I’m still thinking about this whole idea of Complementarian Feminist ministry, and what it might look like, and this week we’re thinking about prayer.
In the last few weeks I’ve had a number of conversations about the difficulties of prayer for women in churches who would define themselves as being complementarian. And two things have come up:
Firstly, there are some churches who don’t allow women to lead the congregation in prayer, unless, of course, they’re doing it with their husband standing beside them. Unsurprisingly, I have some problems with this.
1. There is absolutely zero biblical basis for this, as far as I can see. Feel free to correct me if you think I’m wrong.
2. It doesn’t do a great job of reflecting the diversity of God’s people.
3. It tells the non-married ladies present that they are somehow deficient because of their singleness. Not the men, natch., because single men are allowed to lead the prayers on their own.
One of the many things I love about the church that I call family, is the fact that every group of people in the church is represented in the different people who lead us in corporate prayer week by week. We have young and old, we have single people (men and women), we have married people (both men and women) without their spouse, we have married couples, and we have families (children included).
I love that this demonstrates the diversity of God’s people, and I love that each of the people who prays does it in a slightly different way.
Secondly, there are churches where women are allowed to pray in mixed company (how generous), but only if the men go first.
Here’s the justification for this last position, courtesy of Carrie Sandom in her book, Different by Design:
“It’s my observation that women are often very eager to pray out loud, but men are not and often hang back and just leave it to the women. Maybe it’s just the churches I’ve belonged to, but women are often the ones who do the praying, whether it’s leading the intercession a in church or praying in small groups or at the church prayer meeting. But I wonder if we held back a bit, maybe the men would be encouraged to pray a little more?”
Here are my thoughts:
1. My experience is the exact opposite of Sandom’s. In most of the churches I have been part of, the men are doing the majority of praying, and women are both, less represented at the prayer meetings, and then less vocal when they’re there.
I did a little survey (of my flatmates), and they concur.
2. If I’m wrong, and in the majority of churches the men are just sitting back and not praying, is the best solution really to have the women hold back. What then? We all sit in silence, not praying, while the men decide to get their act together. No, thanks.
3. If I’m right, having these kind of rules does not help the situation. I think that a lot of the time women are reluctant to pray in these settings, because they don’t want to accidentally rock the boat. Some friends (who work for an unnamed Christian organisation) didn’t pray in their office prayer meeting for the first couple of weeks because they weren’t sure if women were allowed to; another friend had to ask whether she was invited to even attend one prayer meeting, because she was the only woman there, and just wasn’t sure if she was welcome.
There’s no biblical grounds for this sort of nonsense, and it’s not helping anyone.
Complementarianism is not supposed to be about trampling on one group of people and telling them to sit down and be quiet. It’s supposed to be about recognising that God has made us equal in status, but deliberately different from one another, in order that we might make up for what the other lacks, and in doing so, point one another to Jesus.
I can’t really see how forcing women to sit in silence during prayer meetings is going to achieve that. Can you?
In summary: prayer.