Date of Award

2020

Document Type

Project

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Reconciliation and Intercultural Studies (MA-RIS)

Department

Theology

First Advisor/Committee Member

Brenda Salter McNeil, D.Min., Associate Professor of Reconciliation Studies

Keywords

Christian women; Women in church work; Women clergy; Christian leadership; Feminist theology; Sex discrimination against women; Sexism; Male domination (Social structure); Equality—Religious aspects—Christianity; Reconciliation—Religious aspects—Christianity; Women—Identity; Vocation—Religious aspects—Christianity; Gifts—Religious aspects—Christianity; Ubuntu (Philosophy); Incarnation; Theology

Abstract

In today's American Christian culture, it has been my observation that women are still feeling the repercussions of Christian traditions and theologies that have an elongated history of neglecting their authority and leadership. After having a decade and a half of experience working within different Christian communities, there has been an overwhelming amount of evidence to support that there is a strong disconnect between the theology of women’s leadership and the physical, practical, and systematic action of engaging them as leaders. Among these narratives is my own. After having served in a leadership role within an evangelical mega church for over a decade, I have experienced the systematic realities and hurdles many women face in a white, male, dominated community. Within my research, I have concluded that while a church may preach from the pulpit the authority and theological justification of women in leadership, there can easily remain systems and methods that keep them from actually embodying those positions. As a result, these women, who feel called to leadership have been overlooked, underequipped, and have failed to have access to fundamental resources to equip them in their calling as leaders.

This thesis project will seek to examine the ways in which the church can and should be an advocate for female leadership and contribute to the reconciling of a patriarchal dominated culture. We accomplish this by first specifically naming how Christian communities have failed in aiding female leaders in their identity, calling, and gifting. It is this thesis writer’s conviction that if we are to “fix” an issue, we must be willing to “face” the issue. Therefore, this thesis will spend a considerable amount of time diagnosing the obstacles of female leadership from women’s point of view.

In summary what our findings will conclude is that there is a large population of female leaders who face systematic inequality. Consequently, this has resulted in many women questioning their imago dei, their purpose, and their ability to engage in the leadership to which they are called. As a result, it has led women to not only give up on their pursuits of leadership, but it has also caused psychological and emotional harm. Consequently, women have not only reported leaving the church, but they have unfortunately learned to normalize their pain and suffering. Therefore, this thesis will also name how a continual negation of engaging their needs only perpetuates a culture that marginalizes them.

Thanks to the contribution of many marginalized theologies, such as feminist, black, and mujerista, we now have a theological framework that suggest that the church can no longer stand idly by as the people within their communities feel oppressed, marginalized, and neglected. Therefore, the next portion of this thesis will be centered around articulating a theological disposition that justifies the inclusivity of women and the equitable empowerment to see women participate as part of the Body of Christ. We will do this by specifically looking at Ubuntu theology and Incarnational Theology, which articulates the Churches theological necessity to participate in the reconciliatory actions of Christ. Thereby, negating any culturally justified actions that ignore the systematic negation of female leadership.

As a result, the purpose of our question is to reconcile the disconnect between a Christian communities which claims female leadership but practically fails in embodying this equality in the day-to-day practice of their communities. By addressing this severed connection between theory and practice, we are left with a clearer understanding of the elements needed to empower the women within the Church to be the leaders they believe God has divinely called, identified, and enabled them to be. The goal of this thesis is to leave us with a framework to help Christian communities reconcile the female/male leadership disparities within our churches and society. To that end, this thesis will seek to answer, “Will a praxis of engaging women’s identity, gifting, and calling aid women in their leadership and will it contribute to reconciling the female/male disparities within our Christian communities so that women are empowered and released to fully lead in Church and society?” By establishing a theology of reconciliation that calls us into a narrative of aiding and equipping female leadership, I will conclude this thesis by offering a theological and systematic praxis and by examining if this praxis ultimately contributes to the church becoming an advocate for female leadership and contribute to the reconciliation of a patriarchally dominated culture.

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