Friday, 11 January 2013

Images of maleness

The other day I found myself reflecting on three images of maleness which presented themselves on a day trip to London.

In the first I listened to a well known Christian speaker tell of his journey from a restrictive to an 'open' position on women in church leadership. He pleaded a background in single sex boarding schools and conservative evangelical Christianity, The latter had at least given him a love of the bible and a desire to share his faith with others. But it had brought with it a default position of believing that the New Testament prohibited women from teaching or leading in the church ('I permit not a woman to teach or usurp authority').

A spell of attending to his own experience (of women guiding and teaching him things personally) and a long hard re-look at the context of the New Testament had led him to embrace women's ministry at all levels. He thought male single sex education coupled with a stiff upper lip approach to English life may have contributed to his initial inability to relate to women and imagine collaborative ministry alongside them. How many other men were still dressing up the psychological in the guise of the theological, he wondered. The image from Romans 16, of Paul working alongside his female colleagues in equal ministry, was normative for him now. Ultimately it was a vision of God and of God's Church that lifted us above predominately male images to something truly liberating and empowering for all people. And, lo and behold, it turns out that its first champion was Jesus Christ.

Buoyed up by this vision I headed back to catch my train home and found myself sitting on a crowded commuter train with three business men of a certain age, suits and smart macs, who were reminiscing about their school days at Marlborough; the 'beaks', the Masters, the cricket and the rugby.They recalled a hapless House-master sacked for 'playing' with boys. Such a waste of a career, poor chap. I had my dog collar on. They eyed me suspiciously. 

Sitting quietly behind the garrulous sixty-somethings was a young Franciscan in full brown habit, wearing open toed sandals on a cold January day. He looked steadily out of the window for the length of the journey and I took comfort from his stillness.

Three images of maleness: the egalitarian; the Old School and the man married to Christ. Perhaps it was a good reminder that despite our non-contextual hermeneutics, gendered language and Church's vexed history regarding women, God 'himself' is not a man.

(Thanks to Chris Alcock for the title of this post).

1 comment:

  1. beautifully composed. Thank you Amanda (priest in London)