I have been trying to find online articles by feminist researcher Kristin Aune from the University of Derby. She has been researching the reasons why women appear to be leaving the Church. Depressing as her findings are, we might be able to use the very ideas that are persuading women away to persuade them that something better exists (with help from the Holy Spirit!).
Kristin believes women find more relevance in TV icons who promote a sense of female empowerment. She also thinks that the church conveys itself as an outdated, patriarchal institution with the huge media/ newspaper attention to issues like women’s ordination and female priests' slow progression through the ecclesiastical ranks. She has calculated that 50,000 women are leaving Christian denominations a year. I am not sure of the precise figures for the C of E but hope to find this out. Perhaps in our outreach, we can address some of the misconceptions.
She cites another set of reasons as to why women are leaving the church -
- they are having fewer children to replace the older generation lost from the church.
- Feminism challenges traditional Christian views about women’s roles and raised women’s aspirations and even though the church is catching up in this area, it is not perceived to be doing so.
- two thirds of women are in the labour market and employment, childcare and housework causes church attendance to drop in value
- churches are failing to reflect the large number of non-traditional families that women are now living in. Women can not find families like theirs in church.
- She also believes that conservative attitudes to sexual desire are causing women to stay away
Her research informs a book called 'Women and Religion in the West' co-authored with Sonya Sharma (Edinburgh University) and Giselle Vincett (University of British Columbia). It suggests activities to suit women to attract them back to the church.
My report will also look touch on the 'feminisation' of the church. I hope to discover what might be happening to these men who stay home once a week whilst their women get together for fellowship and food. I have reason to believe that men's groups are forming and that sense of 'brother-hood' is being recaptured in the particular ministry I am going to focus on in its particular setting. David Murrow’s Why Men Hate Going to Church and Leon Podles’ The Church Impotent: The Feminization of the Church have done much to alarm us about the hemorrhaging of men from the church. I wonder what I might glean from these findings too.