A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

When a Church Becomes a Man’s World… — a reblog by Ps Crippen

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well. Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. (Rom 16:1-6)

but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. (John 19:25)

Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means. (Luke 8:1-3)

I suppose that in some ways this is one of the most important articles I have ever written. It is the result of realizing something that is so pervasive in the church, so much the air which we breathe in typical Christianity today, that we cannot see the log right in our eye. Let me explain.

I recently watched the memorial service at St. Andrews Chapel for R.C. Sproul. I wanted to watch because Sproul taught me so much, even though I never met him personally. I absorbed his teaching tapes some 30 years ago and still have them all in our church library. I have steered many people to them over the years.

But as I wrote in last week’s post, published at A Cry for Justice, addressing the fact that Sproul changed his view on abuse as a grounds for divorce, I did not always agree with him. He taught, you might recall, that domestic abuse was not a biblical grounds for divorce. We documented for you all that he in fact changed that position at least by 2012, but never publicly announced that correction.

This morning, I listened to the Ligonier broadcast of Renewing Your Mind, entitled Spiritual Father: Remembering R.C.  It was very interesting and I appreciated the testimonies given by two of his long time friends who were led to Christ by his ministry.

But something really struck me as I listened. What I am about to say, I do not say in a critical way, but simply as an observation of what I would call “the obvious log” that so many churches and church leaders have in their eye – the one they do not see. Here it is:

Conservative, evangelical churches and organizations, pastors and elders and church members, often (even typically) become so male oriented that they almost forget about women. Women become secondary, even to be seen and not heard. The men lead. The men hold office. The men are the theologians. The men serve the Lord’s supper. The men preach and teach. The men are even told that they are the priests of their homes. The men, the men, the men.

I am not here proposing that women are to be pastors and elders in the church. That is not a subject I even want to address here. But what I am stating is that men in the church so typically develop a mindset in that climate of trivializing their sisters in Christ. You will notice from just the Scriptures quoted above that women were very, very active and prominent in the ministries of Jesus, of Paul, and of the New Testament church. In fact, Scripture records for us that sometimes when the men bailed, the women stayed.

What does this have to do with my viewing of R.C.’s funeral and listening to Renewing Your Mind today? Well, if you watched the funeral (you still can see it on YouTube), what you saw was:

  • Men who were friends of R.C. giving eulogies
  • John MacArthur, Jr. gave a eulogy as well, which I very much appreciated
  • Robert Godfrey, a theologian and I believe current President of Ligonier, spoke
  • At least two men, pastors I assume, offered prayers
  • The primary message from Isaiah 6 (the basis of R.C.’s great book The Holiness of God) was delivered by Sinclair Ferguson, pastor and theologian.
  • Both the choir and the congregational singing were directed by men

And then you have the Renewing Your Mind program for today (Dec 22, 2017) which focused on R.C. as a personal evangelist. Two of his long time friends told how they were led to Christ through his ministry. Both of them were men. Furthermore, as they related their stories, they described how they met R.C. at the golf course and especially at the locker room where R.C. spent time almost daily writing and studying after a round of golf. They told about all the other men that R.C. influenced in that place over the years.

And that is why this all struck me today. I know that the funeral service and the RYM program cannot and did not present a comprehensive view of the entire ministry of R.C. But nevertheless, what struck me is that in such a world that R.C. ministered in, in such a church and in his professional contacts, and at Ligonier, at the seminaries and Bible College, the climate appears to me to have been one of male….what? Male leadership. Male emphasis. Male ministry. Men of God. Brothers.

And where does such an atmosphere leave the women?

Oh yes, I have no doubt there are some kinds of women’s ministries at St. Andrews. We know that men and women both attended the Ligonier conferences. And yet as we pointed out in our article last week, when it came down to dealing with men who are hypocrites, men who abuse women, men who are church members but who cruelly oppress their wives, R.C. taught that a woman cannot divorce an abusive husband. In addition, even after he changed that view (or at least “broadened” his opinion on it as he wrote to me), R.C. never did make it a priority to publicly correct his error. Why? Why did he not feel the burden of those many victims in Christian churches, including his own? Why did he seemingly just blow off our pleas to announce his changed position? Why?

Well, think about it. If you live and move and have your being in a structure that is so male dominated, a place where elder meetings and presbytery meetings and General Assembly board meetings consist pretty much solely of men, just how likely is it that such men are inevitably going to end up rather deaf to the needs and pleas and talents of their sisters in the Lord? How do such men view a woman, for instance, who comes into their office asking for help?

Compare this with Jesus and Paul. Look at their writings and the accounts of  their dealings in the New Testament in ministry. What do you see? You see men called as Apostles, but you see women mixing it up right in there with them. You see a church where women’s names in the registries are as prominent as those of the men. You see stories of women clinging to Jesus when men abandoned Him. You see Jesus coming to a screeching stop in order to heal a poor woman who dared touch His robe. You see Jesus nailing the male hypocrite clergy of the day with a pronouncement of divine woes!

And I submit to you that all of this male-emphasis not only had an effect on R.C. Sproul, but it has had a significant effect upon all of us in the church today as well.

And that effect has not been a good one.

You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, (Exodus 22:22-23)

***

Originally posted on December 22, 2017, at Pastor Crippen’s blog, Light for Dark Times.

16 Comments

  1. Anewanon

    Yes! It would be interesting to do a study on just how many times Father God or Jesus Christ commands to care for orphans and widows and for what good in His word.

  2. Hello Sunshine

    I often felt that atmosphere at church and that it left women out in the cold. I remember once I went to the pastor for his take on the Biblical answer to a problem I was facing. It was an extended family problem over which I shed some tears in talking to him. He did not even try to address the problem with Scripture, as I was asking, but referred me to his (untrained, not hired by the church) wife solely because she was a woman and I was a woman and once something sad had happened in her family, too. There was often the attitude that only women could minister to women and only on an emotional support level. Women were left to take care of themselves.

    We had trustees for managing church property and interfacing with the state government. This is not a position described in the Bible, of course, and there were no prohibitions on women holding the office. We had women in the church who ran businesses, ran farms, worked in business and government. But somehow no women trustees. When confronted with a shortage of trustees and the reminder that a woman could be nominated, one trustee said, “Aw, women would ruin the meetings. The guys would have to act different with a woman around.”

    • “Aw, women would ruin the meetings. The guys would have to act different with a woman around.”

      That says it all! The guys would have to act like gentlemen if a woman was present. In fact they were really privileged men (and probably white privileged also which means they had super-privilege) and as such they knew it was safe to let their fleshly hearts show in the all-male environment. Like the Levite being buddies with his concubine’s father in Judges 19.

      • Hello Sunshine

        That was exactly his objection! He said they’d have to “behave themselves” if women were present.

  3. Rambling Rose Inspiration

    I know so many amazing women, some married, some widowed, some single, who invest themselves tirelessly in serving Christ in their homes, in the workplace, in the world (literally), some on their knees weekly for 14 years praying and interceding for the unsaved, some with the homeless and hungry and sick and lonely, giving dignity to others the world never sees, proclaiming the Truth of the Gospel in people groups who have no written language, clothing the naked, sending shoes to barefoot children who live in garbage dumps.The “world” may not see, but I see them, and I just wrote about some of them in a devotional book I was asked to write.I guess the truly important truth is that God sees and knows them, but it would be nice if the Church saw and knew and publicly affirmed their faith, too.

    • Heather Black (formerly H)

      I love this comment…. makes me think of a female missionary friend who recently told me how female-dominated the overseas missionary field is. There are plenty of single Christian men in the States but by far it’s the single Christian women who are choosing to serve the poor and needy overseas. While the men are dominating seminaries in the States and writing book after book, building huge online info “ministries”, speaking at huge conferences, posting Bible verses to their masses of Twitter followers, many women are quietly serving where no one is noticing, no one is heralding their work. How comforting that nothing goes unnoticed by the Lord. I can’t wait to hear in heaven about all the amazing miracles and feats of love and faith that were performed by small, unimportant people in the name of the Lord. 🙂

  4. Loretta

    My 25 years as an Evangelical in The System (organized religion) consisted of me trying to please The Leadership and get approval and permission to exercise my spiritual gifts and do ministry God was leading me to do. Disapproval for essentially who I am in Christ was a great confusion and discouragement. My recent 8 years out of The System (as a Done who was called out of the IC) has been a blessing because I’ve been able to be who I am in Christ, a unique individual (who happens to be female). I no longer suffer spiritual discouragement about myself because I’m no longer trying to please and find approval from The Church Leadership for merely living out my personal part in the Kingdom. They condemn me and decree anathema against me, but I no longer listen to them and I no longer fear, from believing that their assessments of me determine my standing with God and my worth. It is wonderful to truly understand that they, Church Leaders, and their Institutions are not the gate nor the gatekeepers to the kingdom.

    • CeeKay

      This. So much this.

      I, too, have been long gone from the organized churchianity religion, and much the more blessed because of it: no longer second-guessing my faith, my salvation, my spirtuality in Christ, the hearing of my Shepherd’s voice. I need not twist myself into knots attempting tp llive up to any manmade-authority-defined spiritual standard of my “woman’s place” in God’s Kingdom. God’s is the only standard, and it is *He* who accomplishes it in me, through His Son, Christ Jesus.

  5. Stomping Marigold

    I am so grateful to currently belong to a parachurch organization where us womenfolk are deaconessing all over the place alongside the men. In our case, the men bring theological and encyclopedic understanding, the women bring business, website, and strategic planning expertise.

  6. Helovesme

    I can honestly say that this is really one of my favorite blogs by Pastor. He really opened up a door for discussion and pointed out a topic needs attention.

    What I have been wondering is: when did living as a believer, and serving the Lord become more of a power struggle, versus the way the Lord intended it: each person is His child, on equal footing and of equal importance. In serving Him, everyone has a gift or a talent to share and to be used to glorify Him. Doesn’t matter if it’s preaching a sermon in public or serving your family behind closed doors. It was all about giving Him glory.

    When did it become a battle, finding new ways to put down or push down each other?

    I love listening to men and women tell their stories.I do mean their true stories. Raw and real. In their own words. Now I see more and more believers hiding in the shadows, keeping their secrets, and horribly but understandably—-too afraid to speak up.

    This is especially true with my fellow sisters. They’re too afraid to speak to their brothers (or so called brothers) in Christ anymore. Because in a male dominated home, church, family or community—there is too much danger that a man’s stereotypes or expectations or ideas about women have followed them right into their walks with God. The Word is an “influence” but it’s not the absolute authority in their lives, changing them from the inside out.

    Most of the Christian women I saw around me as a new and young believer (and young in age) all had the same ideas about life: marriage and family and being at home while their husbands were given the majority of public view and public life. FYI—-NOTHING wrong with a woman being at home. I was just puzzled at the similarity of what they wanted or expected out of life. I was new to the faith, but I could already tell that God was no “cookie-cutter” type of Person. Yet they all seemed to want to be in the “backseat” and let males have the front.

    If I had a problem or needed to talk to someone, it was understood to go and talk to a woman. But sometimes I think I would have liked to have talked to a fellow brother in Christ, to be able to be vulnerable and honest with him. But the genders were very divided and the message I got was to “stick to your own gender.” Maybe that is partly why Mr. Sproul did not speak up. He didn’t want to “turn on” his own gender, and felt protective of them. They were his best friends, co-workers and confidants. Such a statement might alienate them, especially if they did not agree with his change of beliefs. This is where sisters in Christ, though, are trivialized. We’re basically told that we’re not worth it, because we are not “one of the guys.”

  7. JJ

    This is Gender Roles 101. As long as women are confined to their assigned gender roles, nothing is going to change. “Separate but equal” is not equal. Galatians 3:28 has something to say about this.

  8. Robert Simpson

    …in such a church and in his professional contacts, and at Ligonier, at the seminaries and Bible College, the climate appears to me to have been one of male….what? Male leadership. Male emphasis. Male ministry. Men of God. Brothers.

    There is a word for this – patriarchy, the rule of men, and often the rule of a few men over all others, women and men.
    I confess that as a layman in a small church, I participated in this sin for many years. Thanks be to God for revealing to me from His Word what Crippen mentions here, that women did many things forbidden or discouraged by patriarchy.
    Yes to the commenter above, Galatians 3:28 is very important.
    Also, Mark 10:41-45.

  9. Suzanne

    I wonder what R.C. and the Lord are talking about tonight.

  10. Finding Answers

    Amen and Amen!

    Quoted from the original post: but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. (John 19:25)

    Quoted from the original post: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out

    I feel close kinship with Mary Magdalene.

    She stayed and she stayed and she stayed. It wasn’t about a role or a position or power or prestige or visibility.

    She did not follow because she was told to by the world, by the authorities, by her friends, by her family.

    She did not follow because she had “Super Powers” (like Super Pastor), or great insights to proclaim, or great oratory skills.

    Yet she was the first to whom He appeared.

    Mark 16:9-11 (NMB)

    9 After Jesus had risen on the day after the Sabbath day, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. 10 And she went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 And though they heard that he was alive and he had appeared to her, yet they did not believe it.

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