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great comments Jonny. I am still frustrated that after even in the emerging churches there still seems to be a male bias even though most of them are built upon thinking that is very anti gender roles. It seems this debate will just not go away which is very sad as it points to a deep hurt within a lot of women that is still hurting. I believe power is still the real issue - I know for myself that giving over power to someone else is hard to do (whether male or female), and that I am always very tempted to try and assume power within church circles.

Foucault hits the nail on the head when he talks of power saying that, 'A relationship of [power] acts upon a body or upon things; it forces, it bends, it breaks, it destroys, it closes off all possibilities.'

He warns that liberation from offensive power structures is not enough, 'But this liberation does not give rise to the happy and full essence of a sexuality in which the subject has achieved a complete and satisfying relationship. Liberation paves the way for new power relationships, which must be controlled by practices of freedom.'

It is this practise of the new power relationships being controlled by freedom which is key - even though emerging church does by and large reject a male bias in leadership this still allows for males to in practise seize leaderships (whether this be biological, primordial instinct or whatever). It is here that we need an ethic of freedom, not an ethic of violence (in the sense of the way we act towards people). I still think that men (not all men) are the main culprits in this - we need to let go of power, and open up the rich possibilities of choice, choice for women to pursue their giftings (obvious or not), choice for women to become spokespersons, bookwriters. Choice without the threat or itimidation of violence to themselves.

Sorry for the long rant - but thats got that off my chest.


this highlights one of the underlying problems of 'Emerging'/Alt/pomo/postevanglical, whatever you want to call it. Deep down, for all its stylisticchanges and reception of the aesthetic dimension, it remains fundamentally Evangelical in its theology. And we women (or girls, as the Evngelicals like to call us, as it reduces middle aged highly qualified women to bits of brainless fluff) are not going to get much of a look in. I have found one excellent strategy, which has got me promoted to the preaching position more than once. I have learned how to make positively the worst cup of coffee you have EVER tasted. (I make great coffee at home, by the way - latte, presse, espresso... yet mysteriously the minute I walk out my front door that gift leaves me.) There now. You shouldn't have got me started.


in that case maggi we'll all be popping round for coffee (at your house) :-)


you're welcome at my house any time, mate! But you won't see me anywhere near the kettle at Praxis ;)


i totally agree with Jonny. the thing is, in my opinion, women will never be all they can be until us men start being who we should be. In my experience of leading a church,(with an amzing woman), i need to sometimes take the crap that comes and do a bit of fighting for her. I need to be humble and know what i can and can't do. When i need to let her make the coffee and when i need to do it. i need to just follow Jesus,being honest with myself and her.the hardest thing is to let her make mistakes (which hurts us both). i know that i can't lead effectively without her, when she's not around something is missing, it just doesn't work.
this hasn't happened over night. This friendship has developed over 4 years, i've worked hard at learning to release her, encouraging her and pushing her on to all she is. Then some idiot makes a comment about women in leadership and it's all undone!

be encouraged, some people are doing something and doing it right!!!
Of course i can't fully understand the hurt and troubles many women have faced over history but i know that seeing women walking in freedom in the church, making a mess and doing what they should be doing is beautiful.


hooray for you, tim :) If only more people would carry on like that.


My heart always beats a little faster when the conversations flow or are forced to the topic of women and church. Each with our own journeys, battles, and triumphs (male or female) the road is not easy. But the path women are upon has an extreme landscape; however, "the straight and narrow" was never intended to be the easy way through life.

I affirm and bless the efforts of all who are trying to find the way of Christ through this maze. Husbands are especially to be commended as the process requires the relationships to go under extreme reconstruction. But, my question is for the role of the single woman in the church, which is the category I find myself in. With no male partner to work alongside of, it is challenging and most often limiting to stand independently. I would love to see a forum, an opportunity, a beacon of hope for this question and all those surrounding women.


yes, yes, janae - absolutely right. SIngle people, and husbands of female ministers (men who are not up-front "ministers" themselves) get very left on the sidelines in the church - there's no 'box' to put them in, institutionally speaking. You've highlighted the fact that this isn't a debate about men v. women, but a challenge to the categorisation of all sorts of people - young and old, black and white, single/married/cohabiting, male/female, gay and straight, etc etc... Let's keep the focus on the issue, and not get into the destructive areas of sexual politics!


Maggi, I'm interested in what you mean by 'sexual politics'. I suppose for myself I see the debate as a gendered one rather than one of catagories, even though there is also a great deal to discuss there as well. So I would naturally use Foucault as a lense to help me understand how power, church and gender actually conflict or co-incide.

I guess seeing my home church nearly split over the whole 'women as leaders' issue, and seeing a really close friend forced to leave her church because the leaders felt that she was a threat because she took an interest in preaching, may have clouded my perception of the problem. But anyway thanks for continuing the discussion :-)

jen lemen

if the think tank thing ever happens, jonny, i for one would be ecstatic. emergent and the right hand foundation have funded a grant to address this issue, and we've been discussing it on my blog as i'm part of a small group of women associated with the grant.

something is stirring beyond the old conversation of "women in the church". we are all longing for deeper ways to connect and relate our experience of faith; i think once the souls of women are released, God's spirit will pour it in a way that will make conversation about the kingdom possible in ways that were once only in our wildest imaginings. thanks for bringing your thoughts to the table and lending us the power of your voice and your encouragement.


jen, i'm excited to see what happens on your blog. i think it's definitely something emergent needs to address and i'm glad they're starting with this grant.
i just find it pretty amazing that people still have an issue with women in ministry. i guess i just don't get it. it's hard for me to not want to just get all frustrated and tell people they're stupid for holding onto these theological ideas that threaten, discourage and demean women...
what i don't get even more than that...? is women who are okay with not being allowed in ministry? women who uphold a literal view on no women teaching in church. that is what i don't get.


jen sounds great - go for it! delighted emergent are supporting this...


gareth, have you read Peter Selby's BeLonging ? (published by SPCK, somewhere around 1990) He talks about the Church and its tribalism - the issue, as he describes it, is not principally with the group of people that is left out, but about the group that controls the inclusion. Let's speak more when we meet next week.


this whole debate would make a great subject for a blah... in london - what do you think?


i've not been to a blah yet, but it sounds like a good idea to me. Shall I make the coffee? ;)


hahahaha! i've heard a rumour that it will taste horrible! :-)

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    i have been blogging for a decade or more in fairly eclectic fashion. i am an advocate for pioneers, lover of all things creative, an explorer of faith in relation to contemporary culture, a photographer and writer. explore the presences section below to find me in other spaces

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