A three-part series of events in October and November 2021 provided an opportunity for 26 men to learn and unpack narratives around masculinity, faith, and equity. Sponsored by Mennonite Men and Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, including the Church Leadership Center and the Institute of Mennonite Studies.
Events were facilitated by Ben Tapper of the Kindred Collective, a nonprofit that provides leaders with the tools necessary to overcome systemic problems that undercut the value of every person. Teaching helped unpack some of the ways that patriarchy and white supremacy have been interwoven.
Participants were given the space and tools to dissect their own narratives so they can see where they've been influenced by patriarchy and white supremacy and how these aspects of their story may undermine their core beliefs or their desired values.
Teaching by Ben Tapper emphasized that the work of combating racism and patriarchy must begin at home, with ones self before we can begin to begin this work in the church, so deconstructing and rebuilding our own understandings is foundational. "The institution of the church has helped uphold patriarchy and white supremacy throughout history and so has a huge responsibility in breaking them down," said Ben during the first of the three events.
The opportunity to begin some of this work as a group of men was an important aspect of the series for many of the participants. "It was a healthy space to not only receive more information about masculinity as a social construct and type of socialization but also to practice being vulnerable with other men," said one participant.
Steve Thomas, U.S. Coordinator of Mennonite Men, helped to plan and lead the series. "I think what impressed me most is how powerful it was for men to pull together their life stories and share these with others," said Steve. "So few men had done this before and as they shared their narratives with each other they identified deep wounds and gifts. It was moving to see men share heart-to-heart about what it means to be men and struggling with how we are socialized. It was also an opportunity to face the privilege White cisgender men have and acknowledge how this impacts other genders and other men of color."
Following the event, participants were given prerelease copies of the forthcoming book, Strong, Loving, and Wise: Joining Conversations for Men, written by Steve Thomas and Don Neufeld. The book invites men to reflect on their experience of God, Jesus, and the Spirit and explore how identity, gender, values, and practices shape us. It gives tools to help men pursue shalom in their personal and communal lives. The book will be published in the coming months.