How would the church be different, for better and worse, if women shared in leadership?
I will not pretend to know, but the question is important, so I am going to take some guesses at it. I hope that ya'll will too!
If my last post was emotional, this one will be abrasive to some because I am going to engage in stereotyping. It's not intentional, but I have to assume there will be some difference in the church if women start taking over key roles, and that the differences are predictable. If I cannot hope for improvement from the change I am recommending, then I should not recommend it.
In my experience in the workplace, I have found women to be different types of leaders than men. The women for whom I have worked have tended to be better at follow-through, more detail focused, and more people focused. The men I have worked for have tended to initiate more changes, have a bigger-picture focus and to value overtime more.
Yes, my personal experience agrees with many stereotypes. I find that reassuring, because stereotypes are usually true. I believe it is wise to assume that boys and girls are different, and that when they exercise God-given gifts and authority in the church they will do it differently.
(Do you know what happens when you assume? You save time, and usually LOTS of it! People with whom I am competing, and who break up ass/u/me into "you", "me", and ~donkey~ make me very happy. I will finish any task while they are still re-verifying that wheels are round. The trick is to assume as much as possible, and no more.)
So, can I assume that all women will be better at follow-through, focus closely on detail, and care more about people than men in the same role? Of course not. There are exceptions to every rule. Don't bet on the exceptions, though. The race is not always to the swift, but bookies make a pretty good living by handicapping like it will be.
Given that things will change when women are in charge, that stereotypes are permissible, and that exceptions can be overlooked in this little exercise, what do I guess will change?
- There will be more hugging, remembering of little pains, and visiting
- More little things will be done more completely
- Classes will be better attended, because there will be more cookies and fun chat
- Classes will be more focused on real problems than on doctrinal preparations
- Studies will consider more counter-examples. When a doctrinal point may have knotty consequences, they will be discussed more completely as opposed to the truth merely being stated.
- Food will be a part of more church functions
- Brothers and sisters will know more about each other
- Since we will know more about each other, we will do more to care for each other
- More followup will happen. When someone has a need, it will more often be met in the long term, not just once
- Sin will be less feared, and therefore more directly addressed. Women tend to be more realistic about human weaknesses than men, so they can accept sinners more readily.
- Confession one to another just may become part of the church's common experience.
Let me drill into those last two a little bit. Men care about pecking order while women care about groupings. Men want to know whom they are above and below, while women want to know by whom they are being rejected.
If you will let me make that casual (and I honestly hope not offensive) assumption, then what does that mean to the church? Men and women live by different fears. Men fear falling beneath someone whom they do not respect. Women fear falling out with people whom they enjoy. Men will tend to let relationships slide to maintain respect, while women will tend to struggle for relationships when they should be released. Exceptions exist on both sides of the line, but I think the tendencies are pretty solidly established.
I hope it is obvious that I believe that these two sets of weaknesses and strengths are complementary to each other. In no way do I believe that women are better or worse than men, but I do believe that women are different. I believe that difference needs to be used to our advantage!
The fears of men are not worse than those of women, but have been played out on the public stage over the centuries. Take Luther and Zwingli as a famous example. These two strong brothers agreed on 13.5 of 14 points, then divided their churches from each other over that half-point. Could they have been helped through that half-point? Could they have found another way to look at the problem? Of course they could have. There is only one Lord's Supper, and they could have found a way to agree on what it is. They needed a help-meet to look at it differently with them.
This little drama has been played out by men for century upon century. You don't get 10,000 denominations by struggling to maintain relationships! If we balance out our leadership, we might just stop that bleeding.
So, I believe that we will see improvements in the church at both the person-person level and at the doctrinal/hierarchical level.