Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Women In Theology

The Church needs more WIT

It's been buzzing like an irritating fly for some time - the realisation that I can't wait around for the church (whoever that might be) to provide me with everything I want and need in order to grow as a Christian, a woman, a minister, a human being.... I perhaps have to be a tiny bit proactive!

I've finally worked out that one of the unsettling, constant inner naggings (which some might call the Holy Spirit and others indigestion) is to do with how to help women feel confident in discussing things of a theological nature. I perceive barriers that prevent women from describing themselves as 'theologians' - these include:

1. the idea that such things can only be discussed in the 'academy' and despite significant steps - academia is still a male dominated environment 
2. a resistance to ask 'silly questions' in case we look silly - whilst those who appear to be in the 'know' are making it up as they go along
3. the multi-tasking and ball-juggling lifestyle of many women connected to Church does not make it easy to pause for breath, let alone attend conferences, talks, take up study, etc, etc.

Please suggest further barriers!

There are so many areas in which women and the church and, dare I say, the world are poorer because of these barriers - mainstream theology remains schewed to the male as 'normative'. Christian publishing, academic and non-academic, remains dominated by male authors. The bodies in church life which act as filters to 'orthodoxy' and 'heresy' (i.e. what's allowed and what's not) remain largely male. 

Please suggest further consequences of these barriers!

SO I'm being proactive! Yes, really! Via Facebook - but not limited to it I am beginning a group called 'Women In Theology'. Open to women of any tradition who want to talk about, think about, learn about, write about God, the Church and life.

I'm hoping to have a day's gathering in the Autumn for those who want to shape this group. If you would like to be part of this, have ideas about what we might share together and who it would be good to invite, do get in touch - via comments here, the Facebook Group, or by emailing me at michaela.youngson@mac.com

This is a beginning, a germ of a seed of an idea. The question that is at the heart of this is 'how can women be given confidence in talking about and writing about theology?'.

Looking forward to hearing from you and seeing what you think!


  1. the idea that such things can only be discussed in the 'academy' and despite significant steps - academia is still a male dominated environmentI suspect that pretty much everyone uses 'academic theology' as their functional definition of 'theology'. Male and female. Ordained and lay. And lots of people one would hope would know better.

    How can women be given confidence in talking about and writing theology? Practice? Possibly also developing something of a thick skin; not because the thick skin is A Good Thing but because the attacks are inevitable.

    I'm joining the Facebook group and wishing I weren't relocating to the US in the summer. I'd have loved to attend a gathering in the autumn.

  2. Thanks Pam - sorry to hear you are relocating, but hope the network will reach you in the US. Look forward to hearing how you get on.

  3. Hi Micky - good initative - I hope you have time to see it through!!
    I'm personally not affected by the 1st barrier you put forward, but the 3rd one is massive. I love my "juggling" lifestyle and make sure I plan in retreats and the like so that my own "sacred well" doesn't run dry - but there's precious little time left for anything that might be recognised as formal study. Most of the book reading I do is linked to worship preparation - if I have time left over I tend to give it to a good novel - which is often a source of good material on which to theologically reflect - but I'd never have time to write the reflection down (a major reason why I preach with a minimum of notes!!).
    It was interesting to read in the write-up of Sangster in the Meth Rec that he told his wife he could either be a good minister or a good husband but not both - and he'd decided to be a good minister. I've certainly met male ministers who, in retrospect, wish they'd given more time to their family - especially their children. Yet the church has seemed to collude with the model of a minister who is married to the congregation first and their wife second - and has even applauded such methods of working. I'd like to say all that is in the past but I'm not sure.... As a working mother, I find that the difference is that I simply can't abandon the family else there'd be precious little food in the cupboards or clean clothes in the wardrobes and we'd soon have the gas and electricity cut off. (my husband's lovely but he kids himself when he thinks he's a new man!!). And the thing is that I've always been grateful for that forced sense of perpsective.
    I also have a lot of time for the second barrier you mention - and echo Pam's comments about the thick skin. I know we all follow Connexions and sometimes make comments. Richard is an excellent host but even his blog can seem a bloody battleground for debate, and if you don't have a thick skin it sometimes doesn't seem worth the getting wounded.
    I'd write more (and join Facebook) but I have a triathlon wetsuit to parcel up and take to the Post Office (both sons are competing in triathlons this weekend - surely the most expensive and time-consuming sport on the planet - though I suppose it would be trumped by Pentathlons....) and I'm due at Luncheon Club in 5 minutes.
    Oh - and the chickens have arrived!

  4. Micky, you're right, there does seem to be something amiss with your RevGal application via Ringsurf. I'm not seeing you on the new members queue. Would you be kind enough to try the process again? Thanks!

  5. Thanks Rachel - I very much appreciate your comments and know what you mean. I get quite cross about the tone of some of the debates in blog space. Sometimes I want to shout 'The Emporer is naked has no one noticed?!' as people hide behind obscure knowledge - and where do people find time for so much reading?

    How are the chickens? Settling in? We are up to 5 or 6 eggs a day now.

  6. In addition to our own fears (will I be silly) there is the fears of those answering the questions... And the other reality is simply that it has been a boys club for so long that many issues had an assumed answer, and now everything is changed.

    I sat at staff meeting on Tuesday, the only female and only female pastor present (and there are 2 others on staff). And the behavior was bordering on inappropriate, until I raised one eyebrow and said, 'niiiicce!' to a slightly sexist remark. I think they like their boys will be boys club. But that's just my opinion and experience.

    Peace and joy in the journey...

  7. Thanks for commenting Deb. I don't think it's 'just your experience' - many of my female friends in ministry still put up with this behaviour - or have to choose carefully when to challenge it.

  8. Deb, I can identify with your experience.

    Micky thanks for this initiative, it is much needed in my opinion.