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Oxford missioner’s tips to entice men to church hit a nerve

11 December 2015

PARAMOUNT PICTURES

High-speed: Tom Cruise stars as Ethan Hunt in the 2015 film, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation 

High-speed: Tom Cruise stars as Ethan Hunt in the 2015 film, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation 

THE author of the blog "Ten Tips for a Man-Friendly Christmas Eve Service", which was removed from a diocesan site after an "unedifying" online debate, has defended its content.

The author, the Vicar of Stanford in the Vale with Goosey and Hatford, and Diocesan Missioner (Unreached Men), the Revd Paul Eddy, advised the employment of "masculine imagery and language", the use of a video clip from an action film "as a metaphor", and the presentation of "Christ the man rather than Christ the infant".

Churches should "focus teaching on Christ’s power and mission", he wrote, "rather than just his meekness and gentleness."

The reaction online to the blog was mixed. Some described it on Twitter as "sexist" and "patronising"; others found the tips helpful.

Originally published in the diocese of Oxford’s newspaper, The Door, it was removed as a blog last week.

"In a diocese as large and diverse as ours, we know that some approaches to evangelism will sit better in some contexts than in others," a diocesan spokesperson said this week. "In this case, the tone of the piece . . . caused remarkably strong reactions on social media and elsewhere. The unedifying nature of the debate was such that we removed the blogpost."

Mr Eddy defended the article, which had prompted "many requests from clergy — male and female — to help advise them". He was "not at all surprised", however, by the response. "I have had similar responses ever since I started this work, which is probably why so few people have been prepared to be prophetic in the Church and dare to raise the issue of the lack of men in our pews."

Men and women responded to different approaches in evangelism, he said, and the gender imbalance in the pews must be addressed. Women suffered “great pain” when their husbands were absent from church, and found it difficult to contribute financially if they had a joint bank account. Research suggested that, by the age of 12 or 13, “most boys have an exit strategy to leave church”, and this was creating a dearth of Christian men for Christian women to marry. 

Statistics from Church House suggest on average, women make up 59 per cent of a congregation. 

“Surely, there comes a time when bishops need to ask ‘Where are the men?’ and ‘Why are we not reaching them?’” said Mr Eddy. “I have no problem with people disagreeing on strategy with me. All I would ask is that they don’t just disagree, but actually do something else to reach out to men with the Gospel. It is a time for action, not talk.”

The original article remains available in The Door section of the diocesan website: www.oxford.anglican.org/support-services/communications/the-door/

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