Vanessa Bickle D.Min.
Refusal of gifts as a result of stereotypical gender biases based on patriarchal ideologies negatively impacts women and men in the service of the church. Through qualitative and quantitative methods, it was recognized that ecclesial practices like role limitations, gender-based ministry, and forced identities contribute to experiences of exclusion, shame, and potentially gender incongruence. The failure of church leaders to recognize and eliminate these practices leads to the estrangement of women from the church and from God. Rigid gender normativity and the false association of non-stereotypical gender behaviors with the morality of sexuality prevents the church from being a community pointed toward God with its doors open to all those seeking refuge. Ecclesiastical essentialism is proposed as a transformative model that allows men and women to fully engage in the life of the church today without concern for unyielding gender binaries, serving the church as God intended when male and female were created in the image of God. Accompanying methods for reconciling detrimental ecclesial practices are provided.