An open letter to my young friends about gender in christian community

January 14, 2013

My dear friends, Image

I have been observing your banter around ‘male-bonding’ and making rules, and female anatomy, and manly-eating events. I know this is all meant to be light hearted and taken as humour. 

But I am going to say an unpopular old-person thing here: starts in fun, ends in tears.

Let’s take it easy on one another with the gender thing.

Women and Men are certainly equal, but the church has a terrible track record on this, and let’s not be naive. It still carries on with appalling subjugation and dishonouring of women in many places, and it contorts expectations of men in others. 

Men are often not affirmed in their artistic gifts, and women are not affirmed as leaders or strategists; the church divides the genders for many activities instead of seeking and facilitating reconciliation between the genders, as if our biology is stronger than the unity of Christ. It seems the hackneyed cliches of ‘men have animal appetites’ and ‘women are objects of beauty’ incarcerate the imagination of Christians still. 

The church is the poorer for it – and our effectiveness in loving and serving the world is compromised because we fail to use the gifts the Spirit has given, we fail to be our whole selves, and thus fail to love God and neighbour with our whole hearts.

Gender is a beautiful aspect of personhood that has all the subtleties and nuances of creative variety that we would expect from the hand of the Creator who gave us colour and music and maths and tides. Especially as young people, with much still to discover about all that your personhood can be, let’s not box up masculinity/femininity too quickly.

In 20 years time some of you will have been denied roles in the church because of your gender – some of you will have been ostracised because of your sexuality or marital status – some of you will have been abused. This may have already happened to some of us already. Others of you will have unwittingly hurt people through your participation in the leadership-gender matrix.

Let our community – in which we have seen the grace of God in action together – be a safe place, and these relationships safe ones to return to in the future, sure of our solidarity in the peace of Christ, whatever we encounter in the paths we travel.

We are the (masculine/feminine) body of Christ.

The Peace of the Lord be always with you.

One comment

  1. Beautifully said, Beth. “Starts in fun, ends in tears.” is so true in many situations. We also say the subconscious can’t take a joke! and that play fights always end in tears!
    I think that gender issues are still a huge deal in the church community. I have experienced misogyny thinly disguised as ‘change of direction’!
    I appreciate your thoughts, Beth.

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