Woman-coloured spectacles (Lucy Moore)

Monday, 7 December, 2009

Lucy MooreLucy Moore puts on her woman-coloured spectacles.

When I was asked to write up my thoughts on this subject, I thought I'd scan through the previous blogs to get an idea of length, style, need for wit, wisdom, searing theological insight, blah blah... and got as far back as the last 25 posts before I realised that only 5 of those 25 are written by women. In fact, casting your eyes back through the past 10 blogs, you'd be hard-pushed to see that women feature at all in fresh expressions. Does this matter to you? How would someone outside the church perceive fresh expressions as an organisation if they read the same part of the website as I did? More importantly, how would they perceive Jesus if we're his reflection, his ambassadors? And is this bias typical of fresh expressions as a whole?

It can't be that women don't blog. It can't be that women aren't reflecting on fresh expressions as they lead them and belong to them. It could be that this 'one-fifth representation', together with the lack of women represented at the core of fresh expressions, is symptomatic of something deeper that needs addressing - and not just by women themselves.

You can get spectacles that filter out colours and force you to see the world in a particular way. If you put on metaphorical spectacles and look at the world through the eyes of gender equality, it soon becomes apparent that in fresh expressions / church planting / emerging church leadership there is still a huge gender imbalance. Sorry. I didn't want to believe it either as I love fresh expressions, but there it is. And yes, I feel very uncomfortable about raising this point as I want to get on with the fun of Messy Church, not get sidetracked into being labelled a bra-igniting Woman's Hour feminist, but who will raise this issue if I don't?

The lack of women represented at the core of fresh expressions is symptomatic of something deeper that needs addressing

No, I don't like wearing these spectacles, also because I soon become unable to see more important issues as I'm too distracted by gender questions (so busy fuming at the lack of female speakers, lack of stories from women leaders, the lack of pictures that show women as well as men, and so on), that I find I haven't listened to the wisdom of my male colleagues - you get the picture.

But if we, as practitioners of fresh expressions or more simply just as Christians, are concerned with justice, reaching the marginalised, giving outsiders opportunities to grow in faith, surely we should be doubly conscious of injustices in our own front room and challenge each other to right these easily rightable wrongs - from the point of view of witness to the rest of society if nothing else! And how much more gracious it all becomes if those calling for justice are not the ones being marginalised; how much more powerful it would be if it was a man writing this blog? (Ah, no, that would make it 5/26.)

At a seminar recently at a church planting conference, Penny Marsh and I were asking the question: 'Is church planting just for blokes?' We managed to lure two genuine blokes in to join the women. (How? Cake.) Between us, we came up with a lot of meaty ideas as to the possible causes for this perception and possible responses to the state of play.

Language, history, culture, having babies, leadership styles, structural blind spots and more come into it. Do have a gander.

And now, stamping on my smouldering underwear and grubbing around in the ashes for a pair of contact lenses, I shall return to the messiness of my real passion.

About the author: 

Lucy works for BRF as team leader of the interdenominational, international, intergenerational Messy Church network, proud to be the single most prolific cake-consuming expression of church in the English- (and now Danish-) speaking world.

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