One of the last places in Western society that is openly and proudly sexist is the conservative Christian church.
I find this quite infuriating. Other places may end up acting in a sexist way, but when push comes to shove, they’d have to deny it or make it right, or people higher up the ladder would tell them to cut it out. Sexism goes against the code of conduct in business, in education, even in the military.
But in many denominations and churches, sexism is still openly embraced. In fact, “accusing” someone of treating the genders equally is enough to launch a full-scale investigation and be kicked out of the denomination in the SBC. Sometimes it just gets exhausting.
One of our Patreons (you can join our Patreon, too, for as little as $5 a month!) posted this recently:
A man I know and respect is teaching a class on biblical finances, which is an area that I’ve studied extensively and that’s kind of my “thing.” (For example, this afternoon I’m helping a young lady I know with her budget) He apparently asked my husband to help him with it. My husband has not studied finance, biblical or otherwise, and I handle 100% of our family’s finances. He is able to see them if he wants to, but he typically chooses not to. Now, he probably knows more about biblical finances than most people in the church just because i think out loud about things I’m studying, so I’m sure he would be competent to help teach, and I’m thrilled that someone is teaching it.
However, what hurts is that in the secular would, people are constantly begging me to teach them any tidbit I’m willing to about my business (I’m a small business owner). They offer to pay me for mentorship. They pay to take me to lunch to pick my brain. But in the church, any knowledge or expertise I have is completely devalued and ignored simply because of my gender. It just doesn’t make sense.
I wondered how common that was, so I posted this on Facebook and asked women if they had ever had similar experiences. Boy, was I blown away by the responses!
So I thought I’d share them here to have a record of them, and so we could have a bigger conversation about this. I’m not sure a lot of men realize how demoralizing it is to have one’s expertise overlooked so often in church circles–and especially since church is the place where we’re often treated the worst. The place where we’re supposed to hear about the God who loves us and who is our whole identity ends up being the place that diminishes us the most.
So please listen to these stories!
When A Woman’s Credentials Are Not Respected The Same As Men’s:
“The male chiropractor, dentist, general practitioner, anesthesiologist in our church are all referred to as “doctor.” The female surgeon (me) is referred to as Mrs.”
Like when a person fainted directly in front of me at church… Instead of turning to me, my mom and everyone else turned to my brother who was much farther away. We were both nurses at the time…”
“One of my friends is a PhD professor. Two men at a church fellowship meal were discussing her field of expertise. She enthusiastically chimed in. After a while, one of the men looked at her and said, “A woman should not teach a man.””
When A Woman’s Expertise Is Ignored
“I was asked to give a talk about child development, anxiety and depression in teens, and bullying at a Christian school. The talk was scheduled to follow the school board meeting (the school board was all middle age white men). When the board meeting ended and the presentation was to begin….all the men, except one, got up and left. Only one man stayed. And we wonder why there was a bullying problem in the school……”
“Yes, have experienced this frequently. Currently dealing with it actually, not exactly because my expertise is knowingly being devalued, but because no one ever thought to ask, much less to include me because it was assumed I would just be staying home with my kids because I’m the mom and my husband was already included. In reality, they actually could have really used the knowledge I have in that area since none of the people involved have that experience. This has happened to me a lot, where opportunities arise and immediately everyone wants my husband involved, and they default me to kid duty.”
“Yeah, I have an engineering degree and spent a lot of my childhood following my dad around doing diy work, so I’m a more experienced handyperson than quite a lot of men my age, but at the church I attended before I got married, the busy bee followed on from the men’s breakfast, so was men-only. Also, once when a bunch of us were helping a friend work on a house she was moving into, the men were outside putting a front fence up to keep her dogs in and the women were inside painting – the men got to a point where it was obvious they’d made a mistake with the fence, and as we were looking out the window, the pastor’s wife said, “Oh Liz, don’t you go out there! They won’t want a woman telling them what to do!” (The man in charge was more than capable of figuring it out, so I wouldn’t have, anyway, but the attitude drove me nuts!)”
When A Woman Needs Her Husband’s Presence To Validate Her Expertise
“I have done graduate-level study in theology and am passionate about teaching scripture, but my ex-husband had to be my co-teacher (even though he made zero contributions and typically fell asleep during my class). I was allowed to teach children, but not adults unless I had a male partner. I could be on the praise team, but though I have a degree in church music, I could not lead.”
“YES!! I have a degree in music, play 4+ instruments well (20+ years’ experience), and have extensive experience organizing worship services. My husband has a pretty good voice and has sung in choirs (that I helped direct). He gets paid to lead music; I am a volunteer pianist. When we’re not available, it’s easy to find someone to replace him for free (any of the pastors or elders can do it), but we have had to pay someone to replace me on piano. Yes; pay someone to fill my volunteer position. I love everything else about this church, and I am doing this voluntarily because I love it, but this is something I’m going to bring up with the pastor at some point, because it really is ridiculous.”
“When my husband and I were first married we attended two different churches, so as my first duty of wifely submission I left my church and joined his church. At my church I was a teen girl Sunday School teacher (my passion), but by occupation I was a career banker. Immediately after I joined his church, the deacon’s appointed my husband who by occupation was a line cook in a restaurant as the treasurer of the church. Of course it was assumed WE would be completing the tasks together considering I had the finance experience, not even assumed, directly communicated.”
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When A Woman’s Gender Leads To Interrogation Or Closed Doors
“When I was in (Bible) college, I switched my major from a social work type of degree, to intercultural studies. I wanted to be a missionary and had for a long time, and was SO excited to have finally gotten the courage to switch my major to what I actually wanted to do.
A short time after submitting my request, the registrar for the school called me into her office. She proceeded to interrogate me about what I would do in certain scenarios, specifically how I would survive on my own if God-forbid something happen to my husband on the mission field. I was 18 and not married. I don’t think that male students were being questioned on whether or not they should be missionaries/major in intercultural studies based on their gender/what would happen if their potential future spouse died in the field.. At the time I didn’t think much of it, but looking back I’m quite bothered by the conversation.”
“Oh I feel this. I hold a degree in Bible studies yet I was consistently ignored and passed over for ministry and teaching opportunities because I am female.”
“I remember going to a missions conference in the early 2000s and visiting the booth of a seminary. When I asked what kind of career an M.Div. could get me and how much money I could expect to make, I was told it would qualify me to be a pastor’s wife. I turned around and stormed out of the gym.”
It should not be this way.
Friends, we are supposed to be the salt of the earth. A light on a hill, beckoning the world towards the hope of Christ.
As kids, we all learned the “this little light of mine” song, right? When did it change from “Hide it under a bushel? NO! I’m gonna let it shine” to “Hide it under a bushel? NO (for the boys) but YES (for the girls)?”
God has given us each gifts, knowledge, and passions in this life. It’s time we stop dampening half of them.
Do you have any stories of when churches did the OPPOSITE of this, but instead honoured and respected women as equal co-heirs in Christ? Leave those encouraging stories in the comments!