I am fortunate to belong to a global denomination that affirms and supports women in ministry. Since its official formation in 1908, the Church of the Nazarene has ordained women right alongside their male colleagues. I’ve often heard it remarked that Nazarene women could preach twelve years before they could vote in US elections!
“Healthy” is not exactly the adjective I would match with the word “sexuality,” especially when it comes to the ways the church and Christians have portrayed and lived out what we believe about sex these past few centuries.
Many complementarians want to respect women’s needs and stories and benefit more concretely from their insights, but are not sure how to begin moving in that direction. I used to leave church in frustration every week because of the implicit marginalization on display in services. A childhood, or lifetime, of watching women pushed further to the edges of leadership and visibility has an immense impact on a woman’s self-worth.
Here are 5 practices of a church culture that seeks to empower and invest in women, based on what I’m learning through current experience and being graciously taught about the church’s largely unheeded role in the development of women.
I was raised in Christian purity culture. I proudly wore my “True Love Waits” ring. I read Joshua Harris’s Christian cult classic, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. And today, I’m a psychologist and a vocal critic of purity culture.
Does the Bible really body-shame women? Does it exonerate men when they objectify women? Proponents will say they don’t exonerate men. Men are still guilty, but women, the victims of men’s objectification, are guilty too. But there’s a chasm of difference between “men are guilty, period” and “men and women are both guilty.”
All of a sudden, it seemed that paper crowns were everywhere in the Christian community, distributed to women with a discussion about how we are all princesses. It was a candy-coated, conviction-free reminder I got every time I walked into a women’s discipleship group, youth ministry, or Christian bookstore—you are a princess because your Father is a king.
Whenever I hear the word “submission” I am immediately transported back to my childhood home. We were staunchly rooted in a conservative, Christian tradition, and my family prided itself on having a high view of Scripture. There were a number of beliefs affected by this high view of Scripture (which, for the record I still hold to!), but few made their way into the everyday vocabulary of my family more often than submission. We were instructed to see complementarian gender roles as one of the foundational building blocks of a godly family, and ensuring a healthy sense of submission was front and center when building that foundation.
There is no love in patriarchy. There is no respect. There is only perpetual immaturity, dependency, and frustration for the man who is subjected to the most sophisticated manipulation as his wife gives over control and authority to him.