CSC panel tackles tough issue of gender roles in church

CSC panel tackles tough issue of gender roles in church...

CSC panel tackles tough issue of gender roles in church

Researchers from Abilene Christian University presented the results of a study measuring the change in church members’ opinions on gender roles Thursday morning at the Ezell Center as part of the Christian Scholars’ Conference. 

The study occurred before and after various churches held classes examining the role of women in ministry.

The researchers, Lynette Sharp Penya, Suzanne Macaluso and Amanda Rigby, intend for congregations to use these results to aid in church-wide conversations of gender roles.

The presenters emphasized how determining where a church stands on this issue can also determine how fruitful or divisive the discussions may be.

One of the churches in the study was unable to complete the study because of polarization on the issue revealed in the pretest survey, among other problems.

In measuring the opinions of church members of various demographics, the researchers found that women consistently have more conservative views on the issue than men.The study also found that men are more likely to change their opinions after the classes than women.

Following the presentation of the study, Don McLaughlin (in the photo above), the pulpit minister at one of the churches in the study, and Naomi Walters, the minister in residence at Stamford Church of Christ, discussed ways to face the often-painful process of congregations’ transitioning to more egalitarian worship practices.

Confronting the discouragement among more progressive members about the rate of change in gender roles, McLaughlin, minister at North Atlanta Church of Christ, said that people of his generation should not be deterred in their work if results are not seen in their lifetime. God’s timing may have other plans.

“You have to program yourself to think, ‘What’s my generation responsible for?’ Not the outcome, but part of moving the ball down the field,” McLaughlin said. “This is God’s field. He owns the field. He’s the farmer. He’s the owner. We are the servants, and in our generation, we need to do what we can do to advance what He wants done.”

Douglas A. Foster also spoke about the history of women in leadership in American Churches of Christ.

The audience had a chance to voice their opinions and concerns during a question-and-answer session following the presentations.

Most of the audience members had firsthand experience with the issue in their own churches.

Gary Holloway, former Lipscomb professor and the executive director of World Convention, an organization focused on the shared traditions of the Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ and the Christian Church, stated that “all three [denominations] are dealing with this issue.”

After hearing the presentations, Ben Rawlins, an adjunct professor at Lipscomb, stated the need for more research.

“This is a discussion that is really momentous for Churches of Christ,” Rawlins said. “Sometimes, it’s easy to feel within the Church of Christ that this is not a conversation that is important to a lot of people.”

Rawlins says that his biggest takeaway is the potential for dialogue on the issue.

“There’s a lot of churches and people in churches who are interested in making this issue the topic of conversation.”

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