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spot on jenny. very well said.


Of course it's safe for men and single women to go for a drink or two to chat about deep issues.
My mistress agrees with me....

paul T

whew - great turn in the conversation... re men women ... like rich and poor --- north and south - same dynamics... the 2000 year-- impossible dream of --- 'no rich or poor no slave or free no male or female... ' is not lost then... or disengaged cos it can be painful and difficult --- to face difference - or alieness - for the smooth 'elite' voices to hear
the 'croaking' of the 'traditionally' disempowered... via gender or geography... histories... its taken a long time - its not over - its gonna take more time - to bear with it - is to learn to bear Christ - get used to it!

Robert McGovern

Great thoughts Jenny esp the last two paragraphs.

One of the things that winds me up about the church my wife goes to is that women are not allowed to go into one on one situations with a man unless it is in a very public location.


Good point..."One of the biggest issues in the past that has stopped women being involved in leadership and being culture-shapers is of course theology."

Here in Nicaragua I've seen the positive influence of femininity in the Catholic Church through the veneration of Mary (sure there are overbalances to this but that's not the point right now). Perhaps we emergenauts need to re-think the femininity of God in a healed, holistic, post-feminist sense. I personally don't have the intellectual noodles to do so...I'll leave that to someone more qualified. Any takers?


You are SO right, Jenny. Our fear of inappropriate relationships keeps women, especially single women like me, from even getting to have a conversation with those in power, who are mostly married men. I have a community of friends who love me and know what I'm up to and call me on stuff like unhealthy relationships, and I would hope that the big boys of the establishment would do the same, so I think it should be safe for us to chat over beer or coffee about the ways we see God at work in the world. If they're worried I'm going to put the moves on them over my cafe mocha or Sam Adams - well, sorry guys, but I don't find most of you that irresistably attractive, so you can relax.

Mme Goo

hey christy i know where you are coming from but the truth is sex is always going to be an issue ('scuse the pun) between men and women in the church and having deep conversations with men down the pub has got me into trouble before (although probably not as much as i'd like!) however that is no excuse for not talking. loss of communication leads to loss of relationship and loss of relationship = death.
no wonder the church is dying
what are we going to do about it?


how about making some grown up decisions? And anyway, 'deep stuff' doesn't have to be thrashed out between one man, one woman, it could be three men and three women instead of six guys.
I have some v. deep professional relationships with men (I live in a man's world, I have to) and have never even got close to being unfaithful. And I'm not naive, either. There are ways of 'un-flirting' if a guy looks like he's feeling distracted. One of these is to launch into a heavy, intellectual conversation about theology - that tends to focus the mind, as men don't usually like to be beaten in an argument by some girl... ;)
seriously, though, going against the grain and making professional male-female relationships has been absolutely life-enhancing for me and my husband and family, as well as for their wives/girlriends/families. It's really not as dangerous as everyone likes to make us think.


and anyway, if the one-to-one professional thing is so anti-Christian, we shouldn't let any women be the pastor's secretary either. If the pastor's going to have an affiar, he doesn't need a female equal to do it. And we should probably have the women and children off in another room with a video-link to ensure separateness..
time to stop ranting now


oops - just realised that my post earlier sounded like a dig at Mme Goo - not intended at all. I was thinking more of the general issues of the conversation, not commenting on her perosnal experience. Sorry, mmeG!


I really agree with maggi that you can un-flirt quite easily. What it does take is a degree of self-knowledge and honesty about your own motives/feelings. So if the vibes get strange, own it, don't play games.



might be worth popping over to jordon cooper's site (www.jordoncooper.com) - you'll have to scroll down a bit - where he has pasted jen's spiel. i was amazed by the comments that people have added - it really shows that there is a real problem in my view!!! and that jen is spot on...

maggi d

you're right, jonny. those comments show there is a huge problem. Apparently no conception of any other kind of relationship with a woman than a predatory one; and a complete failure to imagine going out with a GROUP of people - this is suddenly about 'dating'. Wierd. Very wierd.

Richard Sudworth

This is a very perceptive and challenging reply Jenny.Can I tentatively add (tentatively as a man presuming comments relating to women's contributions to this whole thing) that the problem is not merely one of theology and church culture/mores. I wonder whether our default processes for engaging in new ideas and connecting pioneers (conferences, books, networks, and dare I say it, blogs)has a bias towards males. I'm being tentative here again as I want to talk about tendencies rather than inevitabilities, but men often like to give a shape to something, to pin it down, give it a label, hold it, hold it out, look at it and put it somewhere. Women are often happy to let things be, allow things to grow, go with what is there and not be in a hurry to work out what the thing will be at a future point. I'll be tentative again, but women generally make better midwives. And the shame of the emerging church movement is that those tendences are the very ones that are needed in the church today, the very instincts that will authenticate mission in our age. Having dissected, shaped and stood back, I'll shut up.

Mme Goo

i think you have a point richard, particularly about the fact that shaping takes place in (often) male biased arenas - and blogs are one of those.
i do think that women 'shape' just as much as men but that they just use a different vocab and do it less publicly -?
maggi, no offence taken, i was being a wee bit flippant although not about the fact we need to work at communication despite 'difficulties' .
interested in jen’s original comment that when people meet to wrestle with theology, organise conferences etc etc they will invite people they know thereby enforcing the status quo, (which for the purposes of this discussion is male dominated) but is also tied in with concerns i have about emerging church being elitist …

Dave K

This is a great post Jenny, thanks. As a related aside, has anyone any experience of being in a service where God is referred to exclusively in the feminine? It completely disrupts the gender imbalance in our view of God. Though it does tend to make some people a tad angry......

Dave K.


dave K, I've been in services like that. What's interesting, though, is that no-one gets upset - in fact thaey don't even seem to notice - when an entire service is phrased in 'male' language.

Mme Goo

of course not, it does not even occur to most people that God is NOT a man.

Dave K

Exactly, Maggi and Mme Goo.
Sally McFague has written some interesting stuff on this. But how many male leaders even see a need to teach about 'alternative' (i.e., non-male / non-military) metaphors for speaking of God? In my experience those who do genuinely see that need soon end up being squeezed out the church.

Ali Campbell

Interesting stuff, two of my team are female (one single, one recently married) both sub 25, I'm a 35 year old married man. They are great at what they do, they are leaders in their own right. The issue I have faced with seeing them develop is that for them there are hardly ANY significant female church leaders in the western world! Recently at the "Childrens Workers Consultation" in Eastbourne, prior to the conference hosted there by Kingsway. A network of practioners, but the only female voice from the front was Penny Frank. Penny is clearly confident and passionate about what she does and widely recognised as a leader, where are the others? We somehow need to break this cycle - in my particular church tradition there are such gatherings as "leaders WIVES" retreats, becuase the females obviously couldn't be leaders in their own right, and apart from talking about a "womans ministry" they tend not to be given a platform, or the chance to share anything else - two reasons I think. Men are proud and insecure while women lack confidence and are insecure (broad generalistation!), I struggle to help my female leaders to believe in themselves and the gifts they have been given - yet they offer so much and together we created a more rounded ministry to those we serve, as pastors and leaders it needs both male and female working together to effectively lead church and whatever might be emerging . . .

paul T

when i did me - diploma in biblical studies at sheffield Uni - It was policy to use gender inclusive language at all times - otherwise your essay would be - thrown out!

it forced many of us out of a communication - 'sloth' into more creative, hard on the brain - 'against the grain' - seeing and hearing within biblical story and our own contexts.....

The effect of Naming - on people at the margins of visibility and power... is historically colossal - resisting it - feels like standing in front of a freight train....

theology wise-- the dynamics of 'naming' - and its effect have been spotted well and has been -percolating among spanish and asian theologians... for a while....
here are a couple of things that have excited and stung - and stayed with me....

OT: creation myth (myth=concentrated truth)

Adam 'named' Eve - God invited adam to name- creation 'alone' NOT other human beings... women and 'others' have suffered the dehumanising effects of this - ever since

NT: jesus - for -

as 'homo sapiens' he never allowed himself to be 'named' - except in relation to -for - another....
and deflected any attempt to coopt him via connecting his 'Name' with the 'powers' and their clever 'games' of his time....

'if you are - the son of God - prove it! (read between the lines here: you are NOT ENOUGH as you are as a marginal person - if you don't DO THIS - they will not support YOU or your ministry)

one 'teacher/tester' tried this on Jesus- at his lowest, weakest point (in poverty-as outsider) and failed - in the wilderness...

the pressure to 'perform and prove' ourselves to the powers- is still effortlessly and uncritically assumed in our time by the smooth white middle class male voice...

- Jesus resisted this assumption- refused to play the game - faced the juggernaut of his near east history; referred the threats: if you don't do this - they will not support you - to a higher power) and went to galilee - among a rough cackle of mixed marginal galilean voices...

and was bombarded by that same - voice - demanding that he 'prove himself' to (entraping-aligning himself to the spirituality of those in power) the powers... for three years....

to the end...

And - from africa - the trinity as model of how to share the global commons....

A God in 3 persons - reveals how to communicate and relate with one -another... God speaks in rich moving 3D stereo - no one gets to monopolise the sound field... its a gift - to be enjoyed as global 'shared' commons for humanity. A house for all nations.. Not a game - to prove 'yourself' - so you can orbit the favoured and hog centre stage. the scream - has ripped the whole thing apart - It is finished! No favoured group gets to aristocratically assume - to be the sound of God... therefore 'game over' . The missing chords and timbres of God's rich voice once squeezed out into the margins. .. now become essential - if the church is to hear God - steer it into uncharted waters of a global future..

gender inclusive policy among - emerging church .. could be one step - towards this God's voice as - heard in a new 'covenanted' proactively encouraged: ESSENTIAL MIX... ?

too long -sorry!


I checked out the comments at Jordon Cooper's website, and it's as bad as I feared. I think most (although not all) of the emergent boys haven't even begun to realize that racial, gender, and class equality in the church (and those things should not be separated) will require a radical shift in their view of God, themselves, and their ideas of leadership and community. It's not just about adding more women so they can stop feeling guilty - it's about addressing painful and messy issues of power and control and the ways that white men have used theology and church structures to maintain that control.

Becky Barkaway

Am enlivened by the debate – have been inspired to rant at length on Barky’s new blog.

Kelli T

Jonny -- thanks for posting Jenny's views. And Jenny, thanks for your insightful words (and also your great article in Youth Worker Journal a few months back.)

My husband and I have moved to a new city and are "shopping" for a church home. We come from an evangelical background and so have found it incredibly difficult to find a church that shares many of our faith values but is also "progressive" in regard to gender (and a few other issues). We've found a church we really like -- and in fact it is an "emerging church" that shows up on web sites and in conversations about the emerging church movement. But after the first Sunday, when my husband and I asked what the church's position towards women's roles was, we got this common response. "We _really_ value women in our church. Of course they can't be pastors or elders, but they often share testimonies on Sunday mornings and lead small groups."

The leadership team is very sincere -- and the church is awesome in so many ways. But it made me sad that this complementarian view was _assumed_ to be the norm. It was implied that there could be no other view, at least from someone who truly believes the Bible. There appears to be no room for discussion, or even a recognition that this is a "gray area" in Scripture.

I share this example to point out that, at least on this side of the Atlantic, we can't assume that the issue isn't a theological one even in the emerging church. An egalitarian view -- even a "conservative" one -- is not a norm accepted at this particular emerging church I attended. I don't know how common this is at other American "emerging" churches -- but it is certainly disappointing to my husband and I.

We may continue to attend the church b/c of its many other strengths, but as we consider how we'd like to raise our son we're both saddened by the prospect of him growing up in a church in which he'd get an imbalanced perspective of God's church.


jenny and jonny!
amazing at what a little blogging can do!
jenny you are so right. thank you for your wisdom.
and jonny thanks for your encouragement in this
conversation! i really appreciate you both!

an observation...it seems that the " older growth" of evangelicalism (esp. in the usa?), old roots,
seems to be tangled around the newer growth of post evangelicalism....or emerging
it's having a hard time letting go of old rooted stuff...like roles for women, certain terms, certain formats, etc.
not wanting to be pruned,
and rather afraid of what is growing.
the outside shell may look "new" , but inside it's
still the same old thing. any thoughts?

Jordon Cooper

I feel like I should be apologizing before I post anything. Jenny, I posted the article becaused I agreed with what you wrote and ever thought of it as that controversial. I have been travelling and working and never noticed the discussion until I saw a reference to it here. The responses really disappointed me.

When I worked at a previous church, I was appalled by the comments and opinions that male leadership had towards women and this was in a tradition that has always ordained women. I chalk some of it up to western Canadian rednecks but it seems much deeper than that.

I am posting late into the night and probably on too little sleep but the responses on my blog, if reflective of the emerging church in North America make me want to leave the entire things behind.

It was a wonderful post Jenny and sorry for the narrow mindedness of those who left comments on my site.

Jenny Baker

Don't apologise Jordan. You're not responsible for the comments that people leave on your blog - it just shows how deep-seated some of the issues are. I've been heartened by the response here - just that so many people are talking about gender and think it's important. The question is, what needs to happen next to bring about any change? Ali, you are right that there are few women role models, and this has been the case for at least the last twenty years. Why hasn't there been any change? I remember it being an issue for me when I started in youth work 15 years ago; I wrote an article on gender for Youthwork magazine a couple of years ago, hoping to talk about how things had changed, but was saddened to find from talking to female and male youth workers that it hadn't much.

Mme Goo

don't be disheartened! all you have to do is read these comments that people have felt passionate enough to post. women in leadership is now being discussed and debated, we are looking for role models and asking how more women and girls can be encouraged to be involved. how many people would have even considered it important enough to think about 20 years ago?
we need to 'grow' more role models who can challenge the evangelical traditional stance on gender. i've been questioning what i am doing at the moment to push things forward, the answer is 'not much' but i'm rearing to go.


Your quote referring to people's theology surrounding womens input within the emerging church setup "My guess is though that people involved in emerging church have got beyond this" I suggest isn't totallty true. From my experience, it seems that most people in the emerging church field have never really addresseed this issue at all, or the theology surrounding it because to the majority of them it isn't a theological issue - it's more of a cultural issue, so therfore is a NON ISSUE


Check out my blog for women and the church - or not women and not the church!


Charity have you an email address? email me please cos I would be interested to chat to you about your blog comments. Thanks D


Let's be careful about being snobbish and narrow-minded ourselves concerning those we perceive as who "don't get it." Andrew Jones has been dealing with snobby emergenauts concerning mega-churches (and posted a great post about it) and I think we need to just be careful with our attitudes. Let's dialogue and accept each others differences and opinions - even if they don't meet the emergent party line.


I’ve only just hooked up to this subject and have read Jen’s post and the comments and Becky’s post and some of the comments and I find myself feeling as weary as I did in the ‘old days’ when we used to sit around in groups desperately straining gnats whilst swallowing camels. It was one of the reasons why I dropped out – just too bloody tiring. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dissing the debate or the integrity of the contributors, I’m just a bit bemused by the strength of feeling and the direction it seems to have taken – surely equality can never be determined by status? By that I mean, how can women being leaders be seen to validate their status as equal in worth to men (who are leaders – and by inference superior to men who are not leaders?) – it reminds me of when I was an Anglican priest in Manchester about the time when women were granted permission to be ordained as priests – the local press phoned and asked me for a comment about how I felt, the only response I could make was to say, “I have no problem with accepting women as priests – as for some of the men, that’s another question . . .’ I had hoped that if emerging was about anything then it would at least be about the commitment to break free of the shackles placed around us by the old conventions – I fear that the line of this argument plays right into the hands of the very place we set out from on the so called ‘alternative’ pilgrimage. Perhaps I’m naïve (and I also have testicles) but I had hoped that what would be important to us was the contribution we made to one another (and in a wider context, to our community) – not the position we could secure for ourselves. This smacks of seeking our sense of self through the recognition of our status. . . . and that is a dangerous and somewhat familiar cul-de-sac . . . . . I post this in fear and trepidation. . .

Oh, and as for the comments on Jordan Cooper’s blog – I’ve posted enough comments on many of the North American ‘alternative/emerging’ sites to quickly realise that for many of them at least, emerging is to dress up the same old – same old in a few candles, icons and ambient tunes in the hope that they will be more ‘relevant’ man . . . .


hadge good to hear from you - hope you are doing well. i know what you mean about being tiring - i feel like i am rehearsing a debate that we had 15 years ago. but at the same time i have to remember that i really needed that debate then. wrestling with theology, inherent sexism, and getting to the heart of the issue which as you so succinctly describe as being about worth took a while. we were fortunate to be in a space with a bunch of other people committed to that journey and that time ended up shifting a lot of things for me and jen. what i'm saying i suppose is that even if it's tiring for some it's also really important to cerate the space for discussion for others. and yes i also agree that we have to break free of the shackles placed on us by old conventions but having this debate may be part of that process for some (i hope so) but it also may be showing up that in some places those shackles are invisible and nothing's going to change in a long time.

i definitely think that the usa context is different to the uk. so the way forward will be for us to build friendships and address the issues near to home. i have seen what you describe in lots of emerging us discussion boards, but i all honesty there's plenty of that in the uk too. i've also come across plenty of inspiring stuff in the usa so you may be painting a bit of a one-sided picture.


Cheers jonny, you're a real gent! I hear what you're saying and yes the discussion is a necessary one which is why I added my clumsy 'two penneth' - I mean no harm and I respect Jen's concerns - but I also seem to get stirred up a bit now and then - let's hope we can move the debate along and get a true perspective on what 'emerging' is really all about . . . blessings from an old trooper.


Coming to the party a little late, I know. Read all this a while back but was reminded by this article on the Demos website, which could have some interesting insights?



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