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Story Blog

Personal stories from women about their leadership journeys

Problematic Teaching Experiences

Updated: Apr 29, 2023

Quote from the Article:

He taught that Psalm 8 meant that there is a hierarchy, with God at the top, and then angels, and then husbands, and then wives.


At family camp, a non-FMC speaker was invited in to teach about family. He taught that Ps 8:4, “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor” (NKJV) meant that there is a hierarchy, with God at the top, and then angels, and then husbands, and then wives. When several women elders expressed concerns about this teaching, the Superintendent had a private conversation with the speaker, who then joked with the attendees in his next session that “some of the wives weren’t very happy about my teaching last night.” No effort was ever made to correct that theology for those listening.


A male elder told jokes about “the differences between men and women” as an annual conference keynote. I confronted him about the damage done by those kinds of jokes. I discussed the default they presented as “the man’s point of view is the right one and the woman’s is unreliable” in every difference between men and women he mentioned. I mentioned how condescending and paternalistic it came across. Finally, I talked about how damaging it was to imply, by conference sanction as a keynote, that this type of speaking was acceptable and appropriate for FM pastors and could be replicated in their pulpits.

He was apologetic, attentive, and kind throughout the conversation. His defense, however, was that “my wife thought they were funny,” and “my wife is ordained, so I obviously support women.” He did not seem to understand that neither statement proved my experience of the jokes to be wrong. No apology to the larger body for damage done occurred, despite leadership knowing this conversation had happened and being present at it.


One FMC leader, while speaking publicly about pastoral abuse, mentioned that in one instance a woman’s husband was greatly impacted by what had happened to her. I tried to point out privately that it is problematic when women’s mistreatment is measured by how badly the men in her life are impacted. He disagreed. When I continued the conversation, he brought in another leader to whom my boss’s boss reports. I tried to point out how unsafe that made me feel because of the way it changed the power dynamics. He was greatly wounded by this idea that I found him unsafe and became so fragile that further fruitful conversation became impossible.


My male senior pastor regularly told sexist jokes from the pulpit. Over the course of several years, I occasionally brought up to him how damaging that was. I spoke to him myself, and also sent articles that discussed why it was a problem that harms the whole congregation, men and women alike. He never stopped.


I confronted a pastor who had “biblical masculinity” as one of the values of his church. After back and forth emails in which he kept talking about how busy he was, we eventually set a time for a phone meeting. I had written out in front of me 6 different reasons why that was inappropriate as a value for a FM church. He began the conversation by assuring me condescendingly that once he explained to me what it meant, I would understand why it was okay. He tried to tell me that what he meant by biblical masculinity didn’t include the subordination of women. He understood biblical masculinity from the perspective of the "feminization" of the church (an equally problematic and sexist viewpoint which he assumed I didn’t know about or understand).

One of my arguments was the way the term “biblical masculinity” had been used to silence women, and therefore the way it sounded to women elders in our conference, reminding them of some of their worst experiences of marginalization. He responded, “Well, that just sounds like political correctness to me!”

The argument that seemed to resonate with him the most out of my six was that everywhere else that phrase is used it does mean the subordination of women, so that’s what it communicates to anyone coming to his website. He tried to tell me that he didn’t know whether that was really true, but I volunteered to send him 10 examples once we got off the phone, and he didn’t pursue that line of discussion.

Eventually, he said that he was going to have to end the conversation. Since he had not been able to convince me that it was okay for him to have “biblical masculinity” as one of his values in an FM church, I asked when I could expect him to take it down. He got really mad then, told me he was busy, and he had no idea when he might get to it.

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