The Feminisation of the Church – Introduction

Editors Note:
The church has been drifting backwards for three centuries. This has been for a lot of reasons that I won't try to deal with now, but one of the issues has been a problem of identity. This has particularly been a problem with males, and has steadily contributed to the feminisation of the church.

This week, we begin a series, (based on material written by Dr Ian Hodge), on the Feminisation of the Church. Discovering a problem is fine, and is one thing; coming up with solutions is another. And that's where we want to go in this series.

Ann Douglas, in her provocative book, "The Feminization of American Culture," had this to say about Christianity and how churches were feminized. The hymns played an important part. After pointing out that "In Puritan days, congregations chanted 'hymns' which were drawn from the psalms," Douglas comments that one of the problems of this was it "necessitated a certain disrespect for easy comprehensibility" (p. 217).

If you ever get to look at some of the metered psalms and how they were distorted to create the words to fit the meter of the music, you will understand some of the truth of this comment. Read any Scottish Psalter to see poor English turned into singable meter.

The hymns were to be the solution. "If men were to sing about God, it must be in terms and tunes they understood. . . . Indeed, it is crucial for understanding the role of hymns in the changing American Protestant Church to remember that they were originally conceived as best adapted for domestic and familial rather than communal and ecclesiastical uses. It was only when the church itself had been redefined in domestic terms that hymns could be central to their forms of worship" (pp. 217-218, emphasis added).

Interestingly, Douglas points out that "certain sects were clearly dominant in the writing and publishing of hymns in the Northeast." Consequently, "Protestants were singing more and more hymns written by Unitarians, like-minded Congregationalists, and women. The special trademarks of these hymns were their literary quality and their tendency to stress the more cheerful aspects of Protestant theology" (p. 218).  Death was out, as it is out of our general culture, hidden away where it cannot be seen.

These words about female hymn writers were written before Darlene Zschech and helps explain her popularity as a contemporary Christian song writer.

"Hymns were increasingly viewed as performing a very different function from that of the sermon they might accompany. . . . Hymns were not, in other words, to be intellectual" (pp. 218-219, emphasis added).

If they were not to be intellectual, what were they to be? The answer is: they were intended to be emotional. In this sense, contemporary hymns and the music that goes with them have their roots in nineteenth century romanticism.

So we sing "He loves me" with the appropriate romantic style accompaniment to go with it. We sing "And he walks with me, and he talks with me" as if it is a woman singing about her lover, again accompanied by the emotional music of worldly love.

The feminization of the church was done with hymns and non-scriptural songs.

Putting Scripture — the Psalms being central — back into the worship service will be an important step to create Biblical manhood which will, in time, halt the feminization of our church, our schools, our homes, and therefore our culture.

Something to think about: what kind of music will go with our Scriptural songs?

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