In church leadership, are women undermining women?

Writing for Patheos, the Rev. Frederick William Schmidt suggests that one of the principal challenges facing women in positions of leadership in the church are other women who work to undermine them.

Don’t get me wrong. The male chauvinists are alive and kicking, but they are often the front-men for women who object even more vociferously to women in leadership than do men themselves.

Almost fifteen years ago I wrote a book on women’s ordination. Based on interviews with fifty women, ten each from five different denominations, I explored the formal and informal barriers to the ordination of women. It never occurred to me that the book would still be in print or that it would still be relevant, but it is. My research and work has moved onto other subjects, but I’ve continued to track the influences that shape women’s opportunities for leadership in the church and I’ve noticed some patterns that were less apparent to me fifteen years ago.

This is one of them. Time and again, in parishes large and small, it’s often women who make it hard for women to lead. The interesting thing about this dynamic is that the women who object to “strong” women are not just “strong” as well, but are overbearing bullies or passive-aggressive bullies who object to a woman who is more self-possessed. So what is the real issue, if it isn’t one of style?

Do you believe this is an issue? If so, why, and what can be done about it?

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