Feb 15 2010

The Women in Leadership issue

Women in leadership, especially women as pastors, has been a hot issue for many years, and continues to be a hot issue in some circles.  It’s one issue on which I’ve been unusually successful in keeping my mouth shut.  This, if nothing else, testifies to my great wisdom.

C. Michael Patton, who writes the Parchment and Pen blog, has posted a rather brave piece on the issue entitled Why Women Cannot be Head Pastors.  His primary argument is that women should not be head pastors because women are not as capable as men at handling confrontation, which is a requirement of a head pastor in dealing with church issues and confronting error.

Boy, I can think of a number of women who’d just love to confront him on this error.

Without getting into the issue of women in leadership (wisdom again prevails), I will quickly address Patton’s main point.  I know a little bit about this issue. While men may typically be more aggressive and confrontational, and used to confrontation, this is not a universal truth.  We’ve all heard the “men are hunters, women are gatherers” thing, and know that young boys tend to play aggressive, warlike games while young girls tend to play relationship-oriented games.

However, relationship is just as much about conflict and confrontation as war is.  Aggression is often an avoidance technique.  I know a whole lot of men – in fact, a whole lot of pastors and managers – who avoid confrontation like the plague.  Many men would never deal with issues if they didn’t have a wife standing behind them pressuring them to take charge.

Some conflict experts have identified five basic styles of dealing with conflict, all of which are appropriate in different situations. We all have our default styles, but that doesn’t mean we can’t step into other styles when need be.   Whether we are the confronter or are responding to confrontation, we will err if we always fall back on the same style. This goes for men as well as women.  In fact, Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”  Who better to give a gentle answer than a women?  Perhaps this makes women more equipped to be pastors (assuming this is the main criteria)?

There are many good arguments to be made on both sides of the “women as pastors” issues, but I don’t think this is one of them.  And, that’s all I have to say about that.

But, if you feel brave (or if any of you lack wisdom…), feel free to share your thoughts.