So, after being at the amazing Big Dress in Sheffield a few weeks ago (http://www.speak.org.uk/content/a-big-success) I've been left with lots of inspiration and lots of things to think about. Most of the thoughts are about concepts of repentance and community after going to a seminar with Mike Love (http://tfp.endis.com/).
Repentance (as far as I know) means to turn around and go the other way. In the church at the moment repentance is viewed as a very individual act, where individuals apologise to God or other people for things that they have done wrong and make the promise to change (to turn around and do things differently). However, when we look at the Old Testemant, there are many more examples of whole communities repenting than individuals. Israel as a nation repents again and again for its sin, Ninevah repents, etc. Clearly this concept of communual repentance is important, but somehow we have lost it. Perhaps we have lost it along with our sense of community.
However, we do see occasional examples of attempts at corporate repentance, the Australian leaders recent public apology for its treatment of the Aboriginal people is one. Yet I'm not convinced that the leaders of the community apologising is enough. While important, this is really just another why to pass the buck. EVERYONE in a community (be it a country or a paticulare ethnicity of faith group, a political group or whatever) is responsible for what goes on in the community. If Australia is to really change, the leaders of the country repenting is a start, but it will require all white Australians to recognise their racist heritage and to actively repent and work for change. Its got to be bigger than just one person. It may even mean repenting for something that you don't feel that you as an individual are guilty of, because being part of a community means becoming more than just one person.
So what does this mean for the Church? How can we repent for our sexist sins? How can we repent for limiting women and in some cases even condoning or encouraging domestic violence? How do we repent for reducing the impact of the gospels by refusing to allow women to play a full role in the church? How do we repent of our homophobia? (And no, before people either get excited or shocked, I still haven't reached my own conclusions, but that doesn't mean that prejudice and bigotry are ever acceptable.) How do we repent for objectifying women by suggesting that they should 'cover up' to 'protect men'? How do we repent for the damage this causes?
The church has so much to repent for in the way it has treated women (can you think of any other examples?), but honestly I don't know where to start. What can we do?