“Women,” penned Virginia Wolfe “are bred for silence.” In most churches today because women are not allowed to be ordained, this statement is as true as it was in the early 20th century. Statistics show that even in those denominations where women are ordained, they do not lead large, wealthy churches, and tend to be called by those small, rural congregations where no man will go because of low pay. However, women are not allowed to be angry about this.
“Yes, your majesty, no, your majesty, tell us how low to go, your majesty,” sings Anna in The King and I.
In the PC(USA), a denomination in which I am ordained, there are churches in different presbyteries that are allowed to manipulate their payments to the overall health insurance policy held by pastors because they don’t want any of the money to go toward abortions. Our denomination has an official policy which is under attack, that the decision to have an abortion is between a woman, her conscience and God. There are always ways to subvert our polity, however, when you have power and money behind you. But women shouldn’t get angry.
When a senior pastor tells a newly called associate pastor, after three months of work, that she is an angry woman, with a harsh and grating voice, and she is then told that she will have to leave because she “can’t be supervised,” the power and money tell the female associate pastor that she mustn’t fight this or she will get no financial termination package. Miriam is cast out into the wilderness and left there this time. Even if the people wanted to wait for her, “no one goes up against a [male] senior pastor, and wins.” This is a direct quote. But women shouldn’t get angry.
Anger, for the sake of being angry, can be a destructive force. However, to tell people to swallow their anger and leap right to forgiveness causes a mighty river of feeling to swell up inside. The church is afraid of anger. When conflict arises, we go right to “Forgive seventy times seven,” and don’t allow true feelings to be felt. That is a perfect recipe for destructive anger to rear its ugly head and strike.
The question really is, how can we allow that anger to be felt and then find ways to transform it? For change to occur, there must be a fire in the belly. Churches today are hemorraghing members because they have allowed that fire to become a smoldering pile of refuge. Then we look the other way and pretend that there is no fire. We refuse to allow those who are angry to speak.
The angry women may not be speaking but the silence of their retreating footsteps can be heard loud and clear. And the church begins to die out on its own smoldering pile of ashes.