The Vancouver Sun: With four in five members female, churches want to again reach men
Many denominations wonder if they are reflecting subtle devaluation of males in secular culture.
... Many applaud the advance of women within certain wings of Christianity, such as the United, Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist and Lutheran denominations.
U.S. studies have found 37 per cent of liberal congregations, representing more than 17 million Christians, are now led by women. And a recent survey by Faith Matters found wide approval; with more than three in four of all Americans convinced females should be permitted to be clergy.
At the same time, however, many worry about the so-called "feminization" of the Christian church.
Both genders are concerned that somehow, for reasons no one seems able to clearly explain, the rise of women in the church is not working for a huge number of men. ...
The article then looks as some specific denominations before offering this summary:
Here is a rundown of some of the overlapping theories:
- The relative dearth of men in church is an age-old issue that's just grown worse. The traditional image of the church and its adherents as the "bride of Christ," for instance, is a turn off to men.
- Religion is typically less important to men than women, and nowhere more so than in Canada. Polls show Canadian women are 70 per cent more likely than men to say religion is "very important."
- Churches tend to focus on "soft" feminine qualities, such as sharing, family and feelings. Bibby found 83 per cent of women believe "concern for others" is highly important, compared to only 67 per cent of men.
- Many men are avoiding the diminished status associated with an increasingly countercultural and aging institution such as the church, particularly one in which women predominate.
- Men, many say, tend to value rationality more than women. In Canada, men are 2.5 times more likely to follow atheism, which often pits reason against faith. In addition, critics say churches, since the 1970s, have become less "intellectual" as they have increasingly emphasized spiritual "experience."
- While liberal Christians are careful to avoid stereotyping women, homosexuals or ethnic minorities, John Giuliano, a former moderator of the United Church, said churches too-often reflect the secular culture in which the mass media and advertising often portray men, especially fathers, as Homer Simpson-style buffoons.
- Main line churches that allow females to be clergy are generally not attractive to immigrants, most of whom have grown up in patriarchal cultures. Asian immigrants to Canada are much more drawn to male-led evangelical or Catholic congregations.
Then these observations:
... A fledgling men's Christian spirituality movement is underway across North America, says Grayston - with the Franciscan monk Richard Rohr, author of From Wild Men to Wise Men, being one of its most mature figures.
However, in addition to the church developing men-friendly programs, Grayston says men, as individuals, also have to find the courage to step up to the spiritual plate.
"The women's movement has left many men not knowing how to engage women, so they've backed off.
Whether in secular careers or the church, many men's confidence has been undermined," Grayston says.
At Mount Seymour United, Talbot wants to find additional ways to draw males into her congregation's life. As she puts it, the health of the church is at stake. ...
My recollection is that more Evangelical churches, at least the large ones, there something less than a 60-40 split in favor of women. In small congregations, especially Mainline small congreations, the imballance is much greater. But the question is whether or not this that much different than historical balances. Some research data suggests that women are more "religious" or "spiritual" than men in religions all around the world.
What do you think?