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Monthly Archives: May 2012

Walking away from church #2

We didn’t do our homework.

Walking away is big.  It’s much bigger than you might imagine. Have you visited a rural congregation lately?

From Rachel Held Evans – 15 Reasons I Left Church.

Last week, Christian Piatt offered seven reasons here, and four more reasons here. David Kinnaman recently authored a book entitled, You Lost Me, which details the findings of Barna researchers who interviewed hundreds of 18-29 year-olds about why they left the church.

I left the church when I was twenty-seven. I am now thirty, and after trying unsuccessfully to start a house church, my husband and I are struggling to find a faith community in which we feel we belong.

I’ve been reluctant to write about this search in the past, but it seems like such a common experience, I think it’s time to open up, especially now that I’ve had some time to process. But let’s begin with fifteen reasons why I left:

1. I left the church because I’m better at planning Bible studies than baby showers…but they only wanted me to plan baby showers.

2. I left the church because when we talked about sin, we mostly talked about sex. 

3. I left the church because my questions were seen as liabilities.

4. I left the church because sometimes it felt like a cult, or a country club, and I wasn’t sure which was worse.

5. I left the church because I believe the earth is 4.5 billion years old and that humans share a common ancestor with apes, which I was told was incompatible with my faith.

6. I left the church because sometimes I doubt, and church can be the worst place to doubt.

7. I left the church because I didn’t want to be anyone’s “project.”                More.

Perhaps if you’re over 29 years the chances are low that you’ll ‘walk’ but if you’ve spent time in country congregations, you’ll know that young members are the hope of congregations.  The absence of them spells death.   Then again, older folk do walk. If you go to Wayville Uniting Church, South Australia, you’ll find quite a few ex-LCA members.

Rachel Held Evans has 15 reasons for walking away from church.  Why did you walk away?

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When people walk away from the Church

Walking away

There is a time for some when they recognise their status as a spiritual refugee: a soul without a home, an IDP. They’ve been part of community for what may seem like a lifetime but it’s never felt like home.  Then they find they can’t remain.

Perhaps it’s never feeling like they belong, never feeling valued, never feeling honoured. What is one to do when their mother Church plays favourites?

How do you maintain self-esteem under such circumstances? They’ve tried the way of silence, the way of waiting to see if the unease settles. They’ve tried talking it out, to be reassured that they needn’t be concerned. However, the concern remains and grows.

There is a time for some when they find their feet and walk away from community, walk away from the pecking order, the silly stuff, the favourites, the boxes.

The sad thing is that few who remain do anything about what they see going on in the Church.

The following post on the nakedpastor’s blog recounts the sad journey of one walking away after alienation.  guest post: Syl’s story | nakedpastor.

Is this your experience of church?  What might be done, in your part of the world, when your mother Church tells you that you’re not good enough?

 

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The Incomprehensibility of God and the Image of God Male and Female by Elizabeth Johnson

Elizabeth Johnson. C.S.J

The following are excerpts from the first few paragraphs on an expansive essay on the Image of God Male and Female, by Elizabeth Johnson.  We find the scholarly exegesis exhilarating, if sometimes technical.  Perhaps the comment that most jumps out is the *last three sentences of this extract, and underscores just what is at stake.

The critique brought by women theologians against the exclusive centrality of the male image and idea of God is not only that in stereotyping and then banning female reality as suitable reference points for God, androcentric thought has denigrated the human dignity of women. ... The charge, quite simply, is that of idolatry.... It is true that sophisticated thinkers will immediately deny that any maleness in image or concept of God is meant to be taken literally. Yet the association of God with maleness lingers on implicitly even in highly abstract discussions, as evidenced in statements such as “God is not male; He is Spirit.” Such an association is also presumed to be normative, a point demonstrated empirically by the dismay often registered when and if God is referred to with feminine images or pronouns. If it is not meant that God is male when masculine imagery is used, why the objection when female images are used? But in fact an intrinsic connection between God and maleness is usually intended, however implicitly. ... “It is idolatrous to make males more ‘like God’ than females. It is blasphemous to use the image and name of the Holy to justify patriarchal domination.... The image of God as predominantly male is fundamentally idolatrous” (as would be the image of God as exclusively female)...

The very incomprehensibility of God demands a proliferation of images and a variety of names, each of which acts as a corrective against the tendency of any one to become reified and literal. Female images and concepts of God disclose the relative character of male images and bracingly restrict their claim to ultimacy.

In my judgment, what is at stake in this issue is simultaneously the freeing of both women and men from constricting reality models and social roles, and the very viability of the Judeo-Christian tradition for present and coming generations. The challenge to male monotheism and/or male Trinitarian thought arising from new recognition of women’s equality and human dignity is one of the strongest in the course of the Judeo-Christian tradition, presaging a real Copernican revolution. ... If God is worshiped as the all-determining reality, the power over all, then the truth of God is tested by the extent to which the idea of God takes account of currently accessible aspects of reality and by the ability of the idea of God to integrate the complexity of present experience into itself. *If the idea of God does not keep pace with developing reality, the power of experience pulls people on and the god dies, fading from memory. Is the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition so true as to be able to take account of, illumine, and integrate the currently accessible experience of women? This is an absolutely critical question. More.

Source

 

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Human Rights Begin in the Pew

The exclusion of women and the resulting division in the Church is not peculiar to the LCA. Many other churches, including the Catholic Church, are facing the same debate. The inclusion of women has come of age.  It is an issue that can’t be placed aside.

Religious-based bigotry eviscerates women’s human rights the world over, and God doesn’t like it one damned bit. Re-posted from the Huffington Post with permission.

Today at the grocery store, I overheard a mom telling her little girl, “Of course you can be President of the United States!” It seems a boy at school said girls were not good enough to be president because they weren’t boys. Even though I had heard such things before (I am the youngest of six with five older brothers), this particular conversation stopped me dead in my religious tracks.

Catholicism decided I wasn’t good enough to be a leader in the Church about 2,000 years before I was born. I couldn’t be its president (aka “pope”) or a priest or bishop or cardinal because I happened to be female. Not knowing any better, I accepted my Catholic less-than-ness as a fact of life, like when the Little League in Wheaton, Ill., said I couldn’t play because I was a girl. I didn’t organize sit ins on the pitcher’s mound or walk outs from the pew. Like other girls, I simply accepted the adult-dictated view of things.

The Catholic Church believes the Bible (a document written, translated and almost entirely interpreted by men) establishes that men are, quite literally, born leaders. The Church claims that women can’t be priests because Jesus wanted it that way. Really? A man didn’t play any role whatsoever in Jesus’ conception (from all accounts, it was sperm-free). Christ came out of a woman’s uterus, which seems to be a pretty important part of the birth story. Jesus’ most trusted disciple was arguably Mary Magdalene. The risen Jesus didn’t show Himself to the fellas at the local mens-only oasis. He first appeared to Mary. Experts believe it was Mary at Jesus’ right in DaVinci’s Last Supper. She wasn’t doing dishes in the back or filling the wine glasses for the boys, she was right next to Mr. Equality Himself.

The wildly dangerous and incredibly pathetic part of religiously based gender bigotry is the critical role it plays in legitimizing the horrific treatment of women in societies throughout the world. Women aren’t equal in the eyes of God, Jesus, Allah, Yahweh, etc., therefore: Cover your face and body or be whipped. You’re forbidden to drive or vote or hold a paying job. Don’t speak, as you are not worthy to be heard. You deserve to be treated like objects or property or animals. It is justified by God that you be beaten or stoned to death simply for being the victim of your own femininity. Face the cold, brutally hard fact that all of your human rights are dependent on what men, not God, feel they should be.

In the Catholic “faith,” women are told to accept that our own religion utilizes every political and legal channel known to man (aided by the money we put in the Sunday collection basket) to prevent us from controlling what happens in our bedrooms or to our bodies. Using God to control women is what we in marketing might call a “Top Down” strategy. Find an expert and leverage his/her position to convince consumers of a “truth.” Unfortunately, God isn’t around to verify the man-made claims in support of gender inequity, or to expose it as the load of crap it most certainly is. I believe God made us equal. We may be different physically, but God sees us as His children. Not as His sons and those other ones, but as His children. Precious. Made in His image.

By attending Catholic mass, I’m tacitly endorsing women’s inequality within the Church. Through my silence, I am agreeing with its calculated discrimination against females. I am supporting a Church that fights to control women’s reproductive choices and is hell bent on ruining the lives of my God-loving gay brothers and sisters. And at the end of the day, I’m going to have to explain to Jesus why I would patronize any organization that doesn’t treat His children equally.

I believe in exacting change from the inside out by trying to make things better rather than abandoning them. However, unless I can find a way to express my opposition to all forms of bigotry within the confines of my Church (wearing a sandwich board, neon sign or set of very large buttons to Mass being viable, short term solutions), I’m going to have to stick by the teachings of my God and sit that pew out.

Sarah O’Leary is a writer, marketing expert and licensed minister. She encourages you to share this and all of her Huffington Posts. Sarah answers all comments made herein, and may be reached via email: sarahathuffpo@gmail.com.

 

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The President distances himself from St Stephen’s conference on women’s ordination

Pr Mike Semmler

We thought you might be interested in the following letter from Pr Mike Semmler to pastors around Australia and New Zealand.

To: LCA/LCNZ NSW District, QLD District, SA/NT District, Vic/Tas District, WA District Pastors

Dear Pastors,

You may have received an invitation to advertise a conference convened by a parish on the matter of the ordination of both genders. You will receive a guidance from the College of Presidents in due time.

Questions have arisen. For now it is sufficient to know that this is not an official conference of the Church. ALC is the venue not the convenor. …

Blessings,

Mike

We wait in anticipation for further guidance to pastors.  In the mean time, it seems that the Pope has similar reasons for distancing himself from elements within the Church: Pope Denounces Priests Who Question Catholic Teachings On Celibacy And Women Ordination

You might also have some sympathy for our Muslim sisters who suffer misogyny to a much greater extent: A Message to Girls About Religious Men Who Fear YouP

 

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Morven Baker reports on being asked to preach at a local church

Dr Morven R. Baker, D.Min., PCC-S, NCC, has been in practice for over twenty years in both institutional and private practice settings. She is founding President of Ashland Women’s Counseling Center, where she deals with the range of issues faced by women, but especially those arising from sexual abuse and domestic violence. A published author, Dr Baker is a popular speaker and teacher, having delivered classes, lectures, and workshops in the US and abroad. Source

We believe that the following comment is profound beyond words.  We include it for your reflection and as another reason to praise our loving, caring God.

Yesterday I was asked to preach twice at a local church on the subject of – now wait for it – sex, and how God intended it to be and how to get back to the Garden, where men and women were in partnership/companionship together.

Well, the bit in the middle was tough to talk about … how patriarchy was a consequence of the fall. I reminded the congregation that it was NEVER God’s plan for his children to leave the Garden and suffer the results of BOTH their sin. Remember, Adam was told about not eating from the tree before Eve was even created! Talked about some of the results of patriarchy …. abuse of women, pornography & its effect on the family, domestic abuse. Then the “second Adam”, Jesus, came and liberated women – “We are all ONE in Christ Jesus” – as Jesus wants us to return to the Garden his Father created. The response to both services was incredible. Men came to me and confessed things they had done, two elderly women came and shared they had been molested and felt too ashamed to talk about it before, people asked for help …. they want to change. They are hurting.

The amazing thing is that I am a female and was asked to do this by a male pastor. I was raised in a strongly patriarchal denomination in Canada, and my very elderly father is still very upset at me for “being disobedient to Scripture”. I told him that I loved him, but I believe that his interpretation of Scripture is wrong, and I am just doing what God has called me to do.

As it is with all the women who are longing to follow the call of God on their hearts. World wide. It is happening.

We welcome your response.  One of our responses is the giving of thanks for the man who invited Morven to preach.  Without him God’s grace would not have been revealed anew through Morven.

What might happen if such preaching happened at your church?  What hurts might be revealed?  What pleas for the assurance of God’s forgiveness would be heard?

I wonder what it is about confessing to another person, a woman, that is so powerful?

You may be interested in reading Morven’s Blog.

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The Maternal Face of God – my God was too small

The following devotion is by Richard Rohr, a Catholic Priest, who reflects the increasing notion that now is the time to bring women into the centre of the church.

All this “women-stuff” is not only important; it is half of conversion, half of salvation, half of wholeness, half of God’s work of art. I believe this mystery is imaged in the woman of the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse: “pregnant, and in labor, crying aloud in the pangs of childbirth . . . and finally escaping into the desert until her time” (Revelation 12:1-6).

Richard Rohr

Richard Rohr (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Could this be the time? It is always the time! The world is tired of Pentagons and pyramids, empires and corporations that only abort God’s child. This women-stuff is very important, and it has always been important, more than this white male priest ever imagined or desired! My God was too small and too

male.

Much that the feminists have said is very prophetic and necessary for the Church and the world. It is time for the woman to come out of her desert refuge and for the men to welcome her. As we see in the Roman Church today, this is still quite difficult, if you have been an “alpha male” all of your life. No surprise that Jesus came “meek and humble of heart” (Matthew 11:29) to undo the male addiction to power.

Adapted from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, by Richard Rohr, p. 279, day 290

Prayer:
Oh God, show me your Your face.

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