Monthly Archives: February 2010

Methodism = Mission first!

Well a huge outbreak of excitement. Sincere congratulations to David (President) and Richard (Vice President) for getting the Methodist Church noticed.

It even got me a phone call on my day off from someone worried that the Chapel might not be there on Sunday after they had read the Daily Telegraph (yes I do exaggerate a little for effect – please forgive me).

Let us remind ourselves of the key paragraphs:

David Gamble: 

Throughout the history of churches working together, as I have experienced it, one of
the major and oft-repeated texts has been John 17.21, where Christ prays for the unity
of his followers not because it’s a nice idea, not because it’s financially a better use of scarce resources, but that the world might believe. It’s mission led. We only exist to
glorify God, to ensure that the word is duly preached, the sacraments duly celebrated,
and the people duly formed in discipleship for worship and mission. 

For Methodists, the word ‘covenant’ is very important – part of our spirituality and
our understanding of our relationship with God. Many of you may have shared in our
annual Covenant Service, with these powerful words: 

Richard Vautrey: 

I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,
exalted for you or brought low for you;
let me be full, let me be empty,
let me have all things, let me have nothing;
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal. 

David Gamble:

Methodists approach the Covenant with the Church of England in the spirituality of
that Covenant prayer. So when we say to God “let me have all things let me have
nothing”, we say it by extension to our partners in the Church of England as well. We
are prepared to go out of existence not because we are declining or failing in mission,
but for the sake of mission. In other words we are prepared to be changed and even to
cease having a separate existence as a Church if that will serve the needs of the
Kingdom.

Are we willing to take our covenant that seriously? It’s quite a challenge – for both of
our churches.

Wow! Yes! Yippee!

I absolutely love this level of commitment to mission! Again:

We are prepared to go out of existence not because we are declining or failing in mission, but for the sake of mission. In other words we are prepared to be changed and even to cease having a separate existence as a Church if that will serve the needs of the Kingdom.

Mission is why we are here, it is who we are. What a wonderful way to restate that we are a movement and we are determined to move for Christ, for his Kingdom, for his mission!

For the best commentary on this I suggest Pete Phillips (who has justly seen a 4x rise in traffic to his blog over this)

For other views I like this one The Church Mouse Blog: Three cheers for the Methodists! Door open to full union..

Finally a reminder. This does not mean that full union with the Church of England is inevitable and certainly it is not imminent. But it does remind the world clearly and simply that Methodism is about Mission not structures and denominations – something that should leave all Methodists singing for joy this weekend.

Version 2 of Methodist Social Media Guidelines open for editing

Version 2 of the guidelines is now available. The official version is here and the open version for direct editing is available and updated (so at the moment they are identical – but you can change that).

I am pleased to see just how many of the changes proposed through the open editing process have made it into version 2 of the document. This is clearly an open process as promised and the unofficial open for edit version is an easy way to make your contributions.

Remember the deadline is 1st March so do not miss your opportunity to have your opinions heard.

As a reminder: All contributions made to the unofficial version will be passed to Toby Scott (Communications Director for the Methodist Church). You can contribute in many ways:

  • Directly edit the document within Google Docs from any web browser. If you send me your email address (by commenting here, by email to dave@warnock.me.uk or direct tweet to @dave42w) I will send you an invite allowing you to directly edit the document.
  • Leave suggestions in the comments below
  • Tweet suggestions to me @dave42w
  • Write suggestions on your own blog (please let me know about the blog post, if your blog is in my blogroll I should pick it up anyway)
  • Email me using dave@warnock.me.uk

Pothole gardens

I love the subversive nature of this from Pete Dungey: Pothole Gardens:

Pothole_garden_04
 

Public Installations - 

'If we planted one of those in every hole, it would be like a forest in the road'

An ongoing series of public installations highlighting the problem of surface imperfections on Britain's roads.

Project participation welcomed. Please send any images to: info@petedungey.com

It would be good to contribute to this, but around here you will need a lot of plants!

The dangers of power in Male Headship

Warning. This is a potentially explosive post. Please read carefully and especially consider my intentions which I make explicit in the last two paragraphs.

When she commented on 42: Included or Injustice my friend, mentor etc Angie connected with some thinking I was doing about power, particularly when those with power are blind to the potential effects.

I find it scary when a man claims male headship and also claims that his wife (or fiancé) supports this without him showing any awareness of power dynamics. It is quite possible we will ever know what his wife really thinks as there are so many potential power holds over her (eg peer pressure, of rejection by him or the church) that it is ludicrous to believe that every woman dares say the truth in public in front of her husband and Church who both believe he is called by God to be her head.

The danger caused by not acknowledging the power that male headship gives husbands is intensified as the arguments for Male Headship leak from the core of the Church.

Within the Church we can hope that there is some understanding of what submission means in a Christ like way (although the way that people like Mark Driscoll teach it I am not very confident of that see 42: More on Driscoll and Sex) and so we could hope that a submissive wife (who by the nature of submission is in a very vulnerable place) is protected from abuse by the teaching, example and pastoral care of the Church. I am not confident that this is always successful as I have had emails in the past from women who have been abused by their husbands and who were not supported by their Church who believed in male headship. Of course I do not claim that abuse only happens when couples believe in male headship – my concern is that it makes it more likely due to the power imbalance and pressure to submit to your husband even when he is abusive.

But my bigger concern is in the wider society if men and women hear from the Church that husbands are to be the head of the wife and that all wives should submit to their husbands. That message gives men power and makes women vulnerable. I have seen the results in terms of women who have been abused by husbands who have heard that their wife should submit to them.

I am not suggesting that any Church anywhere would want to see wives abused by their husbands. It is absolutely not the teaching of the Church anywhere I have heard of it. But telling society the Church believes that wives need to submit to their husbands is dangerous. It legitimises and institutionalises a power imbalance that can lead to abuse for vulnerable women. I never again want to have to offer pastoral care for the outcome of that.

For me these terrible potential outcomes should cause those who believe that Male Headship is required by God to think again. Does an interpretation of scripture that can encourage vulnerability and abuse in society seem consistent with the teaching of Jesus?

As a Methodist I believe in the Wesleyan Quadrilateral as a methodology for theological reflection that uses:

  • Scripture
  • Tradition
  • Reason
  • Experience

all worked out in Community. I believe that when this is used to review our interpretations of scripture and potentially challenge them it leads to better interpretation. Such a process does I think mean that we need to take into account the wider implications of our interpretations. 

If our interpretation of scripture leads us to believe God wants wives to submit to their husbands then I believe that reflecting on that interpretation using the Wesleyan Quadrilateral will put pressure on us to revisit the original interpretation – can we really have understood scripture properly if the dangers are so great.

I am aware that this is a potentially explosive post. Please read it carefully and remember this: I am not accusing any Church or Christian of wanting to see anyone abused. I am not accusing anyone of not standing against the abuse of women. I fully recognise that those who are teaching male headship are doing so in good faith. believing that to be what scripture teaches.

I simply want to challenge those who believe in male headship to consider the impact of their understanding on women who are more vulnerable to abuse as a result.

Cycling MPs take study tour of Cambridge – Nooo!

Noooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is all wrong: Cycling MPs take study tour of Cambridge Bike For All

If you want to know about cycle facilities do not go to anywhere in the UK, go to the Netherlands (visit David) and go to Copenhagen to visit Mikael.

The difference is huge in facilities and in cycle rates. We need to model on best practice and Cambridge is far from that.

Given the urgent drivers of reducing our oil dependence, reducing our carbon footprint and reducing obesity levels we don't have time and money to waste on anything but a complete change to make the whole transport infrastructure focused on pedestrians, cyclists and public transport. 

Included or Injustice

I have had many responses to my two recent posts on how Complementarian (fancy marketing word for Male Headship) Churches exclude women thus creating injustice. See 42: My wife …. and 42: The forgotten victims of male headship

The comments got me thinking a bit more about what is needed for people to be (and feel) included and for there to be justice rather than victims. David Matthias (Blue with a hint of amber) gives examples of roles held by women in his Church, yet I still believe there is injustice there. David can with some justification say we allow (even encourage) women to be involved in all these different ways, how can you still claim this is unjust?

Starting from Scripture I believe that inclusion and justice are two great biblical imperatives. That can be very simplistically put with two examples from Matthews gospel. First 28:19 ("Go and make disciples of all nations") is clearly inclusive of all people (everyone in every nation). Second in 23:23 the teachers of the law and Pharisees are lambasted by Jesus for neglecting more important things (justice, mercy and faithfulness).

I would claim that inclusion is a key New Testament theme that is present although not central in the Old Testament while the demand for justice runs right through scripture from start to finish.

I accept that Inclusion is difficult. For example some exclusions are required by law (under age children are excluded from buying alcohol or cigarettes) just as some inclusions are also required by law (wheelchair access for example). There are many levels and shades to inclusion and one of the tricky things is deciding which (if any) are matters of justice.

As an example consider a range of statements about the role of women in Church. At what point do you consider there is inclusion and no injustice:

  1. Women may come to worship but must keep their heads covered and not speak
  2. Women may come to worship and speak providing their husband is there and gives permission
  3. Women may come to worship but may not lead worship or teach men
  4. Women may lead worship providing they do so under the authority of their husband
  5. Women may lead worship and preach but cannot be an elder, or a minister
  6. Women may be a minister but not the senior minister
  7. Women can be a minister/priest but not a bishop
  8. All roles are open to women but a Church can decide not to accept a woman
  9. All roles are open to women but men may refuse to accept certain rites/offices from a woman
  10. No roles are restricted by gender but only a tiny percentage of senior roles are held by women
  11. The gender balance of leadership at all levels of the Church approximates to the gender balance of the whole Church
  12. Gender is understood by all to be irrelevant to ability, calling and gifts. Nobody notices gender in selection processes or in their leaders. 

I have had direct contact with people with experience of 2 and up. My own experience is from 5 to 10. 

My personal feeling is that the Methodist Church is at around 10 (look at the Senior Connexional Staff, only one woman; the District Chairs [is it 4 out of 33 or something], the superintendents [don't have figures but have heard of all male supers meetings still]). Still there is an expectation by many that we should be expecting to be at 11. [See update below, turns out 10 is wildly optimistic]

Given that this discussion started with my perception of New Frontiers my personal opinion at this time is that they range from 4 to 5.

The Church of England is at 7 and it continues to look like 8&9 will be set in law for a long time.

I feel that justice requires 11 while inclusion sets 12 as a goal while monitoring to see that you don't fail on 11.

Questions:

  1. Do you have any suggestions that might improve this scale?
  2. On this scale where do you think inclusion is sufficient that there is no injustice?
  3. What other scales of inclusion would be useful checks for justice issues (some examples might be ethnicity, sexuality, age, social status, educational attainment, IQ)?
  4. When is it acceptable to focus and when does this cause injustice (eg's men's breakfasts, under 18 youth club, heavy metal music fans, …)?

[update]

Turns out my quick guestimate about the state of the Methodist Church was very optimistic. My apologies to friends for forgetting and ignoring their experiences of stationing and of presiding at Holy Communion. Those experiences drag us down way beyond where our official statements would place us. So sadly much nearer 8 than I hoped. Thanks Angie for calling me out on that one.

Just found some quick stats. Not very recent but they give an idea of the problem in Methodism:

Percentage breakdown of Totals 2000-2001

  • 2449 Presbyters 23% Female 77% Male
  • 108 Deacons 76% Female 24% Male
  • 625 Circuit Superintendents 10% Female 90% Male
  • 252 Single-Gender Circuits 6% Female 94% Male
  • 72 Single-Station Circuits 14% Female 86% Male
  • 112 Ministers in Local App't 60% Female 40% Male
  • 46 Ministers Without App't 48% Female 52% Male

Conference-Appointed Committees 2000-2001

  • Conference/Policy 51 Female 98 Male
  • Order and Pastoral 118 Female 167 Male
  • Trusteeships 29 Female 87 Male
  • Education 18 Female 49 Male
  • Other Bodies 20 Female 41 Male
  • Finance 8 Female 73 Male

Stats from The Methodist Church Committee for Gender Justice report to the 2002 conference which concluded that the Methodist Church in Great Britain is suffering from institutional sexism.

[end update: moved update to the end as it did not read well in the middle.]

[Update 2]

See also 42: The dangers of power in Male Headship

[End Update 2]

Progress on Open editing of the Official Methodist Consultation Social Media Guidelines version 1

The official version 1 draft of the revised Methodist Social Media Guidelines has now been online for nearly a week.

In that time the open version of the document has had extensive changes with contributions from three people (Pete Philips, Dave Faulkner and myself).

I am hoping that the official version 2 of the document will be released during Thursday and I will resync the open version with that as soon as I can.

I will announce when version 2 is available for open editing and encourage all those with any interest in Social Media and the Methodist Church to contribute. Those who have been watching the open use of Social Media at the CoE General Synod may have insights to contribute. It would also be great if those who have had bad experiences of Social Media would also chip in (and you can contribute direct to me without your name appearing anywhere).

Meanwhile the open version is still available open for editing

As a reminder: All contributions made to the unofficial version will be passed to Toby Scott (Communications Director for the Methodist Church). You can contribute in many ways:

  • Directly edit the document within Google Docs from any web browser. If you me your email address (by commenting here, by email to dave@warnock.me.uk or direct tweet to @dave42w) I will send you an invite allowing you to directly edit the document.
  • Leave suggestions in the comments below
  • Tweet suggestions to me @dave42w
  • Write suggestions on your own blog (please let me know about the blog post anyway you wish, if your blog is in my blogroll I should pick it up anyway)
  • Email me using dave@warnock.me.uk

The forgotten victims of male headship

In my recent post (42: My wife…) I focused on the wives who are victims of male headship (thinking in that post of the problems caused by wives being valued only or principally for their looks). Here I want to draw attention to five other groups of victims that are often forgotten or ignored when we focus on the problems that male headship means for wives. I have been encouraged as I thought about this by a session on inclusion and diversity at the Time to Reflect retreat where I am this week.

  1. Single Women
  2. Single Men
  3. Husbands
  4. Wives with ill husbands
  5. The whole of society

Single women. I mentioned them in passing in the other post but realised that in doing so I was continuing the trend of not giving them the attention they deserve. When Churches teach male headship it should be obvious that single women become victims. When a woman is considered to only have worth from their husband then those women who have no husband are victims twice over. Once for their gender and once because they do not have the only recognised status which is that of wife. I imagine there are differing experiences of this for women who have never been married, those who are divorced (and I suspect especially single parents) and those who are widowed. I would love to know of places where the voices of single women in complementarian/male headship churches are being shared and heard. Anyone got any recommendations?

Single Men. As one of the key status symbols in a male headship setting is the "lovely" wife it follows that men without a wife will have lower status, I get the distinct impression that a wife is considered essential for Church planters by some. Maybe the self styled masculinity of these churches helps men attend, but if all the focus is on having a wife who will submit and honour you then how do the single men feel? Are the considered failures? What about those men with skills and interests that are not considered manly by their male headship Church? Where do they fit in?

Husbands. It may seem odd to see the married men in male headship churches as victims. However, they have to fit the part too. What about the unemployed husband "kept" by his wife? What about the husband whose wife has a better job, or who is better suited to staying at home and looking after the kids (very nearly my choice at one time), or who loves cooking or baking, or who is the tidy one in the marriage who chooses to keep the home clean. There are already plenty of men who dare to break the cultural stereotypes, how many more would make different choices without the pressure to conform to their churches idea of male headship? How many would be happier if freed from the need to be the head?

Wives with ill husbands. I know I have asked this before and I also know that no male headship supporter has answered. Suppose you believe in male headship and have followed it all your married life. Then late in life your husband develops dementia. How do you fit this with male headship? Suddenly you have the one who has not been allowed to make the final decisions in charge. In examples I have seen you have the one who has never been allowed to manage the finances having to pick them up with no handover at an incredibly difficult time. Who is now the head of the household? Should this faithful wife now feel guilty because she is acting out of her God given role?

The whole of society. Whenever people are excluded from their full potential, whenever people are not free or are prevented from using their God given abilities then the whole of society is poorer and we all suffer loss. How could it be otherwise? This is true in every way that people are excluded (racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, ageism, etc etc) and make headship is no different. My life is poorer because the gifts of so many have been suppressed. Simple selfishness and self interest should mean I stand against male headship even when it is marketed at complementarianism.

[Update] See also 42: Included or Injustice.