Tag Archives: Religion

Sacramental Positions

Fresh Expressions has a dvd out called Sanctus: fresh expressions of church in the sacremental tradition, an ideal companion probably for the book Fresh Expressions in the Sacramental Traditions: Ancient Faith, Future Mission by Steven Croft and Ian Mosby (eds). The existence of these resources highlights three things; firstly, the fact sacramental traditions are back in fashion, secondly, that there is a determined effort to make sure fresh expressions doesn’t end up an evangelical or low church phenomena and finally, the way church unity has a long way to go. Oh and the cynic might also say it is a way of saying Fresh Expressions is a Methodist/ CofE initiative, remember where the money is coming from.

For somebody like me, from a very low church background the sacramental stuff was just, I thought, an extension of the other Orthodox, Catholic and Celtic stuff which was influencing modern forms of protestant worship. How wrong I am. A very interesting discussion with TOH has led me to understand that there is far more involved in the re-emergance of sacramental tradition as a flavour of the month than may meet the eye. After getting my head around consubstantiation as a concept, (which we in the end got sorted by using Celtic thin places as a starting point for shared language), we moved on to why who said the prayer over the sacraments was important.

Now, for me it could be anybody praying and speaking before the bread and wine are taken….I am v. low church. I accept there is mystery around the sacraments and “something” unexplainable happens, but to me that something relates more to what happens within the congregation than the actual elements. My acceptance that it is the role of the presbyter in the Methodist church comes out of respect for that’s their tradition more than a belief that’s the way it has to be in every church. Anyway apparently for those who come from slightly up the candle it actually matters who says what….and this gives us the issue. It turns out this is a huge part of the whole debate over women and the church and what they should or shouldn’t be able to do aswell as a bunch of other stuff. Does the person who prays over it have to be male? Do they have to have been ordained by a bishop? These are apparently relevant questions to some in the sacramental traditions. Now this was a revelation to me to some extent. Coming from my perspective I thought the whole issue about female bishops had to do with headship…apparently I am wrong.

In the discussion what I also found interesting was the implications for sharing communion with others and wider church unity. I am used to an open table where all who believe can partake of the bread and wine. I knew that some Catholics and Orthodox peeps I know couldn’t share with those from other denominations and I was told by them I couldn’t take communion in their churches because of something to do with their beliefs relating to transubstantiation. Anyway it turns out some Anglicans take a similar tone, although somewhat more broad. TOH and I had a facintaing discussion about where she would and wouldn’t take communion, and how the person praying over it all had to be ordained by an approved organisation for her to be ok with it. Have to say I find it all quite sad and perplexing, particularly when the implication is that there may be times where the two of us would not be coming to the table together if we were in some low church eccumenical event.

So going back to the beginning, this has all got me slightly more worried about the emphasis on sacramental fresh expressions than I might have been. 24 hours ago I thought they were great, I’d loved the stuff Visions did in the big top at Greenbelt last year and thought that looking to include them in fresh expressions was a great step forward to greater church unity and widening the experience of peeps. Today, I’m not so sure….how do we bring the treasure from them into the latest ways of being church without letting them turn another generation into people who exclude themselves from coming to the table with others?

I leave you with the You Tube trailer for the Sanctus dvd:

Election Campaigning in church?

So the pre-election campaign has started and we all want it to get out of the way, but equally we need to be engaged somehow. Rather than asking their congregation to come out and sit through the usual debate a church I know in Tractor Land has announced they’re doing it a bit differently this time. Burlington are inviting each of the main candidates in for a q&a session during the service, (sorry main celebrations…forgot the language is all changing).

Aware that they could be accused of bringing politics in where it’s not seen as appropriate their senior minister has made this wonderfully worded and quite inspiring comment on their site,
“Burlington is not interested in being party-political but is committed to constructive engagement and active involvement in society based on the life-changing values of Jesus. We welcome this opportunity to meet and support those seeking to serve in public life.”

Interesting aside to note that the Tory candidate for Tractorland is John Gummer’s son. Is this the start of another political dynasty? Whatever, the politics are close enough that it will make for an interesting campaign in that constituency.

A Voucher I Won’t Be Giving

Apparently there is a new sort of voucher you can get, a divorce voucher. This article in the Guardian tells you about it. It comes from a law firm offering people advice on the legal implications of divorce.

It made me think though, we contribute to weddings via presents for homes that people tend to already have. There are licences to be obtained and in the CofE atleast costs to be paid if you get married in church, I think. Should we start offering people vouchers towards the cost of their weddings? I’ve watched enough episodes of Don’t Tell The Bride to know there are actually alot of people who would like to get married, but just can’t afford it.

Best of British

St. Trinian’s 2…….best film I’ve seen this year. Won’t spoil the plot but beside being v, v. funny in a Carry On type style at times it’s also an amazing bit of social observation. There are also some excellent cultural observations.

The sub-cultures have been updated from the first movie to reflect contemporary culture and cultural changes in the last couple of years. Chavs have been replaced by Rude Girls and the eco’s have been introduced.

Interesting look at the patriarchal attitudes which see men maintaining key positions in society and the writing of history, although I believe that a key historical character really was a bloke. There is a secret society involved whose meetings involved alot imagery associated with religion…incense being swung amid chanting, a chalice of wine being passed around and alot of candels with hooded vestments.

All in all an excellent film. Couldn’t resist thinking that I’d liked to have sat down and watched it with Bishop Michael Ali-Nazir. Was reading an article by him, in ANVIL’s 25th anniversary journal, entitled “Britain Today: How We Came to Be Here and What We Can Do About It” recently. The article included the type of accusations one would normally expect by a conspiracy theorist regarding the downfall of Britain and the traditional nuclear family. Within the article Nazir takes a swipe at Sociology, without directly mentioning the discipline, somehow lumping Anthony Giddens in with Gramsci and Marcuse when saying there has been a direct attack on the family. He criticised the move away from patriarchal, heterosexual norms which this movie was questioning. No doubt this movie is just another part of the cultural conspiracy to stop Christianity becoming dominant again.

Going back to the article, from a serious perspective, it sourced and backed up the New Right ideas put forward by Civitas. The data that comes from this source is grounded in what at first sight becomes “common sense” approach. However, a critical analysis of the data raises a series of questions about the underlying assumptions and interpretations. I won’t go into a critique of the view here, but there are holes within the position being put forward.

Further on in the article he goes on to to criticise pluralism and argues that Islamism is the replacement to Marxism in terms of ideologies to be battled. Again whilst there are some sensible points within this he fails to be convincing.

The article then goes on to criticise Dawkins and intellectual reductionism before going on to look at the relationship between history, philosophy and religion. He calls for an engagement in the public square to remind people of the Christian values which underpin our legal and democratic system. Yet, Nazir-Ali is careful to make clear he thinks there should be some gap between religion and the legal system. Thus he carefully seeks to reinforce Christianity whilst leaving no room for the incorporation of Islamic law into the English legal system.

He then calls for a growth in the coverage of Christian worship in the media.

All in all it is an interesting article, but one which reveals the link between the New Right and some elements of the religious establishment within this country.

I am not looking to crititicise the key points Nazir-Ali makes regarding the importance of family and traditional forms of family. I am, however, questioning the position he takes through much of the article. The society we are living in and the development of that society is much more complex than he is saying. I certainly don’t think that there was a conspiracy theory which bridged the pre-war Neo-Marxists and Third Way, late twenty-first century theorists. Just as Nazir-Ali accused Dawkins of intellectual reductionism this is what I think he was doing in his reductionist approach to Radical Orthodoxy, which again he did not mention directly although he crudely borrowed from it.

I don’t think that St. Trinian’s 2 is a bad film, rather I think it is one which has more positive to say than negative amid the anarchic, very British humour.

Freshly Expressed – Part 1

I’m embarking on a detour into the world of Fresh Expressions and stuff in my reading at the moment. It’s kind of tied in with wanting to understanding the full range of evangelicalism going on at the moment…I know that FE and co are not evangelical in one sense but many of them have grown out of that kind of sub-culture. More importantly, it’s kind of tied in with my personal exploring and asking God “what next?”. Whilst I won’t be looking at this type of community in my fieldwork I do want to look at, in a minor way, what the issues might be for single parents in these communities. Are they going to be the same or different to “traditional” forms of church? As I say, I don’t think this will be part of the actual thesis and so this might be a blogged detour based on thinking out loud.

I want to share this journey through the literature aswell, though, because I know that many of us often touch on the edges of this stuff, but aren’t generally part of it. It is a world that, in some ways, because we are “churched” twenty, thirty, forty somethings we are excluded from except at Greenbelt or when we are networking with those who are part of these communities. This after all is a world that is intended to connect with and build the “unchurched”. Yet, we touch on the edges of it because the journeys many of us have taken and the generation we are part of means we are in a “gap” where new networks and communities are formed to keep us sane and hanging in there when we are on the edges of our churches or(temporarily) out of church, aswell as when we are at home in our churches but unable to find people like us within them. It is a world which, if we couldn’t take our friends into churches for various reasons, we would want to connect them into.

Additionally, and more importantly, it is the world the limited money in many organisations is being poured into at the moment. We all know the church in the UK is starting to go through serious change and that mission is not only vital as a Christian command but also for the continuation of the church in this country over the next twenty years or so. There needs to be in place a range of lower key initiatives for if it does all go tits up and the majority of churches as we currently know them in this country do become unviable. I hope this doesn’t happen, but……. So for those various reasons that’s why I’m interested in looking at this stuff whilst valuing “traditional forms of church” and championing the cause of the “mixed economy”.

The first book I’ve read is “Through the Pilgrim Door” by Michael Volland, (who is now teaching the mission course at the vicar factory up the road). throughthepilgrimdoor-708291 It traces, through a series of snapshots, the development of Feig. He apparently got some good advice off Bob Mayo early on not to try and define stuff too heavily, and so not allow the community to become something researchers could reinterpret time and time again until the analysis beared no resemblance to the community being studied.

Reading it was interesting. I’d only come across Feig once and that was last year. They were doing a pre-Greenbelt gathering and somehow I’d got myself on a mailing list telling peeps about it. When a Third Party, TOH and our host that evening asked where we were going my vague reply was “it’s something at the Cathedral, I’m not quite sure what, but we need to pop into Tescos on the way to get something to contribute”. It seems that was an accurate description of what was going on, having read the book.

The book has a few telling insights, but is more like a cup of de-caf. You know very pleasant but missing a whole lot of the stuff that really matters.

I would analyse the contents in more detail, but I have a bag full of Chrimbo reading from the library on the subject and want to go through a range of the stuff first, before I make any judgements.

On a related note the author of todays book is programming the New Forms venue at Greenbelt 2010. His latest blog post is asking for people who are “part of a worshiping community and fancy being involved in hosting worship next August, get in touch…”

lol – International Agnostic Gets Caught Again!!!!

There is a man I know who, depending upon his mood, is an atheist or an agnostic. He is most definately not a Christian for all sorts of reasons that mean he does not find himself comfortable in many churches.

Yet, God seems to keep using him or putting him in interesting situations around the world which mean he ends up mixing with a wider range of Christians than most people of faith I know.

Yesterday I got a Facebook message indicating it had happened again and today I got a follow up explaining he is yet again in that place many Christians don’t even go. Apparently he had gone to a village party, nearby to where he is working at the moment in Lapland. The women of the village indicated he was invited to their carol service, that was shortly about to start. He went, enjoying the fact that whilst he couldn’t understand a word of the sermon because the carols were familiar, (even if he didn’t know them in that language), they could help him learn more accurate pronounciation. The people were very kind too, the pastor even announced the hymn numbers billingually so he had a chance of knowing what was going on. Then “the thing” happened, by “the thing” I mean that taking it one step further in being used which God often does with this guy. He has been invited back to speak to them/ do some storytelling after their first Sunday service of the new year.

In the US once he ended up getting invited to go build houses or something in New Mexico with a bunch of people going on mission, which he happily did.

In this country he has found himself doing various stuff with Christians, most noteably a series of bible studies from the perspective of a storyteller in one of the prisons he was working in.

In his everyday life he ends up mixing regularly with Christians as he is involved in a range of “professional” and “volunteer” work with different groups. Over his life he has been involved in working with disabled people, asylum seekers, people living in rural situations, people living on inner city estates, people in prisons, activists, old people, young people and actually practically every sort of person you can think of, of every faith you can think of.

I laugh because as I see his life and here the stories of what’s he’s been doing I can see the gospel being lived out in many ways. I have heard his explanations of why he has a problem with “the church” and have heard him explain his quite fluid views on spirituality. Within them he expresses many of the frustrations and understandings of history which are common within black and liberation theology, (his knowledge of the bible and understanding of the good and bad ways it has been used throughout history are greater than practically anybody else I know who has not been trained in this area). And this is the thing, whilst he has his reservations about the church and is not a person of faith he continues to engage with churches and those within them with respect, because of the way he respects everybody as human.

He has been known to make clear what he thinks. I remember witnessing one event when to support his daughter, who was a teenager at the time, he went to “an outreach event” at the church she attended which had some missionaries over from the States. Part way through there was some presentation about “mission in Africa, to the natives”, and after listening for a while he stood up; loudly denounced the racism and colonialism within what was being said and left. Afterwards he could have banned his daughter from going near the church again, but he didn’t. He sat her down and explained why he had been upset by what was being said and why it should have been something of shame rather than of celebration. The next day, when he ran into the minister of that church in the post-office had a chat with him and basically gave him a black theology lecture. This guy is not black, he is white, but he has learnt the wider history of the church and of the working class in this country and the US, understanding the importance of this.

At the moment I’m reading “The Reflective Disciple“, an excellent book by Roger Walton. Within the book Walton has a section where he says, “Despite all the excitement around the refreshed picture of God, I feel uncomfortable with some of the literature on Mission-shaped Church, Fresh Expressions and Faith and Work and detect real dangers.” (p65)

He goes on to explain that “The moments of disquiet arise when the missiological major key of the symphony suggests that there is very little of worth in the world.” (p65). This is then unpacked by a discussion on the way Christians have a “one-way” view of interaction with the world, seeking only to do good not recognising or benefitting from the good of “non-Christians”. He concludes this section by saying “The Church is called by God into mission to recieve from God at work in the world as well as sharing its testimony and this needs to be reflected in the popular language of Mission-shaped church and Fresh Expressions and in the ‘success’ stories that are told.” (p70)

I am glad that with this man atleast there are elements of the church, like the one he has encountered in Lapland, and like the prison chaplain who asked him to lead the studies that time, who are taking a more “two-way” approach of sorts. More than that I am greatful that this man has the graciousness to continue to recognise the kindness of these people and treat all with respect, even if they espouse very different views to his own and even if they represent an institution he sees the faults of. In being willing struggle and to go beyond his own prejudices he has enriched my faith greatly over the years by his “witness” to the gospel through his life, even if it is a gospel he does not proclaim from a Christian perspective.

Christmas Activities

There was a time when queuing to get into a department store to see Santa or going to see “the lights” was the height of the Christmas experience. How times change The Guardian has this list of activities that relate to the Christmas season. Reading through the list I was struck by the references to steam train packages to get you to Cathedrals:
“The Cathedrals Express is running several days trips from London this month that take in carol services in Oxford, Chichester, Salisbury, Sherborne Abbey and Norwich. Getting there is half the fun; speeding through the countryside to the chug of the vintage train’s steam engines, with smoke drifting past the windows. Opt for the Pullman or Premier Dining option for a champagne brunch on the outward journey and dinner on the return leg.

• Various dates from 8-21 December; standard class trips £65, Premier Dining £169; trains depart from Victoria (for Oxford, Salisbury and Chichester), Waterloo (for Sherborne Abbey) and Kings Cross (for Norwich); 01483 209888; steamdreams.com

When I first saw this a few of my prejudices kicked in aswell as my inclusion/ exclusion radar, but then I stopped and thought about it. For those with the money and the inclination this would be an ideal way of doing outreach. Ok, somebody somewhere is profiting by getting people into church for a service, but…..here’s the thing it is a way to get people into a church for a service. This company has hooked into what many sections of the church are actually trying to do themselves; offering an experience. Increasingly I would suggest much of our non-socially orientated outreach is about offering an attractive experience in order to try and get people to buy into the product and then hopefully build some brand loyalty.

I could critique this whole approach in various ways: getting them to come to us, social exclusion is being promoted, eliteism, segmentation of congregations, marketisation of the church, church being turned into a tourist attraction and so forth but I don’t think we should. We all know those issues exist and should be looking to tackle them; but we don’t tackle them by knocking commercial initiatives that reach out in ways, if we’re honest, that are far more imaginative than what the church itself can come up with.

23 years ago….Brothers in Exile

Music, good music, timed perfectly and delivered by the right person can occassionally have an incredible impact upon you – almost involuntarily producing an emotional response. That happened to me last night when I went to see Martyn Joseph at the Sage.

I have to say I regarded most of it as a bit of a mediocre gig. It certainly didn’t have the power that the recent performances I’ve seen him do at Greenbelt with or without Stewart Henderson produce, or indeed the passion of the Deep Blue stage of his career a couple of years back when he was angry at Bush. It seems that as he has entered into middle age and Obama has become president MJ has lost alot of the anger. Thus, this set was a very different gig to those I’ve encountered in the past. Yes there were some oldies, but noticeably Dolphins Make Me Cry and several others that were staples have disappeared. There were some proper love songs, not the cynical type that he and Billy Bragg do so well, but a couple of proper tender ones. The man it appears is mellowing.

That is not to say he has mellowed to anything near selling out, the politics and passion are still there but something has happened, that you can tell. He gave some new material, not yet on a CD/ albumn or however you wish to describe, and this showed that the man emerging from the shadow has been reflecting life and a 29 year career. This material was, I would venture to suggest, amongst the best he has produced. Some of it is available for free download from his website, including “Five Sisters” – the second best song of the evening – and “Lonely Like America”.

The intense moment for me came during a new song called “Brothers in Exile”. Here I have to put some stuff in context. Firstly, I was sitting there in the 2nd row of The Sage with TOH. Secondly, I first saw MJ in concert exactly 23 years ago, (give or take a couple of weeks), in a FE college hall. Then it was a concert put on, I believe, by the local evo youth ministry org. This young singer, song writer in his 20’s was expected to put on a good show so at the end someone could come on stage, thank him and sell religion to the smiling Christian crowd. It was a Friday night, the Friday before I got baptised the following Sunday. I bought a t-shirt, got it signed but then my dad washed it and the signature came off…hey ho. In the intervening time both MJ and I have, in our seperate lives, grown up; married; had children; struggled with and walked/ crawled away from the evo sub-culture; getting out (one could argue) before we were thrown out for our different reasons. Once a year our paths cross again, although we don’t know each other, at Greenbelt. That place of hope which MJ described earlier as in the year, as he stood on stage at the festival answering questions from the audience, as his church, and which I over the years described as my place of sanity and safety. We never talk, I just go and listen to his music…but we have been on journeys down some of the same roads. To a certain extent you could argue we are exiles from a culture we were both previously part of and Greenbelt is our refugee camp.

Thus, when he gave an opening to the song “Brothers in Exile” saying it was about being a refugee, an exile but not a literal one I knew what the song was about. Once he started singing the words my tears began to flow. It was honestly like a damn opening as this song touched my heart. I realised that he is still an exile outside the church and I am refugee who has settled in a new land, mainstream Methodism. There was a line in the song about leaving before you were kicked out, as TOH held me as I just cried into her and she kissed my head while he sung I felt this summed it up really. The tears and the emotion only lasted a song, but it is a song that I realised has meant more to me than any other I have perhaps encountered on first hearing. I joked with TOH afterwards that if that it had that effect on me what effect would it have with a tent containing many refugees at GB? She suggested some large boxes of tissues might be in order.

I leave with you This Being Woman, one of the better MJ songs available on You Tube…and which has a better version on the Martyn Joseph and Stewart Henderson music and poetry albumn “because we can….”.

More than just tea and samosas

Yesterday was one of those rare days in church, or anywhere else for that matter. One of those days when you meet somebody truly inspirational who is humble and oozes integrity and has actually influenced real change rather than just talking about it. This guy was Inderjit Bhogal, who is according to his website an OBE – something not mentioned at all yesterday. I had heard he was meant to be good and so was glad the coffee rota meant I could get to hear both services he was preaching at aswell as hearing him at Methsoc in good conscience, (i.e. not feel guilty about not being off doing field work).

His main themes are inter-faith dialogue, anti-racism and sanctuary for refugees and asylum seekers. He does not talk about this in the usual middle class way which you expect, but rather talks it like it is – to the extent I was wondering if we were going to get the full f word within a quote in the morning sermon, at one point, (and I don’t mean feminism). Yet and here’s the thing in the mist of stating it like it is he shows totally humility and a deep understanding of and respect for scripture and other people. He refuses to dehumanise the other…..using a quote from a Bosnian in one of his sermons to explain when you start viewing anybody as less than human you are on the road to genocide.

This is all not just a good show of humility from a seasoned performer. This is the real deal. It’s a lifestyle thing. I happened to be on the coffee rota this week and so was in the kitchen washing up when he came in to chat to those of us in the kitchen and give a hand with the drying up. I also had a bit of an embarrassing moment at Methsoc when he started flogging his book with a student discount. I’d bought it full price off him in the morning and so started mumbling about the fact I would have waited if I’d known I could get it cheaper in the evening. He turned round, checked he’d heard my mumbling right and then reached in his pocket and gave me the difference – so I got my student discount. There were other things I observed which showed this bloke was the genuine article rather than a performer. He is a good old fashioned activist, who also happens to be a minister, chair of all sorts of commitees, OBE and former president of the Methodist Conference.

In terms of significant stuff this bloke has been involved in starting up the most important I guess is the City of Sanctuary movement, which has grown out of Sheffield. This is about getting places to commit to being places of safety, welcome and inclusion for refugees and asylum seekers.

There is a very good You Tube film where Inderjit and others explain what City of Sanctuary is about

Using the C word and the F word

Ok, so anybody who knows me or reads this blog regularly will know that I am a Christian and a feminist. To a certain extent both are words which you don’t use in polite society anymore but hey Christian is the central label I choose to own and being a feminist flows from that. Having spent a large proportion of yesterday preparing a lecture where I look at feminism, but not being able to incorporate the strand I choose to identify with I thought I would explain why I am a feminist and what sort of feminist I am. This need to articulate what feminism means and why it’s important but why it can be confuddling these days was reinforced reading this article about Rihanna in yesterdays Guardian.

If I were to have to put labels on to identify which of the Heinz 57 varieties of feminism I align myself with I would have to say I am a Christian, biblical feminist theologically who methodologically and theoretically identifies with third wave post-feminism. My ideas are not new, they are a mish mash of what I have gained from those women who have gone and shared their ideas before me.

What does this mean in practice? What do I actually believe? Why does it matter anymore?
1) I believe all were made of equal worth, in the image of God. The imago dei means that whilst there may be differences between genders and diversity amongst humanity we are all of equal importance to God and so should be of equal importance to each other.

2) Culture has developed, within industrial societies, in such a way that the elderly and the extended family have become devalued. This means that the role of the matriarch, particularly, has become devalued. This in turn has led to the breakdown of support networks and of informal control within our society. I do not believe this is what God intended. God, I believe, designed models of family which are not isolated and fragmented but rather ones which are based around community. Models where younger women learn from older women…..(this is what the story of Ruth and Naomi teaches us).

3) In a number of societies, including our own, there is pressure upon women regarding what they wear. Equally there is condemnation of those women who positively choose, having reflected upon the wider issues involved, to wear the clothes that society pressures some to wear. For example some women are pressured through their culture to wear the hijab whilst others are vilified when they choose to wear it as a symbol of identity and in our culture some women are pressured to wear short skirts and make up whilst others are accused of giving in to the marketing when they choose to wear it as symbols of their identity. Part of a healthy society is the ability to make healthy choices which are right for both the individual and the society. Men should not be the ones, either through political and religious decrees or through media marketing, who decide what is and isn’t right for a woman to cover her body in. Women should be able to choose what they wear and not be attacked for it.

4) Women are still seen as caring victims to be looked after and protected because of their gender. Thus single mothers are viewed as broken but the best people to look after their kids, the victims of domestic violence are seen as being down trodden women and laws are introduced to protect us from the violence and abuse of men. Great until you realise the effects of these stereotypes, images and gendered pieces of legislation. Male single parents become further marginalised, we forget that some men have main caring responsibilities or we ignore the fact that men who see their children less often are also single parents. This in turn helps lead to a culture where many dads lose contact with their children. Male victims of domestic violence are left without refuges or the legal protection afforded to women. Males working within the sex industry are left with less help to escape than women and less support generally, making their working conditions more dangerous. Generally these men will be viewed only as the perpetrators rather than as potential victims themselves. Don’t get me wrong I am not saying that legislation isn’t needed to protect and help people in our society but I am saying this legislation and sources of support should not be gendered….these things are not only female issues. If we care for supporting all in our society and as Christians living counter-cultural lives we should not give into the gendered stereotypes which make us blind to what is going on and marginalise many men in our society.

5) Women in the Western church, I believe, have too often believed that the feminist struggle relates to them breaking through a glass ceiling into the different levels of leadership or to getting away from a gendered interpretation of God and looking for inclusive worship if they haven’t just become post-Christian. My problems with this approach and these battle fronts being drawn up are various. Firstly, I believe in the priesthood of all believers. Whilst I understand and support the campaign for women bishops and so forth because we know that power equals making decisions on the allocation of resources I think that this focus actually disempowers many women as it focuses attention on the role of the clergy at the expense of the value of lay roles. I believe that as attention has been focused on these things, particularly by academics, the experience of “the everyday women on the pew” has been marginalised. Issues regarding being able to get adequate childcare to participate in church on an equal basis or the timings of meetings to support the women who are working are ignored. The segregated nature of our churches where the experience of single women or women without children is often very different to married women with primary childcare responsibilities is ignored. The imbalance of genders in our churches is not looked at from a female perspective. Beyond having less Christian men available for single Christian women what does this mean? How does it effect mission and so forth? How do we treat and (mis)use elderly women in our congregations, particularly in relation to unpaid and voluntary labour? What is going to happen with this army of women who keep many of our churches going when they become infirm? Who is going to support them, particularly those without extended families or more likely those with attenuated extended families who can visit rarely because of geographical distance? When they do have to give up their roles and ultimately pass away in the coming decade or so what is going to happen to the ministries they keep going? What is the experience of younger women? How should this impact fresh expressions, what pioneer ministries does it give opportunity for and so forth? These are the things we should be concentrating on to a greater extent.

I know I’ve gotten on my soap box, but I include two You Tube clips for anybody who seriously wants to know more about either feminist Theology or third wave feminism and not just my ramblings.
The first clip is a shorter five minute clip from Naomi Wolf explaining the natuer of Third Wave feminism and how this differs from second wave feminism, aswell as contributing to the hijab debate.

The second clip is a full hour long lecture from Dr. Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza giving a Burke Lecture. If you are familiar with who Schussler Fiorenza is you probably want to skip the first five minutes. She is not just explaining what Feminist theology is but she is giving a good example of excellent feminist scholarship. There is a point about half way through, (around 24mins in) where she defines her understanding of the f word.