Thursday, May 03, 2012

faith development: has to be more than a guy thing

Today I am working on a section of faith development. I began to reach mentally for my usual starting point, Peter. The journeyer – in the Gospels invited as follower (Luke 5); named as denier; commissioned as feeder (John 21). In Acts, the preacher, whom God’s Spirit calls out of the box. In Galatians, challenged for the ease by which he slips back into racist patterns.

But on the book shelf is another book on faith development, Women’s Faith Development: Patterns and Processes, by Nichola Slee. Who suggests that our notions of faith development can reflect a male bias.

Here is her summary of the usual model of faith development, that provided by James Fowler.

“where Fowler describes faith development in primarily cognitive terms, [alternative] models describe a broader, more holistic process of development shaped by affect, imagination and relationship as well as by cognitive structures. Where Fowler describes the process of development in terms of linear, sequential and irreversible stages towards a highest level of faith, these [alternative] models offer a more fluid and varied account of transition which, whilst demonstrating certain common patterns, can accommodate movement in different directions and can allow for regression as well as the anticipation of prospective growth. Above all, where Fowler asserts that faith development is uniform across diverse contexts, feminists insist that women’s religious development is shaped profoundly by the cultural context of patriarchy which is antitethetical to women’s full personhood and spirituality.” (Slee, 40)

So rather than turn to Peter, I sat back on my chair. And began to think about women in the Bible. Like Mary. And Joanna/Junia.

Two of my most helpful resources – Slee’s, Women’s Faith Development: Patterns and Processes and Bauckham’s, Gospel Women: Studies of the Named Women in the Gospels. What have been yours? What resources are you using to ensure your understanding of faith formation is not overly rational, overly “guy”-centric?

Posted by steve at 11:58 AM


  1. See also Anne Phillips’ The Faith of Girls (Ashgate, 2011), a PhD supervised by Nicola Slee.

    Comment by Andy Goodliff — May 3, 2012 @ 9:19 pm

  2. oh there’s lots of stuff on this in Christian Ed… Carol Gilligan, Maria Harris, Mary Elizabeth Moore for starters. Gabriel Moran’s critique of Fowler. Deidre Palmer draws on another theorist whose name I forget, but whose framework is really interesting. You ought to chat to Deidre.

    Comment by craig — May 3, 2012 @ 9:21 pm

  3. Hi Steve
    quite a bit of data about this in Hofstede’s ‘Cultures and Organizations – Software of the Mind’ and Plueddemann’s ‘Leading across cultures: Effective Ministry and Mission…’ – both talk about Femininity and Masculinity studies in relation to Leadership and Missiology. The different cultures being examined actually show gender differentiation amongst mission pioneers in different cultural contexts… the thing about ‘more males being pioneers’ could be challenged as using a particularly male-oriented definition of pioneering. 🙂

    Comment by Amelia Koh-Butler — May 3, 2012 @ 9:45 pm

  4. Thanks Amelia. “more males being pioneers” is simply a factual statement based on fact I discovered today that of the Venture FX pioneers in UK, 11 of the 13 are male ie “more males are pioneers”.

    What’s with that!


    Comment by steve — May 3, 2012 @ 9:46 pm

  5. I don’t think it’s helpful to categorically state more males are pioneers, certainly not if it’s based on an anecdote from one group in a country on the other side of the world. You need to do a lot more research than that! Our experience in Cms is that cross cultural mission historically has been a great arena for pioneering women. And we have loads of amazing pioneering women training with us now – both year groups so far have a few more women than men.

    Comment by Jonny — May 3, 2012 @ 10:59 pm

  6. Thanks Jonny. That’s helpful feedback from your context.


    Comment by steve — May 4, 2012 @ 8:15 am

  7. Andy, Craig, Amelia – thanks for the resources. Very helpful links to follow. Much appreciated


    Comment by steve taylor — May 4, 2012 @ 11:28 am

  8. Amelia, picked up Hofstede. Fascinating how nations are rated on mascuinity/feminity scales, with UK being so much more masculine that many others.

    But not quite sure how that relates to education, leadership, and religion, and application to pioneers. Still thinking


    Comment by steve — May 5, 2012 @ 6:54 pm

  9. Carol Lakey Hess, _Caretakers of Our Common House: Women’s Development in Communities of Faith_

    Comment by The Rev. Gillian Barr — May 23, 2012 @ 7:05 am

  10. That’s grand. Thanks Gillian,


    Comment by steve — May 23, 2012 @ 8:31 am

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