The Geneva Push – a church birthing movement?February 24, 2013
I have recently heard about a new movement called the ‘Geneva Push’ – a consortium of christian leaders seeking to shape a church planting culture through endorsing and resourcing leaders with a particular emphasis on complementarianism and exclusive male leadership. If you’re interested, the extensive list of what they affirm, and the even longer list of what they don’t believe can be found at http://thegenevapush.com/about/what_we_believe
Imagine if, at some point in the history of the church, the common wisdom had fallen in favour of women landing the lion’s share of love and leadership for the people of God, and providing the prophetic vision and protagonism for mission (note ironic disclaimer – this might actually not be far from the historical case, despite who draws the ecclesial salaries and fronts the crowds).
What if, not because of any mythologies of superiority or ‘fitness’, but simply on the basis of pragmatics, women were, as a general order, typically the leaders of the local church; the majority of speeches of any kind were made by women, written documents were prepared by women, decisions were made by groups mostly made up of women. Let’s suppose it ‘just happened that way’ because some influential bishops in the third and fourth centuries interpreted the Apostolic words about husbands and wives and submission and headship to indicate that women should serve – and serving meant ministry – and ministry meant facilitating community decisions and discernment, speaking on behalf of the community – all the stuff we know is hard work.
And what if the multiplication of new discipling communities was championed and facilitated by women. Perhaps, we would still have a church ‘planting’ movement…but we might as likely have coined the term ‘church birthing’. Certainly, if any of these women were close readers of the missional language of Paul, this term is just as apparent. In such an alternate universe, if there were to be a church-birthing network, calling it the ‘Geneva Push‘ would be pretty amusing.
It makes me wonder, though, whether this word ‘push’ means something different when used as a catch cry by a group of males claiming exclusive leadership authority, or when used as a collective descriptor by a group of females?
Think of the abundant imagery that missional initiators can draw from idea of ‘birthing’…
how much better prepared for the toils and ecstasies of mission – the drain of energy, the surge of aliveness and purpose, the invasion of personal space and identity, the depth of commitment and love, the nausea, the excitement, the enlargement of personhood -physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, risk, pain, sacrifice the long, long long haul of vulnerability and fidelity, and the sense that after having giving everything for another, it is you who are both the richer and the debtor.
The more I allow my memory of child bearing to feed this image, the more I agree with Paul, that it is an appropriate and fertile way of thinking about mission and generativity in the church and of the church.
But one thing grips me more than anything else.
Church Planting – it sounds like something that we plan and prepare for and do – we put something somewhere and it grows. I know there are biblical images and narratives for this – though we ought to hear them carefully and consider how ‘out of control’ things get, especially in the seed planting parables of Jesus (Matthew 13 has a decent collection).
Birthing, for anyone who has taken this journey, is something that disespouses us of notions of being in control, or even being the major agents of generation.Implicit is the need for generative partnership. One does not birth. One must start with two, with collaboration. And beautifully though brutally, the process of pregnancy and birthing engenders in us the reality of life within us that is beyond us. Something happens in which we are inextricably implicated, but it happens in ways that can make us so aware of our own powerlessness in making it happen, or keeping it happening – so very complex and delicate is the relationship of life-giving connection.
Finally, birthing is truly humbling, and there is no woman I know who didn’t feel the point of death in the passage of bringing life. It is a posture appropriate to those who would follow Jesus, and who dare to take titles and tasks in the missio dei. The Geneva Push may only endorse and resource male leaders, but I think they would do well to make of them mothers and give them midwife mentors, and let their ‘push’ be one of birthing.
Phil 2:8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death