- Awareness of different Christian views on the roles of men and women.
- Understanding different Christian views concerning women priests.
- Awareness of modern Christians who have worked to oppose gender prejudice, and Jesus’ treatment of women.
- Reflect upon perceived differences in the relative abilities and shortcomings of men and women.
- Evaluate the comments made about the possibility of a woman being appointed manager of a professional male football team.
- Analyse articles reflecting different Christian perspectives on the role of women in church.
- Reflect upon the argument that the early Christian church was a positive force for affirming and liberating women.
- Prepare a speech for a debate on the impact of Christian faith on the role of women.
Write two headings up on the board ‘Men can’t…’ and ‘Women can’t…’ Ask students to suggest things that each gender cannot do. Write up all the suggestions, regardless of whether some students disagree. You will probably find that the exercise quickly turns into each sex competing to be more dismissive and belittling to the other. If you teach in a single-sex school, you may have to play devil’s advocate for the unrepresented sex, whether you are male or female yourself.
Once you have generated sufficient suggestions for both genders, look back over the list and ask people to justify some of their contributions, or to challenge any suggestions that they disagree with. Encourage the students to provide evidence and reasonable argument to support their views, rather than just dismissing either gender as being rubbish at the task concerned.
You might want to ask the students whether they think ‘Manage a men’s football team’ or ‘Manage a professional men’s football team’ should go in the ‘Women can’t…’ list. Once the students have discussed these topics, explain that in today’s lesson you are going to be thinking about precisely that question and using the debate around it to help the students to reflect upon the question of the respective roles of men and women within the Christian church.
Give out copies of the news article Women capable of coaching a men’s team says Hope Powell from the BBC News website and read through it with the students. You can find the article at http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/17604014
Ask the students whether they agree with Lawrie Sanchez that there will be a woman managing a professional male team in the UK in the next ten years. If your students are divided on this subject, invite representatives from both points of view to explain their reasons (and be ready to play devil’s advocate if the students are solidly behind just one perspective).
Here are some possible arguments on both sides:
Arguments for women managers:
- Women’s football is a growing sport, and female managers are increasingly gaining the required qualifications for managing at League level as well as hands on experience of managing competitive women’s teams.
- Football is a business, and anything that draws publicity (and possible resulting extra ticket sales) is a good thing.
Arguments against women managers:
- Top level women’s football remains at a lower standard than top level men’s football, so anyone managing in the women’s game is not used to the standards of the men’s game.
- Any woman manager – like any man who hadn’t played professional football – would have a problem in establishing her credibility to the players working under her.
If your students need more information about Hope Powell, she played 66 times for the England Women’s team between 1993 and 1998, scoring 35 goals. She has been the coach of the England Women’s team since 1998 until 2013 (the first ever full-time holder of that post) and has led England to the finals of numerous World Cup and European Championships. She was also the first woman to be awarded a UEFA Pro coaching license, and was the coach for the Great Britain Women’s football team at the 2012 Olympics. In 2009 she was rumoured to be in the running for the manager’s job at Notts County F.C. although she denied any basis to these rumours.
Remind the students that Sanchez’s comments were broadcast as part of a documentary examining the wider issues of sexism in football (Sexism in Football? BBC1, 4th April 2012). To what extent do students think that football has addressed issues of sexism off the pitch. The documentary cited statistics to say that 20% of fans attending matches and 25% of armchair fans in 2012 are female, and looked at the experiences of a wide range of women working in football as journalists, club officials and employees or representatives of national and international Football Associations.
Ask the students whether they agree that there are differences between the roles that men and women play in the world of professional football. Should men and women ever be allowed to play against each other, with mixed teams at every level of the game? Should mixed teams be allowed at amateur level? Has the integration of women in professional men’s football gone too far, not far enough, or is it at precisely the right level?
Explain that the debate about women in football has some parallels with an ongoing debate among Christians as to the role of women in the church. Some argue that a woman should be able to do anything that a man can in church, others that women should neither teach nor have authority over men, and others hold views somewhere between these two positions.
Give out copies of the following articles. If you have internet access during the lesson, you could give the URLs to the students and let them look up the articles themselves. Working in small groups, for each article ask the students to answer the following questions:
- What does the writer say that women should be allowed to do in the life of a church?
- What reasons are given to support their position?
- What does the writer say that women should not be allowed to do in the life of a church? What reasons are given to support their position?
- What Bible passages are used to support the argument?
- To what extent do you find the argument a convincing one?
Here are the URLs for the articles:
This is an issue that divides Christians from all traditions, not just Evangelicals or members of the Church of England. The webpage listed below provides an outline of traditional Roman Catholic opposition to women joining the Priesthood, as well as a brief response which offers the opposite view. It is worth noting that despite spending more time explaining the traditional view, the website as a whole does not support this position.
Bring the students back together and let them feed their findings back to the class. Lead the students in a discussion of the two articles, and the different perspectives on women’s ministry that each of them present.
It may be worth reminding the students that neither writer would feel that their point of view would relegate women to a lesser role than that of men.
It may be helpful to point out that many people consider both Jesus, and (a more controversial view) Paul to have been radicals in the area of the treatment of women. It has been said that no other figure in the ancient world came close to affording the level of respect and honour that Jesus had for women. In a culture where women were frequently seen as being the property of either their father or their husband, Jesus treated them as individuals. Careful reading of the Gospel accounts makes it clear that a number of Jesus’ friends and followers were women, and his creative response when confronted by a group of men who claimed to have caught a woman in the act of adultery (John 8:1-11) shows his concern with allowing the unfortunate woman to maintain some sense of dignity. The account of Jesus’ visit to the home of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42) shows that unlike many of his contemporaries, Jesus felt that women should be just as interested as men in receiving spiritual instruction from religious teachers.
Although Paul is often painted as an opponent of women, and even a misogynist, due to Bible passages such as 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 (where he says that he does not permit a woman to speak in church) it should be noted that culturally he was actually suggesting something ground-breakingly feminist. It would have been common in his culture for women to sit in a separate part of the building during worship, and there would have been no expectation that they would engage with the teaching. Paul’s words, while seeming harsh and dismissive to 21st century ears, should be commended for the assumption that women would participate in learning while attending worship. The fact that Paul needed to write on the subject of how women took part in such meetings shows that the early church was a liberating movement with regard to women. Similarly, in Paul’s letters in the New Testament, there are numerous references to women who appear to carry out important roles in the life of the church. For example, reading through Romans 16 Paul mentions the following women by name: Phoebe (v1); Priscilla (v3 – nb she is mentioned ahead of the male Aquilla); Mary (v6); Tryphena, Tryphosa and Persis (v12).
SUMMARY AND ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING:
Ask students to prepare a speech for a debate on the following motion: ‘This house believes that Christianity has been a liberating force for women’. Their speeches should address the issue of the role of women in church, but also a wider perspective of how Christian faith has changed the way women are perceived and treated. Students should feel free to either support or oppose the motion. You could use a subsequent lesson to actually hold the debate.
YOU WILL NEED:
- Printout of the article Women capable of coaching a men’s team says Hope Powell.
- Printouts of articles concerning the role of women in church.