More Ado Than Usual (on the Silencing of Women)

photo of suffragette speaker courtesy

I stink at being silent

I had a huge response to yesterday’s post.  Okay, that was a joke.  I actually only got comments from two people here and a few more on Facebook, but that’s a lot more response than I usually get.  So yahtzee!

It’s funny, not so much a ha-ha way, that I really meant it at the end of of yesterday’s post when I said, “….but can we at least agree…”  I actually thought that most of the people who read my blog would agree to that low threshold in response to the video I posted.  Live and learn.

I think some people have a perception of me as being a bit obsessed with the gender issue.  That’s not entirely wrong.  I think we’re all given certain passions in life – through experience, through personality, through study – maybe it’s even through calling. I have friends who are  passionate about the environment, serving the poor, fighting slavery, scripture translation, promoting racial reconciliation – all within the context of the church.  I am challenged by them, forced out of my comfort zone, allowed to see issues through other eyes.  Maybe, just maybe, I can play a similar role for someone when it comes to the place of women in the church (which includes the Christian family).  My passion doesn’t come from the conviction that I’ve got a lock on truth, but from years and years of struggling to find where I belong.  Lucky you, if you’ve never been through the struggle yourself.

On a lighter note, I passed 3,000 site views today!  Not 3,000 site views today, which would be awesome, but 3,000 since I started this blog in January.  Still:  yahtzee, again!


About Sharon Autenrieth

Wife, mom to 5, homeschooler, Christian Education Director, idealist, malcontent, follower of Jesus.
This entry was posted in Bible, blogging, gender, spirituality and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to More Ado Than Usual (on the Silencing of Women)

  1. Sean says:

    This is just a question – so please don’t read anything into it – but the struggle to find your place (as it relates to the topic) – did it come from your own uncertainty about your “place” or from gender biased oppression? Just nosy and curious…


    • You really want me to answer? It will be long!

      Both, I think. Although my father was a Free Methodist pastor (a denomination that affirms women in leadership), I never really saw women in leadership. Don’t underestimate the impact of that. I’ll use the same old thought experiment: imagine if every pastor you’d ever had was a woman. What would that do to your perception of church leadership, and of of your place in it?

      The church I spent most of my childhood/adolescence in was nondenom., and strongly male headship. Although I didn’t necessarily buy it all, I always felt like a troublemaker for questioning it. My youth pastor & wife used to call me “P.C.” for “Problem Child”. 🙂

      In our own church there’s just the subtle stuff. I know you’ve heard this story before, but I’ll tell it again ’cause DANG it hurt. I sat in the room with the GSM board while the pastor went around the room and suggested that every man in there (calling them by name, mind you) should be prepared just in case called him to ministry. I was the only person in the room he didn’t say that to, and the only woman. He didn’t even acknowledge that he wasn’t acknowledging me. I was just invisible during that little speech.

      And at risk of annoying you….the jokes about women, often from the pulpit. About how we love to spend our husband’s money, love to talk on the phone, love to gossip, LOVE to boss our husbands around. I never understood why that was okay – those sweeping generalizations, particularly from men in leadership. You might say that women make their own jokes about men, but personally, I rarely do. I might make a joke about YOU, but probably not your gender. I realize it’s a fine distinction, and it may matter only to me. 🙂 But it’s like we were talking about tonight….it always makes me wonder how much behind the joke is not a joke, but a real belief about what women are like. Or should be like. How much contempt or hostility is cloaked in humor? I’m giving you a lot of material here to think I’m on oversensitive shrew, aren’t I?

      Also, we did have a visitor begin attending our church and then leave, giving as his reason the fact that I was allowed to teach adult Sunday school. I suspect that has just happened again – with the homeschooling mom who was going to visit our church, but never showed up after finding out that I teach men as well as women. Makes me wonder how many other times it’s happened, when I haven’t known about it. And I can’t fix that – unless I quit teaching that class. I can change curriculum, work my butt off to try to be a better teacher – but I can’t ever stop being a women. So just by being unavoidably ME, I’m an offense to people. That sucks.

      But also, I had a more internal struggle because I wanted to be obedient to scripture, and the face-value reading of scripture told me that I couldn’t be an elder, should be silent in church, should submit to my husband as the head of our home, was more likely to be deceived, was created for man, rather than for God….a couple of those passage still feel like a punch in the stomach, even after all these years. I didn’t want to just ignore the scriptures because they offended me. I wanted to be faithful to them. And there was a time when I told the women at Bible study that I was accepting the doctrine of male headship because I couldn’t avoid it – couldn’t find a way around it. But even as I was trying to submit to it, embrace it, whatever, it felt so unjust. Trying to be faithful follower of Jesus meant that I would always, always, always be in a limited position in church – because of my body parts. It was only after a very long period of wrestling with scripture, studying, researching & praying that I was able to resolve my respect for Scripture with my gut-level sense that patriarchy is unjust. I feel pretty much at peace with that now, but I still have moments of self-doubt. I don’t think those moments are from God.

      I am puzzled sometimes by the women who’ve never felt what I feel – who are happy in patriarchy. I sure as heck don’t begrudge them their happiness, and I can understand that some of it comes down to personality, interest, calling…..I mean, obviously not everyone wants to teach. But I believe that in every patriarchal church (sorry for the loaded term, but I can’t come up with a better one) there are girls like I was – feeling frustrated and confused and less-valuable because they are female. And there are women who feel like God might be calling them to do more, but there’s no space for them to answer that call. I wish….I wish I were in a position to help people like that.

      sorry. you asked.


  2. snarks04 says:

    You are in a position to help people like that — by your example, by your blogging, by your living out the call you feel like God has for your life – you help out by being who you are and not shying away from a topic that many in the church don’t want to discuss.

    Just because we were raised a certain way, and even just because something feels “right” (which can can come from familiarity) – doesn’t mean we can’t examine it, discuss it, and be open to altering our viewpoints. You even broaching the topic, although unsetteling and foreign to some – is a help to those who wonder, who are oppressed, who are searching, and who are “wishing” for space to spread their wings.


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