Are We Discouraging Our Women And Hurting Our Communities?

Steve LaPrade

"I have never seen so many men in a church service."

My Dad, a Methodist, was visiting me from Arizona. He was sitting in a Church of Christ service in Oklahoma. Through his nearly 70 years, he was used to churches where women often were the church activists and/or leaders.

As a 20-year member of the Church of Christ, I found his observation insightful. But in the months that have passed since he made it, I wonder if the large number of men in the church may not only help but hurt the Church and our nation.

In the Church of Christ, unlike most denominations, the preachers, leaders, deacons and virtually all Bible adult class teachers are men. Even wives of elders and deacons may find their zeal tempered by the knowledge that if they took a stand, their spouses might lose their leadership posts for "failing" to have their families under subjection.

The result is the Church of Christ is sadly deficient in an area we should not be - women speaking out to make our communities better places.

It was a woman, former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, who in 1987 raked black religious organizations, including some of Jesse Jackson’s, for accepting funds from booze companies. She also raked black actors Fred Williamson and Bill Dee Williams for endorsing booze products to impressionable black youths.

It was a woman, Candy Lightner, who started Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the organization perhaps most responsible for tougher laws against DWI and most youth awareness against it.

It was a woman, Louise Summerhill, who founded Birthright, the major American group helping unwed mothers who don't want abortions.

It was a woman, Mary Lacher, who founded the Birthright chapter in my hometown of Norman, Oklahoma.

All these women have one thing in common - none of them are members of the Church of Christ.

Our church doesn't heavily promote and cheer women who try to combat drugs, pornography, teenage pregnancies, or bad schools in our community. After all, we wouldn't let any of them tell us about their work from our pulpits.

The Biblical requirements for deacons and elders all revolve around church work and organization. But there is no Biblical admonition against women striking out to help their community. While we have no indication she ever led a church or synagogue service, Deborah led the fight against Israel's enemies.

But ask yourselves this: Who are usually the main volunteers in programs to aid the poor and homeless; who volunteers to help in hospital wards for children with AIDS? WOMEN!

But we don't even encourage our own ladies to enter politics or run for the school board!

Our church is not primed to praise or support our ladies who march out on point to save children and the poor of their community. Which leaves us with a final worrisome question: if Barbara Jordan, Candy Lightner, Louise Summerhill and Mary Lacher had been in the Church of Christ, would they have been afraid to act?