Category Archives: Religion

Great things from the Church of England. But

The Church of England does many things well, there are also lots and lots of wonderful people doing great stuff in the Church of England. But there is a but.

Take the Faith in Conflict Conference that I am at this week. So much of this is absolutely brilliant:

  • The actual plenary content (just the first afternoon and evening have been enough to have made the time and cost worthwhile).
  • The people who are speaking and leading the smaller workgroups are highly qualified in the field and good facilitators.
  • The preparation and organisation are great. Clear arrangements, good facilities, very welcoming,helpful and knowledgeable staff team, quality printed materials. All top notch.
  • The food has also been good (how many people get to have meals served in the Nave of a Cathedral), with good quality, quantity, service and timing.
  • Coventry Cathedral is a wonderful setting for a conference on conflict and has a fantastic ongoing work in the field of reconciliation.

So a great conference.

However, there is a weakness and it reminds me of my training on a CofE dominated course. It is in the area of ecumenical appearance.

First, we had warm and friendly welcomes from the Chair of the organising committee, from the Bishop and from the Cathedral Dean. But there was no ecumenical involvement. Why was there nobody from another denomination to also welcome us? There are people at this conferenence from the Baptists, Catholics, Society of Friends, Mennonites, Methodists and more (including from other Countries). Couldn't someone from a local Church or Synod/District/Area from another denomination have provided an ecumenical dimension to the welcome?

Secondly, it would have been nice to see in the programme some contributions to the worship from other traditions than just the CofE. The worship may be great (although Choral Evensong sadly does very little to help me worship) but there appears from what I can see so far no attempt to involve other Churches, no ecumenical welcome. At a conference on Faith in Conflict to not celebrate different traditions of worship (about which there has been plenty conflict in the past and plenty of reconciliation still needed) seems a missed opportunity.

My perception is that these come from two beliefs the Church of England has of itself. First that it sees itself as the National Church and therefore able to represent all Christians. Second it believes that because the breadth of the Church of England is so wide it encompasses all traditions. For me neither of these are true and it disappoints me when I experience what can appear as arrogance or a sense of superiority. I know that when I explore these issues with people in the Church of England this is not what they intend. I hope that over time we will see more progress made.

An open letter to UCCF Region Team Leaders

Dear Team Leader,

I intend to continue my survey of CU's and Women Speakers that I started with the South West Region (see my posts: 42: University CU's and women speakers (SW Region) and 42: Updates on Women Speakers in CU's in the South West).

I am very interested in working with you so that what I write is as accurate as possible.

You can contact me by

or on twitter @Dave42W or by commenting below. I am happy to talk on the phone if you prefer (just let me know and I can give you my number or you can give me yours).

I have not sent this by the UCCF website email service as that specifically asks me not to use it to contact more than a couple of people.

Team Leaders:

  • Scotland: Mark Ellis
  • Wales: Owen Brown
  • North East: Peter Dray
  • North West: Ruth Port
  • Midlands: Tim Dennis
  • Cenrtral: Graham Shearer
  • South West: Dave Bish
  • South East: Naomi Dawson
  • London: Natasha Kasprowicz

If you know any of these team leaders please pass this onto them.

Celebrating Rothley Methodists

Just home from a fantastic afternoon and evening at Rothley Methodist Church.

We started with Messy Church at 3pm. This was only our second Messy Church (4th Saturday every month 3pm til 5pm) yet we had 24 kids and 19 adults.

Just to put that in context 19 adults is more than we tend to average on a Sunday morning! Lots of people that I am meeting for the first time :-)

In one of those nice "coincidences" that come after prayer and response, we were focused on the feeding of the 5,000 at this Messy Church. Lots of creative stuff, of which quite a bit was edible :-) Then marching into worship sing "One little boy who shared his lunch" to the tune "Ten Little Indians", then a video on the story, some interactive reflections on the story, a couple of Fischy Music action songs that fitted well ("We can do good" and "We all need encouragment") and prayers before we went back out to the hall to find the sausages were not quite ready. So I stole an idea from Birstall Messy Church where a parachute is used to bounce prayers upto God. We didn't have either a parachute or space for one with all this many people so we had a virtual parachute which worked just as well :-)

By then the very special "Truly Irrestible" Co-Operative sausages were ready along with the potatos, peas and beans (I was determined that we would have sausages that we would not read about horse in them during the week!). Pam had made a variety of cakes to follow that which also went down very well.

By this point the bread in fish shapes (ish) that the children had made were bakes so they could take them home along with all the other things they had made.

It was a brilliant afternoon, only made possible by a wonderful congregation who are enjoying a new lease of life having so many children in the Church. The congregation have been brilliant at inviting people and then being there to welcome them as well as getting involved in lots of practical ways. Sue, our senior Steward has lots of wonderfully creative ideas for the crafts (comes with a lovely mixture from her years of experience as a Beaver Leader and also as a Worship Leader).

After that we just had time to clear up and re-arrange the whole building for an evening of "Folk and Food", part of our 190th year celebrations. So we had a 10 strong Eileen's Little Big Band to play for us (as well as a couple of pieces sung by Christine from our own congregation). Lots of community singing of a mixture of secular and faith songs such as "Outragous Grace". A real highlight was Keith talking about his Baptism 3 weeks ago at Syston and then singing "Pour over me" with David on the piano. A very powerful testimony :-)

We had 60 people there which meant we were packed out! So nice to open the partition to the Church and move pews in order to add more space to the hall. In fact when it came to the eating many spread out into the Church (where I was serving beautiful Cameroon Tank Coffee having borrowed Syston's coffee machine and 4 x 2.2 litre pump flasks).

Everyone had a great time. So good to see the congregation enjoying having so many people joining them.

It has been an amazing few days for our little Chapel, last week we hosted a Circuit Sunday Morning Service. I wasn't there as I was on holiday but heard it was very full and again the congregation were loving the support of so many coming to celebrate 190 years of God's love in and through this congregation.

We have lots more things coming during this 190th year of celebration including services by Stella Bristow (former Vice President of the Methodist Connexion), Peter Hancock (Northampton District Chair) and a number of preachers/ministers with connections with the Chapel from the past.

Updates on Women Speakers in CU’s in the South West

I have been updating my blog post 42: University CU's and women speakers (SW Region) as I have received comments from people (some polite for which my thanks, some not so polite which I have not ignored).

There is good news.

All the CU's in the South West Region of the UCCF that people have given me information about (with the exception of Bristol) have had women speakers.

There are some CU's (4 at the moment) where I still have no information and I hope that people will help fill in those gaps to show that these are having women speakers. Finding these is time consuming and often requires local knowledge about individuals twitter accounts etc.

There is bad news.

Nobody has yet given any details of Bristol CU allowing women speakers.

Next

I will continue to update this region and will add other regions as I get time. Personally I think it is helpful to have an evidence based list of which CU's are currently having women speakers rather than unsupported claims that they either do or do not. I hope that those claiming there is no problem outside Bristol will be proved right although simply ignoring the many voices saying there is a problem is not helpful.

One outstanding issue is that simply demonstrating that a CU has had at least one woman speaker is not a guarantee of equality. To my mind there are at least three issues that need to be addressed for that to be the case.

  • Frequency. I would suggest that if there are fewer than two women speakers per term then it is hard to claim much of a commitment to equality.
  • Authority. For there to be equality there needs to be Women speakers with a range of authority and "status" to match the male speakers. I suggest it does not mean equality if the women who speak are all UCCF relay workers while the men are Church leaders.
  • Events. The events where people speak matter. For example a small Bible study and a main mission week event are not the same. That is not to say Bible Studies are unimportant but it is to say that unless you have women speakers at the full range of your events then there is not equality.

I don't know how you could monitor this and I certainly don't intend to. However, I think it is important to recognise the significant limitations that only noting that a woman has been invited to speak has. 

Basic mis-understandings around Women as speakers

This comes from the discussion relating to CU's but is not specific to CU's.

In the comments I notice several common mis-understandings that I want to address here.

Attacking Male Speakers

Comments like this from BWAHOA go to great lengths to show that the men who speak at CU's are good men. However, that misses the point. Saying that a Christian group should have both women and men as speakers is not saying that there is something wrong with the men. It is not criticising the teaching of the men. It is not saying the men do not have varied views.

You do not need to defend the male speakers. They are not being criticised by a campaign to honour your promises and do what is right by having women as speakers.

Anytime will do

One comment points out that even Bristol CU has had women speakers in the long distant past. It also asks how often you need to have women speakers implying that you only need one in the past to be enough.

My view is that if you are to claim that you believe in equality then you need to be demonstrating a commitment to balance. I don't mean a legalistic 50% balance , or a balance exactly matching the gender balance of the University. However, in terms of basic visibility I can't see how less than once a term could be said to demonstrate a commitment to equality. Also it is not just about how many but where and what. If you have a main event in your year and never have a woman lead that instead only allowing them to speak at smaller meetings then you are not demonstrating a commitment to equality.

Issues

A typical mis-understanding is to say of an all male speaker list: "So the speakers list for the last 3 months is either UCCF staff workers or Church leaders, and a total mix of people on the egalitarian/complimentarian discussion."

Two things are fundamentally wrong with this:

a) An all male list of people cannot be "a total mix of people on the egalitarian/complimentarian discussion." That would be an oxymoron.

b) The understanding is the implied view that when women speakers come they will be speaking about egalitarian issues. Wrong. If there is a commitment to equality then the women who speak will be speaking about a full range of issues with the same authority and respect given to male speakers.

Insults

"they might be busy with a whole lot of other stuff, stuff that might be significantly more important than what a blogging methodist minister thinks which isn't based in reality"

It is a fundamental mis-understanding to think that I will read the phrase "blogging methodist minister" and feel anything other than complimented. 

University CU’s and women speakers (SW Region)

For the first time last night I saw a tweet from the University CU celebrating having a woman speaker.

"Tonight: FREE PUD + SUPERMODEL @TracyTrinita talks on Pursuing Wealth + Fame, 7 30pm Claverton Rooms @UniofBath @UCCF @TheOCCA #Food4Thought" the original tweet is here.

It is a start, although sad if having been a supermodel is a requirement to be invited to speak if you are a women. I wonder how many male models they invite to speak at the University of Bath CU. 

So here I start with reviewing the CU's around the UK (South West Region only in this post). I'll continue to update this as people tell me more.

South West Region

It seems sensible to start with the South West region as it contains both Bristol and Bath CU's (the former as the CU that raised the issue for me and the latter as the first with a tweet mentioning a woman speaker that I saw).

The team leader for the UCCF in the South West is Dave Bish who I know through his blog The Blue Fish Project and through discussions about Newfrontiers.

Here is what I have found so far about the CU's listed on the UCCF Website in this region.

  • Bath CU. UCCF page, Own Website, Twitter
    At the time I checked their website is entirely focused on their events week which was happening at the time I checked. Their 2013 events week included two women speakers Tanya Walker and Tracy Trinita.
  • Bath Spa CU UCCF page, their blog
    They have a blog and I have looked back over several pages of archive but I can't spot any women speakers. There are some male speakers listed but not all events have the name of the speaker included. [Update] Dave Bish has tweeted about Anna Harcourt speaking at an event.
  • Bristol CU UCCF page, their website
    The CU where the issue came to my attention last year when their policies were widely publicised. At the time I checked they have details of their mission week and some events this term but there are still no women speakers at any events on the website
  • Cornwall College, Falmouth Marine School Christian Union UCCF page, their website down, Twitter
    No information available online that I can find. However, comments below indicate that they have had Becky Pippert as a speaker. According to the UCCF there are three CU's in Falmouth but they appear to share the same website. [Update] Thanks to comment from Andrew below I have found and added their twitter account which mentions women speakers.
  • Duchy College, Wadebridge Christian Union UCCF page
    I have not found information available online about what they do.
  • University of Exeter CU UCCF page their website Twitter Facebook
    Their website gives no details of speakers.
    UCCF hosted an event in Exeter with Becky Pippert, see Dave Bish's blog post
    This tweet indicates they have had at least one woman speaker.
  • Exeter College Christian Union (in Exeter, not Oxford) UCCF page
    I have found no information available online
  • University of Gloucestershire Christian Union UCCF page Website Facebook Twitter
    I could not find details of speakers at their CU Meetings other than a couple of references to mens names. [Update] "Anon" in a comment points to this tweet from November 2012
  • Penwith College Christian Union UCCF page 
    No information available online that I can find.
  • Plymouth University Christian Union UCCF page, their website facebook twitter
    I could not find details of speakers at their CU Meetings other than Glen Scrivener was the key speaker at their mission. [Update] Tanya in comment below reports women speakers recently.
  • Truro College Christian Union UCCF page Facebook Twitter
    Looks like they had a woman from Christian Aid to speak at an event in December.
  • University College Plymouth St Mark and St John Christian Union (Marjon) UCCF page Facebook
    I coiuld not find any speaker details. The comment below from Tanya indicates that Cat, a UCCF Staff Worker, has been a speaker here.
  • University of the West of England Christian Union UCCF page their website Facebook Twitter 
    I couldn't find any speaker details online

I think that is now all the CU's in the South West Region covered. I am interested in corrections and more information, so if you can give me links to first hand information about any of these CU's and their attitudes and actions relating to women speakers I would appreciate it.

I have plenty of people saying there is no problem with CU's and women speakers. However, there are also plenty of people saying there is a problem. Therefore I really need evidence either way not just accusations or defences.

Note that I have informed the UCCF by email before writing this page and have given twitter mentions to most of the CU's as well as the UCCF and Dave Bish. I have had no response from any of them so far.

Actions speak louder than UCCF press releases

Back in early December I wrote 42: UCCF contradicts itself on Women speaking looking at the inconsistances in the updated press release from the UCCF.

Now over two months later I wanted to follow up on what actual progress has been made.

Sadly it is not looking good.

First, the UCCF have removed their press release from their website. So the link is now broken. It is always a concern when organisations try to re-write history. Unfortunately, I didn't keep a copy of the full text although I included several quotes in my post 42: UCCF contradicts itself on Women speaking. [Update: the updated Press Release is available from the Google webcache here]

Second, according to the Bristol CU website they have not yet had any women speakers, nor at the moment any planned. See their flyer and events diary. They are also in the process of rewriting their history as well. Their original statement has now been moved off their home page to the bottom of their About/Vision and Beliefs page. Currently it reads:

Bristol CU statement on Women Speakers

Bristol University Christian Union (BUCU) deplores the recent exaggerations and misrepresentations in some parts of the media of its position on women's ministry in the church. It is well known that Christian churches differ on this question. BUCU is not a church, but a student society, so it has never had a formal policy on women's ministry. In recent months, the Executive Committee have been exploring ways in which BUCU can best accommodate members with divergent and strongly held convictions, while expressing our unity as Christian believers. In line with our basic position throughout that process, which has not been widely publicised, the Executive Committee now wish to make clear that we will extend speaker invitations to both women and men, to all BUCU events, without exception. BUCU is utterly committed to reflecting the core biblical truth of the fundamental equality of women and men.

BUCU Executive Committee 05/12/12

See also: http://www.uccf.org.uk/student/news/uccf-statement-on-women-speaking-in-christian-unions.htm

Given that the UCCF have cleared their tracks and there being no visible progress towards having Women speak at the Bristol CU, I am compiling a web page detailing every CU and all I can find out about their practices relating to having Women as speakers.

So far I have only found one CU with documentation of having women speakers. Well done Bath CU for inviting Tanya Walker and Tracy Trinita to their Food for Thought events week 18th-22nd February 2013.

I have only explored some of the CU's in the South West region of the UCCF so far but will work my way through them all. Unfortunately, at least so far, the UCCF have not responded to my requests for information.

So actually it is not so much "Actions speak louder than UCCF press releases" more "Inaction speaks louder than UCCF press releases" as the UCCF and CU's continue to exclude women and support inequality.

 

Newfrontiers, self-delusional to the end

According to The Road to "Elder" ado: Farewell, Newfrontiers UK "At the turn of the year, Newfrontiers UK, the UK part of the "apostolic sphere" of Terry Virgo, formally ceased to exist in it's previous form."

So Newfrontiers has ceased to exist.

However, this hapens in a typically self-delusional way. The post delights in saying "WE NEVER WERE A DENOMINATION".
Yet:
Denomination from Merriam Webter "4: a religious organization whose congregations are united in their adherence to its beliefs and practices"
or
"1.
a religious group, usually including many local churches, often larger than a sect: the Lutheran denomination." dictionary.reference.com
I say typical because Newfrontiers play these kinds of games with definitions all the time.
For example I have been told many times that Newfrontiers believe in equality. Yet the equality that they believe in is consistantly not equal
  • Wives should submit to the headship of their Husbands
  • Women can never be elders in the Church
  • Many of them place additional restrictions on women such as not allowing them to preach in Church or teach men.

They claim this equality in just the same way as they claim to not have been a denomination, by playing with defintions. Equality is about value they say, not about role. Yet nothing tells us publicly more about value than the roles you permit and such a defintion is actually a redefintion of equality:

[mass noun] the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities:an organization aiming to promote racial equality Oxford Dictionaries

Now that Newfrontiers apparently does not exist (although recognising that this may simply mean that Newfrontiers have redefined the word "exist") it will be interesting to follow what happens with the new Apostolic Balls. NB fed up of redefining words they have decided to create new phrases "Apostolic Spheres" is the current favoured one, but as they contradict Scripture by requiring all their Apostles to have balls (yes a reference to Junia in Romans 16) I figure "Apostolic Balls" is more appropriate.

Someone for David Cameron to listen to

I have just been visiting someone that I think it would be good for David Cameron to meet. A lovely lady in her 90's. One of her daughters recently died and we were talking about a whole range of things from her life.

She started talking about her husband who died many years ago. I thought of David Cameron when she described her husbands war experiences and how they affected him. In his Christmas speech our Prime Minister mentioned ""Indeed, God's word reminds us that Jesus was the Prince of Peace." Odd words to preceed talking about service men and women who are at war. Odd words from a Prime Minister who travels to oppressive regimes in the Middle East to sell arms.

I wish he could have heard this lovely lady on the subject of peace.

She described how after the war her husband would sob in her arms as he could not escape memories of standing on the bodies of his comrades, of seeing them die.

She said war solves nothing.

If only our government listened to people like this lady. People who have been trough tough times and come out knowing that violence only breeds hatred and more violence. The only answer she said is love.

What is more, that is of course what Jesus said and lived as well. The politicians of the day killed him for it. Today they simply twist his words to justify their terrible actions.

David Cameron, get in touch if you want me to introduce you to a lady who will help you understand the consequences of your choices.