It was my son’s confirmation yesterday. A very proud moment in his sacramental life, and a time that I hope to write about soon, sacramentally speaking. But as soon as I returned home yesterday (after searching and thinking I had lost my son at the church when someone had already taken him home) the church’s view of women as a whole was challenged; that it was dominated my men who didn’t allow women to lead the church. This is a common accusation. But the timing was terrible and I tried to answer anyway, unsuccessfully.
I failed to address it with any coherence. After a feeble “that’s no the case” I was essentially dumbfounded after stammering some lame excuse. Quite insufficient on so many levels. I realize now what I should have said to someone quite distant from the church and someone with a genuine concern (in italics below).
The view that we get of the church on earth is not the complete picture of the church. We need to understand that in the church in heaven “the church triumphant” (triumphant because they ‘made it’) every person is equal except Jesus and Mary. (Angels I think aren’t persons they are beings but I may be wrong on that.) The saints, both male and female, stand out as giants because of their example in attaining eternal life. So what I should have said to the challenger is that their view of the church is limited to this world. But the purpose of the church is everlasting life.
The role women play in salvation is underestimated, perhaps even unrecognized. And it goes to how we are made and what we are made for. Typically women socially network better while men suffice with superficial talk. Typically men like to tinker with tools, or sport, or machinery, or some other physical / intellectual activity which grounds much of their conversation. And this is OK.
In their tinkering men come to an understanding of things. In their talk women come to understanding of people. Both of these are required for everlasting life. Let me give an example.
In understanding things men realize how things are. This can be from the natural world (environment, physics, etc.) or supernatural world (theology, philosophy, etc.) or both (sacraments, psychology etc.). These understandings become rules for a discipline, often starting out as a theory. Now, I must make it clear, this is not limited to men: women have been pioneers in many of these field. But this is the level on which men work, a level that contributes to a path to heaven. So what I should have said to the accuser was Yes. The church on earth is dominated by men. They work on the level of rules, and therefore authority. (Author; a writer of rules).
Women typically, working on a more personal level, encounter and witness Jesus at a deeper level than men. Their living testimony directs others to faith personally more than any words will. In scripture Jesus never rebuked a women because of her faith, quite the opposite: “your faith has saved you”. The apostles failed to understand yet the women had faith. Even today in the church most congregations are dominated by women. Many men attending are often disengaged. But again, this is not always the case and examples to the contrary abound, but it is typical. So what I should have said was But the women’s role is unrecognized by those inside and outside of the church. They work on relationship and witness a personal encounter with God.