“Whether we like it or not, culture has influence on whether women are valued or not in leadership. Let me start by referring to the book by Erin Meyers, The Culture Map: "Countries with Protestant cultures tend to fall further to the egalitarian side of the scale than those with a more Catholic tradition." (p. 128) So the local culture influences the culture of the church. In addition, we also have to take into account the model of leadership accepted in the local society. An aspect of culture that influences gender roles in society is the power distance in a culture. The Hofstede Insights developed an interactive program that allows you to compare countries in six different aspects, including power distance and masculinity. (https://hi.hofstede-insights.com/national-culture) In general, the Scandinavian countries have low power distance, and this does influence the church.
The question for me, as a northern European, is how the Adventist church can be credible and attractive in a culture where females in leadership are valued in the same way as men. (Just look at how many females there are in political leadership roles in the northern Europe!) Effective ministry does not look the same all over the world. God calls us to minister from who we are, where we are, in the cultural context we live in.
I will close with a poem to illustrate this from the book: "In Search of a Round Table; Gender, Theology and Church Leadership" by Musimbi R A Kanyoro:
In the search of a round table
Concerning the why and how and what and who of ministry, one image keeps surfacing:
A table that is round.
It will take some sawing to be roundtabled, some redefining, some redesigning, some redoing and rebirthing, of narrowlong churching can painful be for people and tables.
It would mean no daising and throning, for but one king is there, and he is the footwasher, at table no less.
And what of narrowlong ministers when they confront a roundtable people, after years of working up the table to finally sit at its head, only to discover that the table has been turned round?
They must be loved into roundness, for God has called a people, not "them and us".
"Them and us" are unable to gather round for at a roundtable, there are no sides, and all are invited to wholeness and to food.
At one time our narrowlong churches were built to resemble the cross but it does no good for buildings to do so, if lives do not.
Roundtabling means no preferred seating, no first and last, no better and no corners for the "least of these".
Roundtabling means being with, a part of, together, and one.
It means room for the Spirit and gifts and disturbing profound peace for all.
We can no longer prepare for the past.
We will and must and are called to be church, and if God calls for other than roundtable we are bound to follow.
Leaving the sawdust and chips, designs and redesigns behind
in search of and in the presence of the kingdom that is Gods and not ours.
Editor’s Note: At AAW we believe in God’s calling passionately. It simply is not coherent that God would only calls women to ministry in some countries. This is the first in an occasional series asking international leaders the question; are women different in your country?
Musimbi R A Kanyoro’s book, it is a gem! She also has books about female leadership in the church available in French and Spanish. Photo credit: Asun Olivan.