The case of women in the Presbyterian Establishment is both the easiest and the hardest to resolve. It is the easiest, because there are so many devoted women in the church, many of whom have significant leadership experience and potential. It is hardest because, at every higher level of power, there are fewer women who are willing to take the job than there are men.
As a sociologist who has taught and studied family life, sex, and gender, I have become convinced over the years that the differences between men and women in their approach to power is deep. To be sure, women have been excluded from the opportunity to achieve power and to be part of the establishment in the past. Changing sexist structures that excluded women is a great gain and something we should always be vigilant about. But I believe that assuring women equal opportunity to be part of the Presbyterian Establishment will not result in an equal outcome of women being half of that Establishment.
I have been convinced that women, as a group, are less likely than men to sacrifice their families for positions of power. Moreover, women tend to be less likely to want to rule over others than men are; likewise, women tend to be less likely to accept other women ruling over them than they are men. To be sure, there will always be some women who would make good leaders and who are willing to do the job, even at the cost of being separated from others. But I think it is simply a fact of our complementary sexes that women will never voluntarily take up a proportionate share of positions of power, in the church or any other organization.
So if your main goal is equal representation of men and women in all positions of power and authority in the church, then the Presbyterian Establishment project is probably not for you. The more effective the Establishment is, the less likely it is to simply reflect the raw demographic diversity of the church. I say, so be it. The church needs an Establishment that works with real effect and authority.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Biting the Bullet About Women in Church Leadership
I am working on a larger project to restore the Establishment in the Presbyterian Church. By Presbyterian Establishment I mean an informal but real group that can lead the church and heal its divisions with recognized authority. Some readers have worried that my comments about the role of women in such an Establishment might be contested to the point of closing some readers' minds to the rest of my argument. I want to try a draft of this section on you, my helpful readers, for your comments. This is just one snippet from a much larger document in which I lay out the rest of what I mean by a Presbyterian Establishment.