The church should not be a breeding ground for sexism and patriarchy.
Today I sat during a benediction service that is meant to ordain a new set of pastors at my local church. This new second caste of leaders is a sign that the church which has been around for over twenty-seven years is moving towards a new wave of leadership and “transformation”. This is an exciting time: the pastors’ wives sitting next to their newly ordained pastor-husbands, the air is thick with ululations and praises. I cannot help but wonder, where are the female pastors at?
To me, this was patriarchy embodied in scriptures and dogma. The systemic overruling of women and disregard for women in the church has been permitted and propelled for a long time. We raise young girls in the church to aspire to marriage and nothing else. We police them into marriage: we make sure they wear extravagant clothes but they should not be revealing, we tell them to be polite and sharply dressed lest they want to lose so-and-so’s son to someone else. We teach them to be competitive about whose last name they carry but not the ambitions they ought to have. We teach them to keep quiet in the church as prescribed by the scriptures yet we forget that the calling for pastor-hood is one that has no gender or sex attached to it.
Although I am a Christian and feminist at the same time, I am highly conscious of the lack of diversity in the church leadership. It is incredibly problematic that the role of women in the church is still reduced to being a support structure for the men but not for the church. The church can greatly benefit from the guidance and leadership of females; by stating this, I by no means undermine the role of male pastors. When we continue to reduce women to being their husband briefcases and confidence boosters, we are taking part in the silencing of women and perpetuation of patriarchy and sexism.
Without Jesus, the church ceases to exist. Looking deeply into the matter, most of Jesus’ apostles were men and when Jesus was crucified, these men were nowhere to be found. On the other hand, Jesus’ disciples were women, viz. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susana and many others as per Luke 8:2-3. These women were with Jesus during the time he hung on the cross. This is to reveal that when the church has a group of women who will lead it, these women will become the Mary Magdalene’s, Joanna’s and Susanna’s of our time. This then begs the question: why are we sidelining women in the church?
Although Galatians 3:28 states that “There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male or female, for ye all are one man Christ Jesus”, systemic oppression of women has been so artfully created to ignore women and their competence to lead the church. These are systems that emphasize difference other than oneness that the book of Galatians mentions. These are systems of white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism and colonialism.
I urge the church have more robust systems that are guided by God’s words and ensure women are greatly represented. We do a great injustice to young women when we don’t fully represent women. We teach them that this indeed is a man’s world and the church cannot do anything about it—which a flawed and misjudgment of the role of the church. We teach them that the church has no power to play an exemplary role in promoting the equality of women. We further do an injustice to young women in the church because sermons that are drenched in patriarchy in the name of “purity” will be served to them and they will remain silent. The church should be a free place to become human not constantly “othering” and rejecting the important role women can in stabilizing, radicalizing and decolonizing the church.