The gender gap

filles-theologiennes

I’m in the UK for my annual home assignment and there is a question, that no one asked me so far, is the question of women in leadership at church.

I worked for more than 35 years in industry and I knew about the gender gap : having the same diploma, doing the same job than men but getting not the same salary or the same opportunities

I knew about the discrimination of being a recently married woman, and not getting a job because sooner or later you will be pregnant.

I knew about the discrimination of being a young mum and the only one leaving a meeting before the end because your child waits for you at school.

I knew about the multi-tasking role of super woman, manager and mum and I have to say that my husband was very supportive, helping as much as he could, and was a true advocate of the women cause. I also met many helpful men during my career.

But I didn’t know about the question of women in church leadership. The fresh believer, that I was, didn’t see in her reading of the bible the “patriarchal” model which had been so often the teaching of the church. Jesus spoke to many women and Paul exhorted the Galatians to unity :

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

So I learned and discovered that they were still many questions about women in church leadership

In the French secular context, there is obviously very few women in church leadership but there is also differences among protestant denominations : if reformed church and baptists are favorable in women in ministries, many others are not yet favorable. It is not rare to get critics,and sometimes worse, menaces when you’re a woman pastor.

One of my colleagues, to address this question and to help women, created a blog, https://servirensemble.com/ . Testimonies, bible readings and theology are some of the topics. There is no taboo article and as the title says : we want to serve together, man and woman.

Another important issue about the gender gap is domestic violence. It is also a topic about which the church can be very quiet, but domestic violence exists at church like in any other place.

restored

During my first month as an assistant pastor in France, a woman died under the beating of her husband; both were members of the church. It was a devastating news and the church since is still grieving.

In 2018, the French baptist assembly decided to address the issue of domestic violence and a commission has since be created. BMS developed some years ago a great program called Dignity and as BMS mission worker I have been trained about this topic. I also grew up in France in an industrial city. It was not rare to hear dispute and violence in the families around us. Women were trapped in an abused relationship, and without incomes, not able to escape to their abuser.

The purpose of the commission is to develop materials for churches, something equivalent to what already exists in the UK. We will in fact reuse some of the British materials (https://www.restoredrelationships.org/). The first step is to create awareness and to equip the churches with simple tools : what is domestic violence, are you a victim, what to do, who can help etc. The second step will be to develop theological documents to address the misunderstandings about the role and place of man and woman. More to come then…

There is still a long way before gender equity but I do hope the life of our daughters and granddaughters will be easier.