Women in the Protestant Religion
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Throughout the world’s religions, the role of women can vary dramatically from place to place and from belief system to belief system. Even within Christianity, one can see dramatic shifts in the way women are treated and the abilities they are given. Catholicism, for example, does not allow women to become members of the priesthood, and instead places them in the role of nun, or a bride of Christ. Protestantism, however, contains a dramatic array of potential roles for women, ranging from the highly permissive to the very conservative.
There are numerous branches of the Protestant church that allow women to enjoy full equality with men, including the right to become ordained ministers. Some of these include the Free Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church USA, the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, and the United Church of Christ. There are other branches of the church that allow women nearly full equality, but do not allow them to fulfill clerical offices. These include the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Other branches of the Protestant faith take a different and altogether unique approach to the role of women. The Southern Baptist Convention, for example, prohibits women from becoming clergy, and insists that women submit to their husbands out of love.
One of the most prominent justifications for denying women the right to become clergy comes from the notion that ministers need to be representative of Jesus Christ. In order to effectively model these teachings, man needs to emulate the physical makeup as well. Further, power and authority in society as well as the church has traditionally been reserved for men, so the persistence of these trends is something that simply has not been altered. However, churches are opening positions of authority for women in increasing numbers, giving hope to the idea that full equality between all individuals is in the not-too-distant future.