Retelling others stories so that we can process our own. Believing that the trellis could be as beautiful as its vine.
Stories of a broken trellis are a series of anonymous accounts showing the impact of the “Blokes Worth watching” culture. These are written in response to an article written by Glen Scrivener in EN called “The Blokes Worth Watching Conveyer belt” depicting favouritism and elitism in the church. His examples are about a historic, specific situation. Yet the comments I’ve read and the experiences I’ve seen show that this is current and endemic.
Women Barely Worth Mentioning?
In Glen Scrivener’s s article for July EN it was helpful to see the unveiling of the unhealthy phenomena that is Blokes Worth Watching, and the resulting culture. Something undoubtedly started with good 1 Timothy like intentions, morphed into a popularity contest conveyor belt of identikit males, bolstering the “old boys” style network. The jostling line was replete with look, buzzwords, books to have read, and getting noticed. A lot of Trellis and turns out not huge amounts of Vine. And just a few of us noted that alongside this phenomenon of Blokes Worth Watching is the murky painful area of “Women Barely Worth Mentioning”.
Complementarianism has struggled over the past few years as Young Restless and Reformed fervour died down and a closer examination of the culture which was meant to give women dignity and respect in their role, was shown in so many areas to have become a place for chauvinism to flourish, women to be kept down and left languishing with their many gifts, while the men did the “heavy lifting”.
As a woman, I have witnessed first hand my attempts to speak into church life or have a voice met with patronising smiles, eye rolling or in a particularly “Billy Graham rule” style encounter, no eye contact at all.
On one occasion visiting an old church, interaction was asked for in an evening service. My raised hand to add to discussion was met by the pastor with a smirk of “here we go”, as if I was tolerated, but a troublemaker for daring to have an opinion on the issue. Males wishing to speak did not seem to have this reaction.
It’s a wider issue too. In 2020 there was due to be held in the UK, a conference for songwriters and worship leaders. It was run by an internationally known collaborative music charity and their leader. There was much rejoicing on the internet. I was taken with the idea of a musicians’ conference as this is an area I am gifted in and wanted to join in. I enquired. No women were allowed. I asked why this was. Their theological position did not allow to women to lead worship. But what about the other aspects, the song writing classes, the seminars on theology and music? I was cheerfully offered the video only content to access from my home. I did point out that in conferences, half if not most of the experience is also networking. Meeting other Christian musicians and songwriters, giving opportunity for future collaboration. The leader himself chimed in at this point to say it was more a “retreat” than a conference, and women did play a vital role, but this was for men only as it dealt with leading, pastoring etc. Hmm, I felt unconvinced by the way it was advertised. I noted that one possibly two men stood up for me questioning as to why I could be offered video content but my actual presence was disallowed. I was grateful for the men who graciously spoke up about this lack of consistency. But many more didn’t. Perhaps the algorithm prevented it. Or perhaps as it was “The Leader” speaking, being a certified Bloke Watcher, for Blokes Worth Watching, they didn’t want to ruin their chances of offending an important man, after all, it was only a woman speaking out, not someone who really mattered.
A seminar in a leaders conference a few years ago related to the discipleship of women was billed for men only. I want to charitably assume it was advertised as such because it was a seminar for men seeking to enable women to serve in their churches, not a “women’s seminar.” However, this could have been clarified with a few words or removing the stipulation completely as why would women’s perspective not be wanted in this seminar anyway?
Women’s seminars at so many of these ministry conferences are inevitably “how to support your husband” It’s a tricky one, I get it. There is no official role as “wife of someone in ministry” so it’s not as if there is a manual for this. But it can and does have the effect of making sure women feel that their role is merely cheerleader in chief as the men have the only role that matters. And that’s not even taking into account the single women who occupy the bottom rungs of “people worth noticing”.
I generally avoid these seminars now. I’d rather learn some aspect of theology or spiritual practice that are in the proper, I mean, the men’s seminars.
I’ve been asked to write a few lines of how I’ve seen discipleship done well for women.
I can tell you things from my own church. I’m happy that my personal church includes women in scripture reading, praying, giving testimony, serving communion and directing music. There have been solitary occasions where women are asked into elders’ meetings to give their perspectives. There still are no women deacons as the elders are not in agreement over this which grieves me. Don’t get me wrong, women are still performing these roles, but without the clarification or dignity of the title which men are given.
So, in short, I’m still waiting.
Read more accounts of others impacted by the BWW culture here.
Nay has written a response to Glen Scrivener’s article in August’s edition of Evangelicals Now, read it here.