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Stebbing, Great Dunmow, Essex, United Kingdom
The occasional blog of an Anglican priest in rural Essex

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

But it wouldn't be nothing, nothing .....

Hi again Jody,

Well (cards on the table) I have now read the whole article properly several times and realised the identity of the writer and his context. I see this as a bloke writing for men, from the context of a church with a significant ministry to and outreach among men. It's a church not far from here, and I get on well with Steve's boss, and have even had one of his colleagues to preach here. That church also has on its staff one of the very few women priests who regularly speak at NW. So I guess my words are a bit guarded, but don't let that make you think I have moved on from the previous post - which I guess was really about your older post about women in leadership.

Now I am the kind of guy who reads his wife's Cosmo Eve or She, mostly because I can't stomach GQ and feel too old for Q and the NME, not fit enough for men's health and not nerdy enough for PC gamer (or whatever).

So the only magazine I read that is specifically for men is the one published by Christian Vision for Men, whom our Men's Group (known as BoB) subscribe to. It contains the kind of thing that Steve wrote, which, if you can look at it for the perspective of a ministry to men, in a culture where, as the book says (and I haven't finished reading it yet) "Men Hate Going to Church", is (for the most part) helpful - to men.

But my opening analogy doesn't work the other way round. My wife doesn't read men's magazines, and if she did she would probably find a lot of the content difficult to accept if not downright alien to her point of view. I do not think however, that it is wrong for there to be "niche" magazines in this sense, whether they are Christian (and therefore frankly likely to be cheesy) or secular (and therefore likely to be principally concerned with sex and physical appearance - but that doesn't always put me off reading them!)

And so I recognise Steve's article in NW mag as being appropriate for the context of a Christian magazine for men. If there was editorial error therefore on the part of NW, it was to assume that the readership of the NW mag and CVM mag are the same, or at least have a significant overlap. This I doubt. My reasoning is that there is always a page or article for women in the NW mag, but rarely a specific article for blokes - most of the readers, I deduce therefore, are women.

Most of the people in all of the churches I have ever been involved in (15 at the last count over the last 22 years) have been women. There is a problem with the church, that not enough men are part of it. I do not repeat do not think that the ordination of women has caused this. Its causes are much more long term and too complex to cover in just one post. I even understand that the bloke who wrote "Why men hate going to church" has now written another book in which the women of the church are challenged to bring the blokes in. This seems a refreshing approach, as even the Ugley Vicar has had enough of macho men's rallies.
The sentiment behind Steve's article, therefore, I pretty much agree with. We have a small men's group here which is aimed at the blokes on the fringe of church, and we do have a problem with a lack of blokes at the heart of the fellowship.

So, to the article itself. There was only one bit I thought was completely unacceptable - the paragraph you highlighted about people seeing the divine in men, as Pilate saw the divine in Jesus. This is indeed to elevate the status of the male above the female within redeemed humanity and therefore I don't think it is theologically acceptable - Christians are all called to reflect the glory of God in our lives, not just the blokes, even if you are writing for blokes (which I think Steve is).

Steve does say "for better or for worse, men still hold privileged positions of decision making authority ..." I read that as meaning he does not think that the status quo is what God wants, he is just saying that's how it is. So I guess we differ in that you have read him as meaning it is an acceptable status quo.

Some of the other quotations - such as the one from Marcus Tullius Cicero, or Proverbs 27 might be better applied to both men and women, in a TNIV or NRSV style, taking the old (say 1950's) "men" to mean both men and women. Today that usage is not usually editorially acceptable, but Steve is (appears to be) writing for men so I guess chose not to inclusivise his quotations.

Jane Morris's article on p48 of the same mag is about Esther - a woman leader writing about a woman hero. I've never edited a magazine like this but I wonder whether they figured Jane's article might provide a balance to Steve's.

So what do we do next? I am not one for stirring up trouble, but I might be prepared to email John Coles and Steve Clarke to ask for clarification. Until we have that, most of this discussion is just speculation.

You may not have liked a lot of this, but I do want to re-iterate that I support your call for a higher profile for Women in holy orders in NW leadership. I agree that a small part of Steve's article is out of order, but I urge you to consider his context when finalising your opinion of what he wrote. After all, even in an all age church like ours, if I put on an event or write a sermon that is aimed at old people or teenagers, those church members who are not part of the target audience do not feel insulted because they know from experience that there is something for them also on the agenda.

In 1981 as I walked across the quad at Harvard (age 15 on holiday), I heard two passing students talking. One said to the other, "If only Reagan or the Ayatollah had been a woman".

1 comment:

  1. hey tim

    will respond on my blog, but not tonight :-)

    as a taster, i agree with a lot of what you say with regards to the fact that it's okay to have targeted a particular group who need something - but this does not excuse the crappy theology behind it and which will, in the end (I believe), do a great diservice to the niche market - men - whilst perpetuating the myths about women which have plagued and continue to plague God's people from almost the beginning.

    good conversation tho - hope you realise this is deeper than new wine, it's really about an evangelical disposition to segregate men and women in an unhelpful manner, anyhoo, see ya later........

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