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Female empowerment fails to reach men of the Black church

Cory Alexander Haywood OW Contributor | 1/25/2018, midnight

Does the Black church want to keep its women “barefoot and pregnant”? More women are in leadership roles today, yet patriarchy among Black Christian congregations remains as ingrained as it was 50 years ago.

The tide is turning, though, among a new generation of Black women who are fighting back against entrenched mysogeny. Roles are shifting within the Black church, and Black men must take a hard look in the mirror and accept a changing dynamic.

Naturally, some older Black men are resistant to these changes. Therefore, I shared this point of view with the men at my grandfather’s church during a breakfast meeting recently. 

“We have to take the church back,” one of the elders said. “We shouldn’t be catering to them [women], they should be following our lead and obeying our instruction. And that’s not coming from me -  I’m telling you what the Bible says.”

“But elder,” I shot back. “More than 90 percent of the congregation is female. They’re paying tithes and offering faithfully to sustain the upkeep of this church and your bank account. Do you really believe they’ll sit and listen to you demean them without resisting? They don’t need you or this church. You need them.”

An eerie silence fell over the room. I could feel everyone staring, their eyes flickering with contempt. It was as though I had committed blasphemy. I didn’t take long to realize that I had opened Pandora’s Box and it would be difficult to explain my affront to God.

“Young brother,” he fired back, “You need to man up. We put money in their purses. They fill the collection plate with our money. God put men in charge. And I’ll drop dead before a woman takes the lead in this church. If they won’t fall in line, it’s our job to break them down.”

The men nodded in agreement. The sexism was so palpable that it would have appeared we had gathered at a strip club.

“What about the young women who aren’t married and earn their own living?” I asked. “What about the ones who have advanced degrees and can’t be manipulated into supporting the misogynistic orthodoxy of the Christian Church? How do you plan to keep them around? More importantly, how will you replace them and their donations if they choose to leave?”

“So what are you saying brother,” the elder quickly answered. “Are we supposed to look away while God’s house is transformed into ‘The View’? This isn’t a stage for women to flex their muscles and independence. If they can’t submit to the authority of their spouses and the clergy of this church, they can leave.”

In recent years, more women have stepped into roles of leadership within the Black church. There are more women pastors across all denominations.

Last weekend’s Women’s March not withstanding, many orthodox Christians (male and female) share a strong prejudice toward notions of women calling the shots on Sunday morning. 

For Black male baby boomers, women’s rights in the church appears out of the quesiton. The women, though, are at odds with this entrenched dogma.