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Church, We Have a Problem: White Patriarchalism

The U.S. church needs a reality check. We have a problem.

For 2,000 years, the Western church has been dominated by a white European patriarchy that has created a self-perpetuating system for a favored class.

This system, which continues to exist, has empowered a white patriarchal class to develop, manage and steer significant portions of the Christian faith for two millennia.

The system has been exposed as a severely flawed structure teetering on the verge of collapse. The Western church has been forced to confront its sins, repent and search for a better tomorrow.

The first enslaved person from Africa landed on American soil 400 years ago. Ever since, the church has too often found itself on the wrong side of history when it comes to confronting the evil of slavery.

It took two centuries and a civil war to defeat slavery, but its consequences have lingered without much help from the church.

Why? The white patriarchy of the church has never been incentivized to address systematic racism, redlining, unjust judicial and penal systems, unequal opportunities, the denial of civil rights and centuries of socioeconomic disadvantages, all of which are results of slavery.

The church must discover and implement a new path for the future, one that will be much more diverse.

The white patriarchal leadership needs to step aside and relinquish power, opening the doors for new leadership that is less white and more colorful.

Another part of the problem stems from white patriarchal attitudes and actions toward women.

For centuries, women were treated as second-class people in the church and culture.

Hiding behind what current conservatives call “complementarianism,” the white patriarchy espouses a theology restricting God’s calling and work to men only.

The restrictive attitude and oppressive construct subject women by requiring that they live beneath the thumb of male clergy.

God has always been speaking to women and working through them, but the white patriarchy demanded that the gospel message and work be filtered through their authority.

This simple notion has led to two grievous consequences.

1. Anytime a white patriarchal power insists on control, it creates an environment that fosters divisions based on authority and submission. When this takes place, the potential for abuse soon emerges and comes to fruition. In other words, Lord Acton was right, “absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

For the church to really be the church, it needs to relinquish its male-dominated leadership.

The era of feminist leadership should begin to rise, empowering the next generations of women for substantial and tangible opportunities to lead the church.

2. Complementarianism leads to the ridiculous argument against female preachers.

There is no reason to spend time arguing for female preachers because the Bible is filled with examples of women leading and proclaiming the good news.

Furthermore, others have demonstrated that biblical verses cited to prohibit female preachers have been wrongly interpreted and incorrectly universalized.

The case against women preachers has never been about holding to scriptural authority, but rather is about the fragile masculinity of the white male patriarchy.

They are fearful of losing control and dominating the conversation; thus, they would rather silence women than give up control.

As I read the debate this week about these continuous problems in the church, and as I continue to witness the dire consequences of white patriarchalism, it’s easy to recall the words of Jesus: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37).

However, I have hope.

I have hope that a new dawn is rising. I have hope that a new generation is finding its voice.

I have hope that young men and women are fed up with the failed leadership of the white patriarchy and are engaging in ways we have never seen before.

I have hope that a new Jerusalem is on the horizon, a city where the gates are swung open, freedom reigns, and justice for all is the law of the land.

Mitch Randall

Mitch Randall is executive director of EthicsDaily.com.