Thinking Positive about Being a Woman in the Church

by Anna Blanch on October 13, 2011

Today I offer a guest post from Hannah Mudge. Hannah and I have gotten to know each other on Twitter. I love her sense of humour particularly and her passion for politics. We talked at length about Why it bugs me when “the church” tells me how to be a woman post I wrote a couple of weeks ago. We talked about the positive aspects of what it means to be a woman in the church. Here is Hannah’s take…
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Being “a woman in the church” is fraught with problems. We know this because we experience it, we think about it, we write about it. A lot.

It is absolutely vital that we discuss what it means to be a woman in the church and the things we come across that upset us, that make us feel patronized or limited or ignored. Some years ago, I was struggling with finding my identity and wondering whether or not it was okay to just be myself at church. I was a bit concerned that it wasn’t okay and that this was backed up by a lot of books and other materials aimed at women, which tended to talk about “Biblical womanhood” as if this was a specific set of personality traits and skills. How wonderful it was to find different voices out there, through blogs and through books; women who felt the same way as me and who have helped me immeasurably on my faith journey.

And so I’m certainly not trying to say that we need to stop talking about the problem of gender issues within the church. But after reading a couple of Anna’s recent posts on the subject and having commented at length about why I don’t like it when the church tries to tell me how to be a woman, I felt challenged to write about the other side of the coin. About what I do like about being a woman in the church.

The struggles I have had in the past and my passion for gender equality has meant I have needed to seek out resources and teachers to help me on my path to understanding more about scripture, women in church history and, of course, myself. I would not be where I am today without the insight of some amazing people whose books I have read, conferences and seminars I have attended – not forgetting, of course, those who I’ve interacted with online. All of this has given me the resources to look beyond the cookie-cutter, culturally-influenced, “Biblical womanhood” material, explore scripture more deeply and come to firm conclusions about the things I’ve learned.

It’s so good to have that sense of community. When something I want to talk about feels too specialized and “niche” I know that there’ll be a whole group of people on Twitter who will be interested because despite our differences, we all share one thing in common. And I know that this doesn’t always happen, but much of the time, we can debate and discuss with grace and love. We bring our different church traditions to the debate and I love that we can learn from each other in this respect.

Being a woman in the church has so many similarities with being a woman in the “the world”. There’ll be the people you’re close to and really value as friends. There will be people you don’t see eye to eye with, or even have anything in common with. People will judge you for the choices you make. I have encountered people who feel that caring a great deal about gender issues constitutes “having an agenda” and that “there are more important things to care about”. Despite the fact you’re all “sisters in Christ”, you know you’re not going to be best friends with everyone. But despite the niggles, you’re on an amazing journey of learning more about yourself and about God, and that makes a difference.

My identity and my purpose on this earth is informed by Jesus’s teachings and what I have learnt through exploration and listening. I know that as women in the church we are adding to a long and amazing story, of inspirational women who have gone before (or are still around today), who we can really look up to.

Being a woman in the church has helped me to understand what I feel I am called to and helped me to feel more secure about it. This post from Joy Bennett at A Deeper Story really resonated with me, because it talks about many of the things that have so inspired and encouraged me, spurred me on and even made my marriage happier over the past few years. Yes, there have been times when incidents and also things people have said have been discouraging and upsetting. But as I have learned to deal with it, these knockbacks have meant I can stand firmer in my beliefs and try to encourage other women to do the same, despite how confusing and disheartening their own situation might be.

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Hannah Mudge is a blogger, writer and activist based in Peterborough, UK. She writes about Christianity, feminism, the media and politics at her blog, We Mixed Our Drinks, and tweets as @boudledidge. When Hannah isn’t holding forth on gender issues, she also enjoys acquiring more books, travel, the great outdoors and hanging out with her husband.

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  • http://twitter.com/Beccabumps @Beccabumps

    Nicely said Hannah! When you first started out exploring the role of women and your own identity as a Christian woman where did you find the women who encouraged you? Did you find some face to face women that could share and be a part of your story?

    I was handed the baton, by my Granny ordained 10 years after the first women in the Methodist Church, to continue retelling the Christian story…sometimes it's a lonely journey and reading your story and your hope is really helpful – thanks for sharing.

    • http://ontoberlin.blogspot.com Hannah Mudge

      Thanks! When I started out with my 'exploring', I was able to find what I was looking for through blogs, which was a huge relief as I'd previously only encountered more conservative blogs aimed at women. At the time we were sort of "between churches" and had been moving around a bit as students etc, so I didn't really have any IRL friends I could talk to about it. It was amazing initially to attend a couple of seminars by some amazing women who really inspired me, then once we found a new church and settled in there I was able to share my feelings with my friends, all of whom would agree with my sentiments even though not all share my interests, ambitions and gifts. I have also been able to meet some wonderful women through the internet and subsequently met on a few occasions IRL. I do wish that I had family members who had "passed the baton" to me in that respect, but as is the case with many of my interests, I have found community online 🙂

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