I was in conversation with one of my female colleagues and as usual, I, as a man, always learn something. This time we discussed the gender sensitive sermon. This colleague recounts how one very famous biblical scholar came to her seminary and addressed the students on sexual ethics. In his presentation, he talked about how men could be tempted in the ministry and the best way to prevent falling into temptation. Certainly, there was some good advice along the way FOR THE MEN. But what about for women?
The way many of us men in ministry often deal with the topics has two hidden assumptions. These assumptions need to be exposed not because we’re trying to be PC. That’s really besides the point. The reason why we expose the assumptions is simple. There’re also women sitting in our congregation when they had to bear with our MANLY sermons.
First, by talking about temptation this way, we can sometimes make the woman the temptress. While sexual misconduct receives much attention among clergies, the woman should not bear the blame. Her role in the body of Christ is not the temptress. Sure, there are women like that but by and large, we simply can’t assume that. Even if we don’t assume that, we must be careful in our articulation because as the Chinese often say, it takes two coins to make noise. We simply can’t put the blame square on the woman as if every woman congregation member is trying to sleep with us. We aren’t that sexy.
Second, by talking exclusively about the male minister, we can assume that no woman is qualified to minister. This is simply not true. In this day and age, if you want to be inclusive of ALL believers of the Body of Christ, female ministers are a fact and not some kind of politically correct fiction. If we want to address ministry as a whole, we must assume that female ministers also have to deal with the problem of sexual ethics. I wonder if the said speaker had ever researched the female side of the equation and see things from a woman’s point of view. It is a necessary step because we have female listeners.
I’m sure you can tell me more about other gender-biased assumptions. I’m pretty sure I have my own blind spots and biases. The most important thing is not that we go with a PC language. The most important issue pastorally is to find out how the women in our faith community think and receive our messages. We must listen more with our two ears and speak less with our one mouth. The art of listening is the way to broader influence.