Silencing women unintentionally

There is a thin line between defending women in ministry and objectifying women in ministry.

Women have a long history of objectification, that unfortunately isn’t history. There are some days when I come home and I think through the day and realize the whistles and honks while I am running and the sly underhanded comments in conversation that have sexual undertones are easily in the double digits. “But how can that happen in 2013? Women have just as many rights as men?” Do they?

And before the conversation about what I wear to work or my running attire begins, let’s think first about why it is still acceptable in a civilized society to whistle at another human being as they are exercising. Thomas Whitley said it beautifully in his recent post:

There is a clear element of placing all of the blame on females for just being too attractive or not doing enough to strap down their breasts (i.e. not becoming enough like men).Gospel of Thomas 114 seems apropos here. Females were shamed and guys were taught that even looking twice at an attractive female was a sin (we were taught to “bounce our eyes”). Girls were always the objects and guys could never hope to be anything other than sex-crazed.

Articles that purport a church’s ordination policy of supporting and encouraging the practice of ordaining women may unintentionally be contributing to this objectification because although the church receives the phone calls and the articles tracks the comments, the woman who is being ordained in what should be a sacred commitment is the one who will have the bear the weight of the critique and carry the questions of her calling and identity with her.

When you haven’t been whistled at today, or maybe ever, it would be hard to understand that in defending and trying to help, one could potentially not only be silencing women who are pursuing minister, but also making their journey even harder and more burdensome.

If we can unite in the purpose of trying to find our true identities and stop trying to fit into society’s definition of what it means to be a man or woman, then we may be able to change this conversation to include even voices that differ with our own rather than drawing deeper and more permanent lines in the sand. The question of women in ministry, isn’t one about being a feminist or not being a feminist. It isn’t a question of being a moderate baptist or being a progressive baptist. It isn’t a question about being right or wrong about biblical interpretation.

It’s a question of identity.

And the question remains: Can we be confident in who God has called us to be without speaking for and trying to change or define the people around us?


Merianna Neely

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About the Author
Merianna Neely Harrelson is a third year divinity school student at Gardner-Webb University. She is serving as the Interim Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Fellowship in Lexington, SC. She works as Editor-in-Chief of Harrelson Press in Columbia, SC.

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