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Dismantling patriarchy: Hard work, but not impossible

6.4. 2018 Written By: Mennonite Church USA 999 Times read

Photo: Leaders and participants who attended the training on dismantling patriarchy and undoing sexism May 22-24 in Akron, Pennsylvania. Photo provided.

“Welcome to the first ever training on dismantling patriarchy and undoing sexism designed for congregations, conferences, leaders and staff across Mennonite Church USA,” said Jenny Castro, coordinator for the office of Women in Leadership for MC USA. A group of 20 participants and facilitators gathered May 22-24 in Akron, Pennsylvania, to test the training developed by six writers over two years.

“It feels like the end of a very long gestation,” said Castro to open the training. “This training is our precious baby. But we also recognize that this is just the beginning.”

In addition to Castro, writers were Chantelle Todman Moore, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Erica Littlewolf, Newton, Kansas; Linda Gehman Peachey, Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz, Akron, Pennsylvania; and Regina Shands Stoltzfus, Goshen, Indiana.  The writers jointly facilitated the training.

Participants included a group of MCC staff, pastors, academics and current and former MC USA leaders who were invited to offer feedback to the writers; their feedback will inform the final revisions of the curriculum taking place this summer and fall. Writers plan to hold a train-the-trainer event in spring 2019, equipping a group of leaders from across MC USA to facilitate the dismantling patriarchy training.

Participants were challenged to consider their lived experience in context and their experiences with power and to think critically about systemic oppression and Christianity’s complicity in that oppression.

“My daily experience as a white man is only one lens from which to view and understand our world, God and other people,” said Titus Peachey, who attended the training. “It requires deliberate and careful listening to others who are not shaped by my gender and race, in order to become the affirming brother and neighbor to others that God longs for me to be.”

Littlewolf said, “It was great to experience the culmination of our work and to share it with others. It re-inspired me to keep learning, un-learning and re-learning.”

Sessions, framed through the lens of intersectional oppression, covered essential terms and language, history of patriarchy and the church, Bible study, reflection, opportunities to share experiences, equipping for and practicing resistance, and imagining a new way of living and being in the world.

“A highlight of the training for me was the powerful and sensitive leadership of a team of women, the majority of which were women of color,” said Peachey. “Their leadership deliberately placed the intersectionality of racism and sexism at the center of our conversations.”

Littlewolf said, “If the church values what it says it does, then it will see the gift this training is and has potential to be. It is hard work and it is not impossible work.”

The dismantling patriarchy training is a project of MC USA’s office of Women in Leadership. To contribute toward this work, click here.

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