Author: christianfeministnetwork

The Dwell Project

The Dwell Project is managed by Roxy and Eddie, who spoke at our ‘Reclaiming the F Word’ conference in March this year. Its vision ‘is to prevent domestic violence against women – including honour related violence, through education, awareness, & partnership at the front line of Christian-Muslim relations’. Here, Roxy explains what the project is doing and how it hopes to change lives.

Dwell started because of our own experiences with domestic violence in our families & a desire to change the perceptions & myths we heard in faith communities about domestic violence. It started with the belief in healthy & safe relationships for all men & women.

We felt a need to get men in faith communities involved especially Christians & Muslims in standing against the issue because without them domestic violence will continue. So the Dwell Project is preventing domestic violence in Christian and Muslim communities through workshops about the truth & myths about domestic violence, about masculinity & healthy intimate relationships. We raise awareness about domestic violence online through social media campaigns such as Frocktober which ran through October this year & our blog which we write regularly.

We are a married couple with our own story of God’s healing in our lives, healing from the trauma of domestic violence (which we experienced in our homes as children) which gives us hope & a belief that it is possible with God’s help to make a difference. We want to encourage Christians to pray so we are working on resources that will help. We want churches to be ready to support those who have suffered domestic violence. More than that we want churches to prevent it from happening through speaking about gender equality within marriages, talking to young adults about masculinity & giving them space to share & be vulnerable about relationships.

We seek to be people who live with the hope of beautiful relationships between men & women. We look to God and ask him to help us to believe that he is with us as we do this work. We ask for faith in relationships, in marriage, in partnerships between Christians & Muslims, men & women that will enable us to prevent domestic violence. We are realistic in believing that this work will take a long time. We try to find creative ways to raise awareness about domestic violence & our blog is an example of this.

Ultimately we believe in heaven coming to earth as we pray The Lord’s Prayer. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We believe heaven will be without pain & violence so believe when we pray for heaven on earth we are praying for an end to domestic violence.

“Our Father in Heaven,
Reveal who you are
Set the world aright:
Do what’s best –
As above so below.
Keep us alive with 3 square meals
Keep us forgiven with you & forgiving others
Keep us safe from ourselves & the Devil
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes.”

Matthew 6:9-13 (Message version)

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Reclaiming the F Word conference – talks now available!

An inspiring and wonderful time was had at Reclaiming the F Word on Saturday 8th March and we are excited to be able to provide you with some recordings of talks from the day. Whether you were there or not, we hope these talks will be a valuable resource to you. Do pass them on and share them with anyone who may be interested!

Reclaiming the F Word – Kristin Aune

Kristin started the day off by exploring what feminism is and sharing some of her research about feminists and faith.

Listen here

Is there a feminist preaching style? – Revd. Dr. Terry Biddington

It may be that the time has come to ditch the sermon as an out-moded and ‘masculinist’ form of communication. Or perhaps there is a fresh approach drawing on the work of so many feminist thinkers.

Sermons both occupy and create what the Scottish poet Don Paterson calls “the space between us.” They occupy a particular space in the worship: different perhaps according to religion, religious denomination, or indeed each specific liturgy. But they also create a space: a space for listening and hearing, a space for speaking and thinking aloud, a space for dreaming and imagining “what-if?”; a creative-regenerative space in which the Spirit can operate. A space that is between:

• the preacher and the congregation

• the preacher, the congregation, and the text

• the gathered community and God

• the present moment and the past, the future, and all eternity

How can we make the “sermon space” a welcome opportunity for collective lingering: an invitation to take a sideways glance, a seeing out-of-the-corner-of-an-eye, and, perhaps, the occasion to catch a glimpse of something unexpected and potentially life-transforming?

Listen here

Bring on the Crones – Rev. Pam Smith

Wisdom has sometimes been defined as “the knowledge of the elders” and in a time where many seem to believe feminism began in 2010, the crones (wise women) are often silenced in favour of younger women. Revd. Pam Smith shares her experiences of feminism over the last 40 years, and considers the ways feminism can really honour and listen to its foremothers.

Listen here

Men and the Feminist Struggle – David Benjamin Blower

Why are men rarely feminists?

What is the state of masculinity today?

What kind of masculinity helps men rise to the feminist struggle?

Listen here

Poetry as Liberation – Christian Feminist Poetics in Action – Rev. Rachel Mann

A combined poetry reading and reflection upon how poetry can be location for feminist liberative praxis.

Listen here

My Privilege Trumps Yours - Natalie Collins

Michael Kimmel states that “privilege is invisible to those with it”. This session looks at the interaction of inequality and privilege, how each of us may be implicated in and perpetuate oppression, what a right use of power looks like and how to make visible to each of us the water that humanity swims in.

Listen here

Feminist Liturgy – Rev. Anna Macham

Listen here

Rediscovering and Reclaiming the F Word

We had a fantastic day in Manchester last Saturday at the ‘Reclaiming the F Word’ event. Sally Rush joined us and blogged about her experience of the conference. Read on to find out more!

Yesterday I was at Reclaiming the F Word, an event organised by the Christian Feminist Network (CFN). It was a day where a fairly diverse group of people spent time looking at various aspects of what it meant to be a Christian and a Feminist in contemporary society. This post is a reflection on the day and the thoughts it prompted.

The event started with a talk by Dr. Kristin Aune, one of the co-authors of Reclaiming the F Word, (an excellent book which has recently seen publication of an updated second edition). Within the talk she gave a brief outline of the history of feminism and different strands within it before moving on to discuss what contemporary Feminism looks like and encouraging us to think what Christian Feminism may look like.

I have to confess I spent much of this talk with teacher head on noting down the details of the social survey she had been involved in conducting and thinking about how it may be incorporated into my course. One of the bits which I found most interesting both as an A Level tutor thinking about the Sociology of Belief unit and as a Christian who wants to be able to engage with this stuff in a practical and missional way was the way in which the study showed how spirituality and religion are often quite different things. The focus for many was on their practice not on institutional involvement. There was a very clear link between the findings being discussed and the view put forward by Heelas and Woodhead in the Kendal Project, but with reference to a quite different age group to that which was dominant in the Kendal study.

The conference provided an excellent networking opportunity to just chat with people in the breaks. This for me was one of the most enriching aspects of the day, because it was in that discussion you realised quite how diverse those attending and participating in the day were.

Click to read the rest of the post!

Reclaiming the F Word – Saturday 1 March

Our ‘Reclaiming the F-Word’ conference will be held in Manchester on Saturday 1 March and will be a great opportunity to learn and network. Running from 10am-4pm, the conference is being held at St Peter’s House, M13 9GH. Refreshments will be provided but we will not be providing lunch (although there are shops nearby should you wish to purchase food on the day). We’re asking attendees to consider donating £5 on the day to cover costs. Click here to register and learn more about speakers and contributors!

Workshops

Of Christian & Muslim Men

Do Christian & Muslim men experience masculinity differently in Britain? What is the role of men in ending domestic violence against women? What happens when Christian & Muslim men are vulnerable with each other & start working together to end domestic violence?

Hosted by The Dwell Project

Cultural Images and Female Self Worth

As Christians, we believe that each person is made in the image of God.  But theology and culture have assigned a mainly passive role to women, and there has been a history of fear around female sexuality.  We are currently experiencing a new level of awareness concerning sexual abuse in our society.  In this session, we will explore how art can be used to empower or oppress women.

Hosted by Caroline Mackenzie (artist theologian)

Men and the Feminist Struggle

This workshop will ask three questions:

1. Why are men rarely feminists?

2. What is the state of masculinity today?

3. What kind of masculinity helps men rise to the feminist struggle?

Hosted by David Benjamin Blower

Trans, Christian, Feminist: Is it possible?

An exploration of trans* issues and how they intersect with feminism and Christianity, led by a transgender, feminist Christian.

Hosted by Alex Young

My Privilege Trumps Yours

Michael Kimmel states that “privilege is invisible to those with it”.  This session will look at the interaction of inequality and privilege, how each of us may be implicated in and perpetuate oppression, what a right use of power looks like and how to make visible to each of us the water that humanity swims in.

Hosted by Natalie Collins

Is there a feminist preaching style?

Has the time come to ditch the sermon as an out-moded and ‘masculinist’ form of communication? Or perhaps there is a fresh approach drawing on the work of feminist thinkers.

Sermons both occupy and create what the Scottish poet Don Paterson calls “the space between us.”  They occupy a particular space in the worship: different perhaps according to religion, religious denomination, or indeed each specific liturgy. But they also create a space: a space for listening and hearing, a space for speaking and thinking aloud, a space for dreaming and imagining “what-if?”; a creative-regenerative space in which the Spirit can operate. A space that is between:

•       the preacher and the congregation

•       the preacher, the congregation, and the text

•       the gathered community and God

•       the present moment and the past, the future, and all eternity

How can we make the “sermon space” a welcome opportunity for collective lingering: an invitation to take a sideways glance, a seeing out-of-the-corner-of-an-eye, and –perhaps– the occasion to catch a glimpse of something unexpected and potentially life-transforming?

Hosted by Revd Dr Terry Biddington

Bring on the Crones

Wisdom has sometimes been defined as ‘the knowledge of the elders’ and at a time where many seem to believe feminism began in 2010, the ‘crones’ (wise women) are often silenced in favour of younger women.  Revd. Pam Smith shares her experiences of feminism over the last 40 years, and considers the ways feminists can really honour and listen to their foremothers.

Hosted by Revd Pam Smith

Poetry as Liberation – Christian Feminist Poetics in Action

This workshop comprises a combined poetry reading and reflection upon how poetry can be a location for feminist liberative praxis.

Hosted by Revd Rachel Mann

LOGO

Girlguiding: ‘splitting from God’ as they find their feminist feet

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Natalie Collins blogs on why she’s worried that the Guides’ move away from a faith basis and towards feminist activism makes it seem like the two can’t go together.

Last week an article in The Guardian detailed Julie Bentley’s first year as the Head of Girlguiding UK. The article focused on the organisation’s “split from God” and recent protests against sexism. The article seems to suggest the two are linked, as if it’s impossible to be a faith-based organisation, and engage in feminist activism.

Personally, I don’t have an issue with taking God out of the promise for girls who don’t believe in God, or who don’t want to make a promise to serve God. This, for me, is the same as struggling with Godparents who are agnostic or atheist stating that they believe in God and making commitment to raise a child in that knowledge.  The measure of a faith-based organisation isn’t whether people who are engaged with that organisation make a pledge to God or not.

However, it seems that Girlguiding distancing itself from a promise to God is not about the guides moving towards having more integrity in their practice, but is actually about distancing themselves from being a faith-based organisation. It also seems that there is a direct correlation between asserting the lack of any faith basis in the organisation, and the increasing amount of feminist activism done by the organisation – something which seems to further validate the idea that faith and feminism don’t go together. This both saddens and angers me.

As a feminist, the work I do to address inequality and work towards gender justice comes out of a deep prophetic tradition within the body of Christ to “proclaim good news to the poor…to bind the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners”.  It saddens me that an organisation that began so rooted in this tradition has needed to move away from a connection with Jesus in order to engage in such actions, and it angers me that it is most likely Christians, rather than non-Christians, who have perpetuated and possibly been responsible for the perception of many that feminism and Christianity are not compatible.

I don’t blame the guides from stepping away from their Christian roots in favour of a more multi-cultural, multi-faith image, and recognise the many challenges of being a person of faith in feminist spaces, but I wonder at the lost opportunity of this organisation which has equipped and valued girls around the world for over 100 years, to show that faith and feminism are compatible, or as we like to say at the Christian Feminist Network, that it is Christian patriarchy that is an oxymoron, not Christian feminism.

CFN at UK Feminista Summer School

Natalie Collins blogs about facilitating a workshop entitled ‘Religion, Faith and Feminist Activism’ at UK Feminista’s Summer School last weekend.

As a Christian it is often a struggle to feel fully part of the feminist movement. With many feminists stating that religion is a patriarchal construct, and having personally having been told by a feminist organisation I worked for that it would never be appropriate for me to mention my faith during my work, it is difficult to feel part of the sisterhood. Similarly in the church, I often feel like an anomaly as I bring a feminist perspective to sermons, songs and home groups, to the point where I often avoid small groups as I know I’m unlikely to fit in.

So it was great to be able to be involved in running a workshop at UK Feminista’s Summer School in Birmingham. The weekend-long event had a rich and varied programme, a wonderfully inclusive atmosphere and lots and lots of wonderful feminists. I was originally asked to participate in a panel with feminists from different faith and religious communities, as a representative of the Christian Feminist Network, however I ended up facilitating the session, with two Muslim women, Maria and Ujoor, sharing their experiences alongside me sharing mine.

The session was wonderful. We had over fifty people attend, with individuals self-identifying as Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Catholic, Unitarian Universalist, Wiccan, spiritual, exploring faith and atheist. Some people felt committed to their faith, whereas others felt that their faith was something they had inherited and in that way was a part of their identity.

The dialogue was open and respectful. The Summer School organisers had shared with me that some issues of Islamophobia had been raised in other sessions, and so we ensured the session was introduced as a space for respectful dialogue. People shared their views and experiences of being people of faith, and how for some, feminism was an extension and complemented their faith identity. Some people couldn’t understand why feminism seems to be seen as an atheist movement, which allowed those who self-identify as atheist to share their views.

One woman commented on how women who wear very little clothing are seen by society as “sluts”, whereas women who wear the hijab are seen as being oppressed. She said she felt it would be wonderful if, in the same way as feminists had started “slutwalks” to declare that women should be able to wear little or no clothing and not be victimised, feminists could also stop seeing women who choose to cover their heads or bodies as oppressed.

It was wonderful to hear Maria and Ujoor’s stories of being Muslim activists, and Maria discussed how we shouldn’t blame Islam for oppressing women, focusing instead on the fact that it is those who choose to use Islam as an excuse to oppress and abuse women. Maria and Ujoor shared how they felt frustrated when people think that Muslim women are a homogenous group, when each woman and their individual communities have very different experiences and values.

We discussed our various experiences of being feminists of faith, and those within the group who were atheists listened and heard our views. The session finished with me sharing some of my story, of how I grew up in a Christian home and how Christian teaching had disabled me from making good choices, leading to me experiencing abuse, but also how it was through my faith in God that I was able to make it through the most difficult period in my life. I shared of working within the feminist world and the challenges I had faced and also the Christian leader who had told me she had to have the “spirit of feminism” cast out of her.

I concluded by talking about the similarities of faith communities and the feminist community. Each is full of flawed people, with a shared set of values and principles, which are perceived differently by every individual, a community of people trying to be on the same page, though with different priorities, perceptions and life experiences. My observation is that the feminist dialogue about trans* people looks very similar to the Christian dialogue regarding the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people.

After I finished, we separated into groups of people with the same faith and had some time sharing and discussing. Some of us swapped details and hope to stay in contact. Many shared with me how useful the workshop had been and how much they appreciated the space, both people of faith and those without.

A big thank you must be given to UK Feminista for being intentional in creating a space for people of faith and as we continue to have respectful and open dialogue I hope and pray, as do all those at the Christian Feminist Network, that we might get to a place where people of faith truly know we fit within feminism and are more equipped to challenge misconceptions within our faith communities.

Weekly round-up #6

Faith in Feminism is a new website/project set up by Vicky Beeching to host conversations on religion and gender equality. It launched this week and one of the first posts published on the site is:

Isn’t religion largely homophobic? – an interview with Rachel Mann

We do no honour to the Bible if we treat it like the spiritual equivalent of one of those old Hayne’s Car Manuals, simply offering a step by step way to holy living. Feminist scholars like myself have been keen to outline how some parts of the Bible are ‘texts of terror’ against women; black and womanist theologians have done the same with biblical texts which are used against ethnic minorities. We need to acknowledge that the so-called ‘Seven Knock-Down Passages’ against gay folk are texts of terror too – that is, they have been used to legitimate hate, prejudice and violence. 

Kicking the trolls off the bridge – Bekah Legg

And my eleven-year-old is a hero because she has gone back to camp. She’s not going to sleep there but she has decided that one silly little boy is not going to spoil her fun. She is not going to withdraw from a space that she loves, a space where she connects with other people and with God because of a bully who thinks it’s funny to threaten people.

A chat with Mikki Kendall and Flavia Dzodan about #solidarityisforwhitewomen – The Hairpin

The more I typed the more things sprang to mind because I’d been looking at a lot of major issues that just go unreported in magazines that were theoretically by women, for women. Somehow the survival, safety and security of WOC (cis and trans), of poor women, of disabled women, of undocumented women, of anyone that wasn’t a white middle class/upper middle class woman felt unimportant relative to creature comforts and makeup choices.

#SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen: women of color’s issue with digital feminism – Mikki Kendall at CiF

As the hashtag spread across Twitter, people from all walks of life started joining in – to vent their own personal frustrations, as well as to address larger political issues. Feminism as a global movement meant to unite all women has global responsibilities, and – as illustrated by hundreds of tweets – has failed at one of the most basic: it has not been welcoming to all women, or even their communities.

Of course all men don’t hate women. But all men must know they benefit from sexism – Laurie Penny

Somehow, it is still hard to talk to men about sexism without meeting a wall of defensiveness that shades into outright hostility, even violence. Anger is an entirely appropriate response to learning that you’re implicated in a system that oppresses women – but the solution isn’t to direct that anger back at women. The solution isn’t to shut down debate by accusing us of “reverse sexism”, as if that will somehow balance out the problem and stop you feeling so uncomfortable.

An open letter to parish councils and church leadership – Sharon Harding

We heard many stories about wonderful congregations who do a fantastic job of welcoming young children and their families into their midst. Congregations who make a point of encouraging and affirming parents, who value the contribution that children make to their worship. It was wonderful! We also heard stories about people in congregations who were not so welcoming. This message was communicated in a variety of ways and included hurtful comments, eye rolling, sighs of impatience and a general attitude of impatience and annoyance directed towards the lively chatter of young children. The stories broke my heart.

Catholic church turns against feminist writers – Daily Pioneer

The Catholic Church in Kerala has been witnessing more and more calls for freedom and expression of dissatisfaction from among its nuns in recent times. Sr Jesme, a nun who had served the Church for 30 years had in 2009 shocked it with her autobiography, “Amen”, which described the sexual repressions, intimidation, harassment and more in the church and convents.

Restored, in association with Christianity magazine, is running a survey on domestic abuse and the church. Please complete if you can and/or share with people you know.

Southwark Cathedral Feminist Theology Group is hosting an event entitled “A Woman’s Place is in the Re-Imagining of the Church”. The event will take place at the cathedral on 26 September at 6:30pm. Click for more details.

If you’re heading to Greenbelt next week, Sunday afternoon will see a talk entitled “What Women (In the Church) Want” – a discussion featuring Vicky Beeching, Rachel Mann, Lucy Winkett, Marika Rose, and Chine Mbubaegbu. It’s at the Big Top at 4pm.