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January 13, 2004

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Doing a little "fishing with dynamite," are you Chris? =)

I think the disparity Barna finds rises from the fact that the more a church adheres to the "Biblical worldview" as they define it, the less likely they are to have an egalitarian view of gender roles in ministry. A church that rejects full plenary inspiration of Scripture has options when dealing with passages like 1 Timothy 2:11-12 that a strict literalist church doesn't. Therefore they're more likely to have a woman pastoral leader (and are more likely to encourage believing women to pursue vocational church leadership) than their more traditional counterparts.

One of our more traditional brothers might argue that the rise of heresy and the growing number of women in positions of pastoral leadership are symptoms of the same disease, namely, the rejection of the orthodox doctrine of the divine inspiriation of Scripture.

Personally, I am a fundamentalist of sorts when it comes to hermeneutics. I practice the literal, grammatical, historical interpretation of Scripture. But I find nothing in the New Testament that prohibits women from serving in pastoral leadership. However, I fellowship with many who do. I find there's still room for them around my table, though some of them limit the extent to which they'll allow their church to fellowship with ours. I think that's okay.

From my perspective, whenever there is more than one legitimate interpretation of a given Scripture, God is glorified by the application and practice of either one.

That's an interesting article. It kind of confirms what I've seen on anedotal level. I've seen a few fairly conservative Episcopal groups have female priests. Like Joseps group for instance, but these are infrequent only a few here and there. Basically done on a case by case basis.

As you might guess I'm not really for this. It first of all does bend some spiritual types and standards. Things like the OT priest as an icon of Christ, and the post NT one as also being one albeit in a revised fashion.

Then of course there is the pagan consideration, something which is rarely addressed. One reason (probably out of many)why Paul asked for womens head to covered, women to keep silent in the church etc. Besides conforming to Hebrew socialogical values, also was because it was a counter to pagan religious practices (Where women were priestes etc.). Anyway churches responding to femnism on this issue, are probably set up to be more "progressive" on other modern issues.

Well I may get in trouble for this, but I'm saying it anyway. I get creeped out sometimes by churches that have a high female pastor/priest ratio, or have mostly female elders (at least the ones active and vocal). I've noticed a certain ammount of "gender bending". Female priests adopting close cropped hair, and otherwise looking pretty masculine (which is also a Lesbian style). Women often being extremely bossy. I mean in an downright overbearing way. Often acting tough (like talking lots about being spiritual warriors etc.). Meanwhile the men seem to get more and passive, and basically let the women take over most of the church (in some cases it seems like they are regressing, becoming boy like).

Anyway as Orthodox writer/ commentator Frederica Matthews Green, points out there already been a gender divide between Eastern and Western Christianity. As she points out Western Christianity is basically more femnized. God is depcited more often as consoler and comforter (more nuturant). While the east emphasizes more masculine terms like theosis, spiritual struggle and progression. Besides the general theme differences, there are also are differences in participation between the sexes. Some Catholic and Protestant parishes women are often the pillars of the Church, while men tend to much more active in eastern churches. So anyway adding
redefining the scripture and canons I think just seems to add to this. (Kind of reminds me on the story of the origons of the Promise Keeper movement).

You know my best friend (who is now a priest) sister was very indignant that his church did not admit women as priests. Never mind the fact, that she wasn't actually a member of that church, nor did she show any sign of interest in actually joining it. Anyway her reason for lobbying for female priests were the same you hear in politcs. "women are 51% of the population", and therefore they should be equally represented. And I think that she summed it pretty well. This an issue thats a divide between whether the church should follow the current social/political mores or do you believe that the Church as an entity is guided by principles that are infact above and beyond them.

More Barna statistics, DP? I still am very uncomfortable with much of what I hear from his studies - I question whether the language used can mean the same things to all questioned, and then whether the conclusions drawn from those statistics aren't presented in such a way as to support someone's predetermined conclusions... I can't know that that is true about Barna's polls, of course, but it's my first question when I hear these stories... I think language is a REALLY big deal here...

Even dropping that concern, I think there are many different issues involved here. I'm no church historian, but I think the role of women in clergy is in transition in general, and that it can be hard to draw any long term conclusions about such things yet. Some of the kinds of issues that Pavel commented on may have as much to do with the personalities of the specific women who have been able to press through and be early leaders in their roles...

I liked Daniel's comments.

For some reason, the official role of women in ministry has never been that big of a deal to me, probably because I have absolutely no desire to do that!! I'm not sure why any of you want to!!! :) Individual respect and lack of discrimination in general, is a really big deal to me, though...

What do you think, Chris? Is Daniel right? Am I fishing with dynamite here? :D

I could totally be wrong on this, but my observation has been that Barna catches far more flack from the "emerging church" folks than from other parts of the body. And although I personally and regularly witness women in ministry who represent something very different than what this Barna study suggests, I'm curious nonetheless. And since I lack the brain power to figure out what it all means, I thought I'd post it here in hopes of gaining some additional insight.

So far...so good!

I think Barna may get more flack from the emerging church folks for a couple of reasons. One is simply a differing perspective between how the "other parts of the body" tend to view these large cultural shifts. Barna's research tends -- I think -- to feed a Chicken Little storyline that they want to hear and need to believe, namely, the world is getting worse and worse and worse. Emerging folks tend to see the world that is passing away and the world that is emerging in different terms than the larger evangelical/protestant body and are thus less alarmed by an extra chorus of "the sky is falling".

Additionally, I think the emerging church people have real fundamental questions about Barna's methodologies and his basic definitions. As a result, his conclusions are called into question. As I commented on my blog today, when the results of your research points to white, male, less-educated Southern Baptists as the most reliable possessors of a "Biblical Worldview", the potential for bias in the methods, definitions, or survey questions seems at least plausible and worthy of inquiry.

My problem is that I think his very definition of a "Biblical Worldview" is somewhat slanted and begins with a set of not-wholly-objective assumptions. So, I'm not sure I find his research on this topic all that helpful.

Um aren't some of the opposition to Barna because his books and works he publishes tend to advocate or are very much part of the "church Growth" movement. Which has been decryed for such things as consumerism, various modern ideas.

In terms of his methods. I though a lot of it was suverys, and statistical data. While the statistical data often is taken from various national and other agencies, I'm not sure how "scientific" or how much random selection etc. is used (Does anybody know that?) And of course, there is the big bad E word, (Empiricism).

Frankly I like the kind of work he does. You almost can't go wrong with too much info, more is usually better than not enough. I think though some people might not like him because at times it's implied that in order to be sucessful, "biblical" or whatever you really need to use or do whatever the method paradigm etc, thats being advocated is, and often that smacks of the old guard (like whatever the previous modern, evangelical, purpose driven, seeker sensitive thing before Pomo was). And of course, I also have noticed that many Pomos don't like the idea that their ideas should be tested, researched etc. to see if they are viable. Infact, from the various conversations I've been on the ooze this seems to be a really huge problem.....

Jimmy -- excellent thoughts. You were especially compelling when you said:

"...when the results of your research points to white, male, less-educated Southern Baptists as the most reliable possessors of a 'Biblical Worldview', the potential for bias in the methods, definitions, or survey questions seems at least plausible and worthy of inquiry."

Yes! And the line of reasoning you've suggested certainly makes me want to inquire more.(can you see me scratching my head? ;) ) Yet, I think Pavel's observation is pretty valid:

"...many Pomos don't like the idea that their ideas should be tested, researched etc. to see if they are viable. Infact, from the various conversations I've been on the ooze this seems to be a really huge problem..."

I think that many people understand that pollsters can put a "spin" on the way questions are asked in order to skew the results. I'd have no problem accepting that this is the case with the recent Barna poll -- but...since such a huge percentage spread was identified (i.e. regarding the gender differences), shouldn't at least "some" legitimacy be acknowledged -- even by detractors?

Chris -- I agree completely that Barna's research needs to be taken seriously. It does establish something. The question I have is, What does it establish exactly? I guess I want to set it in context somehow.

On its face, Barna's stats present themselves as something straightforwardly desirable. I mean, a "Biblical Worldview"...who could be against that? What Christian would be opposed to having such a thing? And if a Biblical Worldview were on the decline or held by a terribly small number, then all right-thinking Christians should be equally alarmed, right?

But here is where the polemical and rhetorical power of Barna's presentation become most potentially misleading. The operative phrase itself is ambiguous at best. It is a rhetorical device of the highest order to couch the study in terms of a "Biblical Worldview", without really revealing the mechanics of the study. Methodologically, it is qualitatively differenct from giving straightforward data: x% of respondents agreed with question 5, y% of respondents agreed with statement 3.

A weak analogy if you will: I have data that establishes that only 4% of Dallas Cowboys Season Ticketholders and only 51% of the Cowboys coaching staff are True Dallas Cowboys Fans. Wow! That's stunning! What a headline that will make! The only problem is that I ALONE had the power to define the meaning of the phrase "True Dallas Cowboy Fan." And I defined it completely apart from the actual questions I asked the respondents. They answered questions about specific traits that *I* thought were important barometers of true fandom, but I didn't ask them if they were true fans. So, because I decided that a True Fan attends every home game, has at least one room in their house decorated in Cowboy paraphanalia, and agrees that Tom Landry is the greatest football coach ever, I am completely justified in declaring 96% unworthy of the title True Fan.

By definition, the distinction is somewhat arbitrary.

So, in context, what does Barna's research establish? I think we can say it proves that 71% of white, male, less-educated Southern Baptist pastors believe generally Southern Baptist things. It also establishes that most protestant pastors have a Fundamentalist Evangelical Worldview. It also says something like, only 15% of female pastors share Barna's Worldview. Beyond that, I'm not sure what it proves exactly.

To make a ridiculously long comment even longer...I think you and Pavel are right that we Emerging Church-types frequently want to avoid having their ideas tested...want the right to be frustrated and critical of the Instiutional Church without having their critiques critiqued. I probably engage in that kind of thinking too much myself. You can see from my own blog (thanks for visiting) that I'm very much in process on this and am engaged in some serious deconstruction. I hope somewhere I'm finding humility to engage this conversation profitably.

Thanks for being part of this process for me. It helps all of us, I think.

Jimmie -- thanks for spending the time and effort to analogize and explain your concerns further. If possible, it sure would interesting to see Barna's "raw" data - which I think you might have been hinting at. One question that immediately pops into my mind is whether or not each of the "distinctive beliefs" that Barna used as determinate for a "Christian worldview" were asked separately of those polled -- or, once defined, were blanket "yes" or "no" answers solicited?

Your thoughts on the "critiquing of (our) critiques" within the emerging church were encouraging. I really respect that kind of honesty, and have breeched the subject at times (most recently at TheOoze)to encourage fellow pioneers to bring some integrity to the table in such matters. But hey, we're all learning aren't we? And there's SO MUCH to learn (something I find fascinating and exciting).

Anyway...I appreciate your contribution to this topic -- you've helped me get a little better grip on the ethos and perspective of this whole thing. Thanks.

Great fishing expedition, DP, I'm enjoying it! Not too many blown-up fish here... :)

I really appreciate this discussion - I have been uncomfortable with many of the Barna poll results, and I couldn't articulate why - Jimmy is doing a great job of that, I'm really encouraged by his thoughts.

I am not at all comfortable with any "POMO" tendency to avoid having ideas questioned (and I'm not sure that I'm much of a POMO at all, anyway...). I am very uncomfortable with assertions that "smell" like facts/statistics presented in such a way to promote a specific worldview or agenda - this is actually one of the things that leads me to believe that I am still fully "modern" in my thinking, actually - I am more influenced by assertions that, to the best of my abilities to reason, seem factual, unbiased, and solidly scientific...

If I have learned nothing else in the Christian blogosphere and at theOoze, it's that there is incredible diversity in the Church - within those who clearly are walking with Jesus; but our language is ambiguous, terms mean different things to different people. I wish Barna could get at the heart of the places where we might be lacking without seeming to be flailing at folks with a 2x4...

I have no direct experience with churches where women minister in anything but the more "supporting" roles (bad distintinction, but maybe you get what I mean). Women occasionally preach at our church, which seems to be recieved very well. Women do serve on the board, and seem to be very well respected in our church, which I value highly. I just don't have enough experience with churches where women clergy have a more central role to say much about it. I wonder what Tammy thinks...

Heh...I just had a very Matrix-y experience:

Daniel: Christine? I thought you were a guy...

Christine: Most guys do.

I wonder how deep this rabbit hole goes? DP, you don't have any "-tine's" we should know about, do you? =)

I have mine own doubts about Barna, and they started before I ever used the word emerging. I don't trust polls in general anyway. And Barna's organization doesn't seem to poll all that many people, do they?

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