06 March 2010

Synodical political gimmick, unrecommended: Women's Leadership Institute

I don't intend bald belligerence here because these are surely sisters in Christ, some of whom I have met personally, and with whom we have the rare gift of altar fellowship. Heaven knows there is already more than enough animosity around our altars. But I will say that stumbling upon this a few months ago was just another one of those things that drove home to me how thoroughly our tradition has been infiltrated by worldly thought (especially the throwaway line in this Bible study about those benighted ages when "bearing children was a woman's primary duty"--perish the thought!). So I'm going to respond to a few things I came across on one of their pages, and wish there were some possibility of frank discussion of these matters among the Important Women of our Synod rather than disgusted brush-offs of perspectives which, you know, don't represent the real interests of women.

(Incidentally--two members of their 20 member advisory board appear to be of childbearing age, not counting the dudes. This makes perfect sense, since we in Babyville don't have much time for such things, particularly where leaving home is required. Then again, I don't see any indication of a viewpoint such as that espoused at this here humble blog getting much WLI air time. I feel like one of earth-birth feminists shouting that artificial wombs aren't feminist at all. Anyway, let's get after it.)

The “Parable of the Talents” told by Jesus in Matt. 25: 14-30 offers incentive, support, and encouragement for people who lead and labor in His service. His words of encouragement for using one’s talents for His kingdom have special meaning for women.

Indeed they do. I speak only for myself when I say that, having already had to do so to some extent, I would not relish offering the following: "Master, I went and hid your womb in the ground for most of its good years. Here you have what is yours."

Women are the majority of members in LCMS congregations, but they are disproportionately underrepresented in leadership positions among the laity on the congregational, district, and synodical levels. (Greenphasis added. Wait for it.)

Back on the debate team we would ask, "What is the harm?" If this contention is true, is it really a problem? Could it possibly be an indication of something good, such as an understanding and practice of human vocation which is entirely different from the patronizing cosmetic tokenism of the androgyny-loving world? While we're thinking debate-wise, how about a definition of "leadership"? And an argument as to why women need to have it?

Women’s voices are no longer silenced in our church choirs

Just for the record, and with no desire to lead the reader to wild extrapolation so keep your shirts on (unless the baby's hungry)--there is some precedence for the practice. You in the middle, with the frantically waving hand? Yes, we all remember Miriam too.

Women petitioned the LCMS for many years to use their gifts of administration to create a women’s organization within the church for the promotion of missions. Finally, in 1941 the Synod endorsed the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League.

The LWML (and the LLL) is known in LCMS technical terminology as an auxiliary ([Middle English, from Latin auxiliārius, from auxilium, help; see aug- in Indo-European roots.]). You know, helping. It's what women do. Like GOD!!!! as everyone loves to point out. Furthermore, I'm pretty sure that if a bunch of chicks had started collecting money and mailing it to St. Louis even without official Synodical recognition, the checks would have gotten cashed.

Top-down styles of leadership are gradually being exchanged for models of shared leadership, where more people are empowered to make a difference. Definitions of leadership are less about titles and positions and more about action and influence.

Aha, so this is leadership! Well, women have never been active or influential in human history. All they do is determine the size of every generation of humanity (outside of God's opening of wombs) and attend it obsessively for its most formative years. Color me disenfranchised. And it's only fair to point out that three excerpts up the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions was cited as a problem.

Unfortunately, some women are hesitant and unsure of the proper use of their gifts of leadership among the laity of the church.

There's a statement we can all get behind.

many LCMS congregations report declining numbers of involvement by younger women. In a previous commentary for Reporter (March 2006), Judy Christian, director of child and family ministry for the Synod’s Board for District and Congregational Services, asked, “Where are the children?” Perhaps a follow-up question could be, “Where are their mothers?”


They're not mothers yet. They're too busy being grad students (mea maxima culpa).

2. They're at home with their babies, who are thoroughly unwelcome in churches which have bought society's view of young children as anomalous annoyances which must be kept from interrupting the rest of us who are enjoying real life and trying to get something out of this sermon about the cruciality of relationships in bringing people to Christ. They'll be back once the kids have reached a culturally acceptable age and know who Spongebob is so they won't get beat up at Sunday School.

3. They're sleeping in on Sunday morning since they're exhausted from both working and taking care of the baby all week long.

And--sigh--it wouldn't be complete without the liturgical dance team (scroll down). You just can't make these things up.

There's a big conference coming up in a few months. I'd propose a CSPP booth and nurse-in (and maybe a live birth? who's due in April?) so that we can all represent and, even more important, network. But I don't see much potential benefit to demanding our place at the table anyway (I'll make no conjecture as to the likelihood of being granted one), as the official institutional model is more the loyal opposition's bag (it doesn't count unless men say it does is the message I'm getting here).

Even more to the point, I'm afraid I'll be pretty busy in April providing leadership, ie action and influence, to Baby 1 who needs her hair braided, Baby 2 who can't read all the country names on his atlas yet, Baby 3 who could use some help with the buttons on her jumper, Baby 4 who is in the troubling habit of leaving the house unaccompanied, and Baby 5 who I'm guessing would really hate driving to Wisconsin. I will also be acting in relation to and influencing my husband, who struggles to find his socks sometimes, so call that what you will. I will do all this under the titled position of Wife and Mother. Don't worry, I won't be advocating for women's ordination while it goes down.


km said...

They've certainly sold me on women's ordination.

Untamed Shrew said...

I've been waiting some time for a hearty rant, and you did not disappoint.

Cheers, fellow disgusted brush-offs. If you can't convert them, conceive them. If you can't conceive them, pray and keep watch.

Anonymous said...

>> Greenphasis added. Wait for it.

Took me half an hour

Cheryl said...

Oh come on, Rebekah, you just need to catch the spirit. Don't you want to make a difference in the world? After all, YOU are exactly the kind of strong, intelligent woman that our churches need to take leadership positions. How selfish of you to deny them your talents. :-J

Cheryl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cheryl said...

I just had to come back and say that this conference strikes me as a colossal waste of time and energy. I work part-time as a piano accompanist for a local high school, so in the process I have gotten an inside view of the school district. I also used to teach public school. And the focus on leadership at this event strikes me as being very similar to how our schools these days focus so much on process rather than on content. They want to form character and teach students how to think. So instead of being encouraged to stay up on their subject matter, the teachers are made to attend in-service training to teach them how to teach, and huge amounts of money are spent on all manner of non-teaching topics like fostering sensitivity among students (while in the meantime teaching positions are cut due to budget shortfalls). All that is required is for strong teachers and administrators (with parent support) to make kids behave in the classroom (I was no good at it, which is why I got out of public school teaching) and to foster an environment in which teaching and learning can take place. It's not rocket science. People have been doing it for hundreds of years. Why do we need to have districts spending thousands of dollars, swelling their bureaucracies, to make bullies behave?

Likewise, if there is a woman who has the gift of leadership and the desire/wherewithal to use it, she will do so. If it's in her, it will out. I see it in my parish all the time. She doesn't need a conference to encourage her, anymore than a man does.

So much time and money and energy are wasted on peripherals. If we would all just focus on first things more, whether in our churches or our schools or elsewhere, the rest would follow.

Rant over. Sorry for hijacking the thread!

Rebekah said...

KM, ha!

Shrew, I know spiritual gift surveys are worthless because they never assess for the gift of ranting.

Anon, please forgive the occasional (?) opacity of my brain.

Cheryl, you're welcome to hijack here any time. You're completely right that people's gifts generally can't help surfacing in some capacity. "Official" conferences and similar contrived nonsense serve primarily to advance the interests and ambitions of those who contrive them, and in the meantime, the church ladies who have always set out the coffee and taught Sunday School and made the welcome visits will keep doing it without any fanfare.

The Rev. BT Ball said...

My favorite line in the so-called bible study is this one- "It is true that some ceremonial and purity laws in the Old Testament were arguably biased against women."

Oh that lousy old testament God and his bias against His sinful children, telling them how they are to live and be Holy just as He is. Who does He think He is anyway, God or something?

But wait, is this the same God who said that the seed of one of His daughters would crush the serpent's head? I think this lousy, arguably biased God is biased against men. Hey, maybe He is biased against men and women both, and that they are sinners together. But it seems to me that I remember something about an Old Adam and a curse first being on a man, not on a woman. That everybody died in the man who sinned. See, God is biased against men! He says the whole mess of this world is the man's fault.

The worst thing about all this is that it continues to lead to the wussification of men. I doubt that there will be too many male speakers there extolling the glory of mothers and grandmothers at home with the children, teaching them as Lois and Eunice did. Or the glory of the Blessed Virgin who heard and believed. Or the glory of the woman who anointed Jesus with oil before His burial.

Instead the men will have to teach how we can work together, men and women, for the kingdom. Quite apart from a man and a woman working according to their calling in the kingdom of God through a marital union, procreation, fidelity, trust, love, etc. Who needs that stuff for today's woman leader?

Anonymous said...

>> Anon, please forgive the occasional (?) opacity of my brain.

No, no, it was clever, and I are the dummy for not getting it

Melrose said...

i agree with u.s.- awesome rant and very much appreciated. Can you come be my cheerleader for a week? After all 3 of my little male brutes decided to have a throw down at the start of my husband's sermon and I looked at the well-dressed, successful, childless (by choice) woman in my pew who looked quite horrified it took all of my strength to not burst into tears and run away.

Untamed Shrew said...

Rebekah, if only I could chant my rants--how satisfying it would be to employ both my worldly gifts simultaneously!

Mel, I've burst into tears on several occasions due to my middle child's behavior. I've learned that if I sit in front and face forward, I can't see them staring. And if they catch me crying, their glares of horror just might soften to gazes of awe that I am *that* dedicated to having my children in worship where they ought to be, as part of the body of Christ and receiving His gifts.

Jody S. said...

I felt so helpless in church yesterday as I saw my two year old....at the opposite end of the pew....with a couple in between us...and at the center aisle where everybody could see and I couldn't reach, use the end of the pew in a most jungle-gym fashion. I was so worried about what everybody else thought. And I just breathed a sigh and turned back to the front of the church and my hymnal to sing. And then I noticed my 5 year old in the pew in front of me holding up his hymnal and singing in his loudest kid voice, "Thousand, Thousand thanks shall be, Dearest Jesus, unto Thee."

So, basically, if they only notice the bad things, that's their problem. And if they don't see the good coming from the bad things (i. e. little Christians hearing the Word), then that's their problem, too. While they may be successful, as you say, you are also quite successful in your vocation. You could have just given up and kept your little male brutes at home instead of doing what only the top-notch moms have courage to do. :)

Monique said...

We need more women like you.

Rebekah said...

Rev BTB, preach it. "It is true that some ceremonial and purity laws in the Old Testament were arguably biased against women."--breathtaking, isn't it?

Jody S, amen!

Monique, what I've learned from hanging around here is that there are more than I thought. Like, six! :D

MooreMama said...

I'm due in April (well, very early May, but...) the drive to Wisconsin might just put me into labor. And I have a climbing, singing, very curious, but still attached to her mommy toddler to boot... Who's signing up for that booth?

Dakotapam said...

Oh Morremama, I could bring the Velcro twins, And Shrew can bring the three shrewlets...oh and for good measure I could bring my surly teen...and talk about hygiene in front of him!

This could be quite a booth.

Just mothers...ha!

Reb. Mary said...

"Master, I went and hid your womb in the ground for most of its good years. Here you have what is yours."

As comebacks go, this one is hard to beat :D

Christine said...

This morning I was out driving with the kids when the reason for the green writing suddenly struck me.

How's that for slow?

Rebekah said...


ekg said...

Who are these women who still feel repressed? Liturgical DANCE TEAM?? I think I live under a rock. I nice, safe, warm, dry rock.

Just let me have my babies in peace. Then, when I have 12 children to their 2.3, we'll see what happens with all that "action and influence." Michelle Duggar is on to something.

Rebekah said...

EKG, I like rocks.