A couple of tentative thoughts about gender identity and Christianity

A few people have raised issues of gender dysphoria with me in the last few months on a theoretical level: 'What do you think about it?' 'Will we be someohw less-gendered in heaven?' 'Could you please blog about aliens? Or gender dysphoria?'

I THINK I have only known one person with gender dysphoria. We met outside a cafe one day and proceeded to catch up semi-regularly for a few months.

I am not super well-read in this area, and am keen to learn from others out there on their thoughts and experiences. But here are a couple of things I can think of upon reflection on Scripture and the little I have read/heard.

A couple of Bible thoughts:

  1. Humanity is fundamentally gendered in the Bible. We are men and women. Cross-dressing is condemned in the book of Deuteronomy and 1Corinthians. The normal and good nature of human createdness by God's intention, then, is that there is a fixity in our gender that aligns with our biological sex.
  2. Gender is not the only thing that defines us - our nature as God's image bearers and our oneness in Christ are greater realities.
  3. Gender, marriage and procreation all go together. In a sense even a single person is a potentially-married person. Even an infertile couple is a 'could have otherwise been fertile' couple. The teaching of Christ that there will be no marriage in the new creation, presumably means that gender is relatively less significant to human experience and relationships in the new creation.
  4. The Bible acknowledges the category of eunuch (whether for the kingdom, by birth or by the hands of people) - and so there is a category for a human experience that is less-than-fully-gendered. And so the category of androgyny is easier to find in the Bible than transsexualism/genderism.
  5. There is no evidence I can think of in the Scripture that justifies us as thinking that gender should be primarily defined by how we feel, or the state of our hormones or brain chemistry. Of course that is all very anachronistic for me to say, anyway.

A couple of more practical reflections:

  1. The experience of gender dysphoria, not to mention other conditions of the sex organs, is extremely rare. In that sense this is an intense issue for a few, not a major issue for many.
  2. I want to gently suggest that this experience is, from the point of view of God's creative intent, abnormal. As a result the experience of dissonance, confusion and hurt is a sad reality of people who do experience it. There needs to be love, acceptance, comfort and kindness shown to people living with these experiences.
  3. Not all experiences in this life, whether experiences of gender, sexual orientation or other things entirely, can be or need to be comfortably resolved. We need to also have the categories and imagination and tools to live with dissonance and struggle throughout our lives. Seeking to resolve irresolveable things through acceptance may not actually make things better anyway.
  4. As a matter of courtesy, I would address someone according to their chosen pronoun. I would not necessarily extend to them every other preferred treatment according to their chosen gender - with regard to sleeping or bathroom arrangements... that's trickier!
  5. When it comes to giving counsel to someone wrestling with these experiences, I think a stronger case can be made for someone choosing to think and live as a modern-day equivalent of a eunuch, than to change their lived gender from their biological gender.
  6. I do question the assumption that is often made that the gender a person feels that they are should be the most essential and defining thing about how their gender is contructed. It seems that biological sex is often downplayed in favour or hormones, brain chemistry or personal experience and self-identification. I am not sure why this should be so. Is biological sex a minor thing? What good reason do we have to not make it determinative?


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Growing your church up Part 4: From no reports to verbal reports to written reports

Early on in the life of a ministry things can be sort of dreamt and worried into existence. Motivation, necessity and initiative are often in full supply, and administrative structure is minimal - so things just kind of happen.

Slowly the need to keep track of what's going on is felt, and reports get requested. But these are at first very relational. We invite someone to come to the leadership team to report in person, or we meet with the person over a cup of coffee and talk things through. 

This is lovely and personal and relational. There is much to commend it. But there reaches a point where it becomes destructively inefficient. Leaders meetings can drag on too long, because we feel that once we have invited someone to come and share, it would be rude not to devote a good 30 minutes to chat and pray with them. Or leaders get burdened with so many relational check-in cups of coffee.

In other words, this face to face, verbal report may be wonderfully 'pastoral' and loving to the person giving the report. But they can start to kill the leaders receiving the reports.

Another problem with them is that they make it much harder for leaders to ask hard questions and make hard decisions about the content of the reports. The report is a relational check in with the person, not a careful assessment of the progress of the ministry, with wise accountability. 

From verbal to written reports

At some point it becomes healthy to move from verbal reports to written reports. This is a jarring change:

  • People doing ministry suddenly have to 'do paperwork'.
  • Intuitive leaders and informal ministries have to start giving specific details.
  • Team leaders have to get used to communicating with the leaders above them in a more formal manner.

It is also a change for how leadership team meetings are run:

  • From long, chatty meetings full of discussion, to more formal meetings with a distinct purpose: to communicate, make decisions and build relationships among the team members themselves.
  • From reading out every report at length, to only discussing requests or concerns.
  • From just 'hearing from' other people doing ministry, to giving energy to how to better support them and better hold them to account.

It takes a bit of adjusting, but as long as it is done gently, lovingly and sensibly it is a change that is possible. And actually frees up both those doing ministry and those overseeing the whole ministry from time spent in meetings, to actually do real relational stuff!



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Growing your church up Part 3: Separate the MC from the Stage Manager and Program Planner

I've noticed that in small conferences and ministries, the MC is EITHER an after-thought job by someone who doesn't prepare at all OR they are the person responsible for the whole event, and part of that responsibility is MCing.

But planning the program is a very distinct thing from implementing that program. And the public work of leading that program is another thing again.

Doing events really well - even running Sunday church services, means separate out the Stage Manager and Program Planner from the MC:

This helps us focus on the MC making the up-front stuff flow. They, like the preacher or the band leader, are focused on what they will actually do publicly. Their nervous energy and focus can be given over to that. 

This helps us focus on recruiting MCs who will be best for this role. The best MCs might not be the most reliable and organised to run the whole event. They might not be the most theologically sharp to plan the detailed flow of the service. Or they might be busy people who don't want to say Yes to all that stuff.

This also helps us have a single person whose entire focus is the conception and planning of the event. This  Program Planner thinks and writes the program and then invites people to be involved, finalising the details along the way.

And then once the program is written, the Stage Manager takes that plan and implements it - writing detailed run sheets and oversees everybody. The Stage Manager also communicates with the sound, lights, powerpoint, music - as well as with the 'Front of House' people (ushers, greeters, catering etc). 

Because the Stage Manager is not MCing, they can be concentrating on this the entire event, even advising the MC as incidentals change.



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How to help someone build their capacity - ideas from Simone and two Craigs

Sandy Grant asked on Facebook for advice on how to help build people's capacity. Among many suggestions, I liked the ideas from Simone Richardson, Craig Schwarze and Craig Hamilton, which I repost here, with permission:

Simone's advice: resilience and self-talk

In my experience, personal resilience is a big thing with capacity. And understanding that the way that you (think you) feel doesn't need to impact how you act.

.... A few things that I've noticed that are killers to a person's capacity:

1. not being good at putting the past behind you so wallowing in regret over past failures or perceived failures or injustices or perceived injustices (I wrote this partly about this issue),

2. unhelpful negative and absolutising self-talk ("I slept so badly last night, I'm never going to be able to work properly today")

3. Being in the hopelessness rut where you think that nothing you do will have a positive impact on outcomes.

4. Not being okay in yourself about the things that are outside of your capacity. (There are 100+ women in my church. I speak personally into the lives of maybe 5 of them. I minister to the others indirectly through my kids talks, an occasional preaching gig, chats here and there and through the songs I choose for our church to sing. I'm not Jesus. I'm at capacity. I have to be okay with this or I'll fall apart.)

Craig Schwarze's advice: if motivation and competence are fine, then remove distractions

In my experience, if someone has competence and motivation, then it's usually external factors that are restraining capacity. 

In my field of software development, one of the major reasons people don't hit deadlines is due to interruptions. Sadly, these very often come from their managers! 

Are you giving your staff chunky tasks to do, then treating them like PAs by peppering them with minutiae throughout the day? A lot of my work as a leader is in creating "clear space" for someone to achieve in. That is costly and difficult. But I see remarkable results when I clear away the distractions.

Now, if the person is distraction free and is still not performing to your expected level, then there is very likely either a competence problem or a motivation problem. Are they really motivated? Do they really have the skills they need? Time for some soul searching.

Craig Hamilton's advice: various ways to help people think and learn to be more effective

Great question. This is probably one of the main things I spend my time doing. My goal is to raise up volunteers to lead at a staff level (for us that means people who can lead teams of teams). 

Sometimes capacity issues are external (like sickness, new baby, family obligations) and to some degree capacity is seasonal. But I’m assuming you’re thinking people where those constraints are absent.

Here’s some thoughts, in order of simple/ elementary concepts to what I consider higher-order capacity building. That is I’m probably doing all of these at once but in some ways they build on each other:

1. Urgent/ important matrix

Just helping people come to grips with the distinction between urgent and important is profound. When people understand that doing important things now lessens the amount of urgent things later can be a bit of a watershed. Also having the team understand that just because it’s urgent for you doesn’t make it important for me helps people with the ability to say “no”, which seems to be an issue that slows a lot of great people down.

2. Rolling 6 weeks

People aren’t that good at seeing the big picture, they quickly get sucked into the details (at least the people I work with do). So just helping them with rudimentary planning seems effective. I teach them a rolling 6 week calendar. Get a whiteboard, divide it into 6 squares, each square is an upcoming week, put the date each week starts in each box and underline the current week. Write in the big rocks - the events, appointments and due dates for each week. If there are things due in week 6 you might put a start date in an early week. As each week passes rub it out and in it’s place write the upcoming week (which will be 6 weeks away) in the box and fill in the details. Underline the current week.

This helps people see around the corner and pace themselves and get more done because they’re aware.

3. 1-2-3

In all my meetings we’ll always talk through briefly and write down a 1-2-3 for each person. 1 is one high impact task that if that’s all you did in the next period it would have the most impact and get the most done. 2 is two problems or blockages that you’re currently facing (and the implication is ‘that we might be able to help you with’). And the 3 is the three next concrete steps you need to take, write that email, make that call, find that bible passage, have that conversation etc.

Sometimes what someone thinks is the high impact task isn’t, and I’ll redirect them to what is actually what they need to tackle.

Again this helps people change how they think, from busyness and mindless doing to effectiveness and closing that execution gap between what we plan and say and what actually ends up happening. 

4. Peer-group pressure

If there’s a particular area that I want someone to grow in capacity in I’ll try and get them to spend time with someone else who is good at it, or has more capacity than them. Whether it’s someone from another church or context or ministry. In a lot of ways growing in capacity is about spending time with high capacity people. In a lot of ways capacity is about social norms in that if you spend a lot of time around lazy, ineffective people who don’t do much there’s a good chance you’ll become like them.

5. Focussed energy projects

I get people to think: over the next term what are the 6 areas in your responsibility/ life that you can see if you poured a bit of focused energy there it would have greater benefit than usual? Is there a person, a team, a project, that would benefit from some focused energy. Write those down and diary in some time to put some energy there.

6. Task forces

This is my favourite. If I’ve got someone I’m building up to be a high-level leader, to think strategically and more holistically, someone who could lead over a higher area, when I gather an ad-hoc team to tackle a big problem, or plan a bigger event or whatever, I’ll invite the up-and-comer to that team. Having them rub shoulders with people a level or two ahead of them, be involved in those higher-level conversations, even take on some responsibilities at that level that have consequences if they drop the ball, all that is so impactful and in my opinion is the best way to build capacity and bring people to that next level as a leader. They feel that responsibility, the trust you have given them by inviting them and the self-designation that comes along with that is a powerful internal motivator.



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Growing your church up Part 2: Communication is not the job of the secretary

As a group gets bigger and older, it's hard to communicate sufficiently with everyone in informal ways. Communication needs to be more constant, deliberate, thorough and consistent.

Also, as a group gets bigger and older, vision leaks quicker. You can't assume that people just absorb it from the tight-knit group - it needs to be spelled out regularly. And so communication needs to be richer and more full of the reasoning behind things and the goals for things.

And so that means we need to stop thinking of communication as a 'mere admin' job. Disparaging administration is a great unfairnesss to administrators. But the point is, pastors and leaders must stop thinking of communication as a 'routine', 'secetarial', 'unimportant' thing.

Communication is a big deal. Getting communication right is important. And so leaders need to be more involved and engaged with things like bulletins, announcements, websites, Facebook Pages and promotions.



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Collaborative software and cloud sharing is mostly useless for collaboration

Leaders are often inspirers. And so bright shiny toys get leaders excited. The promise of what a new piece of software, a new webtool, a new gadget can do! O, the possibilities!

And so Facebook Groups and Google Drives and Dropboxes and Evernotes and intranets and Task Management software get used in the hope that we will be able to better plan our services, streamline our committees, better manage our conference, better collaborate in REAL TIME. Remember Google Wave?

But collaborative software is mostly useless for collaboration.

Why?

  1. Any effective collaboration still needs a clear leader/facilitator. Collaborative tools often blind us to this need, so we either have aimless projects that run out of steam, or really one person is doing most of the work, it just happens to be online.
  2. There will always be a significant percentage of people who won't log into the tool. They won't read the notifications. They won't comment in the shared google doc. So it hasn't actually made collaboration easy for the whole group. That will required either extra time, enforcing and training. Or multiple methods of communication.
  3. These tools, although seeming intituitive, always have frustrating quirks. I remember years ago deleting the entire DropBox content of Redeemer City To City's incubator, when I was just trying to remove my local copy. User-friendly is never entirely user friendly to every user, even if the software uses colloquial turns of phrase and has lots of white space in its UI.
  4. Although shared drives in theory avoid the duplication of documents, in practice they end up with duplicated because the drive folders still need curating and tidying and merging. Before you know it you'll have 'Timetable Sunday Franks Notes_DRAFT' and 'Sunday Timetable Frank V2' and 'timetable FINAL notes'.
  5. Collaboration can promote pointless iteration - everyone adds, changes, edits, shitfts, suggests, emails, cuts, pastes. Sometimes one 'point man' who requests and collates data is just cleaner and quicker.
  6. Live shared docs still get accessed at certain times and only rarely get used while still live. They tend to get downloaded or printed. This requires clarity on cut off dates for additions and edits.

Look, this stuff has its place. But largely to enhance good disciplines of project management and collaboration. Without those disciplines in place it is all just a fast, high-tech version of sticky notes.



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Growing your church up Part 1: Move from rosters to teams

As churches and ministries grow older in age, and especially when they grow out in size, changes need to be made to the way they do things.

Some of these things are practical necessities, they just get forced upon you and you have to do it.

But some of them are strategic necessities: you can get away without doing them, but if you do, it's possible that this will reduce the depth, and quality and impact of your ministry. And it's also possible that it might therefore stifle your ability to welcome, engage, edify and train more people. 

So I thought I'd do a little series on a few.

Not Teams But Rosters

There's a good place for rosters. They are efficient and simple and obvious. They engage everyone in doing a little bit so that a lot gets done.

But rosters can be lazy: They stop us from building teams, recruiting people to the vision of that team.

And so rosters can be limiting: They mean we never build groups of specialists who really own their area of ministry and develop it.

Rosters can also simply be wasteful: is it the best use of all these people's time and energy to do all these jobs? Are there a smaller group of people who do it better, quicker and more joyfully? Or are there people who could be paid to do it for us, freeing everyone up to do different things?

So part of growing your church up might be developing an aversion to the 'simple' roster-solution. 'Let's just all muck in and do the job', shifts to 'Who's the best person to get this done?'

It might even be helpful to start thinking of rostering as a 'last resort', to force the discipline and creativity to think of other solutions.



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Mirrors 24th July 2015

1. The Atlantic writes on the rise of women in the workforce, the apparent strength of female workers in the new economy, the struggle of blue collar workers to retrain for the 'pink collar' sector, and the reality that there are now several tiers of the female workforce - women doing childcare and housework to free up professional women. 

2. Andrew Heard interviewed on local radio about Same Sex Marriage.

3. A blog that gives everyday examples of how to be more emotionally mature.

4. The economic cost of hipster gentrification.

5. What makes a woman? The intriguing cultural clash between feminists and transgeder activists.

6. An excellent lecture by Sandy Grant on Same Sex Marriage, with Q&A. I have a lot of time for Sandy - he is intelligent, careful, humble and sympathetic.

7. Steve Kryger is convinced that pop-up web advertising works. But he removed it from his site because he became convicted that it was not in line with a gospel ethic. 



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Different legitimate sermons from the same passage

I preached at a church a few weeks ago and a friend, who was also a preacher, happened to be in the congregation. He kindly offered to give me feedback, which I was eager to receive.

All his comments were good, and got me thinking and reflecting on which ones to take on board and how.

One bit of feedback particularly got me thinking - he suggested an inadequacy in my sermon and proceeded to suggest how I could have remedied that inadequacy: 

'The sermon is addressing the problem of fear. WHY are people afraid? How does this passage address that fear?...'

He proceeded to sketch out a very admirable 3 point sermon along these lines. It would have been great to listen to as a full sermon.

Afterwards I reflected on this feedback - would I now preach my sermon differently? Ultimately I concluded, this particular point was really suggesting an entirely different, and equally legitimate sermon. So while I might adjust my existing sermon a little to include a bit more of this angle, to really do it justice would be to write and preach a different sermon. And in so doing, many of the benefits of my existing sermon would be lost!

There are many different sermons that can be preached from one passage. Slightly different angles, emphases, applications:

  • Spiritual psychology - getting under the skin of why we fear, or how we repent, or what worship looks like.
  • Stirring the imagination - rich illustrations, stories and appeals, which awaken our imagination to interact with the teaching of Scripture.
  • Learning and memory - an emphasis on 'big ideas', catchy headings and neat summaries to ensure our listeners can repeat what the 'sermon was about' straight afterwards.
  • Extensive application - lots of time and focus on spelling out application and calling for those actions.
  • Doctrinal depth - dealing with all the doctrinal points the passage touches on, and unpacking them at length.
  • Exegetical commentary - big focus on context, structure, argument flow and points of difficulty related to translation/grammar/logic.

Each of us have preferences for some of these particular angles. 

But we need to realise no one is always superior to the others. And perhaps we need to branch into some of the others to better round out our ministry.



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Uni culture bullet points from our student president Michael Laws

We have a student executive committee meeting for the Uni Fellowship of Christians once a quarter. The student president's report covers topics like 'Summary of Activities', 'Relationship with students, staff, leaders, TUU, UTAS'.

But there is also a section: 'observations about uni culture'. This meeting, our student president gave quite a detailed list, which is both funny, and also really helpful:

Blog News

  • James Wheller started a blog - http://ift.tt/1HPKxWK
  • Alice Wanders recently posted on being human - http://ift.tt/1LBEoCc
  • Mikey recently wrote on the length of blog posts - http://ift.tt/1HPKxWM
  • The Three Views On podcast is still going strong - http://ift.tt/1LBEoCe

UTAS News

  • First indigenous exchange students have arrived from Northern Arizona
  • Seth Sentry – Strange New Past at the Uni Bar on August 8
  • Inter College Cocktail this Saturday – please be praying for safety
  • Scav Hunt happening now and into early august
  • Fossil Free Uni – Divestment Day August 14

Top 5 Songs This Week 

Like I'm Gonna Lose You, Meghan Trainor Feat. John Legend 

Main themes: Love and The concept of limited time

Can't Feel My Face, The Weeknd 

Main themes: Bad addictive relationships?? Very repetitive, dance type track (I wouldn’t recommend)

Are You With Me (Original Mix), Lost Frequencies

Main themes: Not Sure, again very repetitive, but a much nicer sound

Headlights, Robin Schulz Feat. Ilsey

Main themes: Not getting distracted by pretty, but pointless things. Definitely Christian blog potential

Peanut Butter Jelly, Galantis

Main themes: Not sure (Maybe sex), Most repetitive of the bunch, cool “rewind” sounds

In Fashion

70’s style is back, along with a real push for layering over the winter months. So expect flared jeans, 

repurposed civil war jackets, fringing, and mustard and burgundy tones. Also, I appears that double denim is 

now acceptable again. Despite strong efforts on my part, ugg boots as casual outwear hasn’t taken off yet.

Design News

Amy Rolfe recently posted on twitter that Adobe Calson Pro was a nice font. I agree, but think it’s more of a 

printed book font than a poster font. This whole paragraph is in the font for your convenience.



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Long blogs, short blogs and finding fault with blog format

I think Nathan Campbell's blog posts are too long. It annoys me. But I know he doesn't mind. Of course I normally preach sermons that other people think are too long. That annoys them. But I don't mind.

Here he explains WHY he writes long blog posts. (I'm still not convinced he should write such long posts.)

Reason number 1 is a helpful one:

"Editing would significantly, significantly, change and lengthen the time I invest here that I need to invest elsewhere....

"I don’t edit because I don’t have time. I have a wife. I have two young kids, with another one due in the next two weeks. I have a pet dog. I have a church family. I have a job. Writing takes me away from these things some times. To be honest, I spend too much time here for too little tangible return in the relationships that matter most."

I can relate to that. Not on length, but on spelling. I type quickly and recklessly into the Geneva Push Expression Engine admin portal, which doesn't have an auto-spellchecker. And I normally update spelling when someone tweets me to say that I really should get my spelling right if I want people to take me seriously.

So I apologise and fix up the spelling. But I carry on as before. There's probably typos in this post. 

Nathan should write shorter posts. I should get my spelling fixed up before posting. But we've got pet dogs to look after. And we have persevered in writing blogs for about a decade, when many other Australian Reformed evangelical blogs have died by the side of the road. So go easy ;-)



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Twelve sermon-lectures on world religions and philosophies

This Semester we did an epic series: The Universe Next Door that explored in-depth a series of:

  • religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Paganism, Mormonism, Judaism, Islam),
  • philosophy (Atheism) and
  • branches of Christianity (Protestantism, Liberalism, Pentecostalism and Roman Catholicism).


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Legislation and normalisation

‘If it’s not illegal, then mustn’t it be treated as normal?’

Part of the tricky logic around the gay rights movement for the average secular onlooker is - ‘if it’s not illegal, then mustn’t it be treated as normal?’

Now I think that just because something is a sin doesn’t mean it should be illegal. I don’t think we should have laws against coveting, for example.

But once something stops being illegal, it becomes harder for the formal structures of society to not start treating it as normal. Once arguments against unjustifiable criminal punishments are won, the arguments shift to ‘rights’ and ‘fairness’ and even just ‘reasonableness’.

Our society has decided homosexuality is not socially criminal. And doctors have declared it not sick. And so doesn’t that mean it is ‘normal’ or ‘legitimate’? And so should we proactively talk about it as such?

 

What makes something 'normal'?

What other ways do we have as a whole society for allowing something to be legitimate, while not conceding that it is normal? And on what grounds would we be able to establish such a thing?

The main grounds I think are utilitarian - if something can be shown to be socially harmful it may not be illegal, but it should definitley be stigmatised. If something is not socially harmful, then it can be normalised.

But is that the only option? Are there other ways to build a civil ethic that is neither utilitarian nor religious? 



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Helping gay young people and learning to live with tension and dissonance

Some of the public policy talk around homosexuality and even transgeder is about helping people in deep psycological dissonance resolve this dissonance and so, it is hoped, experience less anxiety, turmoil and social rejection.

The sooner we can help someone accept their true desires, come to terms with them, and be affirmed by society, the greater their sense of resolution and harmony.

It’s a compelling picture, isn’t it? And when you hear stories of deperssion, bullying and suicide among young gay people - wouldn’t you want to do somethin to slow this? And if you have no reason within your ethical framework to think oif homosexuality as wrong, doesn’t this make perfect sense? Anything that can lead to less depressed and dead young people is a no brainer, right?

How do we think about this, as the Christian community?

 

There are at least 3 things we need to think through:

1. How do we help the gay Christian who is personal convinced that homosexual practice is wrong and wants live in line with their personal religious convctions?

2. How do we lessen the risk of suicide and depression among the gay person in our churches who is unconvinced and so chooses to adopt the homosexual lifestyle?

3. What is our input into the wider society seeking to care for young gay people?

 

Some things we could start doing or do better:

1. A cultural of gentless, kindness and sensitivity. A muscular, us-vs-them stance is not going to be helpful to the gay Christian seeking to be godly or the gay atheist young person. Thoughtless speech - whether jokes, stereotypes or condemnation - will be part of the problem.

2. Don’t withdraw intimacy and physical affection - including same sex intimacy and affection, from gay people, inside and outside the church.

3. Making sure we run loving care in parallel to church discipline. It’s very hard for the same person to both conduct church discipline and personal loving care. We need ways to make sure our church communities find ways to do both things simlutaenously but somewhat independently. That is, if a gay young person chooses to leave the church, will there still be loving individuals who will care for them as people, even while there is ‘church discipline’ that recognises they are no longer in fellowship with the church? If everyone just acts in ‘church discipline’ mode then the experience of rejection could be devastating.

4. Keep encouraging our society to talk about the spectrum of options available to a possibly-gay young person. It’s not just total affirmation OR traumatic and ineffective gay-therapy-camps

  • some people do slowly change their experienced orientation
  • some people continue to experience a homosexual orietnation while being able to functionally and ‘successfully’/‘happily’ live in a heterosexual marriage.
  • some people choose to remain celibate

5. Keep encouraging to counsellors and youth workers to give people the ‘tools’ to live happily, healthily with dissonance and tension. ‘Resolution’ is not the only way to be psychologically healthy. Identifying, acknowledging, mourning and putting boundaries experiences of dissonance is also legitimate. It is worth asking:

  • Does ‘coming out’ guarantee a more healthy sense of identity and resolution? Is it possible that for some gay people, even those who embrace the lifestyle, that there are still dissonances in thier ongoing felt experience, that are not just about cultural stigma?
  • Can ‘not acting out’ be a healthy state of mind and being. Can people be affirmed in this path without feeling like they are ‘denying a part of their true selves’.

6. Encourage young people in our churches to have good relationships with other power figures in their lives. It’s not the job of youth groups to make Christian young people sexually literate. And definitely not to help them practice homosexuality in the safest manner. So we need to help all young people develop healthy confidential relationships with responsible GPs and other authority figures outside the church and family.



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Mirrors 19th June 2015

1. A couple of articles that are critical of men who presume to ‘take the lead’ in discussions of women’s right. Gender politics, like race politics is such a minefield. Can anyone get it right?! 

2. We increasingly need to have clear ethics and write clear codes of conducts about evangelism. Here is one by Sandy Grant

3. A fascintating, generous, insight into the Presbyterian Church of America, which indirectly describes different stances on ‘cultural engagement.

4. Along similar lines, Steve McAlpine has written a post that went a little bit ‘viral’ [:-P] on how our role in Australian society is shifting, and the ‘missional’ approach isn’t ready for it. The prose is wonderful, some of the insights are spot on, even if their biblical ‘models’ and either/or’s are a bit overdrawn. 



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Gender difference, equality, power, representation and social problem solving

Did you hear about the brouhaha in Tasmania over the short-lived appointment of a man to be women’s officer of the Tasmanian University Union? Here’s one article that argues strongly against the appointment.

 

Gender equality, equivalence, discriminiation and representation

It’s an odd area of political life in Australia. On the one hand there are strong forces to argue for equality and even equivalence. Gender should not influence social relationships, working realtionships, sexual behaviour etc. All these things are constructed and fluid.

But in practice, feminism wants to defend and empower women as women. Women in many contexts suffer and miss out. To redress this, requires women to be defined distinctly and defended uniquely. And this is best done when women represent women. It’s a discrimination for the goal of equality. And so it creates a strange tension.

Of course power and male privilege is deceptive and manipulative and ubiquitous. So we need to counteract that, to ensure genuine female empowerment. But does this doom us to never achieve equality? Will there come a day when it’s not needed? And will the means, of distinct female representation inevitably mean there will be equivalence - not that this is necessarily a bad thing? It’s always the problem of affirmative action, isn’t it?

 

Gender difference and male privilege

I definitely think there is more to be gained for women by seeing women as different than men, and then seeking to support and empower them given those differences. But this is tricky. Because ‘difference’ can so quickly lead to discrimination and disempowerment.

And it’s tricky if MEN talk about the difference. Because how can we be sure that men aren’t using it, whether intentionally or pre-reflectively to reinforce their male privilege

But to be real, genuine gender difference must be objective. And if it is objective, it must, in principle, be acacessible to both men and women. And if we are too suspicious of power, and especially male power, then genuine difference cannot be actually affirmed, because it cannot be talked about by everyone.

 

Gender difference, problem solving and unique experiences of life

I fear that looking for a ‘solution’ to women’s experience in the world, is that we seek to change differences inherent in a woman’s experience in the world and so ‘solve’ the ‘problems’ of women’s experience in the world. 

Is there not a way to ‘understsanding’ and ‘embrace’ women’s experiences in their differentness. Not to restrict women, but to empower them within these experiences. So the fact that children, or the possibliity of children can give women’s lives and careers an episodic quality is not a ‘problem’. Nor is the fact that their relationships with men will always involve the reality and or possilbity of sexual desire is not a ‘problem’. And women being in general less physically strong than men is not a ‘problem’.

These things can cretae massive problems: unimaginitive lack of flexibility and opportunity in the workforce, sexual objectification and harrassmanet, domestic violence, respectively. And we should guard against these. But the experiences in the previous paragraph are not ‘problems’ themselves. But they are also realities that need to be lived through, embraced even, as a uniquely female experience of the world.



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Support my missionary work on campus in Tasmania

In addition to writing Christian Reflections and being involved in church planting work through Vision 100 and Geneva, I also lead a team of evangelists, employed by AFES at the University of Tasmania.

We have two local groups:

  1. FOCUS which works with international students, especially from Korean and China and
  2. University Fellowship of Christians with local students and those with English as first (or fluent) language.

We fund this work mainly through the financial and prayer partnership of UTAS students, faculty, grads and local churches.

But we also need the support of other visionary givers who are keen to invest in kingdom work.

I'd love your support! 

If you enjoy the Christian Reflections blog, and know and like what you know of my ministry, then I'd love to invite you to either become a regular supporter, or make a once off contribution.

Even pledging $5 a week or giving $100 once off would make a big difference. 

Donations can be made online at http://ift.tt/1kdO4GE



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Guest blogger: evangelism to mainland Chinese international students

Thanks to my colleague and friend Luke Hansard for writing some articles for Christian Reflections. Luke will be talking about his ministry at FOCUS UTAS:

Most of our international students are Chinese. When you have a majority of mainland Chinese they slowly but surely drive the other nationalities away. We call ourselves International and we want to be… but in reality… we’re Chinese with a few other countries thrown in…

Over the past seven years I’ve slowly come to realise:

  • They aren’t atheists: Confucius said things like “Respect gods and keep away from them.”and…..”If we cannot understand life and how to live, how can we know what happens after life?” While they wouldn't say they got it from Confucius Ive heard them speak in similar ways.
  • They’re modernists: this is quite fun and makes my ministry much less complicated; things are black and white; how can I believe in God?: can science and God co-exist?; what about other religions? what about my ancestors?
  • They don’t have community events: I’m led to believe they just don’t have them back in China. Well, Ive heard of ball room dancing for the elderly and such, but events for young people are rare if nonexistent.
  • They’re all on a production line: study accounting (thats the best way to get a job, PR and money) get a job, make money, send money back to mum and dad, move back to China, get a job, married, get kids, send kids to Tasmania to study…. This means it can be hard to get them to look up and around themselves. Where does God fit into things? Why should I care? I know what I’m here for and I’ve just got to get it done.

On what I’d love:

  • To speak Mandarin or employ a Mandarin version of myself. 
  • A Chinese church of mainland Chinese to have a close relationship with us without compromising the precious relationship I have with churches around Tasmania and Sydney.

Would you like to work with FOCUS TAS? email luke@focustas.org for more information



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Mirrors 12th June 2015

  1. Five things all pastors should know about their church's finances.
  2. How to love someone with chronic fatigue.
  3. This is a fun article. Things that an American needs to understand about Australian culture.
  4. What do you think of Nathan Campbell's crushing critique of Matthias Media's latest book on homosexuality.
  5. This piece of software is creepy but also pretty ingenious. I feel like I spend a fair bit of time helping helping staff get this right - you write to different people differently.
  6. Tracy writes on how to restart a blog.
  7. How to make meetings effective - minutes and agenda. Yes Yes Yes!


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Historical necessity to modern, Western, pluralistic, secular democracy?

It is so hard to talk about a lot of Christian ethical issues in society and sound reasonable, isn’t it? Many people now seem resigned, and rightly so. It seems unavoidable that society will drift in a way that shrink the place of religion in public life and broadens the diveristy of moral and sexual options. It feels inevitable.

It it/was it some kind of historical necessity? Is it where society was bound to go once the power of the Holy Roman Empire crumbled? Or once the Enlightenment or Reformation took place? Does a pluralistic, secular, modern democratic society necessarily lead here? Is there an irrepressible logic to it? How can you embrace diversity and not loosen laws? How can you allow the whole population to vote and not slowly represent more and more of the population’s diversity? How can you allow religion to be public when it encourages conversion to a singular truth?

I know we can’t really say, since this last 500 years is the only time there ever has been a modern, secular democracy. So it’s hard to know what intrinsic to the model and what’s just part of a set of cultural accidents.

But can you imagine an alternate universe where religion was a more central and envliening force in modern secular pluralistic society? What would it look like? What would Australia look like if the central cultural narrative, values and norms were Christian? How would we have dealt with:

  • increasingly diverse religious minorities among our citizens?
  • increasingly numbers of ‘no religion’ people among our citizens?
  • women’s rights?
  • prisoners rights?
  • loosening unjustifiable blasphemy laws and overly prudish decency laws?
  • the decriminalization of homosexuality, without its normalization?

I feel like without having the cultural imagination to picture this, it’s hard to be compelling in speaking in our world.



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