What Women Want
By Sarah Notton
(Preface…I really, really wanted to write about something more “inspirational” that I took away from the Emergent Women's Re-Gathering. However, there’s an elephant in the living room, and it’s gone beyond being a nuisance to causing some real damage. I also want to mention that these experiences are a generalization and are not meant to speak for all women or to all men – in fact, my personal experiences have been generally positive so far; however, I am somewhat new to the conversation so my experiences are limited.)
At the Emergent Women’s Re-Gathering, I
listened to story after story of rejection, exclusion, abuse, dismissal, and
1. Your women co-pastors and Christian friends perceive that they have been shut out of churches, conversations, and the spotlight.
2. Chances are, you don't realize that they feel this way.
3. As a community, we don't have time to play the “We’ll pretend everything’s okay while secretly harboring hurts and hoping that you’ll figure it out on your own” game.
Have you ever walked into a restaurant and got the feeling you were an outsider? You still got your food, but you never feel comfortable. These days a lot of women are feeling like a hippy at an upscale martini bar (no offense intended to hippies or martini drinkers). I know that officially, “…emergent seeks to grow in diversity in terms of race, class, gender, culture, language, nationality, and ministry setting." However, valuing diversity isn’t the same as making sure that it happens.
The following suggestions were inspired by conversations at the Re-Gathering. We think that if we work together to do some of these things, they might help to facilitate inclusion, reduce future hurt feelings, and maybe even restore some wounded spirits.
1. If you are involved in Emergent-related dialog with a woman, ASK her if she feels like she's being invited into the conversation. This can include women you email, you’ve spoken with or listened to at a conference, you go to church with, you interact with on message boards, or whose blogs you read.
2. If she has had only good experiences, that’s awesome! Continue to encourage her.
3. If she has had a negative experience, or feels like she has a ton more to say but that she hasn't felt truly welcome to contribute, consider apologizing on behalf of those who have shut her out.
4. Ask what obstacles she needs to have removed in order to participate in the conversation and/or to act on what God is telling her to do. Here are some ideas:
- Provide morning-to-midnight childcare at conferences. Consider providing a stipend for those who need it. Or sacrifice a conference and let your wife go while you stay home with the kids.
- Go out of your way to make sure there are women included in your decision-making meetings and organizations.
- Actively recruit and encourage women to speak at conferences.
- Schedule shorter, more frequent conferences in convenient locations (to make it easier for women/caretakers to attend).
- Actively recruit and encourage women to publish books that support the conversation.
- If women aren't speaking at conferences, writing books, etc., ASK them what you can do to make it more feasible.
- Frequently visit blogs by emergent women, and become engaged with their writing and ideas.
- Encourage your
- Provide support systems for women who are leading churches and trying new, experimental models of church.
- Speak out for and support women who are going through seminary/ordination (or anything else that she needs to establish academic/theological credibility).
- Resolve NOT to be one of those organizations that says it values women's voices, but then only allows them in when they push and shove their way to the forefront (and then, consequently, calls those women “radical” or “militant” or worse).
Is emergent going to be a conversation that not only is open to women, but that draws them in, empowers them to contribute, and gives them the tools and support they need to be fully-functioning participants? Will this same passion for inclusion be extended to other people groups?
Ideally, we don't want to have an "Emergent Women's Conversation". We want to have a diverse “Emergent Conversation" where our women’s voices are actively invited and we fully included.