Apology Required

Sunday, 29th November 2009 at 14:49 UTC 9 comments

There is a time and a place to say things, but there is also a way to say them, and sadly I don’t always get the way right. I’m not one to pretend I don’t disagree; to me, harbouring disagreements makes friendship disingenuous, and pretending I don’t want the church (indeed, the whole Church) to change isn’t going to convince many of you. But sadly I wrote my thoughts out in about the least sensible way possible on Wednesday, and what has followed has been a necessarily painful learning process. And so I’m going to say sorry. For openness and accountability’s sake, the original is still available for viewing.

Whilst conflict is necessary to achieve change, the kind of conflict kicked up is not cool, and largely non-productive. Conflict just means people disagreeing. It doesn’t mean a slagging match. A sea change might be required, but pissing on someone’s initiatives just isn’t a good way forwards. What horrifies me most is that I actually damaged the case of those for whom I was trying to advocate a greater role. I’m not going to deny a role for people to advocate for others, its a part of that much-maligned concept of Solidarity we humans ought to trade in. There is biblical solidarity, and then there’s what I did, and I just hope that some kind of good can come of the discussions that took place, because right now it feels like I might as well have hit the subject back to the Victorian age.

To show God has a dry sense of humour, the only female I’d included in the organisation of my event on Friday evening in Church had such a bad headache she couldn’t be present. It served me right to be landed running an event with an embarrassing lack of women fronting it. So now I’m in a right good place to say “a woman should fill every service-role on one in four Sundays”. (I also think a man should fill each role too – and for monthly roles, these should be 3 times a year).

I want to clarify some stuff; I had been serious when I proposed some of the ideas for  an alternative men’s weekend. I hadn’t seriously thought the Men’s and Women’s weekends should be cancelled. Yes, it doesn’t leave much room for the non-gendered, but it does serve a specific group of people. I do believe that a church of mature individuals should be able to discuss these issues in small groups; the experiences of women need to be explained to men because we don’t see things through women’s eyes. But it must be done from an attitude of love. To flip the quote a little “even if you hate the sin, you must doubly love the sinner”.

Also, I firmly believe that “the opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference” (Elie Wiesel, holocaust survivor, author and winner of 1986 Nobel Prize for Peace). This comes back to the issue of conflict as a necessity. If one is concerned about something one doesn’t like, one shouldn’t passively dislike it. Now, I know I’m maybe wired a little differently to others; I prefer all emotions and views on the table and I realise this is intimidating to others. But Politics and politics are two very different concepts, and politics is merely the interaction of two human beings with common or related needs or desires.

I do struggle working in an environment where I feel I’m not supposed to be close to women as a friend. I don’t actually fancy any of the females I work with, but I do feel that if I get any closer to them, that’s what people will think. In reality, I’m a very very huggy person. Seriously, you should have seen me at Shared Planet last weekend.

I don’t really deserve this, but I still want everyone to know that I meant for the best, and I want the Church to value all its members. That anyone would believe me is probably quite heavily in doubt. For churches to demand justice in the wider world, they must have their house in order, but they must also be communities to be effective. Next time I become involved in gender-justice, I want to be a better member of the community at the same time.


Entry filed under: Church, Gender, Personal.

Male Liberation Rant We still haven’t defeated nature

9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sue  |  Sunday, 29th November 2009 at 15:19 UTC

    I, for one, would appreciate people being viewed as people, well rounded invidual people, with different gifts and talents that vary from person to person rather than male/female. If the 4 best people for any particular job happen to be men, then so what? Ditto if they’re female. Yes there needs to be balance overall, but that should simply happen as long as we’re not actively ruling anyone out. Please don’t start creating artificial rotas where people are in or out depending on whether they have boobs or not! (unless it really IS a job requiring a particualr gender) eg Singing a low bassline.

  • 2. Steve Thack  |  Sunday, 29th November 2009 at 15:47 UTC

    G re reading wed blog the only direct criticism i find of st mike’s is that you refer to the men’s weekend as infuriating ( given your lack of experience maybe you could have been more precise, personally i find the idea of a men’s weekend infuriating and the need for one as a bit depressing.) And you’re critical of the lack of visible female leadership, a very precise point, those critical seem to have only pointed to less visible roles.
    The rest of your post i presume was intended to be far more general

  • 3. Steve Thack  |  Sunday, 29th November 2009 at 15:52 UTC

    Maybe it was a bit badly written making general points seem specific but think your critics were reading more into your rant than was there.
    Then again i don’t work for st mike’s and don’t care who i piss off.

  • 4. Brain Duck  |  Sunday, 29th November 2009 at 16:37 UTC

    Graham, you’re volunteering for an organisation which refuses to have women leaders (the Anglican church, rather than specifically St Mikes). Apology required, but for an organisation which is meant to be in favour of repentance, the Anglican church doesn’t seem to believe in doing it themselves.
    Am concerned that these issues seem to be new to people – honestly, how can you even think about starting a men’s weekend without considering wider issues of gender in church & outside it? You’ve got nothing to apologise for raising them.

  • 5. Greg  |  Monday, 30th November 2009 at 10:45 UTC

    Graham, thank you.

  • 6. Lois  |  Monday, 30th November 2009 at 13:48 UTC

    As Greg says, thank you. For your willingness to acknowledge where things could have been said or done in a better way, but also for your willingness to discuss things and not shy away from raising difficult issues.
    The church should be a place where love is at the heart of everything we do, building people up even as we rebuke them. That’s not an easy thing to do, but even if we make mistakes it’s worth trying.

  • 7. Sue  |  Thursday, 3rd December 2009 at 12:25 UTC

    Brain Duck, have you not noticed that the supreme governor of the Church of England is a woman? Also Synod have passed resolutions that enable the Church of England to have women bishops. The areas of debate now are *how* this is going to happen to enable the church to be as inclusive as possible to those of differing religious beliefs.

  • 8. brainduck  |  Sunday, 13th December 2009 at 19:10 UTC

    After several hundred years of Anglicanism you’re *still* ‘working on’ women bishops, and I’m supposed to be *impressed* by this?

    I’m supposed to be impressed that your church has as a figurehead someone who we’re supposed to ‘respect’, who’s given wealth and power, because her ancestors were better at being murderous fuckwits than mine?

    No. No. No. How can you think this?

    FFS, this is something the church should be *leading* society on, not being dragged kicking and screaming into the early twentieth century. I’m really not interested in hearing that someday in the future things might change. The church is people, not a remote hierarchical institution. People who can change what they’re doing right now, today, if they wanted to. You don’t need to wait for Synod to give you permission to do the right thing, just get on and do it.

    The Anglican church doesn’t ‘include’ everyone of ‘different religious beliefs’. There are already certain beliefs which define ‘being an Anglican’ as distinct from ‘being a Methodist / Muslim / whatever’, why isn’t full equality one of them?

    If you don’t want to apologise for the Anglican church, just leave it. If you want to work within it to change it, good luck to you, but then you should recognise that the institution does need to apologise for the damage already done. Don’t bother trying to defend the current position, it is indefensible.

    I’m a lot more worried about the way people connected to St Mikes have reacted to Graham’s post than I ever was about the ‘men’s weekend’.
    If the church is supposed to be critically engaged with wider society, that has to go both ways. If the church is supposed to be above criticism, why so much fear & attempts to shut down the discussion?

  • 9. Greg  |  Tuesday, 15th December 2009 at 15:21 UTC

    Duck, I’d have replied to you and Steve earlier, but since Graham’s had the good grace to apoloise, we should respect that and drop the fuss. I’m also concerned why you’re using pejoratives like “fear”, the replies on the original post weren’t scared, they just thought he was wrong. Is that a crime?

    The problem with your rants about the anglican church is that in context, they’re not really applicable. As far as I’m concerned, Graham is working for St Mike’s, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if >90% of the congregation shared that view. I’m a member of Heslington Church and I’ve previously been a member of St Cuthbert’s Cheadle, if you really push me I might go as far as “Church of England” but your average evangelical in the St M’s pew would be far more likely to pop over to (York) City, Community or Evangelical Churches than they would to even know that ECUSA now calls itself TEC, the difference between the Anglican Church in South Africa and CESA, or even that Peter Akinola is head honcho in Nigeria.

    Evangelicals have a fine tradition of ignoring even the local bishop, so talking about the wider Anglican church really doesn’t cut it. As this was all about a St Mike’s weekend away, I’m not sure how you posts are relevant at all – the two clergy I’ve had most contact with at St Mike’s were Ruth and Alyson!


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