Saturday, January 10, 2009

1.0 Once Upon A Time (Introduction)

The position assigned to women in the Evangelical Christian church is not always an easy place to be. Many women experience the gender rules and roles as discounting their call to leadership, devaluing their contributions to the community, or requiring that they live in a tension between the authority and expertise they possess in the secular world and the submission they must practice in their worship community. In some cases the tension becomes too great, threatening a woman’s sense of self, her Christian faith, and her relationship to the community of believers. Rather than lose herself and what God has given her, a woman may leave the Evangelical church in search of a faith community that is more welcoming of women’s stories and nurturing of women’s spiritual lives.

The lesser heard stories and insights derived from women’s point of view offer rich contributions to how we understand God, evangelical Christian faith, and the community of believers. When women leave, their unique insight into God and the faith goes with them. Not only is this a loss for the church, it allows the pattern to perpetuate itself on more women. This cycle poses a challenge to uphold Christian truth while resolving the interests of the women affected. How can women’s experience of “otherness” in the evangelical Christian church be leveraged for change in that community? In this paper I am designing a model in response to the question through the application of systems thinking and story.

I came to this question through my own experience as a woman who was raised an Evangelical and experienced the tension and departure noted above. Perhaps I can illustrate this best with a story I composed years ago to make sense for myself of the call of other meanings that I heard as a woman. The story intimates my frustration at that time in my life and it depicts an individual journey. That journey ultimately prepared me to hear a new call, the call to bring these personal meanings into our shared Christian story for the sake of other women and the sake of the whole of the evangelical Christian faith.

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