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Women in Leadership

Should Women Translate Religious Documents?

10x Marketing asked:

Bible software companies are hitting big profits, and growing fast. What once was thought of as a ridiculous business idea has turned out to be a catching phenomenon: It turns out bible readers like their daily bread on their laptop, preferably served with a side of study guide questions and pleasing graphics. But with this growing business sector comes a hot issue: As the companies expand to markets overseas, and hire outside translation services, they often get a female translator. Christian leaders are asking, is it appropriate for a woman to translate, or is translation a leadership role that should be allotted to men?

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Within most bible companies today, leadership is maintained by the men. Women are often found in secretarial or assistant roles, but rarely are they seen in top leadership. However, when male leaders receive work from a translation company, they legally cannot specify that they would prefer a male translator. Enter conflicted feelings. What often happens is that a translation company is hired, the company assigns the project to a group of translators, and one or more in the group is female. Refusing to work with a woman at that point in the project would be obviously discriminatory, which is why bible executives usually just swallow their feelings and work with the female. They fear a discrimination lawsuit, and they fear appearing politically incorrect, but behind closed doors, executives are concerned that female translators have more control than they would like.

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Leadership in translation services is a gray area. When a translator is doing software localization services for a company, does it really qualify as a leadership role? Even if it were a leadership role, why would it be wrong for a woman to lead?

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Those who say yes, translation equals leadership, are usually envisioning a verbal translator standing before a congregation. They may have once witnessed a translator standing next to a minister, and felt that the translator had nearly equal footing in power. Then, imagining a woman in this role may provoke feelings of threat, or fear that God would disapprove.

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The question of female leadership in the Christian church has long been a controversial issue. I live in a progressive, hippy-dominated town, and as a child, I attended a “non-denominational” Christian church that professed to be modern. By all appearances, it was modern. We had a grungy looking rock band, and the minister preached about love, not fire and brimstone. But when the choir leader’s wife began to adlib after her vocal solos, the church got uncomfortable. I remember how I loved her voice, and the way she would praise God after singing, softly speaking in poetic phrases. One day she stopped speaking. She still stood there, next to her husband singing, although with a less vibrant tone, but she no longer spoke freely. I discovered that the church elders had silenced her, ruling that her expression of worship was beginning to look too much like leadership. Soon after that, she left the church, and so did I.

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People against female leadership quote from the Bible, but they only quote the sections that support their views. There are many cases in the Bible that support female leadership. The bottom line is, why suppress anyone’s call to worship or lead in worship? Is that not suppressing the Holy Spirit itself?

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Bible software executives may be currently undecided about female leadership as it pertains to translation, but it is in these ambiguous areas that issues find their most fruitful evolution.

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