The Problem of Accidental Feminism (Part 5 of 8)

Assessment: How is the Church Doing?

On the surface, many would argue that women’s ministry in Canada appears to be alive and well because there seems to be an active women’s group in the majority of evangelical churches. Most congregations offer Bible study, mom’s groups, women’s events, and retreats. There is an abundance of resources on how to create, develop, and maintain a healthy women’s ministry. The internet offers access to an endless number of blogs, podcasts, and websites for Christian women. In addition, there are a growing number of pre-packaged curriculum studies, in which the teaching comes on a DVD and everything is taken are of. Most congregations would affirm the existence of a program for women in their church. After all, they have a link to it on their website.

To be fair, there has also been some attention given to Titus 2:3-5 for ministry in the church.“Titus 2” has become a familiar term in many evangelical circles for women’s groups, programs, books, and curriculum. Some churches have developed mentoring programs where they connect older and younger women. However, while this has existed in some congregations in days gone by, formal mentoring programs and even informal intergenerational relationships seem to be virtually non-existent in the Canadian church today. Owen Strachan observes, “Churches are in great need of more older women who will disciple younger women for service in the local church.”[1] While many churches are busy and offer a variety of ways to connect through social engagement and Bible studies, it seems that most local congregations are not taking into account the emerging problem of accidental feminists.

There are, however, some Christian organizations who have identified and responded to the need for the intentional discipleship of women. This year Chris Adams, the senior lead women’s ministry specialist at LifeWay Christian Resources, wrote a nine-part blog series entitled, “Are We Discipling Women or Just Hosting Them?”[2] In the series, Adams challenges women in leadership to take a fresh look at biblical discipleship and consider ways to be much more purposeful in mentorship and training amidst the busy programming that exists in many congregations.[3]

Other ministries have also developed and promoted resources to respond to issues of gender and identity among Christian women. Since their inception in 1987 with the adoption of the Danvers Statement,[4] The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood continues to offer many excellent resources through their website, podcasts, journal, books, and events.[5] In 1991, the council released a book, Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem.[6] This collection of essays has become foundational for evangelicals aiming to remain rooted in Scripture while responding to the arguments of the egalitarian movement.

In response to the impact of feminism on Christian women specifically, in 2008 the True Woman Movement began under the leadership of Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, with the declaration and signing of the True Woman Manifesto.[7] The movement continues to have an impact on the evangelical church offering web articles, podcasts, blogs, books, and events. Their more recent publications include a Bible study curriculum series written by DeMoss and Mary Kassian, True  Woman 101: Divine Design[8] and and True Woman 201: Interior Design.[9] These curricula include videos and weekly discussion guides on Scriptures pertaining to God’s intentional design for the distinct and unique role of women.

As this brief survey has demonstrated, there are voices promoting a gender specific approach to making disciples. This is good and praiseworthy. Nevertheless, further discussion on this topic is necessary, especially at the local church level. We still see an increasing number of accidental feminists. Gender confusion is rampant inside and outside the church. Fewer older women are fulfilling their biblical mandate to “teach what is good” and “so train the young women” in the seven areas Paul outlines in Titus 2:1-6. Indeed, this “helpmate curriculum” is itself coming under attack from all directions.

The initial problem of accidental feminism has now revealed a more foundational concern, which is that the older women are not by and large discipling the younger women. If this is found to be true, does this not then lead to an even more critical concern, which is that the elders are not teaching the older women that which accords with sound doctrine? Are pastors and elders in the church today prioritizing the discipleship of women? More specifically, are they identifying and equipping older women to be ready and available for the intentional discipleship of younger women? It may be alarming to recognize how few elders are properly equipping older women for this essential discipleship task.

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[1] Owen Strachan, “The Genesis of Gender and Ecclesial Womanhoood,” 9Marks Journal (Jul-Aug 2010).

[2] Chris Adams, “Are We Discipling Women or Just Hosting Them?” 9 Part Series, LifeWay Women’s Ministry with Chris Adams; 15/06/2015 – 05/10/2015. http://www.lifeway.com/womensministry.

[3] Ibid.

[4]The Danvers StatementThe Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood.

[5]Our HistoryThe Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood. 

[6] John Piper and Wayne Grudem, eds., Roecovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood: A Response to  Evangelical Feminism (Wheaton: Crossway, 2006).  

[7]What is the True Woman Movement?” A ministry of Revive our Hearts.

[8] Mary Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss, True Woman 101: Divine Design: An Eight Week Study on Biblical Womanhood (Chicago: Moody, 2012).

[9] Mary Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss, True Woman 201: Interior Design: Ten Elements of Biblical Womanhood (Chicago: Moody, 2015).

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