Why Do Resources for Women Seem Like “Christianity Lite?”

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The problem won't be solved by perpetuating the problem...

 

1. I agree with the thesis of the article.  I would add that IMO most of the mass-market stuff available for men is "Christianity Lite" too.

2. So why, when women are often the ones usually creating resources for women (think "Beth Moore"), are women often denied access to the very theological training that would potentially give the resources more "heft?"

3. The church I belong to is complementarian; I am complementarian.  Having gotten that out of the way...

4. Why does fundamentalism systematically deny women admittance to programs such as the M.Div?  Are there any fundamentalist seminaries that would admit women to an M.Div program? Seminaries do not ordain, and churches individually have every right to exclude women from holding pastoral positions, so what really is the problem with permitting women to gain advanced theological training if they feel led/called to it?

5. Wouldn't permitting women to complete more rigorous theological programs be a good step to providing more "heft" to women's resources?  (Are there any fundamentalist "Beth Moore's" out there?)

6. At the church I belong to, our Director of Women's Ministries does have an M.Div (languages and all...) from an evangelical seminary.  She oversees or personally conducts Bible studies & women's conferences for the 750 or so adult women at the church.  Her intent in earning her M.Div was always to serve in exactly the type of role she has.  Ask her, and she'll tell you that she believes her M.Div studies are invaluable in helping her fill her role.

 

 

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Are there any fundamentalist

Are there any fundamentalist seminaries that would admit women to an M.Div program

It is my understanding that both Central and Faith admit women to an M.Div. program and substitute some requirements such as homiletics/preaching with other classes.

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Brenda T wrote:

Brenda T wrote:

Are there any fundamentalist seminaries that would admit women to an M.Div program

It is my understanding that both Central and Faith admit women to an M.Div. program and substitute some requirements such as homiletics/preaching with other classes.

Thanks Brenda, that's good to know.  Do you know if any women are in the programs currently, or how many might have earned an M.Div at either school?

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Don't have the stats

The current online catalogs for both seminaries indicate the information I provided above.

Regarding Faith, I know some have been in the program (and graduated) but I don't know actual numbers.

 

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Brenda T wrote:

Brenda T wrote:

The current online catalogs for both seminaries indicate the information I provided above.

Regarding Faith, I know some have been in the program (and graduated) but I don't know actual numbers.

Thanks again, Brenda, I learned something.  Page 43 of Central's online catalog says precisely what you say about women entering the M.Div program there.  I guess I've just never encountered any @ Central; I've known women who were enrolled in the M.A. programs there.

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You're welcome

Faith's catalog p. 53 (point 6 under goals) expresses a similar guideline.

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Larry

I took a look at MBU's catalog. For women undergrads in the Bible Dept., they appear to offer degrees in:

  • Biblical Counseling
  • Biblical Languages
  • Missions

The Seminary does accept female students - I remember taking ST4 with a female student. Their statement on female students in Seminary is:

The Seminary provides education and development, both academic and practical, for men (and, within the confines of biblical restrictions of local church leadership, women) who are called by God into leadership ministries in Baptist churches as pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and leaders in other biblically based ministries, such as Christian camp work, the chaplaincy, or teaching.

It does indeed appear that women, if they are so inclined, can take substantive courses and obtain degrees in Bible and theology from MBU. It makes the "fluff" we find in Christian bookstores (for both men and women) all the more pathetic and inexcusable. 

I do think there is a stereotype out there that women can't take Bible courses or even obtain degrees in Bible at Christian universities or Seminaries. That is wrong, at least from what I've seen.  

TylerR is the Pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Divernon, Il. He blogs here

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Why has my perception been so off?

 

I've learned in this thread that there are fundamentalist seminaries that admit women to their M.Div programs, with certain restrictions.  That was news to me.

Is this a fairly recent turn of events?  Or is it just that few women have ever enrolled in such programs?  Are there still fundamentalist seminaries which don't admit women to M.Div programs, or which don't admit women to any of their seminary programs?

I personally know two women with M.Div's, including the Director of Women's Ministries at my church (whom I mentioned above).  The other serves in a parachurch missions organization.  (That's all I'll say about her, since their ministry is a sensitive outreach to Muslims.)  I've also met a few other women M.Div's, but never any who have received their degree from fundamentalist schools (evangelical seminaries in every case).

Does anyone here know (or know of) women who have M.Div's, D.Min's, or the like from fundamentalist schools?

 

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Why not the PhD?

FWIW, Westminster splits its MDiv into a pastoral track that is men only and a general track that allows women: http://www.wts.edu/academics/programs/divinity.html.

But why not go all the way? Why not the PhD? I know that's open to women at WTS; from what I remember, that's always been open to women at BJU as well.

Michael Osborne
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Larry, it's not recent for Faith . . .

but maybe it is for other schools. The M.Div. is the highest degree Faith offers. You might be interested in this Faith publication from 1987.

http://www.faith.edu/resources/publications/faith-pulpit/message/why-sho...

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Love the conversation here.

Love the conversation here. Just a couple of additional thoughts that didn't make it to the article:

1. I agree with Larry that a lack of theological training perpetuates the issue among women. Mike asked about Ph.D. programs--it's purely anecdotal, but I've had two friends who were dissuaded from pursuing Ph.D.s at a fundamentalist school. It wasn't disallowed but leadership questioned "why" they would need it and how they would use it. Still, in my experience, conservative evangelicals are more reactionary to women in seminary than fundamentalists. Because they are smack in the middle of the church gender wars, conservative Es are more suspicious of what a woman is trying to "say" or do by pursuing a seminary degree.

2.I'd also suggest that teachers like Beth Moore end up going parachurch because local churches usually don't have paradigms for them to use their gifting. So women who could train other women end up going outside the local church to use it. If think about women w/ prominent ministries (N.L. DeMoss, Beth Moore, Kay Arthur), they are not attached to a specific church; it's not this way with men who often use their pastoral ministry as a base for broader ministry. I'd love to see churches hiring trained, gifted women to "pastor" their women with the same alacrity that they hire young 20-somethings to pastor their youth groups. 

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Food for Thought

I think we can and should be creative in our efforts to find legitimate roles for women to fulfill in our churches that do not violate Scripture's clear teachings. I read the following excerpt from an article, written by a female minister, that underscores this point. The woman minister related the following story of a 50-yr old woman speaking to her Pastor about ministry opportunities:

So she went to her pastor and said, “My children have left home, we have enough income so that I do not have to work and I would like to give my life in meaningful service. What could I do in this church?” Do you know what he said to her? “Every Tuesday we have a need for someone to lick the envelopes for the church mailing and we could really use some help with that.” That woman walked out of her church very depressed. Is there nothing that the church has for an older woman to do but win the cook-off contest at the church potluck? Did God put minds and energy and gifts in these women, only for it to be wasted?

  • Rev. Roberta Hestenes, “Jesus and the Ministry of Women,” Priscilla Papers PP04:4 (Fall 1990), 5.

​​Susan Hunt, a Pastor’s wife and author, issues a desperate plea for a return to authentic Biblical discipleship of women within the church, specifically in light of Paul’s commands from Titus 2:3-5. She said, “scores of evangelical women are functional feminists because the world’s paradigm for womanhood is the only one they have heard.”[1] 

  • Susan Hunt, “Women’s Ministry in the Local Church,” Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood JBMW 11:2 (Fall 2006), 37.

I know we've gone a bit off track here with the thread, but I'll make an attempt to pull it back. Do Bible Colleges, and/or Seminaries teach women what they can do in local church ministry? Or, only what they can't? I'm not sure. What is the message the young women in Bible College's are getting? 

TylerR is the Pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Divernon, Il. He blogs here

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The M.Div. Degree

Just a brief word from an instructor at one of those terribly backwards seminaries that don't graduate women. According to Wikipedia, the Master of Divinity degree is "the first professional degree of the pastoral profession." This is the traditional view of the M.Div., recognized broadly within the academic and ecclesiastical communities, and that's how we view the degree. We have the very focused mission of training the next generation of pastors and church planters, whether domestic or abroad, and every class we teach is directed narrowly to that end. We see our mission as that of committing truth to faithful men who will in turn teach others (2 Tim 2:2) in a vocational/professional context (v. 3).

We are neither suspicious of nor threatened by women who want to learn, and we allow women to take a majority of our classes (homiletics is out). But our mission is to train pastors and church planters, and that mission has a very narrow clientele. 

I know this offers no direct answer to the central question of this thread (though indirectly it does, perhaps), but since the thread has diverged a bit, I thought a good word was in order.

 

 

MAS

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conservative evangelical schools

Two CE schools in Minnesota that are just a stone's throw away from each other admit women to their M.Div. programs (University of Northwestern - St. Paul and Bethel Seminary). 

Clarification: Northwestern refers to itself as conservative evangelical while Bethel calls itself strongly evangelical.

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My views
  • Larry got it right above ... theres' a lot of "lite" literature (men and women).  A lot of "how to" books
  • I think this thread moved the wrong way about MDivs ... reading and studying the Bible is not rocket science. (MDivs are good - not anti-seminary or anti-education!"
  • Bookstores are filled with "lite" stuff because of supply and demand (the economic argument)
  • Meanwhile ... I am thankful for a very smart wife (graduated Math 4.0 from Florida State). What is she currently reading? Delighting in the Trinity (un-lite)
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I really don't think that

I really don't think that seminaries are backward but that as a subculture, we sometimes have a narrow vision of what "ministry" is and how it plays out in the life of the church. As a conservative, I appreciate the practical realities that training men for male-exclusive eldership presents; and yet, I also know that I use homiletics every time I teach our ladies Bible study group. If the concern is women practicing in front of a class of men, I get that, but surely there is a way around this? 

I suppose I'm wondering how we identify and train women who are called to professional ministry (albiet not eldership).  That's the core question--do seminaries have a culture that recognizes and affirms that a woman could need a seminary degree and yet not be pursuing eldership? 

This is especially relevant in missions, particularly for those called to work in Islamic countries. There, women are going to be the primary ones to bear the gospel to other women and disciple them. Also, having professionally trained women who can teach and counsel other women in local church settings would go a long way to preventing the inappropriate relationships that can happen between pastors and female parishioners. 
 

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handerson

From just this thread, we've seen that there are seminaries that provide quality Biblical training to women. Some don't provide homiletics for women. Who cares? That's not a big loss. Just read some good books (e.g, Adams, Robinson, Chappell - especially Adams!). I preached for years, and graduated with an MA, before I ever took a single homiletics class (I had a secular undergrad). Hermeneutics is the key. So is theology.

I think women at many Seminaries have opportunity to learn the Bible. The crux is the local church. Are churches creative enough to find roles for women to teach one another? If a church's idea of "women's ministry" allows nothing more than changing diapers or licking stamps, then  . . . there won't be opportunities. 

In a vain attempt to wrest this thread back - do so many women (1) write miscellaneous fluff and (2) gravitate towards it because churches don't have a robust view of women's discipleship? Is the concept of "women's ministry" a little too overblown? Should a ladies bible study do a study of Ephesians, or grab a copy of Bad Girls of the Bible? Sadly, a lot of people opt for the latter just because it has a "woman's" theme. I think they'd be better off with Ephesians!

TylerR is the Pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Divernon, Il. He blogs here

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A Pastor's Role

Tim Challies wrote an interesting article about the pastor's role in the women's ministry of a church. http://www.challies.com/book-reviews/true-woman-101

To me, one significant reason for the "lite-ness" of so much of the church's women's ministry is due to the pastor's neglect of his duty in this area. It can be quite challenging because it is not usually an area of comfort for men, but I agree with the OP that the tendency of searching the Scriptures for passages/themes which related directly and exclusively to women's issues is part of the reason that so few look to the pastor to lead in teaching the women. Instead of pursuing Biblical womanhood as an end in itself, we ought to pursue discipleship to Biblical maturity. Nothing wrong with a woman pursuing seminary training if she has the opportunity and desire to do so, but the church (and by implication, the pastor) can be and ought to be doing more to train women to teach and lead other women.

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Well said!

pvawter wrote:

Instead of pursuing Biblical womanhood as an end in itself, we ought to pursue discipleship to Biblical maturity

TylerR is the Pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Divernon, Il. He blogs here

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Available vs. Encouraged

I'd quickly agree that theological training is available to women, but I'm not convinced that it is encouraged. When a young man in a church steps up and says that he believes God is calling him to vocational ministry, he's initiated into a "band of brothers" and encouraged in his theological training. What happens when a young woman says this? The relationship between the academy and church is essential to this conversation. If "theology" is seen as a man's domain, if it is modeled by only men in a church context, women won't associate themselves with it. They'll choose Bad Girls of the Bible because that's what they believe they are supposed to prefer. 

Also, I'm uncomfortable with the notion that pastors need to be doing more direct teaching over women. I've seen this as a growing trend among reformed conservative evangelicals and worry that 

  • 1) It strips gifted women of an area of service.
  • 2) It's not consistent with paradigm of Titus 2. (Perhaps for a time to teach a select group of women, but this too belies the current state of women's ministry. If you don't have a woman knowledgeable enough to teach other women, you've got a bigger problem on your hands that how to organize your women's ministry.) 
  • 3) It invites temptation by putting the pastor in a position of spiritual intimacy that a husband should hold. If a pastor gets up in front of women, leading them spiritually in ways that their husbands do not, the average woman is going to be tempted to shift her respect to him, building emotional ties with him and comparing her husband's spirituality against his. I know this is not intentional on the part of male leadership, but it's something they may not understand about female dynamics.
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handerson

I agree with your remarks about how men ought not to lead women's studies. I disagree with Challies' blog article (linked above . . . somewhere). 

You wrote:

The relationship between the academy and church is essential to this conversation. If "theology" is seen as a man's domain, if it is modeled by only men in a church context, women won't associate themselves with it.

I do want to affirm that the culture of your church will be the deciding factor. We had a lady at my former church who was studying for a BA in Bible. She was heavily involved in Precept Ministries, and ran the ladies bible study (still does!). She was very knowledgeable and passionate. I enjoyed having theological conversations with her, and she emails me every once in a blue moon to talk theological "shop." Some men would be intimidated by that. I think it is wonderful. The culture in the local church will decide whether this kind of thing is "acceptable" or not.

TylerR is the Pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Divernon, Il. He blogs here

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Solid Point

handerson wrote:

...If "theology" is seen as a man's domain, if it is modeled by only men in a church context, women won't associate themselves with it. They'll choose Bad Girls of the Bible because that's what they believe they are supposed to prefer.

Sometimes I wonder if we've kind of made our own bed in terms of 'barring' women from theological study (speaking as a complementarian, male-only church leadership guy myself) in the fear that we might end up going egalitarian / pro-women pastors.  I've seen the materials used in women's studies and to call it "lacking" is a tremendous understatement.

A friend of mine told me that his wife started a Biblical Hebrew class the other day.  My first reaction - I wish I could take Hebrew!  My second reaction - Good for her!  

Thanks for sharing this, Hannah.

 

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

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handerson wrote:

handerson wrote:

Also, I'm uncomfortable with the notion that pastors need to be doing more direct teaching over women. I've seen this as a growing trend among reformed conservative evangelicals and worry that 

  • 1) It strips gifted women of an area of service.
  • 2) It's not consistent with paradigm of Titus 2. (Perhaps for a time to teach a select group of women, but this too belies the current state of women's ministry. If you don't have a woman knowledgeable enough to teach other women, you've got a bigger problem on your hands that how to organize your women's ministry.) 
  • 3) It invites temptation by putting the pastor in a position of spiritual intimacy that a husband should hold. If a pastor gets up in front of women, leading them spiritually in ways that their husbands do not, the average woman is going to be tempted to shift her respect to him, building emotional ties with him and comparing her husband's spirituality against his. I know this is not intentional on the part of male leadership, but it's something they may not understand about female dynamics.

I am not sure exactly what to make of your concerns. It is certainly possible for a pastor to ignore gifted women in the congregation and neglect to give them opportunities to teach, and I suppose that in some cases that may be what is happening, but exactly how prevalent do you think that issue is? How exactly should the church prepare gifted women to teach? And what is the pastor's role in that training? Should the pastor ever get up in front of women to teach/preach? Does a Sunday sermon set up a dangerous comparison between the spiritual competency of the pastor and a woman's husband? 

It seems to me that the question at the root of this is, "Is the pastor the shepherd of the entire flock or just the male sheep?" Clearly Paul expected Titus to play some role in the training and discipleship of the women of the church, and if the problem of lite-ness is as prevalent as you suggest, then it will not be corrected by better resources but by better pastoral leadership, at least in part. 

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To pvawter:

To pvawter:

My main concern is with the level of intimacy. A woman (better: a wife) sitting under pastoral teaching in a congregation does so alongside and with her husband. In a woman's ministry, she would sit under his teaching somewhat more autonomously. The relationship is much more immediate and therefore much more vulnerable. Women's groups are designed to be more informal and intimate in order to facilitate growth in a way that can't necessarily happen in larger context. 

And, yes I agree that the pastor leads the entire flock, but even in a family, a mother teachers her daughters in ways that are different from a father. There are probably even things that a father should NOT address with his daughters. Creating space for a "mothering" role for gifted women to teach younger women doesn't negate the pastor's oversight in anyway. Teaching women would still be subject to authority of church leadership. 

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It seems to me that Titus 2

It seems to me that Titus 2 involves more than simply "creating space for a mothering role for gifted women." I mean, your original contention was that women's resources are weak and watered-down, but how is such a problem to be resolved? I don't think the solution will simply appear organically among the ladies of the church, or else Paul would not have instructed Titus to take the lead in ensuring that it happened on Crete. I am not suggesting a wholesale taking-over of the ladies' ministry by the pastor, but he must be involved somehow.

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Susan Hunt

She was quoted somewhere here-- her books are excellent-- exactly about how to create Titus 2 relationships among the generations of women. And her idea of women's ministry and discipleship is very meaty.

Wanted to note that I actually have been impressed with some of the Bible study material coming out these days. Wendy Alsup, Karen Campbell (thatmom.com--- not Bible study but great discernment and mentoring), Sally Clarkson, ...

Part of the issue, too, is women being individually in the Word and able to read and study it by themselves. Once a week might add to that, but the personal level is most critical.

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Agree.

I am not suggesting a wholesale taking-over of the ladies' ministry by the pastor, but he must be involved somehow.
 

Absolutely. And perhaps I wasn't clear. I was referencing situations where elders have become the primary teachers of women's Bible studies.I know of a couple situations where this has happened. Again, I do think a key part of the solution is encouraging women be trained theologically. At a local church level, this may be as simple as the women's ministry leader taking an online or distance-ed class. My concern is that the larger problems with women's discipleship can't be solved by simply leaving all the doctrinal teaching up to the men.