Saturday, January 10, 2009

1.5 Methodology

“Design is concerned with how things ought to be. The designer devises a course of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones.” (Banathy, 1996, p. 12) My past experience with the evangelical Christian church impressed upon me the need for the situation to be changed into one where women’s point of view was included in the official story. After completing my WSD coursework I returned to the Madwoman story. Instead of focusing on my individual experience, I acknowledged a larger pattern in the interaction of the parts that render the whole. My challenge was to design a process that would bring the parts into renewed relationship that would more accurately achieve the system’s intention.

I approached the work on my own behalf as a woman who is interested in a way to return to, or at least make peace with, my formative faith community. I considered myself a proxy for other women who have felt a similar sense of otherness in the evangelical Christian community. As I moved deeper into the work I was surprised to realize that my design was ultimately in the best interest of the evangelical Christian church as a whole, including the leadership.

My work draws upon literature from two main areas. I have used writing by Christian women writers to locate my question in a broader context of women’s experiences in and understanding of Christianity. The literature verifies that I am pursuing an inquiry that is significant to others as well as myself. These writings influenced my articulation of the impact that otherness has on women’s faith and the insights women have to contribute to our collective understanding of the faith.

The other body of literature I employed focused on the applications of story for change in groups. The writers work in the diverse fields of education, mediation, anthropology, and Christian ministry. Together, the material prepared me to listen for the story of a group. Sarah Lawrence Lightfoot describes this approach as an “active, engaged position in which one searches for the story, seeks it out, is central in its creation.” (Lightfoot, 1997, p. 12) This material illuminates the relationship between systems thinking and story. It shaped my understanding of methods for using story to bridge differences within a group.

In addition to reading, I used systems thinking as a lens for reflecting on my experiences with two different groups. I identified principles and practices in each group that worked together to foster the connections that carry information in a system. From a women’s group I participated in as an undergraduate I recalled the power of sharing personal stories of our experiences as women in an evangelical Christian community. In my change project for the WSD program, I learned the power of bridging group members with the leadership.

In all of my work the purpose has been to honor Christian truth. I am not questioning the significance of the gospel. I am proposing a means of renewing the connections between the parts of the evangelical Christian body so that it is whole, healthy, and a rich rendering of the community of an infinite and indescribable God. One aspect of this work that has been especially interesting to recognize is that the desire for change, the ideal of equality in Christ, even the use of story are all fueled by the gospel lessons of my formative faith community.

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