Women: The Church’s Livelihood

by Anna Blanch on October 18, 2011

In this latest series, begun last week with Hannah Mudge’s Thinking Positive about being a Woman in the Church, I offer you another guest post, this time from Cory Copeland of MadtoLove.com. I posed the topic of What would Church be like if there were no women. Here’s what he came back with!

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It’s always a bit easier to write when you’re assigned a subject to cover. However, when Anna asked me to write on the possibility of a womanless church, I couldn’t help but be overcome with a fit of the chuckles—mainly because I immediately imagined a church full of men in large hats and colorful dresses, playing their tambourines loudly while waiving their handkerchiefs and fainting from the move of the Holy Spirit. It’s a vision that’s both comical and possibly emotionally scarring, depending on the men of your congregation.

Once my laughter had subsided, my mind began to wander over the thought, and I began to consider just how empty and lifeless a church could be without the ladies of its congregation present. I imagine the sanctuary would be a little less joyful due to the lack of wonderful laughter and charisma the women of Christianity tend to produce. I feel that, with a lack of women, a church would also find itself craving a sense of organization and direction. Lord knows we men are atrociously bad at both of these things and would only end up abandoning any programs or initiatives that would require any type of discipline. It’s entirely too sad, yet…true. Without women, men would be lost. We’re simply too stubborn to admit it.

In all seriousness, and aside from my attempt at “jokes”, I honestly feel that women are the livelihood of today’s church. They are the prayerful soul and the resonating passion that ignites our church beyond its four walls and resuscitates a dying world. Women are the heart of our outreach and the blood of our love for others. They are the striving boldness that pushes us to the heights God has so graciously reserved for us. And though they are rarely positioned in a place of ultimate leadership within our churches, they are disciples of the worthy cause, taking up His cross in whatever way they may be needed or called upon. Without women, our churches would ache for their revival while pondering the lack of spiritual fervor they ultimately possess.

You may feel I’ve ventured too far in describing women’s importance within the church, but the truth is, I’ve witnessed the worth a Godly woman possesses. From my own mother, the pastor’s wife, to the exhausted Sunday school teacher to the women who run the church’s kitchen or clean its buildings, Godly women are rampant in their devotion to their Savior and His church. They will not be deterred, nor will they be swayed in their determination and faith. These women are the impassioned heart of God and our churches could never be the same without them.

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Cory Copeland writes at www.MadToLove.com and can also be found on Twitter @Cory_Copeland. He is also the creator of novelty website www.ToMyFutureSpouse.com.  Cory is currently at work on his second book, which will be released in the spring of 2012. If you want to contact him, you can send him an email to Cory.Copeland@gmail.com.

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  • http://rockangel.co.uk Han

    I love the idea of all the guys dancing round in their flowery dresses and big hats!

    I think without my Mum my parents church might grind to a halt – she's the one there cooking the Harvest Supper and the Men's Breakfast. I think she encouraged my Dad to become the editor of the Church Newsletter – I'm sure someone would step into the breach if needed but it would be my Grandad (but that's a whole other story about politics as to why Grandad seems to do everything!)

    • http://goannatree.blogspot.com Goannatree

      it is a fun image isn't it?!

      I wonder though, doesn't your mum feel like she is valued and supported in the midst of her community?

  • http://www.lizclutterbuck.blogspot.com LizC

    Writing this sat in a church office where there are currently 6 women and 2 men gives some indication of where this particular church would be without women….! Our early morning prayer morning consisted of 7 women and 1 man, so I concur on women being a key part of the church's prayer life.

    What really concerns me though is the start of the article. Yes, I laughed at the vision of hats and coloured scarves – but the scary thing is that for many men (both within and outside the church) that's the first thing that comes to mind when they think of Christian women. We're not helped in blasting that image away when the CofE still won't trust us with senior leadership roles!

    • http://goannatree.blogspot.com Goannatree

      It's a real issue isn't it Liz?

      Women on the sidelines is certainly not the picture of Proverbs 31 (which so many are so keen to use to shown complementarianism), nor is it the picture that Tabitha and Priscilla (in the very least) of the New Testament – and that's before we talk about Ruth and Esther and Deborah….

      "We're not helped in blasting that image away when the CofE still won't trust us with senior leadership roles! "
      What do you think it will take, Liz?

  • @tim_hutchings

    I'm sure Cory thinks he's being very helpful with this… but this post would have gone down a storm with, say, a Victorian clergyman. Religion is women's work, because they are so devout and so emotional and so good at sacrificing. Men cannot be expected to live moral lives without a loving woman (read: mother/wife/sister) to encourage them. And think how lost the poor vicar would be without his housekeeper!

    In the classic Christian version, this argument would then have gone on to explain that these emotional, sacrificial, hard-working women need a strong man to lead them, because the Bible says so and human nature calls for complementary gender roles.

    Praising the piety of women has historically been part of the problem, the excuse for male leadership and male irresponsibility.

    I would much rather read the opposite argument: men and women can all lead, and be devout, and sacrifice, and the church would be much better off if we stopped putting gender into boxes. Maybe if we stopped expecting women in church to be paragons of piety and allowing men to be lazy children, we could start seeing what individual people are really good at.

    Oh dear! This has turned into a bit of a rant. But honestly, can you read the final paragraph without your eyes twitching? "From my own mother, the pastor’s wife, to the exhausted Sunday school teacher to the women who run the church’s kitchen or clean its buildings, Godly women are rampant in their devotion to their Savior and His church." Thanks, buddy! In my church, women are a bit busy being the vicar and the bishop and running the local synod, and the men can make their own damn tea.

    • http://www.diannaeanderson.net Dianna

      I find myself agreeing with Tim, here. I think Cory missed the mark here in that he didn't acknowledge the historical role that women have played in the church and the importance of women as leaders, not merely as "the power behind the throne" so to speak.

    • Gill

      I think I have to agree with Tim. My first reaction to this article was to feel a tad patronised.

      Also, from the title, I was rather hoping to read more about the strengths that a church of men would have. With church becoming such a female-dominated place, I would have loved to have some imagination about what a male-dominated church environment would be like.

      I think this article is a little short and feels a bit hastily written. Would have loved a wee bit more depth and a bit more discussion on gender stereotypes.

      Would have loved to read a more deep and searching piece about how men and women of different strengths and personalities can truly compliment one another.

  • layanglicana

    My problem with the role of women in church is the age old one of Martha and Mary (Martha versus Mary?).
    As Tim hints, women have so often in the past been metaphorically patted on the head and told how great they are at making the tea/arranging flowers/being 'holy dusters'/polishing the brass and other housekeeping tasks. If they are good, they are allowed also to take on some of the nurturing, pastoral work which the male vicar can thankfully devolve.
    Anyone who feels called to be a Mary (and I would include vicars and potential bishops in this) needs at all costs to avoid taking on any Martha roles at all (just as I was told in the workplace that I should learn to type but on no account to learn shorthand, otherwise I would be a secretary all my life!).
    First intercessions, then leading non-sacramental worship and so on: if you don't mind mixing cultures, you need the yin of the feminine together with the yang of the masculine to produce a whole.

  • emilyh

    I think we sometimes forget (or choose not to remember) that God created men and women differently. Roles in the church and in the home are NOT neutral. God is the head of man, man is the head of woman, woman is the head of the child. Just because you don't like it that way, does not change the fact that that is the way God intends it to be. He said so. End of story. Period. There are things that men can/should do (lead in the church and home) that women should not do, and vice versa. Why do we constantly fight this? It is a beautiful, harmonious system if we will just let it work the way the Lord intended.

  • David

    I understand what you're saying, Tim. And I agree with the content. You have to consider the context, though. Cory, within the context of his church, is conveying what he has witnessed and what he appreciates. He never said that women lack the ability to lead or the desire to reach beyond antiquated roles. Perhaps it's genderist enough to simply imply that men and women are different (here, within the context of the church), but are we not? The mere instance of holding a discussion about the effects of the absence of women in the church displays that we ARE different in meaningful ways. This is what lends to a discussion about that impact.

    I believe that the most archaic thing that Cory has displayed here is being apologetic for the generalized organization deficit men posess. I personally think that's more a side effect of being human. I think you're absolutely right about the need for the focus to be on the individual and employing an idea of equality. But that's not the topic. The topic is the effect of a hypothetical absence of women in the church.

    In any case, you can't take what's been written here and commit your own generalization. If it has a tone of traditionalism, it doesn't mean it is supposed to be taken as an argument for the traditional. What has been stated here is fact – fact about what women normally give to the soul of a church. I don't think it is without the spirit of possibility of the potential women have. It is simply a piece based on what an author knows.

    I'd say it's actually NECESSARY to compare the traditional roles of men and women in the church in a piece like this – which could actually be explored more here. That is the only way to get a realistic vision of the immediate effects of no women in the church; unless, of course, you're discussing the idea that women were NEVER a part of the church. In that case, the discussion automatically lends itself to a path of gender role variance.

    This is interesting, and I could go on about it, but I'll just leave it at this. My grandmother is my pastor/preacher and has been all my life. She had to start her own church to do it. My Grandfather is my pastor, but he also is the more humble, encouraging, and sacrificial. So, I'd say that Cory is rather on-target with this material, because I believe that if women wanted (in more numbers) to escape the traditional roles and begin emphatically leading in the church, they would take initiative to do so. Like you said, INDIVIDUALS have abilities and anointings, and they should fulfill those. I don't think Cory has said anything here that would advise otherwise…only stated fact and affection.

  • corycopeland

    Reading through the comments listed here, I can't help but assume we've all had a different type of upbringing within the church. Me being from the US, I'm sure my experience has been different from those "across the pond" and the responses here speak to that.
    As I wrote this, I felt a desire to dignify the great work women do in our churches. I see what wonderful work they do and though they aren't usually in a position of leadership (in my experience), they've never let this stop them in doing all they can for God's kingdom.
    (contd)

  • corycopeland

    (2of2)
    I don't necessarily agree with the stubborness of refusing to allow women to lead, but with today's widespread access to teachings through blogs, audio sermons and the like, anyone who feels a calling from God can reach people all over the world. Witnessing to someone or reaching them for His kingdom is no longer restricted to within the walls of a physical church. And I love that. I'm not a preacher and I never will be, but through my writing, God has allowed me to reach people all over the planet.
    So no, you may feel I didn't address every aspect of the man/woman realtionship within the church, but that wasn't the point of the piece. It was to be appreciative of the women who do whatever they can because they love God and want to see others saved. I'm genuinely thankful for the work they do and this piece is a testament to that.

    -Cory

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  • Michael Eve

    I think that what I want to say is that most labels are bad.

    As soon as we say that women are good at bringing "laughter" and "passion" or that they are the "prayerful" ones in our church or that the tea rota depends on them then we say that men are not good at those things and we diminish those men and the church.

    Let's celebrate all that each individual brings to the church, irrespective of gender.

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