When Women are Invisible in the Church

Bob

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A few months ago, I read an interview with a complementarian pastor.  He was explaining how successful his ministry became when he made a decision to preach only to men.  Apparently, his church population grew by the thousands. He interpreted this as a sign of success.

The interview reminded me of the many, many stories I’ve heard from Christian women who have attended complementarian churches, probably much like the one just described. In these churches, male pastors encourage “young men” (and young men only) to prayerfully consider whether or not God has “called them to the ministry.”  If a young woman claims that God has called her to be a pastor, she may be reprimanded.  The call could not have come from God.  If it did in fact have a spiritual origin, it must have come from the devil.

I’ve lost count of the number of young women who were told this by their church leadership, which was of course all male.  “A subjective sense of calling to pastoral ministry must never contradict the word of God,” women are told, by men who never stop to consider that their interpretation of the Bible may be equally subjective, and possibly wrong.

Women tell me that other men at church approach their husbands with outstretched hands, greeting them warmly.  The women, however, are ignored.  Sometimes men won’t speak to them.  Often men will not even look at them.  Apparently, looking at another man’s wife, even in church, may lead to “lust” or the “appearance of evil,” I’ve been told.

Many women have told me that when they take communion to remember the death and resurrection of our Lord, the table is presided over exclusively by men.  A Catholic student I taught at Bible College explained that she could never hope to be a priest because she was not a man.  In some churches, women are not even allowed to read the Bible from behind the pulpit, allegedly because the pulpit is a sign of male authority in the church.  Do these churches realize that there were no “pulpits” in the New Testament, and that “church” often took place in women’s homes?

How does it feel:

-when pastors won’t preach to you?

-when men do not talk to you?

-when men will not look at you?

-when opportunities to serve are denied you?

-when you’re told that you’re being influenced by Satan because you want to be a pastor or a priest?

-when you’re not allowed to stand and read the Bible where only a man can stand?

all because you are a woman?

At best, women tell me they feel invisible.

Is this the sign of a successful ministry?  Are we being good ambassadors for Christ when we treat women this way?

-did Jesus treat women in this manner?

-did Jesus fail to make eye contact with Mary, when he went to her house and taught her the ways of God as she sat at his feet? (Luke 10:38-39)

-did Jesus fearfully or angrily pull away when a woman (regarded as unclean by the religious leaders of her day) lovingly kissed his feet, washing them with her tears? (Luke 7:36-38)

-did Jesus entrust the good news of his triumph over sin and death exclusively to men? (Matthew 28:1-10)

Jesus did not ignore women.  He looked at them; he taught them; he touched them and was touched by them.

He loved them, and he entrusted them with the good news of salvation through faith in his death and resurrection.  The church that bears his name should do no less. In our ministries let us follow the example of Christ, not the example of the religious leaders of his day, who confused the traditions of men with the word of God (Mark 7:8).

By the way, they also had large followings.

 

YOUR TURN: Have you or someone you know had the experience of being treated as “invisible” in the church? How might we begin to change this type of church culture?

Graphic Credit: Katie Hickman http://www.goldbugdesign.com/

Bob

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44 Comments

  • Single, divorced women are invisible, too. It kept happening in every church my daughter and I attended. Sunday after Sunday folks wouldn’t even say hi or hold a weather conversation. I kept trying to catch someone’s–anyone’s–eye, so I could extend a hand and greet them, but they’d turn away. When I finally realized they were turning away because they DID see me, that I was NOT invisible, I got so embarrassed, I haven’t been able to make myself go to a church again. That was at least 3 years ago, perhaps longer (I didn’t record the date). I may attend an occasional wedding or funeral if the people are closely related. We have church at home, and have even tried a small group phone church with someone in another state.

    Over and over again I hear of women who divorced their husbands because they were abused, being alienated at their churches, some corporately, but many “just” socially. They end up deciding not to attend any church for quite some time before they find a group where they feel at least somewhat accepted. We all can hear sermons on tv or radio, or read wonderful blogs/sermons on the web; we don’t need to gather with others to hear a sermon. It is fellowship we miss, real heart-to-heart fellowship with other believers. For many women that is a pipe-dream. Here, online, is my church, my fellowship.

    • Waneta, I am truly saddened to hear about your experiences with attending church. My wife and I believe we have been prompted by God to provide resources for those who meet with other believers in home groups or online. Those resources are available here: http://www.churchtothenations.com/. I’ve also sent you an invitation to our discussion group on Facebook, here: https://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/252724234892076/. You are most welcome sister. May God continue to encourage you with his love.

  • Hi. I’m over 40 years old, and I have not married. I am a woman and was a Christian for many years. I had wanted to marry. I was engaged several years ago to a guy but broke it off. I was waiting until marriage to have sex, so I’ve not done that. I want to echo some of the other comments I’ve seen on this page.

    Life in many churches, or just Christian culture itself (specifically evangelical / Baptist), is ten times worse if you are a never-married and childless woman past your mid-twenties.

    Many married women will view you, the single woman, as a threat, as though all single women aim to take a married guy to bed (we don’t). I’ve had married (Christian) men cut off pleasant, platonic chats with me in person and online usually because they feel their wife will find a friendship with me suspicious.

    I’m tired of married people and preachers assuming that I am more apt to sleep around or to target married men for an affair all because I am an unmarried, adult woman. I also find these views deeply offensive.

    Many preachers deliver sermons or write blogs or books saying that a woman’s only or best calling in life is to be a wife and a mother. That is very insulting or painful for single, childless women to hear (as well as infertile married ones, divorced ones, widows, etc).

    “Mother’s Day” celebrations at most churches are horrible for some types of women, because only women who are mothers are recognized. What about women who are infertile, who have had miscarriages, or who choose not to have kids, or whose mothers are dead, or the people whose mothers were abusive to them?

    I’ve seen and read many married preachers write or say that they were only “one half” until they married (or, they make similar statements to that). They often do this in marriage sermons.

    What they do not realize is that a statement they feel is upholding or honoring marriage makes an unmarried woman (or man) who hears it feel, “oh, so I’m not whole on my own, I need a spouse to be whole, to be “one.” I am somehow flawed and incomplete for not having a spouse.”

    Many preachers makes singles and/or childless people feel left out because most sermons are about marriage (or parenting), or, even in a sermon about, for example, forgiveness or fear (or whatever), the preacher will still use marriage (or parenting) as an example to make his point about forgiveness or fear, or whatever.

    Are preachers and Christian authors incapable of using any other life situations or relations to make sermon illustrations, such as referring to aunts, friends, uncles, bosses at work, co-workers, or the UPS delivery man? Why do their illustrations always have to be about their spouse or kids, or someone else’s?

    Then, you get into all this gender role nonsense, which further excludes single, childless (or childfree) women. Not only am I still single and childless, but I’ve never fit the “biblical womanhood” role many churches teach.

    I have no interest in baby sitting children or being around kids at all – yet any time I have gone into a church, the church people almost always want me to serve in a child-related area.

  • I add my voice to the chorus of those that have experienced discrimination for being a single female. To hear that others experience this ~ that its not just me reading in or playing victim ~ is validating…but also so disappointing. Its disappointing that Christian men that are supposing to be leaders so blatantly show their lack of what leadership is.

    But I also experience the coldness from married women who somehow feel threatened by my age, appearance or availability, as though I would try to steal their husband or boyfriend. It makes me shudder to think of how I have internalized this rejection over the years.

    I made a wonderful new friend named Howie recently at a Christian training event who is in my same line of work. We have stayed in touch, shared experiences, contacts and even talked about writing a book together on “calling.” He recently had me over for dinner with his wife and we had a great nice of excited sharing and strategizing for the Kingdom!

    At the end of that night, from the depths of my heart, arose a word. I expressed to them how personally meaningful it is to me that they invited me into their home – that they were not afraid or repelled by “me” – that they treated me like a sister in Christ. I explained that as a single you are not always sure where you fit, but when sincere Believers humbly invite you into their lives without being controlled by dogma and personal insecurities, it causes a soul to flourish. When treated with this kind of dignity and respect (rather than dirty trash) you can almost grasp the idea of unconditional acceptance.

    This is what the family of God should look like. Thanks Howie & Denice. xoxo

    • Jodi C- From the moment you said-

      ” Its disappointing that Christian men that are supposing to be leaders so blatantly show their lack of what leadership is.”

      ….I read the remainder agape at your perspective. I’ve never heard this, never thought about it.

      And I am so sorry for what you’ve experienced.

      Thank you for teaching us. This is so important.

  • Thank you Dan Brennan for sharing your thoughts with us here. And thank you Gail for sharing the link to Dan’s blog.

  • When I was young in ministry, we regularly entertained a visiting speaker who would listen to my questions, politely looking at me until I finished speaking and then he would turn and answer my husband. As I had more of a teaching ministry than my husband, it was frustrating for the speaker, who enjoyed the conversation but wanted to be having it with my husband and not with me!!

    Also, I know many women in ministry, myself included, who has powerfully felt the impact of male ministries choosing not to engage in conversation… ostensibly because of the temptation issue. Honestly… it’s hard to put words to how humiliating that is, and also how irritating because there are some great conversations to be had, if only guys weren’t afraid of having them. Women ministers in this situation are left to infer that they are a jezebel to be avoided at all costs… ugghhh…

    • It was countless stories much like yours that prompted me to write the article.

    • Not to diminish your point, but it seems ten times worse for never married women who are over 25 / 30. We are really regarded as temptresses who will sleep around in the bat of an eye. Which is even more insulting to me, since I’m still a virgin in my 40s and was engaged a few years ago…

      If I had no sexual self control, I would have been fooling around by now. But over the years, from my teens and older, I’ve had many married men (plenty of them Christians, not just Non Christian) assume I was after them sexually, just for striking up polite chit chat, and/or married women who assumed I was after their man (I was not).

      Married people sometimes cheat on each other with other married people, or initiate affairs, so I don’t know why the default is to assume that single women are more likely to entice a married guy into bed.

      • Too much complementarian preaching on gender roles, sex and marriage keeps repeating the same old refrains written many centuries ago by St. Augustine and other early “church fathers” of the Roman era.

        Augustine’s confessions reveal that he was deeply concerned with sexual compulsions–his own. In an attempt to distance himself from a very promiscuous past, he denied his sexuality completely. To even get an erection was sinful in his eyes, since it took place outside of his conscious control.

        Control. That’s been a key word for complementarians historically. God is “in control.” Men must also be “in control.” Often this has meant a strong emphasis on men “controlling” or subduing their feelings. “Being emotional” was seen as a weakness. It was depicted predominantly as a “feminine weakness.”

        So what do you do if you are a man who views complete self-mastery as a sign of godliness, and you are still capable of having feelings, particularly sexual feelings. Well, if you’re St. Augustine, you blame women. That’s a defensive mechanism we now call “projection.” It’s an unhealthy form of self-deception. Something you don’t like about yourself is projected onto someone else.

        Augustine wrote that women “cause” sinful “concupiscence” (i.e. desire) in men. They should not be walking about in public talking to men who are not their husbands. If they must leave their homes, they must be veiled.

        The secular writings of ancient Rome say exactly the same thing. Roman senators made similar speeches when they fought against women’s rights in their day and age. Anyone who thinks the women’s rights movement began in the United States in the 1960s is incredibly mistaken.

        In order to control themselves, Roman men (Augustine included) felt it was necessary to control women.

        Theologians in the middle ages applied this spurious logic to society en masse, and quoted St. Augustine to justify the Inquisition. Men who “could not control themselves” sexually, alleged that a woman had “cast a spell on them.” Inquisitors decided that witchcraft was the real culprit behind male sexual promiscuity, and even rape. Tens of thousands of women were accused, tortured until they confessed, and then put in stockades, hanged or burned to death.

        When the Protestant Reformation came about, John Calvin decided that Christianity could be summarized in its entirety in the theological writings of…St. Augustine. Augustine emphasized God’s sovereignty and grace, rather than human effort and ritual “indulgences.” Sadly, he also projected blame for male sexual struggles onto women. Calvin imported this distorted view of women into the Protestant Reformation.

        This is the heritage of our Evangelical paranoia about women. It does not have its origins in the Bible. In fact there is nothing “Christian” about it. Jesus never taught men to blame women for their sexual sins. Neither did he fear or control them. He also remained single and celibate for life. We’re told that he experienced the same temptations as the rest of us.

        Fear women, blame women, avoid them or marry and control them. That is not a “Christian” way of living because it does not follow the example of Christ. It is prejudice and projection that is ages old. I think it’s about time for this sinful, old mindset to finally die.

  • Having spent the last 14 years in a wonderful and enlightened ECUSA parish, I still find it difficult to comprehend that women are not treated as equals. Our rector is a woman. Half our priests have been women. I was in charge of the youth group for nearly 8 years, with the girls in my group being accused of running the church! I can’t imagine even contemplating attending a church where women are not of equal status to me. Equality of the genders has not caused problems. There was a scandal, about 25 years ago, when the then rector left his wife to run off with the treasurer, who also left his wife. They cleaned out the bank accounts before leaving town. One of our priests was part not only a woman, but married to a man of a different race. No one thought anything about it. At least half the time that I’ve been a member of the parish, either the senior warden or junior warden has been a woman. I served as the ‘interim’ secretary for over 3 years, nearly running the parish. I just can’t comprehend even attending a church where women are treated so badly.

    • I had been working as a Social Worker and training MSW students doing their internships for many years, and then returned to an Evangelical environment to teach. I was shocked to overhear conversations in which angry young men were telling women “their place” in ministry. I was further shocked and saddened by the number of young women that would come to my office in tears, after being told that their call to ministry had allegedly come from the devil. These women were passionate for Jesus. They were gifted to teach and lead, yet they were prohibited from expressing these gifts in the service of our Lord. It felt like I had stepped back into the 16th century. I thought to myself, “Dear God, is this still happening?” I pray that the marginalization of women in our churches and other institutions will end. I believe it grieves the heart of God.

      • I would like to add for clarification that there were many egalitarian voices at the Bible College, including on Faculty and in Administration. I was, and still am, very thankful for those. At the same time, many students came from complementarian denominations. This denominational leadership was perhaps the loudest voice prohibiting women from expressing their gifts and fulfilling their calls to ministry.

  • I’m very moved by the openness of the comments here. I think that when it comes to the issue of attraction and an inclination to avoid, fear plays a pivotal role. When we are afraid of a person’s appearance, we tend to focus on it moreso, in a hypervigilant kind of way. When we fear that we may respond sexually, we are already coloring our perception of the other person, sexualizing it. Avoidance does not diminish fear, it actually reinforces it (I’m a cognitive behavioral therapist btw). Sadly, this somewhat phobic response is self-escalating, and many churches prescribe it as a biblical approach to purity. In some cases, fear, preoccupation, and a growing sense of losing control turns to resentment against women. Historically this has played a significant role in movements that veil women and attempt to keep them out of sight and out of mind: off the stage at church, out of the work place, at home raising children etc.. I won’t write about how this was manifest in the middle ages through the inquistion. I just don’t have the heart for it.

    I don’t believe that God wants us to be mastered by fear. I believe he wants us to focus on one another as whole persons, lovingly–to listen to and value each others’ hearts. Paul speaks of this when he encourages us to focus on the inward beauty of others, without overemphasizing the outward; and ironically fear does just that: overemphasizes someone’s outward appearance to the point of distorting its significance. Inward and outward beauty are both gifts from God to be celebrated and not feared or distorted.

    I pray often that God will renew my mind and free me from fear that I might learn to love like Christ. When I see the way he related to women, it brings tears to my eyes. It makes me want to be like him, and he assures me that the Spirit is working within me to make that so. His desire is to transform us all into the image of Christ. It’s his will, and he will see it done.

  • Wow, I have felt this invisibility very much in the past couple of days. Go to the CBE website and look at my post to see what I mean.

  • Thankfully the teaching on gender is a little less extreme here in Australia, at least as far as regarding women as lust objects. But in every other respect the exclusion can be just as cold and hard. I left one church because of the way the all-male eldership ran everything, especially the communion table, where 20 men would be sitting there out the front with the minister, but never a woman was there. I felt excluded. in my present denomination they won’t ordain me because I am a woman, but my own pastor allows me to preach and teach. The options are very limited where we live, so I just make the most of the opportunities I am given and pray for more of them

  • Single women (unless they are single moms) are made to feel invisible even more than other women in the church. A single woman without children, unless she’s in her early 20s and in consideration as a mate for someone’s son, is given the message that she has no purpose or function, or any value to the church at all.

  • Well said, Bob. I think also of the Samaritan woman Jesus spent that one-on-one session with. He taught her and then she went into her community and preached the good news to her neighbors – men and women alike, apparently. Are those pastors you write of foolish enough to think they are doing it right and Jesus did it wrong?

    When I see this type of thing at church (men speaking only to men, etc.) it makes me question whether I can participate fully in that church. after all, how can any member of the body participate to the fullest extent when other members are being held back?

    • I love this comment, Tim.

      The conversation with Jesus and the Samaritan woman is the longest conversation of Jesus recorded in the gospels. Jesus taught the woman important stuff about theology and worship in answer to her questions. Jesus saw that the harvest was ready (John 4:34) and he chose a woman to get things going.

      Jesus welcomed women as his disciples and agents. I’m thankful that women are not invisible to Jesus, but greatly valued.

      • I love both of these comments. Thank you for sharing your insights.

  • This is really good. I went to a religious school system all the way through college, and I can remember my interactions with men up through that point. I had male and female friends and everything seemed normal. But after marriage things were very different at church. It has taken a long time to work through that sudden, immediate change. People who had had long conversations with me before now kept it brief and moved on to talk at length with my husband.

    You go through the experience of “Hi [perfunctorily, to you]… Hey [warmly, to your husband], how are you? What did you think of the sermon? That one point the pastor made…” just as Bob Edwards has described. What else are you to think but that you’re lesser at church? Once or twice it has been so obvious I’ve wanted to say, “Unclean! Unclean!”

    The people who matter and who count at church will hardly converse with you but couldn’t be happier to see your spouse. With you they’re tolerant; with your spouse they’re open and ready to talk. That is a chilling experience, in every sense.

    Fortunately, there are always one or two men who seem to think you’re human in nearly every church, and interact normally with you, and are glad to see you and not just your husband. These people have always warmed my heart and reminded me that *this* is what God is like.

    I go to church to commune with God and be part of a spiritual community, and if in some congregations I can only do one of those things, I do it with all my might, and I take a break periodically so I don’t go nuts dealing with frequent overt exclusion. (You also don’t want to hang out with those people so much that it normalizes such treatment for you.)

    Mainly, this situation has sensitized me to try harder to include and welcome others and to cultivate gratitude for each and every person at church who looks at me with the same “you’re human” eyes with which they look at my husband. That shouldn’t be such a rare blessing, but it is rare–and it is a great blessing. God has been good and has brought such people into my life from time to time.

    • God bless you Zoe for opening your heart to the love of the Savior, that he might touch others and make them welcome in his kingdom, just as you are welcome.

  • Even while being Egalitarian, Bob, I confess I’m guilty. I’ve been all about promoting women in leadership and equality in marriage, but I’ve sometimes struggled with being as friendly as I should be toward the women at church, particularly if I find them attractive. If they are married, I catch myself trying to make sure I pay more attention to their husband than I do to them, lest anyone question my motives. In fact, the more attractive I find a woman, the less likely I am to engage with her.

    Reading your post, I feel convicted and wrong. How must the women feel because of this? I really need to think and pray about it. Thank you for shining this light for me.

    • I also struggle with the “indoctrination” I received during my earlier years that “women are dangerous.” Just yesterday I could not get myself to even introduce myself to a visiting woman because I felt so uncomfortable. I can try to blame my extreme introversion, but really? Is it so hard to just offer a greeting and introduce myself? Gah!

      This post has certainly pointed out a glaring problem with which I struggle and is not right.

    • Hi Greg,

      Thanks for the honest post. I appreciate your promoting women in leadership and equality in marriage. I am glad that you realize the difficulty it poses in avoiding women you deem attractive. As a woman, I am on the receiving end of that invisibility. For me, it has been both painful and infuriating. I have often wondered why I lacked the same value as my husband. It makes church feel unsafe and unwelcoming when members cannot get past my femaleness. Acknowledging it is definitely the first step. Thanks again.

      • Thank you for your confirmation, Jessica. I pray that I will remember your words every time I get the chance to interact with women at church, small group, and elsewhere.

    • That’s a struggle I think a lot of men deal with, Greg.

      For me, though, I just greet women at church the same way I do men, and I engage in discussion with them the same too. If small minded people of either sex want to make something of it, let ’em. I don’t care what they think.

    • Thanks for your honesty, Greg! This is a common problem and works both ways, I think. I just tweeted @danbrennan and asked him to weigh in on this, as his area of expertise is cross-gender friendships! Hopefully, he will have some suggestions for us! He wrote a book on this topic : http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0982580703/

      • Beautiful and honest comments. Appreciated your honesty, Greg. I don’t think you are alone. You know, I think evangelical men struggle–even egalitarian men struggle with how to respond to attraction. I think part of the challenge there is just so much confusion on attraction. Some view it as equal to lust and do the bobbing eye popular method. They feel shame or confusion to even make respectful eye contact with women. Some see attractive women as having some kind of irresistible power over them view it with irresistible power. For some of us, there is this sense of inapproachability because of own discomfort with engaging the whole person in the midst of beauty. I think many evangelical men with the confusion out there, don’t know how to engage attraction. Unfortunately in so many evangelical churches we’ve been taught to only respond to positively to attraction if there is romantic trajectory.

        For me, the whole attraction issue turned a corner when I began to see attraction (and attractive women) as something good and healthy–it’s a sign of God’s beauty. A great quote by 16th century Catholic bishop (who actually had some deep mutual friendships with women!) Francis de Sales I think helps put attraction is a positive, healthy light as a God-given gift. “Attractions to certain persons can be a powerful way God acts in ordinary life.”

        The truth is if we really want to have good healthy relationships with women, every woman we have any serious engagement with (let’s say a man and a woman on a church staff who work closely together) we are going to discover beauty in them–and even their physical appearance becomes beautiful to us even if their “appearance” didn’t strike us at first.

        So I think it’s a good healthy thing to start to be able to take some small steps to engage with women and begin to deliberately make eye contact with them and engage them. I don’t think we need to run away from, repress, or ignore attraction. A healthy response to beauty (attraction to the other is never possessive and it draws us out of ourselves for God-given reasons. Beauty invites exploration and depth and does a good thing to draw us out of ourselves. So in conversation in a growing relationship you begin to notice more holistically about the person. I think we have to process it and perhaps process our reaction with a spouse or a good trusted friend if it holds a certain power over us.

        • Thanks for these insights, Dan. I think this is an issue that egalitarian churches especially need to attend to – how do we encourage healthy cross-gender relationships? I have had a number of pastors share this concern with me – a fear of attraction leading to affairs, etc. – and use it as a reason to have an all-male staff or elder board. The thing is, having an all-male staff or board does not seem to be the answer either – just look at the stories about sexual abuse, pastors having affairs, etc. I’m rambling here, but the point is that avoidance is not the answer!

          • Meant to add that anyone interested in learning more about healthy cross-gender relationships should check out Dan’s blog. That’s where you’ll find treasures like this:
            Friendship Manifesto:

            We believe that good, healthy, friendships between men and women are important, integral pieces towards the goals of:

            Promoting understanding between the sexes that in turn leads to greater justice and equality between men and women – it’s easy to dehumanize someone you don’t know or hold at a distance out of fear

            Demystifying the opposite sex – by breaking our reliance on popular psychology and stereo-types and instead relying on the truth revealed in personal relationships with each other

            Desexualizing interactions between men and women – by both demystifying the stereo-types and offering positive, wholesome ways for men and women to relate outside of the expectations of a hyper-sexualized culture

            Overcoming sexism in our churches and communities – by creating concrete relational pathways through friendships between men and women

            Helping us tap into on our deep longing to reflect the image of God within our communities and the world through chaste, non-sexualized intimacy

            Helping us enter into the deep unity and communion God desires between all people in the church and in the world.

            http://danbrennan.typepad.com/the_sacred_friendships_pr/2011/12/friendship-manifesto.html#more

          • Yes, I think we need to cultivate the freedom and places for safe conversations about healthy responses. The avoidance strategy doesn’t equip us well to respond interpersonally to attraction.I’m from the school that says it 1) doesn’t help us grow in interaction to engage the whole person in-depth (which is a huge issue for women who want to be accepted in ministry and, 2) it sets us up to cross boundaries and use the power for inappropriate behavior. There are some holistic and healthy ways to approach this and one of them is understanding the virtue of attunement. Nancy Sherman, a Christian, and a philosopher at Georgetown University suggests that attunement is important for friendships. I think she has some great points about it. If we learn to attune we do not have deny attraction or run away from it. But in healthy attunement we understand the proper and healthy place of attraction. And in fact, attunement is what many male therapists do with their female clients alone with no else around and you don’t hear of male therapists making eggregious boundary violations like you do evangelical leaders.

        • Dan, thank you for taking the time to share your insight on this difficult issue that I think affects so many of us very profoundly. It results in partial paralysis of the body of Christ.

          What you and Jessica and Bob have shared has helped me a great deal. (But I have a long way to go.)

          • Greg, expressing where you are an in open forum like this and your desire to grow is definitely a movement toward a greater, healthier unity. I think this issue as we listen to women is a huge relational issue which hinders the full flourishing of women in ministry.

    • You said, “Reading your post, I feel convicted and wrong. How must the women feel because of this?”

      I am such a woman; please go up this page to see the two posts I wrote about it (assuming those posts get approved to appear).

      Remember, also, even if you find me attractive, it’s not a two-way street. I may not find you the least attractive, and I would never consider fooling around with a married guy: I’d tell you to hit the road if you made a pass at me.

      I’m stunned at the number of men, even Christians, who assume if they start flirting with a woman, it means she feels the same and will flirt back or take them on a roll in the hay. The woman may not find you attractive at all.

      • Daisy- I’ve read all your posts, and I’m very sorry for the mistreatment you’ve received in the past. But also please understand that men carry their own baggage into this issue, and that not all are like the men you describe- including me.

        The thought that the woman in the church might have a reciprocal feeling of attraction toward me is actually the farthest thing from my mind.

  • Yes, sadly I have had the experience of being invisible more times then I can count. The latest occurred a few months back. My husband and I moved to a new area, and started attending a church in the community. A man wanted to greet us, and walked towards us.When he realized my husband was engaged in conversation with someone else, he awkwardly stood nearby refusing to make eye contact with me. I tried to reach out my hand, and say hello, but he pretended not to hear me. When my husband finished his conversation, the man rushed over to his side to say hello. He greeted my husband, asked where we were from, and had a whole conversation with him, without acknowledging my presence. My husband introduced me, and he did not shake my hand. This happens frequently, and I think it was as you mentioned, “Apparently, looking at another man’s wife, even in church, may lead to “lust” or the “appearance of evil.”Church does not feel like a safe place for me. We regularly attend, but I can’t help but feel on the out skirts. We don’t have kids, and I don’t think there is really a place for me otherwise. It is maddening, but I don’t know what else I can do.

    • That’s a sad situation, Jessica. Engaging a woman at church doesn’t give the appearance of evil. Not engaging a woman at church just because she’s a woman, on the other hand, is more than the appearance of evil; it’s evil through and through.

    • Jessica, a friend told me she had a similar experience recently, and I’ve also experienced this. I’ve said before that it reminds me of the “invisibility cloak” in the Harry Potter series! It IS maddening.

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