Hostility of my church removing all female single leaders from ministries cuz “couples only.”
I usually try to keep myself even-keeled in these messages. I’m aware that the people on this list represent a diverse range of theological backgrounds. But I’ll be real with y’all. This kind of nonsense really grinds my gears. As a single woman, and particularly a single woman with leadership gifting, I read this and think, “What a waste.”
Let me be the first to say that singles have more to offer the church than our usefulness. We are an essential, irrevocable part of the body of Christ—as we are, where we are. When I say, “What a waste,” I’m not speaking from a labor perspective. I’m saying that single women, given the opportunity and support, could have a dramatic impact on the church.
To speak of removing women from leadership is its own hill of beans. I’d encourage y’all to read Beth Allison Barr’s excellent book The Making of Biblical Womanhood for a deep dive into the history of patriarchy in the church. Then there’s the matter of relationship status disqualifying one from leadership. The only thing I’ll say to that is if the leadership criteria disqualify Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), that’s something to noodle on.
It is also interesting to examine the intersection of gender and relationship status.
Being a single woman in the church rubs against a deeply engrained cultural narrative of what a woman’s purpose is. To spell it out, there’s a narrative that a woman’s primary role in life is to be a mother, to bring life into the world through biological procreation, and to be a wife who cares for the home and supports a husband.
Our presence looks at that and begs the question, “Ok, but what about me? How is this good news to me and the many people in this church who are just like me?”
Regardless of how we feel about it, the reality is that there is a large number of single women in the church. Faithfully attending and serving and bursting with potential and God-given callings. We as a church can continue to cultivate a culture that is inhospitable to these members of the body, or we can all collectively and individually let God lead us and shape us into something better.
If there are no single folks in the room where decisions are being made, how can we possibly expect our churches to be places where singles’ gifting’s and presence are recognized and celebrated? If there are only married men in the room, do they have respectful, platonic relationships with single congregants? If they don’t, how are the people in charge supposed to know how to shepherd someone whose life (and therefore the way they live out their faith) is so vastly different?
I know there is a theological argument one can construct to support removing single women from leading ministries. Frankly, I can’t get behind a theology that, in practice, exclusively puts power and authority in the hands of people who already wield a great deal of social privilege. No matter how it’s dressed up. (There are, of course, many forms of privilege and many intersections of those experiences. I’m not trying to rank anything, merely pointing out that married folks, and especially married men, benefit from a particular kind of privilege.)
Ok, I’m getting off my soap box now.
If you are a person in this situation, who has been removed from leadership because they’re single and female, or who has witnessed this, I’m sorry. Here are a couple of questions. How would you like to respond? Do you want to talk with someone on staff with whom you have a safe relationship? Do you want to leave that church?
One exercise that might be helpful for processing feelings is to write a letter you don’t send. Start your time with some prayer if you’d like, then let it rip. Once you put words to your feelings, that might help you decide your next step.
Did this resonate with you, leave me a comment below!
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