Saturday, June 30, 2007
John Allen 's latest column discussesthe "feminization of the Church", evidenced by statistics showing the overwhelming predominance of women in the growing ranks of the lay ecclesial ministry that is assuming a greater & greater role in parish life. He discusses the general discomfort with this trend, based on fears that too much "feminization" of the Church makes it less attractive to men. He also discusses the bind the Church finds itself in that keeps it from working too hard to attract more men to the lay ecclesial ministry to balance things out -- it doesn't want to siphon off men who might otherwise choose to become priests.
On men's "alienation" from church, Allen cites some recent books:
In that light, some recent writers have voiced concern that Christianity actually alienates men. David Murrow's Why Men Hate Going to Church (Nelson Books, 2004) and Leon J. Podles' The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity (Spence, 1999), illustrate the point. Murrow is a Presbyterian and Podles a Catholic, but both have noticed something similar about their respective denominations.
As Podles put it succinctly, "Women go to church, men go to football games."
I'd be interested from hearing from some of you men bloggers -- do you, in fact, feel your own churches are become "feminized" to the extent that the church experience is somehow alienating?
Allen ends with this interesting social justice challenge:
One final observation is worth making. If lay ecclesial ministry continues to be a largely female profession, church officials will want to pay close attention to its impact on salary levels.
A 2007 study by the AFL-CIO found that as job categories come to be dominated by women, the social prestige attached to the position declines, as do average wages. Employment categories in which women occupy 70 percent or more of the jobs, the study found, typically pay a third less than jobs that are similar in terms of the skills required and the nature of the work, but which are more likely to be held by men. The 25.6 million American women who work in these predominantly female jobs lose an average of $3,446 in income each per year, compared to holding a similar job which is less gender-defined. Since men typically earn more than women across the board, the four million men who work in predominately female occupations lose an average of $6,259 each per year. Together, this amounts to a whopping $114 billion loss for men and women in predominately female jobs in the United States.
For a church that supports a "just wage" in the broader society, making sure its own employees are not the object of gender-based discrimination in wages will be an on-going challenge.