Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pastoral Care to Men

Previously in this series;
Preface to Theology and Gendered Ministry
Framing Gender Differences
Understanding the Gendered Jesus - Part 1; Graham Ward's Cities of God
Understanding the Gendered Jesus - Part 2; Graham Ward's Christ and Culture
Theology and Gendered Ministry: A Critique of (Some) Contemporary Men's Ministries
The conclusion to my work in this area was little thin but for anyone following this thread here it is.

There are of course numerous issues that are currently typical of men’s experience. In The Care of Men issues revolving around employment are among the most pressing for men.[1] What I want to focus on is that when ministry is geared specifically to men then I would argue that the issue is primarily and most often what it is to be a man. This may appear tautological or assumed within the fabric men’s ministry but given the framework of contemporary men’s ministry I would maintain that it is of primary concern. There is near consensus among the various men’s ministry websites that something has been lost. What has of course been lost is that time when masculinity simply was when there existed a male ontology as Ward put it. Men have not done the work that women have in terms of gender reflection. In the development of women’s self-understanding there appeared to be an integration of masculinity. I am thinking particularly of the iconic image of Rosie the Riveter that pointed both to physical and economic strength for many women.[2] This has not been mirrored in men’s ministry. The Seven Promises of the Promise Keepers include nurturing a close relationship with a few men and developing a strong marriage but nowhere include the need for greater internal or external relationship with femininity.[3] Recent GodMen events do not allow women to attend and state clearly that only men can understand the specific needs of men. There are scores of men’s ministry websites popping up all the time and I have yet to see prominent feminine images. The converse rather is true with hypermasculine images of warriors, muscles and athletics are dominant. The primary message is to fight and win back what was lost.

As I think of my own church context it is true that less men are actively involved in the life of the church. Many of the popular expressions for public discussion include sports. Part of the argument coming from men writing on this issue is that the church is not challenging enough for their ‘warrior’ or competitive nature. I would argue that retreating into nature (or sports) to be among men is just that, a retreat. Not that it is wrong but that if it is not equipping to encounter the sexual difference within themselves, among themselves and in relationship to women then the time spent there will likely be reduced to playing ‘cops and robbers’ or King of the Castle where dominant masculine expressions repress the holy tension of sexual difference. I suspect that if adventure, risk and strength are sought they may be found in exploration of internal and external sexual difference.

[1] Christie Cozad Neuger, “Men’s Issues in the Local Church: What Clergymen have to Say,” in The Care of Men, ed. Christie Cozad Neugar and James Newton Poling (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1997), 46-69.

[2] Wikipedia, Rosie the Riveter, retrieved April 3, 2008 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosie_the_Riveter

[3] The Seven Promises of a Promise Keeper, http://www.promisekeepers.org/about/7promises.


Jason said...

I marvel at your productivity. You seem to be doing more thinking and writing as a full time minister than I do as a full time student. Well Done.

IndieFaith said...

In fairness most of what I was doing with the gender stuff came out of a course I needed to take en route to ordination. But that being said I do feel a great freedom in what I read and pursue to inform my preaching and ministry (I translated my reading of Ward into a sermon two weeks ago). So far it has been well received so hopefully this will continue!