Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Inclusive Language

Rev. Christina Whitehouse-Suggs

I've been attending a church conference and we started with worship yesterday morning with one of my favorite hymns, Be Thou My Vision. I memorized that hymn long ago but when I started wrestling with inclusive language in scripture & hymnody, I started struggling with this hymn because of the words in the traditional version of verse two, "Thou my great Father and I thy true son."

Now, before you jump down my throat with historical language and the fact that when ye writers of olde meant EVERYONE when they wrote about man/son - I know that. I was an English major for awhile before switching to American Sign Language (another story for another time). We also know that for a language to be alive, it will continue to grow and evolve and develop. Think about the fact that just 40 years ago, we didn't have "compact discs" or "cellular/mobile phones" or "electronic mail". Think about the fact that while we still use English (albeit our Americanized/bastardized version), it certainly isn't the same English that good ole' William Shakespeare used. I'm not writing this post in the King/Queen's English.

I also want to point out that I'm not some raging feminist who's advocating a linguistic shift to some ridiculous political correctness or to swing the pendulum to a female-dominant language. But in church tradition, masculine-dominant language has been used to oppress and subjugate women for centuries and I, for one, am tired of it. This is probably an overstatement but I believe that women have sustained the (institutional) church for the entirety of its existence and yet we continue to be among its least valued members.

If we hold to the belief that if God is neither male nor female and if we also believe scripture when it says that God created us in God's image, then we need to change the way we refer TO God and talk ABOUT God (just my humble opinion). And for those of us who have accepted this and have become more inclusive in our language about the Divine, it's a bit of a learning curve but we seem to manage it. But we always seem to struggle and bump into problems with our hymnody - partially because of meter & rhyme but also because we've memorized it and it seems more difficult to address somehow.

So, back to the conference - we stand up to sing Be Thou My Vision and I'm wondering if they'll just use the traditional lyrics or how they'll change them...and this is what they posted:

Be Thou my vision O Lord of my heart.
Not be all else to me save that Thou art.
Thou my best thought by day or by night
Waking or sleeping my treasure Thou art.

Be Thou my wisdom and Thou my true word
I ever with Thee and Thou with me Lord
Thou my redeemer my love Thou hast won
Thou in my dwelling and I with Thee one.

Riches I heed not nor vain empty praise
Thou mine inheritance now and always
Thou and Thou only first in my heart
Great God of heaven my treasure Thou art

Great God of heaven my victory won
Now I reach heaven’s joys O bright heaven’s sun
Heart of my own heart whatever be fall
Still be my vision O ruler of all.

Now, to be honest, I stumbled over the lyrics but I was so happy to see them - not only the more gender neutral/inclusive part but also the less imperialistic stuff (Great God instead of High King). I asked where they found these lyrics and was told these are from the Chalice Hymnal, hymn 595, words by Eleanor Hull. So thankful for writers like her who are willing to wrestle with the traditional text and stay true to the spirit of the hymn but include everyone today.

Christina Whitehouse-Suggs is the Associate Coordinator of CBF of South Carolina, and graduated with an M.Div. from Campbell University. This article originally appeared on Christina's blog, Thoughts From The Journey.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"Half the Sky"-- A Review and A Movement

by Rev. Laura Barclay

Half the Sky:Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, is a powerful portrait of women in the developing world and a great beginner’s guide on how Westerners can help to empower them. Kristof and WuDunn, a husband and wife team, are Pulitzer Prize winning journalists who have a passion for elevating the importance of women’s rights in the Global South.

The book starts with a staggering statistic, noting the substandard care of girls and women by their parents:

“More girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the wars of the twentieth century. More girls are killed in this routine ‘gendercide’ in any one decade than people were slaughtered in all the genocides of the twentieth century (xvii).”

Kristof and WuDunn take us around the world, telling us personal stories of women who have survived sex trafficking and genital mutilation, rape and molestation, fistulas and near-death pregnancies. Yet, instead of identifying these women as victims, they follow the story of their empowerment and survival. Many of the women they highlight take advantage of beneficial aid programs, becoming community organizers and educators for the cause of human rights. Along the way, Kristof and WuDunn give the reader examples of non-profits who are doing excellent work, as well as those who are failing those they are meant to serve. In most cases, successful models involve Western aid that finances the education of women, provides microloans for women-run small businesses, and funds native community organizers rather than Western workers to lead operations. Local empowerment allows for a less colonial approach, fosters local leadership development and assures a greater respect for culture and ethnicity.

Kristof and WuDunn show the importance of Western politicians working together. They criticize both liberals and conservatives for not funding hospitals that would allow women to deliver their babies safety, to fix painful fistulas that can form and inhibit the passing of urine and fecal matter, and to drastically reduce the level of maternal and infant mortality rates (by the way, more women die during childbirth in a couple of days than terrorism kills people in an entire year, 146). While the ideological poles in the U.S. wage war over abortion issues, women and infants are dying over something both sides could agree to fund. Conservatives and liberals could also agree to crack down on violence against women and sex trafficking, a horrifying plague that has spread due to increasing globalization and capitalism.

Kristof and WuDunn close their book by saying that if we look at emancipating women as a “women’s issue,” then we’ve already lost (234). Instead, there is powerful data that suggests the education of women, half any given nation’s population, will raise a nation’s GDP, increase stability, and reduce poverty (237). Empowering and emancipating women from sexual slavery (27 million and counting), poverty, and substandard health care are issues of national security, international relations, and economic security.

When women obtained the right to vote in America, the child mortality rate dropped 8-15%, and spending on public health increased by 35% (198). Politicians realized women had power, and they altered the budget to meet the concerns of women they feared would vote them out if they did not address certain issues of grave importance. I encourage you to get this book and join up with one of the profiled organizations to help empower women and improve our world!

Check out the "Half the Sky Movement"to find out how to get involved now!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

4 Ways to Use Social Media During Capital Campaigns

By Ben Stroup

It’s interesting that we live in a digital, multi-media world of RSS feeds, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., until we go to church. Even some of the strongest users of these platforms in other areas of their lives fail to see the impact technology can have in church life.

A capital campaign is one of the most intensive and comprehensive tasks a church chooses to take on. It requires a tremendous amount of communication to keep everyone up to date and on board. And the six-month campaign also comes with an 18-36 month pledge fulfillment period which means the energy of the first six months has to continue until the final dollar is raised.

Thus, a capital campaign is the perfect opportunity to introduce technology as a way to manage communication with the larger church membership. (And social media isn’t just for young people. The fastest growing group on Facebook is women 55 and older as seen here.)

Consider these four ways to leverage social media and technology to support the communication and funding efforts of your next (or current) capital campaign.

1. Announce upcoming events. People forget. They have a lot going on in their lives. It’s difficult for the church leader to remember this because they are so close to the situation. Most of the people who occupy the pews of our churches only interact with their church once every seven days in 59 minute segments. Don’t expect people to rush home and put everything in the bulletin on their personal calendars. Make it easy for them to remember. As participation increases so does funding.

2. Share personal testimonies. Giving is an emotional process. Stories are emotional by design because they are grounded in our human experience. Don’t wait until Sunday to share how God is speaking to someone or moving in someone’s life as a result of their commitment and participation in the capital campaign. Personal testimonies are a great way to keep the momentum rolling. All you really need is a Flip Video and access to YouTube. Don’t forget that link to online giving.

3. Create an electronic photo gallery. (Think scrapbook.) Remember those albums your Mom kept of you from the time you were a baby until today? You can easily see the progression and re-live specific moments in your past by glancing through this collection of pictures and captions. It’s the same with a capital campaign. Use an online photo gallery as a scrapbook so that people can remember the campaign from beginning to end. It also becomes an easy way for others to share about the ministry of the church with others. The saying is true, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” People are looking for churches who are investing in Kingdom impact. It’s not unusual to see numerical growth as people are attracted to the energy a campaign creates.

4. Remind people to give. Make it easy for people to give. A capital campaign is designed to raise a large sum of money in a short period of time. People don’t attend church as often or as consistently as they have in the past. We live differently and our schedules are much more sporadic and unpredictable than they have ever been. Reminding people how they can support the campaign and making it easy for them to do so online increases the opportunity to maximize the giving capacity of your congregation.

The people who sit in your pews already use social media. Maybe the church should consider harnessing the power of this communication platform, too.

Ben Stroup, works with GENERIS, an innovative stewardship consulting firm focused on accelerating generosity and funding the work of the Kingdom. This post entry originally appeared on the site http://ministrymarketingcoach.com.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Rescuing Creation

by Dr. J. Derrill Smith

After having been buried alive for a week in the rubble of Haiti's January 12 earthquake, Ena Zizi was rescued by the Gophers. As they pulled her dirty and injured body out on a broken piece of plywood salvaged from the rubble and carefully passed her down over three stories of debris to the ground, the 70-year-old woman began singing. Her singing was inarticulate, as she hadn't had any water to drink for seven days. Yet, her joy was infectious. The members of the Mexican rescue team who were carrying her began crying...

The Mexicans who saved Zizi's life are known in their home country as Los Topos de Tlatelolco, or the Gophers of Tlatelolco. Tlatelolco was a giant apartment complex in Mexico City that was destroyed by earthquake in 1985. During that disaster, when the Mexican government failed to respond promptly, Tlatelolco residents formed their own rescue brigade and learned on the job. In the years since they have become stars among international rescue teams.

Unlike rescuers who stay on the surface and peel away the debris until they reach the victims, they Gophers have become world-renowned experts at gaining faster access to survivors by tunneling into rubble and propping up makeshift tunnels with debris. It means they put their own lives at risk, but that risk paid off for Zizi.
("Out of the Rubble," The Christian Century, March 23, 2010)

Paul Jeffrey, a United Methodist missionary who reported this moving story, says that the Gophers have a lot to teach us. He says that if we are to help the Haitians, as well as other devastated people, we must dig deeper and tunnel into the systems that keep people depressed and poor. Indeed, he is correct. But some of my first thoughts about the Mexican rescuers tunneling deep into dangerous places went immediately to the great thing that Christ did for us. Setting aside his glory and putting on human flesh, Jesus of Nazareth tunneled into the pathos of human existence in order to show us the way to God. Yet, the world did not receive this Savior but hung him on a cross. The earliest teachers of the faith said that "he descended into hell." There is much speculation about what exactly that descent means, but there is no denying that Christ tunneled into human existence, even death and hell itself, to rescue his creation. This is the message of Easter. "Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed!"

Derrill Smith is the pastor of Wingate Baptist Church in Wingate, NC. This article originally appeared in Wingate Baptist's church newsletter, "The Chrysalis."