazine. Even so, Falsani observes, Feinberg is, "probably the most influential young woman leader in evangelicalism you've never heard of."

In a phone interview, Falsani asked Feinberg why she was one of the only women speaking at these large Christian events. Is there a "gender ghetto" in evangelical Christianity? Falsani wondered. Feinberg didn't think so; Fienberg believes that at the grass-roots level, the situation is changing for women–even if relatively few have places of national prominence. Yet at the end of her interview, Feinberg, who I deeply admire and respect, said something I'd like to explore a bit further. It was this:

"I wonder why we're even talking about this when there are so many needs around the world?…Now is not the time. When every starving person has food, when every homeless person has a place to live, when every well is dug, when AIDS has been eradicated in Africa, when all of our neighbors know Jesus, then we can sit and debate about titles and who should do what."

I understand Feinberg's sentiments. After all, the church has progressed far beyond where it was 20 years ago. However, I wonder whether gender inequity really is a peripheral issue that distracts us from what's really important–spreading the gospel and from eradicating poverty and disease? I don't think so. To somehow think that these aren't related is to adopt a fundamentally disintegrated view of the world. Kingdom work is indeed hindered by not allowing women (and also minorities) a chance to have a place at the influential decision-making table.

Yet in some churches women are not. When this happens, there is no doubt that the gospel suffers. But how the gospel flourishes when we utilize both men and women's gifts and input! Doing so is good stewardship.

Years ago, one of my girlfriends, who is skilled in outreach, started an adopt-a-block ministry in Springfield, Ohio. Soon her husband and others joined her. Her vision blossomed into a diverse church where men and women lovingly preached the gospel, fed and educated hungry children and adults, found jobs and homes for the homeless, ministered to prostitutes and felons, and walked with those full of doubt, especially college students who grew up in Christian homes. Earlier this year, the church decided to join another ministry that is doing similar work in order to better serve the city of Springfield. So because she was encouraged and not forbidden from using her gifts, Rebecca, in very meaningful and far reaching ways, spearheaded the spread of the gospel. Surely only God knows the eternal implications of Rebecca's (and others') faithfulness.

August16, 2011 at 10:06 AM

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