Monday, July 31, 2006

The Church of the Girly-Man, Ya!

I have been debating with myself whether or not to blog about this. But I finally made my mind up to blog.

David Warnock in his blog 42 writes this :
I don't get it: JOLLYBLOGGER: The Church of the Girly-Man, Ya!.
It seems to me that there is a thing going on that starts with a goal (attracting American men to Church) and then interprets scripture to support it. In my own naive way it seems that trying to create a gospel that appeals to a particular group in society is getting things backwards.
Neither the churches that Jollyblogger criticizes, nor some kind of male authority/testosterone based cult sound very like the sort of churches based on the gospel that I find in scripture. Lets get real about Jesus, this is no way to do it.

I am not surprised that the JollyBlogger's David Wayne would have a major post on what is being called "The Feminization of the church" coming from David Murrow's book Why Men Hate Going to Church. He has referenced several other blogs which have also addressed this issue from the side of feminization of the church and girly-churches. Sean Michael Lucas wrote this : As women transitioned from leadership of mission's organizations and "women of the church" groups to the leadership of congregations, this is viewed as part of the reason why American men have stopped going to church, why mainline Protestants have lost members in droves, and why the church is in crisis today. The answer, according to these recent books and conservative evangelical leaders, is to "re-masculize" the church, freeing men and their sons to embrace their manhood (by drinking, smoking, risk-taking, and other behaviors in smaller male-oriented groupings or by exercising "male headship" in various leadership roles in family, church, work, etc.).

Anthony Bradley has this to say on his blog: Believe it or or not, decor makes a difference. Many sanctuaries are painted a soft pink, eggshell white, or lavender, with cushiony pews and neutral carpet. The altar features fresh flowers while the walls are adorned with quilts or felt banners. Honestly, how do we expect men to connect with a masculine God in a space that feels so feminine? (pg. 190)
Flowers, soft pink, wall quilts. I laughed OUT loud when I read that. I guess for Murrow some churches look like the sets of Martha Stewart's or Oprah Winfrey's show. Hmm, churches with better (gender blended) aesthetics that fit the image of a masculine God can been found in old-school Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran, and Presbyterian Churches(ever been to 10th Pres. in Philly--awesome!!), and so on.Fellas, thoughts? Does your church's pink walls, etc. bother you? Should it? Should a guy walk into a church and say to his friend, "wow, dude, this is so pretty?"

Well I can put up with those thoughts for awhile because I know from whence they come. I was a little surprised to see this though at the UMC. org under resources, Real Men Don't Worship by Dean Mcintyre. The year 2006 is the 50th anniversary year of full ordination rights for women in The United Methodist Church. There have been new hymns, liturgies and prayers, worship services, books and articles, and grand and glorious gatherings in recognition and celebration… as there should be. Everyone celebrates the righting of past wrongs. Should we also be concerned with what is happening in the church with the disappearing men? In looking at some of the reasons mentioned above, we may be tempted to ask if it is right and just for men to feel that way. But we must get beyond that question and recognize the simple fact that many men DO feel that way and we must ask, "What shall we do about it?"
Questions about hymns and hymn singing:
Does this mean we should avoid singing "I Need Thee Every Hour" and "As the Deer" (The Faith We Sing, no. 2025)?
Should we sing more of "Rise Up, O Men of God," "Onward Christian Soldiers," "Lead On, O King Eternal," and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"?
Which is better for the language of hymns: getting rid of male pronouns for God or using BOTH male and female pronouns for God?
Do men enjoy singing less than women? Is it socially more acceptable for women to sing than men? Has our culture trained men to disdain singing?
Do people respond differently according to the gender of those who lead music in worship? or those who preach the sermon? or those who lead committees?

Its a good article, asking some good questions. Here are some of the statistics of today's testosterone-deficient churches:
Ninety percent of American men believe in God, and five out of six claim to be Christian (according to Barna Research Group), but only two out of six attend church.
One out of three attendees are men; two out of three are women. This is the case in 70 percent of United Methodist churches, 55 percent of Baptist churches, and 25 percent of nondenominational churches.
One-fourth of married women attend church without their husbands.
Lack of men in church is a predictor of church decline.

I don't know why but the whole thing bothers me. I have the book Why Men Hate Going to church and have read it. I was left wondering about the accuracy of his research behind his statistics, and reasons for why men don't go to church. But I was also bothered by how he really put the blame on women, and on women clergy in particular. I just don't think you can do that if you don't have some studies to back you up. And I think those who are borrowing his book's ideas to back their reason for why women shouldn't be clergy, and why men are to be the head of the house, need to be very careful. I really believe that the church needs to be in ministry to all people.

And I am concerned that young men in particular seem to be leaving the church. When I got to St. John, what I learned was that it wasn't just the young men, it was the young women too. They had a good youth program, but once you were finished with youth you were out of there, and there wasn't anything else there for you. And so many of the young people went to other churches that did offer a young adult program. Now mind you there is a college in Florence, with a good population of students. Alot of the young adults from this church went there. Okay so you got young adults, college students, but no program. Uh I think I see the answer here. Hopefully one of the things we can get started here and grow is a young adult group. I pray for the one's that we can reach out to, and involve, and help find Jesus in their lives.


Songbird said...

Abi, your post led to a hilarious conversation over dinner at my house about what would make church more "manly." I may blog about it later. But in the meantime, I think Dave at 42 has it right in saying this seems like a movement designed to achieve a goal, using whatever means and justifications necessary. I wonder if the reason for this anxiety is money, and an attitude that men, on the whole, control the pursestrings and the potential for giving? That in itself would be an idea from an old mindset of working husband and stay-at-home wife/mother with no resources of her own.

Marty said...

I agree with your perspectives, and reiterations from other posts, on the role of males in the church. I say, "go get them young adults" and bring them back into the fold while they are young enough to be open minded enough to participate.
May your college efforts pay off, not only for building church attendance amongst males, but, more importantly, for the effort of saving souls.

Iris Godfrey said...

Good thinking and good post -- just some thoughts from an "older woman."

I find it very interesting how our culture goes in circles. Quite frankly the man/woman ratio in churches has always (at least all my life) been an issue, and about the same ratio. It will not matter what we do in appeal -- although some of that is wise. (I changed the name of our ministry's fall retreat to "fall conference" for such reasons -- as men will go to conferences more than to retreats -- supposedly).

It does not seem to matter who is in leadership men or women. Quite contrary to popular opinion, most women pastor's have a good male group in their church -- most of the time it is the males that have more women. Trying to develop programs that appeal to men -- does not seem to work well -- as developing programs to appeal to women do not seem to work long term either.

The presentation of a true Biblical gospel will change peoples lives, give them hope, provide ways of healing, and grow our Lord's church -- but may not develop a large or popular social structure that appeals to the current supposed male/female lack of balance. Hummmmm......

Our adaptations may or may not help in our appeal -- but the answer is still and always -- relationship with Jesus the Christ, Son of the Living God!

RevAbi, I appreciate you,

"imagine the darkness in love with the light." said...

interesting...the walls at my church have alway been blue. along with the carpet and pews cushions. but then we have always had a male minister. but yes go for the young adults. they definitly need a place.

pPB said...

Funny thing is, most conferences, associations and presbyteries cut the money for college chaplaincies and campus ministries the first time there is a money crisis....and then wonder why they don't come back after they graduate....

PS: the church where I worship now looks like a battlefield with all its civil war memorial statues.

Psalmist said...

I concur with what you've observed, Abi, and I especially like what Iris said about women pastors having a healthy percentage of men in their churches. I know I did when I was a pastor, and the church where I'm a member and on staff now is pastored by a woman; both had vital lay leadership by both men and women.

I think the "feminized church" folks are just playing THE oldest game in the book: "The woman YOU gave to be with me...". What an easy group to blame for a complex problem that's been centuries in the making! And how about churches with male pastor and leaderss, manly wall colors, no flowers, all manly songs...and still well over half their membership is women??? Who're THEY going to blame?

If it's a gimmick that will bring people in, that same gimmick will lose its novelty and people will be right back out. Isn't there a quote about preaching the gospel in season and out? Seems to me that may be what's missing in the experience of those who would focus on the church being too "feminized." Maybe their church needs to be more "God-ized."

susan said...

Good post and comments. Feminization stuff is hooey. Men were leaving the church long before women's ordination had any significant impact. I had strong leadership from the guys when I was a campus minister because I could empower them rather than compete with them.

Kate said...

Good post, Revabi. I am somewhat confused by some of the men who seem to think this is a recent trend because, apparently, men have been "hemorrhaging" from the church for 200+ years.

While I was reading one of the posts you referenced, I noticed a quote from Murrow's book that said something like, "How can men be expected to relate to a masculine God in a feminine setting?" I wonder how Murrow would respond if asked the question, "Why should a woman be expected to worship a God who is solely masculine?"

One of my biggest questions in this whole debate is why people are so intent on making God a man, limiting God to a gender? There are so many other questions, but really, this one is fundamental to this whole conversation.