The Other “Act Like Men?” Conference

Act Like Men 2Act Like Men by Zoe Neudorf As I’m writing this post, thousands of men are coming to my home town of Hamilton for a conference entitled “Act Like Men.” The event is facilitated by a number of American male pastors who believe men need to “step up” as leaders in their churches and homes. The implication is that being a man and being a leader are synonymous. Only a week earlier a very different group of pastors held their own little conference.

It all started when a number of people from egalitarian churches in Hamilton and some folks from Epiphaneia (a network that seeks to create learning environments to engage big questions about faith, the local church and God’s Kingdom) were sad to think that this gendered view of leadership might be perceived as the only Christian perspective by the wider community.

Act Like Men - Photo by Leslie Schnarr MakinsEventually the idea of a counter conference was born. It was dubbed “Act Like Men? Broadening The Conversation On Men, Women and The Church.”  Within three short months this alternative conference was pulled together and 200 people came to hear a wider story of Gender and the Church. The Commons and MCEC came on board as supporters to help promote this learning discussion, and a number of Anabaptists attended the event.

Kevin Makins (pastor of Eucharist Church in Hamilton) set the tone for the evening by saying “We aren’t presenting just one alternative but rather 8 speakers, with 8 different points of view, who are talking to 100 people with 100 more points of view.” 

He wasn’t lying, we heard from a catholic nun turned feminist activist/Anglican deacon. Women teachers and pastors from a number of traditions dug into theology and translation. We heard from men who have been working for gender equality in their denominations for a long time, and a story of a husband and wife who were both called to pastoral ministry and how God provided a church where they could both use their strong leadership gifts. We also heard stories of pastors who are on the gender margins, a retired pastor who was diagnosed as intersexed, and a young man studying to be a minister who loves Jesus, lives with cerebral palsy, and is gay.

Yes, the stories and people were varied, but as I listened to these unique journeys an overall theme (even spirit) emerged. Our feminist nun, Joanna Manning said it best by proclaiming loudly “It is One Big God!”

How different the universal church must look to our “One Big God.”  How often do we focus solely on our own traditional church boarders that we miss what Jesus is doing in the rest of the Church? Many of the “Act Like Men?” speakers shared journeys that started in one corner of the church and have ended in quite a different corner. But through it all God was there. As doors were shut for these leaders in one tradition, Jesus opened opportunities in other parts of the Body of Christ.

In the end even the people from the larger “Act Like Men” mega conference (whom I might disagree with) are a part of this body and are seeking after this “One Big God.” and I believe that God will honour that as well.

We ended the counter conference with a communal prayer written by Epiphaneia’s Nathan Colquhoun: It was a very powerful conclusion to a night of many thoughts:

“Look at your people

We came here

    Gathered
    Sang
    Watched
    Listened
    Found Joy
    Got Angry
    Discovered our weaknesses
    Remembered our past
    Hoped for our future

Now we are praying
    Praying that you would continue to liberate us
    Praying that we would live into our humanity
    Praying that we would be transformed by your Spirit
    Praying that you would be glorified

We are really a broken bunch

Oppressed and Oppressor
    We’ve all been both

Feeble attempts to stand with
    But end up standing on

We came here to explore, listen and learn
    Some of us will leave more full of ourselves then when we came

We came to be challenged not confirmed
    Some of us will leave more vulnerable then when we arrived

Don’t let us leave this place excited about the things we’ve heard
    Let us leave in mournful joy of the wheat and weeds that grow all around us

Don’t let us leave this place fixed, thinking we have the answers, or that we are right.
    Let us leave broken, in solidarity with the broken world around us

Don’t let us leave this place and forget
    Let us remember

We remember those that feel different from us
    Gender
    Sex
    Race
    Social Status
    Religion
    Family
    Orientation
    Ability
    Nationality
We need your love to reflect in us

We remember those that make us angry
    Conservatives
    Fundamentalists
    Judgemental
    Liberals
    Wealthy
    Poor
    Educated
    Powerful
    Weak
We need your love to reflect in us

We remember those that will be at the Act Like Men conference
    Be present with them.

That’s all we can really ask.
    Be present
    Bring peace

Be present with us, with them, with me, with the other.
Make your presence known, make us aware of it everywhere we go.

Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus
    clear the way for us to come to you.

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow
    for each other and for everyone else.

May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy

in the presence of our God and Father
    when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.

Amen.”

 Click Here to listen to all the pod-casts from the “Act Like Men?” speakers.

Act Like Men photo by Zoe Neudorf