I have been blown away by the positive response to my forthcoming book, The Silent Queen: Why the Church Needs Women to find their Voice.
Although the book doesn’t come out until Christmas, I thought you’d might like a taste now. The following article has been cut from the Introduction…
Since its inception, the church has championed the rights of women. It has done this by opposing polygamy, incest, and underage marriage; promoting women’s education; caring for widows and orphans; and proclaiming the dignity of every person.
While the pagan world was visiting upon women every form of injustice and depravity known to man, the church was providing a refuge and a hope for a better future. This is a track record we can be proud of.
But do women in the church enjoy the same opportunities as men?
Women make up more than half of the church but account for less than ten percent of its senior leaders.
In the church we allow women to minister a hundred different ways—they serve in the crèche, sing in the choir, and cook the potluck dinners—but we don’t allow them to lead.
Which is surprising, because studies reveal that many of us have no problem accepting female priests or pastors in theory. But in practice, it’s a different story. Even churches that aren’t opposed to women in leadership are reluctant to hire them because doing so can lead to division and strife.
There is no question the church has made positive strides in recognizing women in leadership. Up until the 1950s, there were very few women in recognized ministry. But any positive trend has been mostly at the grassroots level. In the Catholic Church, for instance, women lay ministers are common, but women priests are not. In the American Protestant Church, only nine percent of senior protestant pastors are women.
From time to time, some report will come out in the Christian media trumpeting the rapid growth in the percentage of female pastors or preachers. “Number of clergywomen has exponentially increased over last two decades,” claimed a recent headline in The Christian Post. But when your starting point is zero, any increase looks good.
The fact is we are not remotely close to achieving parity. Maybe in another hundred years. Maybe my granddaughters’ granddaughters will see it.
Perhaps God has given you the ability to preach and teach. Maybe you have a story to tell or a desire to lead. But if you are a woman who desires to be faithful to the call of God, you can expect opposition in the form of religious tradition.
You will be told you can share but not preach. You can speak in the small group but not the large one. You can serve coffee but not communion. You need a husband or some sort of male covering. You better not wear trousers and for heaven’s sake don’t show emotion. Break these rules and you will be marginalized, silenced, and branded a Jezebel.
It is sometimes remarked that the modern church is excessively feminine, which is ironic given the way we treat women. We fret about the shortage of men in the pews but give no thought to the absence of women in the pulpit.
We bend over backwards to attract new men but do little to promote the women who are already here.
Extracted and adapted from Dr. Paul Ellis’s new book, The Silent Queen: Why the Church Needs Women to Find their Voice.