Created in God’s Image: From Hegemony to Partnership – A Church Manual on Men as Partners: Promoting Positive Masculinities

Created in God’s Image: From Hegemony to Partnership is a Church Manual on Men as Partners: Promoting Positive Masculinities. It builds on the gender manual, Created in God’s Image: From Hierarchy to Partnership, which was developed and published by the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) in 2003. It embodies and builds on the rich experiences gained from workshops, which were done from 2006 to 2010 in St Maarten, Malawi, Guyana and Kenya. The workshops were organized by WARC in collaboration with the WCC, local churches and seminaries and were facilitated by a network of male theologians, pastors and lay persons in partnership with women theologians, pastors and lay persons. The overall goal of the manual is to enable churches and social organisations to promote gender justice and partnership of women and men through the development of leaders, who model good examples. It is intended to make a significant contribution to justice and transformation in church and society. The approach is not to demonize men or to instill feelings of guilt and powerlessness but to peel away the layers of gender construction which are key to understanding manhood within specific cultural, economic, political and social contexts. The overall aim is to make a difference by transforming dominant forms of masculinity which are destructive to women, men, families and society as a whole.

The manual is a dynamic resource that can be adapted to meet the needs of diverse communities and societies. It can be updated and enriched to ensure its relevance to local contexts. Churches should be encouraged to take an ecumenical and interfaith approach and, where possible, to hold joint workshops. The manual includes theological and biblical resources on men, masculinity and gender. The main topics are: understanding gender, masculinities, identity and sense of self, sexuality, gender based violence, leadership and power and partnership. The concepts of masculinity and gender are aimed at enabling men to be more conscious of gender as a construct that affects their own lives as well as those of women. Masculinity is explored from the experiences and teachings of social practices, behaviours and power constructions by which men become conscious of themselves as gendered subjects. It is designed for participants to critically and sensitively examine the socialization of men and boys and the influence of social, religious, economic and cultural contexts on this process. Participants will be engaged in sessions of self-awareness, socialization and sexuality as they study the Bible and examine masculinity against the background of culture, religion, social environment and how these play a significant role in shaping male roles and identities. They will connect with stories of gender based violence and develop strategies for churches to take action and for men to say no to violence against women. The modules include activities for discussion on how men’s experiences, beliefs and values form the foundational basis of masculinity and the role of the church in this formation.

The manual was developed using a highly participatory methodology, which provides a helpful approach for critical examination of masculinity, men and gender through theology, social analysis, life experiences and interactive learning. Reading the Bible is an important aspect in the conceptualization of the manual - as a basis for reconstructing masculinities, which are not based on competitiveness, power, control, violence and the repression of emotions.

The development of the manual takes into consideration cognitive, behavioural, psychosocial, theological and spiritual dimensions of education for change. It draws on the pedagogical approaches of adult learning and popular education and opens the way to work with men and women at all levels where both lay and ordained persons can be engaged in the process of promoting positive masculinities and partnership.

This manual very intentionally focuses its attention on gender from the perspective of the community of women and men and attempts to empower men and women to contribute of their best to society. At this time, the new quest for identity by sexual minorities is not addressed – it is a concern of the churches and will for some time continue to be a difficult and at times controversial issue. But, it is a pastoral concern and a question of justice to other gendered people who do not easily fit into the categories of male and female – therefore it will need to be addressed both as a sociological fact and as a theological imperative. Monica Melanchthon, in her helpful Bible Study found in Section 4 of this manual, points out that the varied (and sometimes contradictory) texts in the Bible which deal with issues of human sexuality, in all its variety, need to be unraveled and read in context.

The methodology of this manual is informed by the pedagogy developed by Paulo Freire, which requires a highly participatory and transformative process of critical consciousness, analysis and strategic thinking. According to Freire, the process of conscientization enables persons and groups to reflect on their context and to think strategically, opting for ways which are informed by and empowered by critical reflection. Participants will engage in dialogue and experience personal empowerment in the process. The approach places importance on the contextual framework, life experiences, communication methodologies and relevance of people’s needs, and seeks to engage men and women at the levels of mind, heart, soul and spirit.