There is a Necessary Healing For Women in Christianity


In the United States, there are fewer members of the Christian community than there ever have been, with Pew Research Center reporting a continuous decline in people identifying as Christians. Since 2007, there has been a decline in those identifying as Protestant or Catholic. Some might argue that it is because of the secular, scientific world we are living in. But if you look closer at who is leaving the church and why, you will find some of the story left untold.

People might be leaving the church in great numbers, but they are not leaving Christianity. The maintenance of unequal power structures in the church is what is driving people out.

One major factor responsible for the decline of Christianity in the United States is the exclusion and mistreatment of women in the church. Despite the vital role of women in early Christianity and the radical love that Jesus had for women, they are undervalued and excluded from integral leadership roles in the church. Though certain denominations have begun to allow for the ordination of women, major denominations like Catholicism and Orthodoxy do not allow women to participate as ministers.

Women who follow these denominations are left to decide to either convert to other denominations or try to change seemingly stagnant institutions. As a result, more women than ever are simply leaving the church and identifying as “nonreligious,” one of the fastest-growing groups in America

To feel excluded by people who are supposed to be part of a community that honors Christ’s radical inclusiveness is an unexplainable pain for many Christian women. Sociologist Katie Gaddini recalls a Faith and Feminism panel where a young woman asked, “I’m so tired of fighting Christian church leaders to be treated equally, but I don’t want to leave the church. So, what do I do? … How do I stay?” Young, single women are feeling neglected by the Church, so it makes sense why they are the group most likely to leave Christianity.

Solving the institutional, magnanimous problems women face in the church will take time and patience, but they should not lose hope. Like any social movement, a cultural shift will be necessary. In the case of being more inclusive of women in the church, this is not a progressive issue, but a traditional one.

Women held leadership positions in early Christianity and were among the first converts. Women even participated in ministry and were ordained as deacons in early Christianity. In Paul’s letter to the Romans in the New Testament, one of the first people he addresses is St. Phoebe, the deaconess, praising her effort and work in the Christian community. It is ironic how we view progress as linear, but the early church was more liberating for women in many ways that it is not today.

Aside from questioning what the church should offer women, we should also acknowledge that the church is losing so much by losing its women. Women run Sunday school, typically help keep the faith at home and raise the next generation of Christians. To continue to survive and thrive through the secular age and beyond, Christianity needs to make a targeted effort to include and comfort women. After all, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).