Thursday, July 20, 2017

Faith development for girls: more than just a guy thing

I’m doing a workshop at Connect this weekend. I’m taking some friends – Mary, Elizabeth, Anna – to help me explore Faith development for girls: more than just a guy thing. Workshop participants will have a chance to make a Mary/Elizabeth/Anna ‘action’ figure.


This workshop explores gender in discipleship. What can we learn from teenagers in the Bible like Loruhamah and Jarius’ daughter?  It is an important question given most material on faith development has been written by men. Voices of contemporary pre-teenagers will be placed alongside Biblical voices in asking how we encourage faith development for all God’s people.

Posted by steve at 03:45 PM

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

research assistance required

I am seeking research assistance for a project that involves developing a theological resource for undergraduate students in the area of indigenous women’s Christologies.

The project involves working with a number of local theologians, in particular selected indigenous woman (already identified), to clarify their theology (in both written and visual forms), and to create an accompanying resource guide by which undergraduate students can identify the resources and processes used in theological contextualisation and consider the questions raised for theological method.

Applicants will need skills including the ability to

  • interview
  • organise technologies (visual and written) to preserve the insights
  • write clearly
  • develop resources
  • think theologically, including in areas of Christology and culture

Funding is available for a total of 25 hours at Flinders University Causal Academic Rates. The project needs to begin by late September, 2014 and to be finished by early November, 2014.

Apply by email to Steve Taylor (steve dot taylor at flinders dot edu dot au) by Friday 6 September. Applications should include a CV and a letter of interest, addressing the skills required.

Posted by steve at 11:10 PM

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Gender matters: Startups with women more likely to succeed

Here’s another one in the gender matters series.

Startups with Female Directors Have Better Chance of Survival. Newly incorporated companies with one female director have a 27% lower risk of becoming insolvent than comparable firms with all-male boards, says a team led by Nick Wilson of Leeds University Business School in the UK. The effect decreases as the number of female directors rises, suggesting that what matters is diversity rather than the specific number of women on the board. Past research shows that groups with greater gender diversity generate more-innovative thinking in problem solving.

Source – this piece of research in International Small Business Journal.

For more on gender matters

Posted by steve at 08:49 AM

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Gender matters: in church structures

Today I’ve been writing (Sustainability and fresh expressions book project) on the history of mission in Great Britain. What has the God of mission been up to in the past? How might that help us analyse the current and dream of a future?

More specifically, I’ve been writing about the voluntary missionary society, a significant and important gift, from Great Britain, to the world. William Carey, often called the father of modern mission, in his hugely influential An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means, argued not only for mission, but also for a new structure for mission. Drawing from the world of commerce, the trading company and the way it, through seeking shareholders, created participation and enabled action, Carey wondered:

Suppose a company of serious Christians, ministers and private persons, were to form themselves into a society, and make a number of rules respecting the regulation of the plan, and the persons who are to be employed as missionaries, the means of defraying the expense, etc etc

Missiologist Andrew Walls considers this of huge significance, a revolutionary re-structuring of the church in light of mission. He also notes a number of outcomes, including gender matters, the way it allowed women’s giftedness. Walls argues that voluntary societies

assisting [the church’s] declericalization, giving new scope for women’s energies and gifts and adding an international dimension which hardly any of the churches, growing as they did within a national framework, had any means of expressing. After the age of the voluntary society, the Western Church could never be the same again. Andrew Walls, “Missionary societies and the Fortunate Subversion of the Church.”

Often church structures impede women, as so eloquently attested in Maggi Dawn’s recent book. But sometimes (albiet probably unintentionally), they allow the body of Christ to experience “new scope for women’s energies and gifts.” In other words, to more fully be the body.

Yeah for church restructuring!

Posted by steve at 04:31 PM

Sunday, November 04, 2012

indigenous story for a commissioning in mission

This was the symbol presented to Rosemary Dewerse, who was commissioned as the Director of Missiology and Postgraduate Coordinator for Uniting College on Friday night at Presbytery Synod.

The book, by Patricia Grace a fine New Zealand’s Maori writer, is an illustrated picture book, which tells the story of Maraea, an elderly Maori woman living in a coastal community. Sadly, people are drifting to the cities, and the community is falling apart, leaving an aging Maraea on the clifftop, looking out to sea to welcome the birds …

Why such a gift for a commissioning in mission?

Albatross is a bird of ocean flight and acknowledges the pilgrim journey made by the Dewerse family to be among us. It also acknowledges the journeys that have shaped them to this point.

The author, Patricia Grace, is an indigenous Maori and thus has links with what has shaped, and continues to shape Rosemary.

The albatross feather, for the Maori community of Parihaka, was a sign of peace, harmony and reconciliation. Which has obvious echoes the gospel of Christ found in the mission of God’s people.

And the elderly women, in a community falling apart in the face of social change, well that surely is metaphor for the mainline church in the West, including the Uniting Church in which Rosemary is called for this season.

The inside cover was signed by staff and some students.

And for those interested, this is how I introduced Rosemary and the position. (more…)

Posted by steve at 08:38 PM

Monday, June 18, 2012

Men talk more: more than a guy thing part 4

Men tend to talk more. And in doing so, they tend to silence women. Men tend to talk in certain ways. And in doing so, they tend to silence women.

“Studies of classroom behaviour suggest that men and women exhibit different manners in their speaking, and that (western European) men’s style is the valued pattern. Men are more likely to use: highly assertive speech, impersonal and abstract examples, and competitive or adversarial interchanges … This style and ethos are not only favored, but they tend to be perceived to be more intelligent and authoritative behaviors.” (Carol Hess, Caretakers of Our Common House: Women’s Development in Communities of Faith 106)

In contrast, women’s speech patterns tend to use a more tentative tone. Rather than seek adverserial assertion they are more likely to make encouraging or supportive comments, wanting to draw out the contributions of others.

What to do if you want more equal conversation, if you want to be part of an Acts 2 church, in which you hear “your daughters prophesy”?

  1. Listen more carefully for tentative talk and as you hear it, take care to publicly affirm it.
  2. Create ways for people to share not only through abstract ideas but also with personal storytelling.
  3. Be very aware of gender exclusive language. It might not silence you, but it could well be silencing others.
  4. Encourage collaborative explorations as opposed to individual or competitive interaction.

(This continues my reading around gender, leadership and faith development (here, here and here).)

Posted by steve at 10:18 PM

Monday, May 21, 2012

Do women do it – ministry and leadership – differently?

Do women lead different?


And yes.

That is the conclusion from those who write in Presiding Like a Woman – Feminist Gestures for Christian Assemblies, a collection of 20 essays and 2 poems, reflecting on what it means to “preside”, to offer leadership in ministry, as a woman.

The argument of the book is that gender can be rejected – “Oh we’re all the same.” Or ignored – “It’s awkward, so let’s not talk about it.” Or explored, because, in the words of Ali Green, “By honouring sexual difference we can encourage and inspire others who … have felt excluded by their own culture, both within the Church and in wider society.” (109)

As I read, a number of themes seemed to keep appearing.

First, an embodied spirituality – for example the connection in so many essays to experience. In the words of Gillian Hill “women’s experience and an embodied approach challenge any retreat into abstract ideas.” (155)

Second, the whole of life – and to illustrate, a great example by Ali Green

“As well as being childbearers, woman are also oftentimes the carers and homemakers who look after the very young and old and put food on the table. Essentially, the Eucharist is a meal of companionship where everyone is invited to the table, and where the priest, representing Christ, feeds the guests. The woman presider offers a reminder of this very concrete and humble connection: the transcendent, unsearchable God, through the incarnation, becomes known to us in the basic staples of life.” (Green, 107)

Third, participation – a desire for interactivity and mutuality. A chapter by Nichola Slee explored this in depth, arguing that mutuality flourished when responsibility was taken up to attend to the care of the group.

“whether shared or exercised by one person, attention to the power dynamics within the group and careful management of those dynamics is essential if the community is to function well.” (160)

Four, leadership as gentle space-making – Grey describes how the presider is a midwife “that hears into speech, especially the inarticulate, the invisible, the excluded.” (55) This space-making is facilitated by an ethos of empowering leadership and the deliberate creation of safe space.

“The [teacher] does not create the community, but she is frequently the one to call the community together and to issue the invitation to the risky, adventurous process of learning.” (159)

What was fascinating was the chapter by Brian Barrett (one of the two male contributors) who placed this within a lovely mission frame. He argues that the traditional image of church as circle is not Biblical. Neither is the one person band.

Rather leadership is about movement, the constant shift between attending to the congregation and to the stranger on the margins;

to “move back and forth across and to the very edges and doorways of the space, enabling and encouraging the movement of others, and, in the process, making visible and tangible the ‘incarnational flow’ within the ‘space between.’” (Barrett, 173)

Much to think about in this book, as I lay it alongside Faith of Girls, Women’s Spiritual Development (here and here) and the emerging church data I am working with.

Posted by steve at 06:57 PM

Friday, May 04, 2012

faith development: more than a guy thing part 2

Yesterday I raised some questions about the place of gender in faith development. I noted the work of Nichola Slee, Women’s Faith Development: Patterns and Processes. Her work emerges from interviews with 30 women, which resulted in some 1500 pages of transcribed interviews. She then read these narratives alongside a number of conversation partners – faith development theory and women’s spirituality.

She suggests these women develop through a three part process,

  • of alienation
  • of awakenings
  • of relationality

She then makes four broad applications, to those in formal theological education, to those involved in any educational or pastoral care context in church life, to women’s networks and groupings.

First, to ground practice in women’s experience. She suggests making a priority of more inductive and experiential approaches to education. She also suggesting bringing to greater visibility women’s lives. (A simple check list I used in this regard, when I used to preach regularly, was check my sermon illustrations and quotes to make sure I had gender balance, as many women examples as men).

Second, create relational and conversational spaces, for “women’s spirituality was profoundly relational in nature, rooted in a strong sense of connection to others, to the wider world and to God as the source of relational power.” (Slee, 173) Slee suggests we look at our environments, ways to create circles not rows, and processes by which everyone speaks no less than once and no more than twice.

Third, foregrounding of imagination, given “the remarkable linguistic and metaphoric creativity of women as they seek to give expression to their struggles to achieve authentic selfhood, relationships with others, and connectedness to ultimate reality.” (Slee, 175). She notes historically how much of women’s theology was embedded in poetry, hymnody, craft forms and popular piety. So we need to find ways to weave this into our “reading” and our talking.

“Yet educators need to go beyond the use of such artistic resources to the active encouragement of learners to engage in artistry as a way of exploring and discerning truth.” (Slee, 177)

Practically, this can include Ignation practices, working with the texts of Biblical women, seeking to recreate their lives “between the lines of patriarchal texts.” (177)

Fourth, of accompanying into silence and paradox. Faith development involves times when we find ourselves in places which have no words. “They require the creation of spaces for waiting, for silence, for apparent nothingness.” (Slee, 178) Helpful resources here can include Meister Eckhart, Thomas Merton, Simone Weil.

Slee is aware that these suggestions are not new. But from her experience of (British) theological institutions, there is room for growth.

Posted by steve at 11:57 AM

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

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

gender, ministry and church on International Womens Day

It’s the centenary of International Womens Day. In honour of this significant occasion, I want to point to two historic posts on my blog.

The first is a more Biblical reflection on women and apostolic leadership, which explores one of my favourite missional leaders, a women called Joanna (Luke 8:3).

The second is a podcast interview (it’s one of my very first, so it’s not great quality) in which I interview Jenny McIntosh about women and the emerging church. She reflects on the struggles of women to have voice and explores some possible reasons. Is it about the way the Bible is used? Is it about 50/50 representation? Is it about the way gender’s know, relate and include – and so we need not just an emerging church, but an emerging change of culture?

Posted by steve at 04:09 PM

Friday, June 02, 2006

who was mary magdalene?

This book is really helpful; Gospel women by Richard Bauckham. A very close reading of the New Testament to argue that, if the church is patriarchal, it was certainly not the case in the early church.


There are chapters about Ruth, Tamar, Rahab, Elizabeth and Mary, Anna, Joanna the apostle, Mary of Clopas, the 2 Salomes and the resurrection women, including Mary Magdalene.

It’s a book packed with lots of interesting facts. Did you know that 25% of women in Jesus day were called Mary? Did you know that there is strong evidence that Joanna becomes Junia the apostle in Romans 16? Did you know that Anna is most likely a returnee from exile, making a complimentary pairing with Simeon of Jews, both local and diaspora, waiting for Jesus? I’ve used it to preach on Mary Magdalene here; and Joanna as a women in ministry here.

Posted by steve at 09:48 AM