A major topic of discussion taking place in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A. today is the ordination of women. The issue is one of the primary driving forces for congregations leaving the PC(USA). These congregations are moving to the Presbyterian Church in America and other denominations that do not ordain women as ministers, elders, or deacons. Other congregations are considering such a move for the same reason.
This reason is invalid! Congregations should be talking about whether or not men should be ordained. They should consider disassociating themselves with denominations that allow congregations to ordain men and elders and deacons and especially those whose presbyteries ordain men as Ministers of Word and Sacrament.
Everyone knows that ministry is a caretaker endeavor. Everyone also knows that men are not caretakers. Men are concerned with nuts and bolts. They make good mechanics and engineers. In the medical profession they make good surgeons but not primary care physicians or family physicians, and least of all, psychiatrists. Men are too insensitive.
Men cannot bear children. Men do not know and cannot know that joy that follows pain and therefore have no appreciation for secondary consequences, an essential quality for anyone who would be a pastor or deacon. It logically follows that they have no comprehension of third and fourth levels of consequences and would be unable to make complex business decisions required of elders.
They do not have a “mother” instinct.
Since culture militates against their being in the home, men lack experience in nurturing, comforting, and listening to children. How could they possibly serve as pastors and tend to the emotional issues involved in people relations, such as mentoring staff? Or recognize deeper interpersonal issues of elders gathered around the session table?
Men elders look at a full session agenda and mutter, “Oh no, we’re going to be here a while.” Women elders look at the same full agenda and muse, “Ah, we have windows of opportunity to hear one another’s concerns.” While men suffer through the inner turmoil of missing a Sunday afternoon or Monday night football game, women elders are probing deeper issues that affect the life of the congregation. Stated another way, women perceive airing of differences as having bonding value — regardless of issue, per se — whereas men condemn those who disagree on one minute part of an agenda item, e.g., III.C.9(q)287!
These differences have profound theological implications.
Men want issues resolved immediately, settled, and once settled, never raised again. Women will place points side by side and hold them in tension. Men are uncomfortable with such tension. They want answers and consider unresolved questions a problem. Women pose questions, are very comfortable with their lack of resolution, expecting new questions to arise.
He says, “State your point and I’ll show you where you are wrong.” She says, “Tell me your view. Let’s talk.”
The tendency to stifle discussion (remember Archie Bunker) versus a stance of inviting dialogue affects the tone and style of leadership in the Sunday school classroom and other Christian education settings as well as approaches to evangelism and interpretation of Scripture. He will be looking for revealed truth(s). She will be looking for new revelation, new truths, or new implications and new applications. His teaching plan will have clearly defined points, will be neat and tidy, and will be carried out in a serious manner even though he may begin with a joke. Hers will be playful, featuring stories, especially stories that evoke discovery and a delightful search for meaning. His teaching and mentoring style will be: “Think like me; be like me,” Hers will be: “Challenge me; discover your gifts; be yourself.”
He will defend tradition. He will argue for the validity of doing things as they have always been done: “Don’t fix what ain’t broke.” His is a conservative stance in nearly all things. Her position often will be liberal, although she will be “at home” with lasting values and will defend denominational heritage. She will be concerned with methods of improvement and refinement, and will be comfortable with improvising as circumstances warrant. Team efforts often will be her norm, characterized by collaborative endeavors that contrast with his “lone ranger” approach.
Men read the Bible looking for proof texts, texts that define. Women look for images that open new horizons, stir motivation and hope — images that inspire. Two prophets are role models for her: Deborah, prophet and judge in the Old Testament, for leadership; Anna, temple prophet in the New Testament, who identified Jesus and the wonderful future his presence brings, for preaching and modern evangelism.
Men, silenced by such news, will wonder with Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” Women, on the other hand, do not insist that men be like women. They know it is improbable given most men’s lack of sensitivity and insight, inability to express deep feelings, discomfort with controversy, etc. They do see a place for men in the church, however, as “foot soldiers” in the nitty-gritty of congregational life.
During my tenure as pastor of a congregation in West Texas, the issue came up of women’s leadership in the church, including ordination. During a heated discussion one of the sages of that church was asked his opinion of the matter. He said, “My mother was one. My wife is one. I like ’em.” He became a good deacon.
If congregations and presbyteries must elect men, let good mentors be appointed to train them in the way they should go–appointed by the women heads of staff, clerks of session, deacon moderators, committee chairs.
DAVID C. MARX is honorably retired and living (perhaps incognito) in San Antonio, Texas.