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Female empowerment fails to reach men of the Black church

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

“If you hear a hen crow - kill it,” advises Los Angeles resident and veteran evangelist Margie Houston, 78. 

She is a founder of The Missionaries Ablaze, an organization dedicated to promoting the use of women’s gifts and ministry in the church. 

“That’s what my father in law would say whenever he was asked about sharing the pulpit with women,” Houston said. “He was a bishop in Tyler, Texas and oversaw four different churches. He always used that analogy because a hen doesn’t crow, a rooster crows. Just like women aren’t called to be pastors and decision makers in the church. These duties have traditionally belonged to men.” 

While the Black church has generally been controlled by men for generations on end, Houston explained that women are no less capable of teaching the gospel or “leading their own flock.” 

“I don’t see any reason why there can’t be male and female pastors,” she mused. “It’s 2017 –women are smarter and more assertive than we were. Some things will have to be adjusted - and soon - to accommodate the changing times.”

In smaller Black churches across the nation (particularly in the South), male leadership has traditionally promoted the ideals of marriage and family structure that more often clashes with the core values of modern feminism. Some congregants believe the Black church may experience a sharp decline in women’s attendance, especially among the 30-and-under crowd.

Less women are attending church. Analysis conducted by the Pew Research Center finds that between 1972 and 1974, an average of 36 percent of women and 26 percent of men reported attending religious services at least once a week – a 10-percentage-point gap. During the previous three decades, weekly attendance at religious services declined among all Americans, but it declined more among women than men. In the past eight years alone, the gender gap in attendance had narrowed to just six points, with 28 percent of women and 22 percent of men saying they attend religious services at least weekly.

There appears to be a power struggle simmering between men and women in the US, and it’s spilling into the sanctuary. The latter group has taken massive steps forward in academia and in the professional world.

The elder’s candid remarks—which he later apologized for – caused an immediate ripple effect among the women congregants 

“He ain’t talking to me,” muttered a woman under her breath, visibly annoyed.

“Me either,” snapped another. 

“Why would he go there?” howled a third woman angrily. 

These reactions are a sign of changing times. Recent studies indicate that more than 80 percent of all African American church-goers are female, and unlike women from previous decades, the current generation consists of professionals bolstered by college degrees.

On Sunday mornings, the collection plate more often than not is being filled with cash from independent women.

As well, more women believe the patriarchy demonstrated in the Black church is outdated.

Chelci Burroughs, 21, a civil engineer earning a six-figure salary, indicated her money may become off-limits to any church that won’t embrace gender equality. 

“I earn a comfortable living,” Burroughs said. “The gains I’ve made in life haven’t been easy, and no man can take credit for what I’ve achieved. The church promotes sexism. I’m not supporting any religious body that condones the marginalization and subjugation of women.”