Dear Dr. Heller,
I was doing a little reading and began to think about the roles of women in leadership in the church. I know that God created men and women to be equal and some biblical passages have been distorted over the years and caused the oppression of women in the church. However, I still am wrestling with the idea that men and women may have areas of ministry that they are generally stronger in. For instance, maybe men do a better job of presenting a sermon than women? I can't help but think that men are better at certain roles and women are better at others. This, of course, does not mean all women are better at leading music than men, or all men are better at preaching. I'm wondering what you think about these concerns and if you think these thoughts are a result of the way I was raised in the church. Are there some legitimate differences in the way men and women approach ministry in general that would cause these concerns to arise?
Thank you for your message. I think you're wrestling with ideas stemming from the way you were raised. There are always people who want you to believe women or men are better in certain things. We are all gifted and use our gifts in different ways. A man may be physically stronger, and therefore “better” at doing this or that, but a woman can compensate her physical weakness and realize amazing physical things, too! We should never “fix”, i.e. “control” people by attributing them roles and functions just because we think “he” is stronger in doing this and “she” is better in doing that. These are clichés. They can be true for one person and false for others. We should learn to think outside of boxes and beware of creating stereotypes; this would really enrich humankind! We are afraid of thinking “outside of the box.” It makes us uncomfortable because it's new and all what is new inspires fear. We don't like this insecurity. It seems better to think in boxes because it makes us feel secure! To put human beings into boxes is impoverishing societies, families, countries, nations and, unfortunately, God’s people!
Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University. Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years. Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question leave it in the comment section below.