The Resignation of Eve: What If Adam's Rib Is No Longer Willing to Be the Church's Backbone?by Jim Henderson
In talking with women around the country, Jim Henderson has come to believe that an epidemic of quiet, even sad resignation is developing among dedicated Christian women who feel overworked and undervalued in the church. As a result, many women are discouraged. Some, particularly young women, respond by leaving the organized church … or walking away from the… See more details below
In talking with women around the country, Jim Henderson has come to believe that an epidemic of quiet, even sad resignation is developing among dedicated Christian women who feel overworked and undervalued in the church. As a result, many women are discouraged. Some, particularly young women, respond by leaving the organized church … or walking away from the faith altogether.
The Resignation of Eve is a field report on what women have to say about how they've been affected - both positively and negatively-by their experiences within the church. Listening to their stories is crucially important because, across the board, the research shows that women are driving changes in the church. What will happen if many of them resign?
It's time to pay attention before it's too late-time to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, who went out of his way to honor, elevate, and work through women wherever he went.
Containing personal interviews with women and surprising research from George Barna, The Resignation of Eve is a game-changing, conversation-starting book for women who have been engaged in the Christian church, as well as for their pastors and ministry leaders.
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the resignation of eveWHAT IF ADAM'S RIB IS NO LONGER WILLING TO BE THE CHURCH'S BACKBONE?
By jim henderson
BARNACopyright © 2012 Jim Henderson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHE THREE FACES OF RESIGNATION
Resignation is one of those fascinating words that can be used appropriately under opposite sets of circumstances.
It is used to express both resistance and acquiescence.
It can be used to express either outrage or submission.
When someone resigns from a job, it's the functional equivalent of saying "I quit."
When someone resigns herself to a job, it is the functional equivalent of saying "I accept."
Moreover, if I say, "I resigned from that job last March," I'm describing an action, but if I say, "I'm resigned to staying in the job one more year," I'm describing an attitude.
In the first scenario, I'm in charge; in the second, someone else is. If I quit, my circumstances are being shaped by me, but if I accept, I'm being shaped by my circumstances. Certainly, it's normal to do both things at different times. We have to. No one gets to do what he or she wants to do 100 percent of the time.
When we don't possess the freedom to change our work situation, we become resigned to it. Sometimes this doesn't even bother us, and we continue on, seemingly unaffected. Often, however, we "go through the motions" and appear to be present but in fact are not. We do the minimum needed to get by (and get paid) but do our most creative work somewhere else (often for no pay).
When we're dissatisfied at our workplace, we might quit or fire ourselves before we get fired. Or, on the other hand, instead of walking away, we might choose to remain engaged and work for change from within.
How does this relate to what I learned about how women are negotiating the church? All the women profiled in this book fit into one of the following categories:
Some of the women have resigned themselves to their churches' positions on women;
others have resigned from their churches because of those churches' positions on women;
and, finally, some women have "re-signed"; that is, they've reengaged in their churches or in other churches, leading and influencing despite opposition.
So that you can get the most from these stories, let me offer a few more distinctives of each group.
In this book you will read the stories of women who have come to terms with the fact that they are not "allowed" to exercise all the gifts and abilities they're capable of contributing in the church setting. Some say they are perfectly fine with this reality. They've accepted the idea that the same people who deny them the right to lead their churches would go door to door on their behalf if they ran for president.
Other women love their churches and their people, but they know they aren't being given the opportunity to think, strategize, innovate, and create new ways of doing church that both men and women find appealing. Often when they have expressed their desire for more influence, they were blocked, stonewalled, or stalled. These women have acquiesced to the powers-that-be who are more than willing to allow them to run the operation but not lead it. As a result, many have lost the desire to be creative.
How would you feel if you were capable of leading, thinking, guiding, shaping, and forming a spiritual community but were denied the opportunity to do so? This experience leads some women to walk away from the church, Christianity, and in some cases God. That is the experience of the women profiled in this section. At one time these women were very dedicated Christians, churchgoers, and Bible study leaders, but they have since opted for other beliefs or no beliefs. Some maintain deeply spiritual, fulfilling lives but in a context that is separate from the churches they left.
Which is worse in your mind, actually resigning or being resigned to not being able to quit?
We will look at one more type of resignation in this book—the re-sign. This is the decision some women make, knowing the limitations, knowing the risks, and knowing that things are not likely to change. Women who "re-sign" don't quit or accept things as they are; they engage, lead, and influence. They make waves and stay connected. They're engaged but not owned, integrated within the church but knowledgeable about its inherent limitations and dangers.
They're like those of us with extended family whom we would prefer to avoid but with whom we choose to stay connected. We do this for a variety of reasons—perhaps because they're all we've got. To Outsiders it may appear that we've "sold out," especially since they're the ones we often complain to about our unusual families. They can't figure out why we keep going back for more abuse each Christmas.
But we do go back—except we don't go back blindly or perhaps as often as we went at first. We are measured; we are in control. We're not going to get sucked completely back into the system that could suck the life right out of us. We don't expect these family members to provide our meaning, and we aren't surprised when they disappoint us.
Women who have re-signed either remain active in their own churches even though they disagree with the churches' stances on women, or they intentionally plug into other churches that provide them with the opportunities they seek.
Women who have re-signed realize that life is a series of trade-offs. You don't always (or even often) get what you want or need, but you get something that provides enough meaning to make it worth the trade.
Women who have re-signed are realists and even optimists. They are willing to nudge the ball of change down the field. They're not world changers, but they're contributors. They belong to a long line of sisters and brothers in arms who are committed to seeing women be given equal opportunities to express, create, lead, and influence change inside and outside the church.
Women who have re-signed defend women who have quit and challenge women who have acquiesced. They advocate for both groups. They associate with both groups. They do not see themselves as having arrived and are never sure they are doing the right thing all of the time. They walk by faith, following in the footsteps of Jesus, who radically advocated for women in his time.
In those churches where women either acquiesce or leave, it can be easy to not even consider whether women are being given the opportunities God intends them to have. But if you want women to bring the best of their gifts and talents to your church, you need to know what they're thinking and saying behind closed doors. Here are the top four issues that emerged as I interviewed women for this book.
There's a lot of confusion among both men and women about what the Bible does or does not say about the role of women in the church. Women struggle (often in private) trying to determine whether their churches' positions on women's roles are genuinely God's ideal or simply a reflection of dogmatic conditioning and cultural bias. The most ardent students of the Bible on both sides tend to be the ones who are most certain their view of the biblical role of women is the correct one.
Given the polarization, I am dismayed at how uninterested Christians seem to be in trying to understand why their brothers and sisters can read the same biblical passages and come to opposite conclusions. We need to learn how to stay in the room with differences and not "break up" over every biblical disagreement. Frankly, I think this attitude needs to begin with pastors.
Many women are discouraged. And while some of them, particularly young women, leave the organized church only, others walk away from the faith altogether. In fact, in 2010 The Barna Group found that 26 percent of Americans have changed faiths or adopted a significantly different faith view during their lifetimes. Barna released its study just after the author Anne Rice famously renounced Christianity on her Facebook page. According to Barna, Rice "shares a spiritual profile with nearly 60 million other adults nationwide," most of whom, the research found, are women. Since breaking with the Catholic church, Rice has publicly reaffirmed her commitment to Christ several times; however, Barna's report notes, "The most common type of spiritual shift was from those who were Christian, Protestant or Catholic in childhood to those who currently report being atheist, agnostic or some other faith. In total, this group represents about one out of every eight adults (12%), a category that might be described as ex-Christians." Disillusionment with their church and religion was cited as one of the top reasons people gave for leaving their faith.
But for many women (particularly wives and mothers), leaving doesn't mean walking away; more often it means showing up without being present. Women often do this because they want their husbands and children to grow spiritually. They participate at the minimal levels and give just enough to ensure their families are included, even if the women themselves are not growing. They seem to be masters at finding ways to feed themselves without requiring as much from the place they call church.
It's been my experience that unless someone they love is directly affected, few Christians even consider whether the systems we've created in our churches reflect the same commitment to women that Jesus showed the women of his day. Our denial that this issue even exists reflects the church's confusion. Many pastors (both conservative and liberal) say one thing in public (or more precisely at denominational meetings) and do something different in their own churches.
In later chapters you will read the stories of people who believe a woman can be the president of the United States but not the pastor of a church. You will also read about denominations that ordain women but still find ways to stop them from expanding their influence at the highest levels. If nothing else, these interviews will help you see that we Christians are one contradictory bunch. Hopefully the stories will provide you with insights as to how you might correct that habit in your own church.
Spiritual Brain Drain
Potentially the most serious loss the church faces because of this confusion is the spiritual brain drain of women. As you read these stories, you'll discover that when it comes to the spiritual development of themselves and their churches, women simply "outcare" most men. Some people seem to scold women for this, as if they need to cut back so as not to discourage men from taking their rightful place of leadership in the church. A few of the women I spoke with hear this as blaming the victim.
Certainly the pastor of the world's largest church, whom you'll read more about later, would agree. Pastor Cho of South Korea grew his church to close to 850,000 members by encouraging women to have as much influence as God gifted them with, and he did this in a culture that, unlike America's, has historically assumed women are subservient to men. Christian history may record that Pastor Cho's decision to open the doors of influence to women in his church was a primary contributing factor in his country's transformation from a predominantly Buddhist country to a Christian one.
We limit women to our own detriment, because they are not just good at caregiving and connecting, they're also good at strategizing, seeing patterns, and understanding what the long-term needs and objectives are. While not all women serving in our churches consider themselves leaders, many of them offer outstanding skill and vision and are energized by leading. While some of these women have either embraced leadership roles in their churches or prefer not to lead in church because they are so worn out from leading elsewhere, a significant number are frustrated because they can't lead at all or are not allowed to lead within their areas of giftedness.
And the Survey Says
As part of my due diligence for this project, I not only interviewed women, I also commissioned The Barna Group to survey a nationally representative sample of more than 600 women about all sorts of issues that affect them as churchgoers.
When asked to consider their churches' positions on women in leadership, the majority of the women voiced support for their churches' positions. Well over three-quarters said their churches' perspectives on women in ministry are either almost identical or similar to their own. Almost the same percentage said the senior pastors in their churches are somewhat, highly, or completely supportive of women leading in their churches. Nearly two-thirds said that all leadership roles in their churches are open to them.
What gives? If women in the church are as satisfied as they say they are, why are so many of them willingly considering bolting or switching churches? And why are more and more women, who as we noted earlier are the functional backbone of the church, staying away?
I found many of the survey results surprising, so I decided to prerelease a few of the statistics to the public to see how they would respond. The reactions were all over the place. Some women felt the stats were very accurate and questioned why I would want to analyze them further. They saw my attempt to drill into these statistics as another expression of the rejection of traditional roles for women.
Many other women, however, said the views shown in the survey once matched their own, but they have since reached different conclusions about women's roles in the church. Others went so far as to suggest that the statistics proved that women are afraid to tell the truth about their real feelings, not wanting to cast the church in a negative light.
Scattered throughout the book you will find pages called "Fast Facts." These highlight the survey statistics we pre-released, followed by some of the responses we received. It will become apparent that there is no consensus on these issues, but there are lots of opinions and much pain.
As you read the comments and the stories, I hope you'll spend more time pondering how you arrived at your beliefs about women's role in the church than you spend defending them.
Dual Data or Data Duel
This book, then, is the result of a unique data "mash up" of quantitative (statistical) and qualitative (story-based) research. In the world of research there's currently a battle going on between these two approaches. Think of it as mind share versus heart share.
In other words, the modern era gave us statistics and quantitative measurement. It also gave us the Internet, Google, and Wikipedia. As cultural sociologist Daniel Pink writes, "When facts become so widely available and instantly accessible, each one becomes less valuable. What begins to matter more is the ability to place these facts in context and to deliver them with emotional impact." Pink is suggesting that when humans get information overload, they revert to stories. Interestingly, we modernists have been trained to value stats, but Jesus was more inclined to use stories.
Besides lacking the geek gene required to do the serious work of quantitative analysis, I am drawn to qualitative research by Jesus' example. As I see it, stories are the new statistics. Without question, there are limits to qualitative research. It's subjective, anecdotal, and at times difficult to verify. But quantitative research comes with its own baggage as well. It's overwhelming, sterile, and can often leave us trying to guess the agenda of the researcher.
Being the troublemaker that I am, I thought it would be interesting to combine the quantitative with the qualitative and let you draw your own conclusions from the picture that emerges. This is why my organization asked The Barna Group to partner with us.
One of the mantras public speakers recite to themselves as they take the stage is, It's not what you say but what they hear. The same could be said of statistical analysis. It's not what the research concludes but how you interpret it. Statistical veracity lies in the eye of the beholder.
Excerpted from the resignation of eve by jim henderson Copyright © 2012 by Jim Henderson. Excerpted by permission of BARNA. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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