Tuesday, January 7, 2014

the grand experiment: power

So what makes a church feminist? Or more to the point: how are we, as feminist church, different from any other church?  My first caveat is that we are like other churches in many, many ways.  But some of what we have been attempting to do hasn't been done before. Needless to say we have stumbled often and experienced  a few great, shining moments.

Bottom line, to be feminist means that we critique power. Power in the culture. Power in the institutional church. Power in interpersonal relationships. That's a big job for any group, much less a group of folks that are not, for the most part, academicians and are of many races, classes, abilities, educational backgrounds, and church experiences. 

And here's the thing. We not only critique power but we try to do power differently. We try to share- personal and institutional power - in ways that haven't been attempted before.

Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't.  

One way it works well is in how we use language. We are committed to inclusive language about both Godde and humanity. We continually challenge our assumptions about gender, race, age, ability and sexualities. And we accept and value individuals not only in the things we share in common but for our differences.  We share the wisdom of our different perspectives rather than seeking one correct perspective that trumps all others. And before you ask: yes it is hard to do and yes it is glorious!

We must all commit to understanding and behaving in new ways. Each of us has to be willing to struggle with assumptions of the dominant culture as well as the assumptions we have because of our individual histories, gender, race, class  or...  
And just that is plain hard to do.

Another way we explore our understanding of power is to consider the nature of Godde.  You've probably noticed that  when I talk about Godde I use this alternative spelling. I do it because it is important that I/we are reminded of the inclusiveness or unlimitedness of Sacred gender. The word 'Godde' is an attempt to make us mindful of that understanding. It also informs our understandings of the many ways Godde's reality and power is expressed in scripture, in the world, and in our lives.

In a patriarchal system power can and is often expressed negatively as coercive, abusive, oppressive or  positively as just plain hierarchical (power over). One of the first things we did was to explore sharing power as new model of doing church.

It is a grand idea. Liberating. Filled with hidden pitfalls.  Almost impossible to implement. 
More on that next time. 

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