We Already Have a Feminised Church

I see that The Times’ Ruth Gledhill is on the trail of this issue:

The charity is in the process of doing research into why men don’t come to church, and their questionnaire makes, for this woman anway, pretty reading. Read on for some of the reasons they suggest why real men might not like going to church.

Being involved with a denominational men’s ministry, I think I know a few things about this.  Most of what she brings up in the article were dealt with in (and the questionnaire may be inspired by) David Murrow’s book Why Men Hate Going to Church, which I reviewed here.  But I do have some additional thoughts on this subject.

  1. The difficulty of the “vicar wearing a dress” is hilarious if you understand the historical background behind it.  In spite of the “Bible teaches that men wear pants” mentality, in both Old and New Testament times everybody wore robes, or a “dress” if you please.  (The Chinese even reversed dresses and trousers until we came along and messed them up.)  Trousers were introduced into the Roman world by the barbarian tribes which invaded it; the vestments of Anglican and Catholic alike are descendants of the robes worn by Late Roman imperial officials.  But that leads to the next problem…
  2. Too much of the “re-masculinisation” of the church in the U.S. is made to depend upon the imposition of the rough, rural Scots-Irish culture as the “real man” culture.  That will not fly in this century.  There are other ways to express masculinity, but in the U.S. at least the structure of Evangelical churches mitigates against real alternatives, for the moment.
  3. It’s not really addressed in the articles linked to, but since I’m on the subject I’d like to address another issue: the idea that women ministers will feminise the church.  I hate to say the obvious, but in Evangelical churches we have an overwhelmingly male ministry and still have a feminised church.  As counterintuitive as Evangelical churches can be, perhaps the ascendancy of female ministers is a great opportunity for really meaningful men’s ministry!

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