Tuesday, 29 July 2008

First woman bishop for AME Zion Church

It was so good to read of praise and applause at the election of a woman bishop.

I take the point that in the Anglican Church, not everyone is excited at the prospect of having women as bishops at last - well, in ten years or so! But I really enjoyed reading about the election of Bonnie Hines as the first woman to be elected bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (USA) on July 19th.

Shouting 'Praise God' may not be our style either. But what struck me was the excitement and enthusiasm in the church as they took this historic step forward. If there were people who did not support the move, it didn't show:

'Outside the hall.. the celebration was in full swing as most hugged and danced in the hallways...' 'If there were any doubters with gestures of uncertainty they were silenced by the thunderous praise and clapping from thousands of women and men that voted for this historical mark and stamped an assurance that said, YES! YES!... YES...YES!...YES WE CAN!'

Read the full story here

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Men and women are from where?

I've been reflecting on the last page of The Myth of Mars and Venus.

The author ends with a quotation she'd been sent: 'Men are from Earth. Women are from Earth. Deal with it.' She goes on, 'Clinging to myths about the way men and women communicate is no way to deal with it. To deal with the problems and opportunities facing men and women now, we must look beyond the myth of Mars and Venus.'

So why do some Christians look to these myths? I'm convinced that we of all people should be those who 'look beyond' the myths. After all, we know that men and women came from God - OK, I suppose the quote is right if we think that Adam was made from the dust of the earth!

But why is it that 2000 years of following a leader who was so able to relate to both men and women, and having as our handbook a book which speaks on its very first page of men and women being created equal, we have not made a better job of overcoming the 'battle of the sexes'?

Is it all a reminder that power corrupts, and that religious power is both more attractive and more dangerous than any other kind?

As leaders we do well to be alert to the dark side of power.

But we must have an answer to that great challenge! How do we show the world that God knew what he was doing when he created that first partnership of men and women? How do we show them that we can overcome the barriers, the myths, the boxes that divide us, and together make a difference in God's world?

Friday, 18 July 2008

Mary Magdalene

I've been reviewing a recent book on Mary Magdalene.

I was struck by this great quote from one of Jerome's letters, written in the fifth century:

'The unbelieving reader may perhaps laugh at me for being occupied with the excellences of mere women. Yet, let him but remember how the holy women, the companions of our Lord and Saviour, ministered to him of their subtance, and how the three Maries stood before the cross and especially how the Mary 'Magdalene'... was privileged to see the risen Christ first of all before the apostles. Then he will convict himself of pride sooner than me of folly. For we judge of people's capabilities not by their gender but by their mind.' [emphasis mine]

I find it so sad that after another fifteen centuries, the Church still has not 'got it'.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

The Myth of Mars and Venus

It's already half way through July!

And I've just remembered I have put a new book review for July on 'Book of the Month.'

It's a fascinating book which explores the thinking behind popular self-help books like Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. This issue has lots of implications for women as leaders. Do women and men come from different planets? Or, do you think that the differences between women may be greater than the differences between all men and all women?
'Mars and Venus' thinking has been very popular and influencial in the last 20 years. But if you've ever wondered if it is actually quite dubious, read the review - and read the book!

Transfiguring Episcope

I've just come back from an amazing conference!

It was a conference for women leaders, and what a gathering it was! Fourteen bishops from around the world, a good number of archdeacons, and other women from around the country. We were all meeting to explore women's leadership, in the light of progress towards women becoming bishops in the Church of England - even if, in real terms, that still seems light-years away!

Topics covered vocation and ambition; theological education; power and authority. In addition to some stimulating sessions, there were lots of fascinating people to catch up with, or meet for the first time.

Briefly, some observations which I gleaned:
  • Lack of confidence is a common issue for women leaders
  • Women are in a double bind: needing to prove our competence, but then often seen as losing femininity
  • Leadership is about service, not about power and ambition
  • Women bring to leadership their sense of fragility, reminding us that it is not our leadership but God's.
  • We can be encouraged by remembering the 'great cloud of witnesses' - of women leaders in the history of the Church
  • We need to foster our own leadership development and that of others.

That's just for starters! Plenty to ponder, and I shall continue to do that...