By Kelly Ladd Bishop
Reconciliation Series: Invisibility in a Culture of Patriarchy (September 2015)
In part one of this dialogue, Laurel talked about “invisibility,” and what it means for
people to feel invisible. In part 2 we will consider ways that Patriarchy causes women to become “invisible” in the church.
The Acts 29 movement, is a church planting movement. If you go to their webpage,
Acts29.com, and click on “About,” you can read what the movement is about. I clicked through the tabs, eventually coming to, “What We Believe.” Acts 29 stands in the tradition of historic evangelical confessionalism. While we believe it is vital that the elders of each of our churches determine where they stand on doctrines of second importance, we do wish to make known our
convictions on the following five theologically-driven core values:
Gospel centrality in all of life
The sovereignty of God in saving sinners
The work of the Holy Spirit for life and ministry
The equality of male and female and the principle of male servant leadership
The local church as God’s primary mission strategy
Notice that individual churches can disagree on any issues of secondary importance… but
they can not disagree on… The centrality of the gospel, God’s sovereignty, the work of the Holy Spirit, the mission of God’s church…. AND… THE PRINCIPLE OF MALE SERVANT LEADERSHIP.
That is code for patriarchy. In other words, one of their core tenants is that men are leaders over women. This means they don’t have women pastors in their churches, or women elders. In many cases women aren’t allowed to teach men at all.
Their next tab is “What We Want to be Known For”. Acts 29 will ensure we are a network known for:
Planting churches that plant churches
Pursuing holiness and humility
Being a radically diverse and global community
Praying for conversions through evangelism
Apparently radically diverse means churches led by only by men.
Their next tab: “What Success Looks Like”. Acts 29 will succeed to the extent that it:
Recruits men dedicated to leading church-planting churches
Assesses men based on core competencies to lead church-planting churches
Develops men who are planting or leading church-planting churches through coaching, training, and support.
They recruit MEN, assess MEN, and develop MEN to plant churches led by MEN. The reason I bring up the Acts 29 movement is because this type of church is making a resurgence. In response to cultural shifts in attitudes about men, women, sexuality, and gender, churches are clinging to this “old fashioned” patriarchy with prescribed gender roles within the church and home. They are claiming that this is Godly, Biblical, and best for the church and for society.
But they create a culture where women are “invisible” and their voices are silenced. We discussed why it is important to have real honest diversity in the church. Diversity allows us to hear from our brothers and sisters, and it reflects the unity of the Trinity. It is important to hear the voices of women, because they are part of the image of God. And keeping women out of leadership in most churches for over a thousand years has crippled the church’s witness. Why would we take half of the Christians out of ministry?
We also discussed patterns we have seen arise, where women leave the church and move
to para-church or mission organizations to minister and share the gospel. Often we see
women laying the foundations for ministries that are later taken over by men.
In countries where the church is still young, or has been underground for many years we
see women stepping up in leadership as they are gifted and called, and there is no concern
about their gender. History tells us this was the case with the early church.
Keeping women “invisible” has far reaching consequences. Women and girls world wide
are suffering because of the bias against women in general. The church should be a force
that speaks against these attitudes, rather than endorsing them or watering them down.
More than half the church has been silenced by patriarchal views. More than half the
church has been kept out of church ministry. The gifts of many Godly and Spirit filled
women have been suppressed by churches that teach male headship and patriarchy.
What affect does that have on God’s kingdom? Could it be that this is a spiritual attack? Possibly one of Satan’s greatest deceptions – rendering half the church invisible? What can we do?
It is important to have an understanding of the Biblical text, and to know what we believe
and why – considering it in light of God’s greater message and purposes, and Christ’s
Patriarchy hurts women, and the invisibility of women hurts the church. As a closing thought, the following is a quote from From “Malestrom” by Carolyn Custis James:
“Worst of all, patriarchy turns a man’s focus on himself – on his abilities and authority
over others. His manhood is sustained by the submission and obedience of others.
Patriarchy fails to reinforce God as the center or to call a man selflessly to invest his
powers and privileges to promote the flourishing and fruitful living of others. It does not
beckon him to subdue the darkness and take back territory the Enemy has seized. It does
not transform him into a new kind of man. Patriarchy actually prevents men from
thinking in more expansive ways of what God calls them to be, the profound significance
he embeds in their lives, and the impact he means for them to have on others.”
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