Yesterday I listened to an item on PM (radio 4) about a new church initiative. It will come as no surprise to learn that most churches are concerned about falling attendance: what did come as a surprise was to be told that attendance is now predominantly female. This does not accord with my experience; and according to at least one survey I found, more men than women attend traditional churches:
But even if the statistic were true I would question the attitudes of CVM or Christian Vision for Men. They claim that to many men the church has been ‘feminised’. Doyleys were mentioned; flowers were cited as reasons why these men do not feel comfortable in the modern church. Leaving aside the question of doyleys (and haven’t flowers always featured in churches?) the idea of ‘feminisation’ is highly questionable. We’ve had two millennia of the church being dominated and run by men. The God of the Bible is male. Yet barely a quarter of a century after the first women priests, we find that some men cannot cope.
Of course I want everyone to feel comfortable in church – but every place I’ve attended has managed to make that happen without needing to establish a separate space with hog-roasts and other male-bonding exercises. The CVM website also endorses patriarchal ideas about the man as the head of the family (‘if you get the man, you get the family’ – in other words, women and children do not make their own decisions.) Maybe there is an argument to be had about whether men need to hang out together and do stuff without women, the same as there is about women doing stuff without men – but come on guys! If the mere presence of a doyley can put you off going to church, you need to examine your faith.
Here’s the programme anyway – it’s about 20 minutes in: