Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Longing for ONE Emergent WOMAN leader . . .

just one! So that I don't have to engage in anymore conversations like the one I was part of yesterday. . .

I was part of a group of (male) planting 'gurus' - they haven't planted in a while (what does that say about how unhealthy planting is?!?) but help others plant (is it really ethical/moral to invite others into a space you yourself know is disfunctional?)

While describing myself and my ministry, I identified myself as an emergent leader. After the proverbial (or so it seems) "Oh, do you believe in that stuff?" I had to sit and listen to names of all these (really just four) emergent leaders this one person had connected with at one time or another. (Was I supposed to be impressed? Was he demonstrating how 'inclusive' and "generous" he is?)

Among the 'usual list of suspects' (some who are my friends, some who are not) NOT ONE SINGLE WOMAN was named. Not a single one.

It is not that 'we' are not thinking great theological thoughts and doing even greater incarnational activities. It's not that 'we' don't have books, seminars, workshops, and really awesome conferences. It's not that 'our' churches are not successful. It's not that 'our' blogs are not widely known or read. It's not that 'we' are not hip dressers and really attractive people with great hair.

So what is it? Why are there no definitive female voices whose names are dropped in casual conversation with the same reverence and awe that one brags about 'knowing' (read: saw from a distance at NPC; answered your question during a Q&A; rode with you on the elevator at the convention center. ) Brian McLaren?



  • "why are there no definitive female voices...?" i wish i knew the answer to that question. but more than knowing the answer, i wish i could eliminate the need to ask it in the first place.

    By Blogger lynnette, at 6:16 PM  

  • What about Diana Butler Bass? She is a women's voice in the conversation, but admittedly she hasn't focused on women's voices per se. I will see her at conference next week and could ask her about this.

    What do you think?

    By Blogger mompriest, at 6:10 AM  

  • Hi, "mom",

    I know that like me, Diana is listed as one of the ECG, but I have yet to meet her at a gathering. I have done only partial reads of two of her books, because I did not resonate with her story. Which is my point.

    Even if Emergent did have one 'upfront' female (our token representation of 'the other' much in the same way we seem to tokenize Karen Ward, who is Afro-American) that person would be expected to or would be viewed as speaking not for herself and her views but on behalf of all women.

    There is no definitive view of Emergent, so certainly there is no single view any one woman 'should' hold, but such a spoeksperson would be viewed as representing 'all female voices everywhere' in a way that our male peers in the movement are not. So, as much as I would like others who look like me represented at Emergent Gatherings, I would not objectify a sister that way. It would be taking her voice as person, soul, self away somehow.

    By Blogger still_emerging, at 7:58 AM  

  • Maybe in some undefinable, mysterious, cosmic way, the woman's voice is already heard, but it's not recognized.

    Maybe the women's influence on the church is so saturated that there is no need for a BIG voice.

    Maybe the abscence of a big voice, points to a bigger fact that the women have spoken, have influenced and are influencing?

    Men need all those books because their ideas need to be heard still. Maybe women don't need all those books, because they've already been heard?

    Also, people love to quote the verse in galatians that talks about there being no difference between male or female. We are all one in Christ.

    So in reality, all the male voices are speaking for us. There is no need for a distinct woman or male voice? Right? I mean if we are all one and there is no difference between male and female, then it really shouldn't matter either way.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:37 PM  

  • You know it doesn't inherently bother me that Brian Mclaren is a man; in fact, for a man he seems fairly in touch with his feminine side. Honestly, it never occurred to me that there are a lack of women Emerging as leaders until I heard women (and occasionally men) discussing it. Perhaps women have different priorities or maybe men feel threatened, or women aren't generally as witty or credentialed, or in Christian circles people are just USED to seeing a man speak for everybody. Maybe we need to institute more fart and beer jokes? For a true scientific experient, perhaps we should pull a Joan of Arc...join the conversation with our nipples taped and our pseudonyms boldly displayed. I'll be Burt, you can be Ernie. What might happen?

    If people treated us differently in male garb, it might be only be a subconscious hangup with the label, "woman;" if we still find ourselves a little less respected or included, maybe it's actual characteristics of those who happen to be women that men find uncomfortable or difficult to engage...and if this is true, is it our problem or theirs? Or do both sexes have room to stretch?

    Jemila Monroe

    By Blogger Jemila Monroe, at 7:12 AM  

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    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:30 AM  

  • Why on earth does it matter?

    Why in heaven does it matter?

    If 'truth' is being spoken from the emergent camp, does it matter who speaks it?

    Does God care if a woman's name is famous? Do you?

    humility; humility. Are you seeking a name for yourself?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:31 AM  

  • Yes, Anonymous it does matter. And it has nothing to do with pride or humility or desire for fame.

    The point is all truth is not being represented when all voices are not being heard.

    And in emergent many voices are thoughtlessly or simply mindlessly excluded.

    But thanks for your comment

    By Blogger still_emerging, at 10:53 AM  

  • I think the idea is not to be heard just to check off a feminist box or fill a female quota, but to share our voices because they offer something unique, that together with men's voices best evokes and reflects the image of God. I've been mulling over what unique feminine contributions women have to make to's still gestating, but something's in there!

    It is liable to come out soon-ish, I feel.

    By Blogger Jemila Monroe, at 6:52 PM  

  • The point is all truth is not being represented when all voices are not being heard.>>>

    got any proof of that?

    Not being snarky.

    I also believe women have something to offer, a VERY unique voice. But to think it can't be heard over coffee, in classrooms, inhomes, on airplanes, in books, without a BIG name attached to it. Please.

    I agree with Jemila. The genders represent a more complete voice.

    I don't agree with the idea that there must to be a big name female voice. Or that the lack of one means that God isn't working through women. Pish-posh.

    To each their own though

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:26 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger still_emerging, at 5:27 PM  

  • Aside to "Anonymous": What I like is that Jemila used her name.

    Such gender 'complimentation' is NOT happening. Thank you for reiterating my point. There is no intentional move to include women side by side with men at the emergent gatherings, no tag-team sharing, no 'outward manifestation of an inward reality' of inclusion, no sense that we emergents truly buy that 'God is best expressed when both men and women minister side by side.'

    And if this discussion makes you "snarky" . . .

    We haven't even talked about why there is a paucity of ETHNIC EMERGENTS - up front or otherwise. My AA friends, male and female alike, find no familiar faces, and only some truth but not their truth in what white male counterparts in the "conversation" are saying. (I use quotes, becaue it is often one way talking at, not dialogue between.) Where is the racial/ethnic complimentarianism? For it would be equally true that God is best expressed when multiplicity of races are present as well.

    By Blogger still_emerging, at 4:38 AM  

  • You are missing my point. And I said I wasn't intending to be (or come across) as snarky. And no, bringing up race doesn't 'make' me anything.

    Instead of focusing on 'getting a female voice' into the limelight, it seems efforts towards encouraging women and the races to speak to their neighbors, co-workers, etc. is time better spent. Who gives a rats ass if their name is ever 'known'? And if its ever known in the 'emergent' circle?

    Seems a lot of effort and thought and time is going towards getting into the spotlight. The most respected and sought out leaders never sought to be in the forefront, it was more of a groundswell.

    One more note, if you don't think races aren't being represented in the world in the christian community, I think you'd be wise to open your eyes a bit wider. The asian church is huge and growing as are other groups.

    Different perspectives perhaps.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:54 AM  

  • I'm with the complimentarians here. Yes, we can all work towards our own unique internal balances of masculine and feminine energy. But the body of Christ is made of both men and women and as far as leadership goes in the emerging conversation, it seems necessary to include both men and women. Otherwise, it remains patriarchal in structure and myopic in perspective. That has been a source of enough pain for women in the Body.

    Thanks for opening up this discussion, it is a potent one.


    By Blogger Nancy, at 3:33 PM  

  • I once attended a Russian orthodox service and afterwards was talking with a woman about their idea of headship and submission. She argued, rather with a rather coy and mischevious tone, that while the man is the head, the woman is the neck, and the neck moves the head. Now certainly women hold great influence, even when they are not in public roles, but that does not change the fact that the mentality of "just influence from behind the seens" still ultimately represents a fundamental inequality between the sexes that results in whatever a woman's influence being translated into male language and form...and it is arguable that meaning itself is changed when language and form are altered. Also, in our media-driven society, it's a fact that charismatic public figures influence the content of coffee conversations as much as the two people drinking their lattes. So why is the longing for female voices to be represented among Emerging leadership at odds with sharing our hearts with our husbands and friends as we go about our daily lives? If we are seeking power for its own sake, clearly we need to repent. If we are angry feminists, this is not a good motive! Seeking to share what God has gifted us with is faithfulness, if we are true to our calling. If our hearts are laid bare before our creator, we can humbly be bold in Christ.


    By Blogger Jemila Monroe, at 4:27 PM  

  • "while the man is the head, the woman is the neck, and the neck moves the head." . . . That must be an orthodox proverb, for it was repeated in 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding.'

    If there is one thing the (Christian) world hates is an 'angry feminist.' We Christian women go to great lengths to avoid being called the "f" word. And I'm not all together certain why. I think we need to get angry about injustice. We need to speak up and shout, "That's not fair!" We need to have courage to take on the bullies, and to give strength to the weak and the voiceless.

    The First Testament prophets were often angry (sometimes even at God!) They spoke clearly, directly, even confrontationally - and they weren't all men either.

    Little makes me angrier than when power is used/abused to oppress others, escpecially when Scripture is quoted to defend the domination of the powerless. Little frustrates me more than when called and gifted souls are prevented from using those God-given gifts within the Church - surely that is the unpardonable sin, truly a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit if ever there was one.

    These are the things that turn me into a defender of the defenseless, a loud prophetic voice, and yes, even 'an angry feminist.' Loud prophetic voices, and even angry feminists are a gift from God to all the women of the Church, for they name the injustice, raise awareness, and become catalysts for change in the system which make it more just for everyone.

    And right now the Emergent Conversation isn't feeling very just and could frankly use a few more loud prophtic voices and angry feminists.

    By Blogger still_emerging, at 6:25 PM  

  • Well...and here I was thinking that in the EC I had found something more equitable. Perhaps that is because I have been almost exclusively engaging in the conversation in the EV women's blog. What an incredible experience that has been! Prior to finding the EV website, I had read a number of "emergent" authors, Brian McLaren being a welcomed voice among them. But actually interacting with those who would define themselves in EC terms has been a severely limited experience for me until that blog. Truth be told, I've been skeptical in that I have felt that, like is often quoted in Ecclesiastes, "There is nothing new under the sun" and that the EC was kind of recycled Jesus People. But then, I saw the spiral...that while things do come around, they do not necessarily end up in the same spot. I had and still do have hope regarding the EC.

    I only recently chose to make an assessment of my own personal "spiritual wounds" (assuming I'd identify any at all) as a result of my experiences in the traditional, yet "contemporary" evangelical church. I'm still in process and find it too soon to describe in more detail what I have come to understand. I am reading "The Dance of the Dissident Daughter" and unlike Sue Monk Kidd, I do not feel that Jesus needs to be thrown out with the bath water just because mankind messed up the inclusive message that Jesus brought to us.

    The feminist perspective, unlike what so many folks like to suggest, does not involve diminishing men or demolishing God-given differences in masculine and feminine energies. God made man and wasn't satisfied, God only stopped "creating creation" when woman was made. (read Genesis if you aren't following me) Again, not because woman was better but because in the pairing of man and woman, God could be satisfied and rest. The complimentary energies in the masculine and feminine (both within and without) give us some miniscule idea of the wholeness of God. How could the Body function without including both male and female perspectives, energies, talents and ways of knowing? Again, while we should be aware of and responsible for those energies and how they are activated in our own personal lives, we also must comprehend how they express themselves even more dynamically across genders. When experienced in combination, they should be most effective in expressing God's love to others through the Body.

    The EC will be more of the same patriarchal lopsidedness we have experienced throughout the Body's history unless it is inclusive versus exclusive on the basis of gender. Jesus made no such distinctions. Nor should we.

    By Blogger Nancy, at 9:40 PM  

  • I think there's a difference between specific anger that leads to creative, redemptive action that includes both justice and grace, versus anger that just hangs around and makes us bitter and spiteful and motivates us to seek human agendas, where a specific issue becomes more important that seeking kindness, mercy and justice for all people through God's Spirit.

    A woman who is angry is different than an angry woman, in my thinking.

    When I picture an angry feminist, I have in mind the latter, whereas I think it is the former who can channel her anger into creative action and eventually allow the creative process and God's mercy to transform anger into loving energy to accomplish the same tasks of creating kindness and justice in Jesus' name.

    So I am not advocating the suppression of women's rage, but rather bring it before God for sifting; for asking God's Spirit to show us ways of expressing our hurt and anger in constructive ways that truly lead to kindness, justice and mercy for all people -- even our enemis. Because where an angry victim gets stuck in that place, it leads to endless cycles of destructiveness in the victim/victimizer cycle. For me, it's important to have a voice, but the ultimate goal is to seek healing and wholeness for all people.

    By Blogger Jemila Monroe, at 9:54 PM  

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