still_emerging

Thursday, June 29, 2006

"How do we make women feel included?"

I have been asked this question more than once recently in very distinct settings. In each instance, the query was posed by a male in response to my invitation that we as a particular group in a particular ministry setting, be intentional about including the other - women and minorities - in our activities/leadership. And in each instance, the question seemed to stem from the assumption that it is all a matter of perception. How do we make them feel included. If we do x, y, z then women/minorities will percieve that they are a part. I don't want to feel included, I want to be included. And what world view is reflected in the assumption that one person or system can make others feel or do anything? The whole idea is beyond distasteful.

I tried imploring them that it begins within each of us through a change of heart - not just behavior - and is evidenced by an intentional turning toward or hospitality of/with the other. If I love and embrace and receive from the other they will not just feel included, they will BE included. And paradoxically, it is a person's behavior toward the other that reveals whether or not their heart truly welcomes the other.

Language is a key signal for me of whether the heart has made room for the other.

For example, in one of the above mentioned settings, time was spent maligning wives as spend thrifts who are ever-eager to spend more than the husband can bring home. My indignation over how thoughtless this comment was (nevermind, untrue) is only surpassed by my grief at how unconscious it was. No sense on the part of the male speaker or my male counterparts that this statement might be offensive to the 'other' in the room namely, me.

As another example from this same setting, we train planting pastors at 'BOOT CAMP.' Boot camp. I'm sorry, but where in the Bible did Jesus ever speak of ministry/evangelism in militaristic terms? The kingdom of heaven is like . . . a skirmish . . . a battle . . . a conflict requiring violence and warfare?!? And what is wrong with the current planting system that a person (male, of course) has to be prepared for (or weeded out of) church planting through the intense and rigorous training which the name implies? It you can't survie here, you'll never survive out in the battle field? Is that true? What us against them message is that creating in the hearts of these planters? It is abhorent to me!

But, sadly, it is not surprising in a culture where in comversation you are invited to "push back" if you disagree with someone. Push back! No, no BULLIES push. I will converse with you and stay engaged though our views differ, but darling, I won't shove anyone. Hearts that can't perceive the 'power over' or 'distance from' in the words they choose are not yet ready to help the other feel included, let alone truly include him or her.


Behavior is another key indication of an inclusive heart.

As mentioned earlier, for me, inclusion is about being hospitable or 'turning toward' the other.
One of the very persons who asked how one might create an environment in which the other (he used "us/them" language) feels included, sat next to me at lunch. He made no effort to engage me in even polite social conversation and my attempts were met with short cold replies. Rather than carry on a conversation with me, he turned his back toward me and talked to the person to his left during the entire meal. I don't begrudge them their friendship, and if they really need to 'talk shop' then talk away! But that it wasn't even part of his conscious action to welcome, embrace, include, turn toward goes beyond bad manners, or shy personality. And it reaffirms my original claim: Inclusion begins within each of us through a change of heart - not just behavior - and is evidenced by an intentional turning toward or hospitality of/with the other.


I can't make anyone feel welcomed, but I can welcome. I can't make anyone feel included, but I can include them! How do we make women (and others!) feel included? We include them, that's how.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


"Women sometimes pronounce the word "God" a little differently: They can use more feeling and skill with the heart lute."

from "Wise Men Keep Talking About" by Hafiz

A Church Planter's Parable

Once upon a time, as the Little Red Hen was scratching in a field, she found a grain of wheat.
"This wheat should be planted," she said.

"Who will plant this grain of wheat?"
"Not I," said the Duck.
"Not I," said the Cat.
"Not I," said the Dog.
"Then I will," said the Little Red Hen. And she did.

Soon the wheat grew to be tall and yellow.
"The wheat is ripe," said the Little Red Hen. "Who will cut the wheat?"
"Not I," said the Duck.
"Not I," said the Cat.
"Not I," said the Dog.
"Then I will," said the Little Red Hen. And she did.

When the wheat was cut, the Little Red Hen said, "Who will thresh the wheat?"
"Not I," said the Duck.
"Not I," said the Cat.
"Not I," said the Dog.
"Then I will," said the Little Red Hen. And she did.


When the wheat was threshed, the Little Red Hen said, "Who will take this wheat to the mill?"
"Not I," said the Duck.
"Not I," said the Cat.
"Not I," said the Dog.
"Then I will," said the Little Red Hen. And she did.

She took the wheat to the mill and had it ground into flour.
Then she said, "Who will make this flour into bread?"
"Not I," said the Duck.
"Not I," said the Cat.
"Not I," said the Dog.
"Then I will," said the Little Red Hen. And she did.

She made and baked the bread.
Then she said, "Who will eat this bread?"
"Oh! I will," said the Duck.
"And I will," said the Cat.
"And I will," said the Dog.
"No, No!" said the Little Red Hen. "I will do that."

And she did.


In the world of church planting there exists a model of starting churches innocuously named "adoption." By definition, this is when a governing body of a denomination accepts into membership a new church for the purpose of governance and accountability. In reality, it means that the denomination reaps all the benefits and assumes none of the hard work or risks involved in starting the church in the first place. Every time I've heard the story of yet another new plant being 'adopted' into our denomination, I find myself thinking of the above story of the Little Red Hen. Like the cat, duck, and dog we seem ever eager to eat the proverbial bread, but resistant to the idea that we might play an (in)vested role in seeing these new minstries planted, cut, threshed, ground and baked. For me, this model is less like adoption, and more like abduction.

Wise words to live by

These words found in the poem "We Have Not Come to Take Prisoners" by Hafiz served as the inspiration for a right response to a quandry (more institutional church emotional abuse and ministry piracy stuff) I was recently facing. I have committed them to memory and suspect thatt they will come in handy in the future since institutional church emotional abuse and ministry piracy seem to come with the territory. (Yes, the irony/desolation of that strike me, too.)


Run my dear
From anything
That does not strengthen
Your precious budding wings

Run like hell my dear,
From anyone likely
To put a sharp knife
Into the sacred tender vision
Of your beautiful heart

This poem is a reminder that we have the right to act to preserve ourselves in the presence of those who have the power to crush our tender wings, stab our sacred tender vision (that particular phrase so resonates for me.) It makes me shiver to think of those in positions of power who choose not to nurture such tender fragile souls but to crush them. And it inspires me to continue speaking up on their behalf and (less frequently) my own.