Bible Study and Reflection

by Ed de la Torre

 

29 January 1993 -- Part I

Thank you for inviting me again. I think this is a Protestant conspiracy to convert me to the Bible because as you know being a good Catholic, I don’t read the Bible very much.

I was actually very glad because although I have worked with the Bible for a long time, I have never really done a series of Bible studies, especially not to groups like URM, that grapple with very secular, political, ideological issues through Biblical paradigms and in ecclesiastical language. It is not easy to have a dialogue between secular-ideological and ecclesiastical- biblical traditions.

Since I am now rooted back in the Philippines after being away for 3 years, I thought it was a good time to rethink and ask myself again, the same questions a Christian is assaulted with by campus radicals: "What is there in my faith, in the Gospel as I understand it, that is relevant?"

In a way I’m glad that this is a very congenial community to share reflections with. My immediate context with which I will discuss some texts is the fact that I have come back to the Philippines after 3 years (1989-1991) which in broad global terms was a kind of seismic shift with the collapse of Eastern Europe and all that.

The bigger earthquake is the rollback of the efforts in 70s-80s to build a New International World Order led by a combination of Third World nation states, "socialist states" and maybe some social democratic reforming ruling groups in the North. And the rollback of the North is more towards naked Thatcherism, Reaganism or whatever it is. It looks like these are the only systems that work. Third World and socialist movements that have won have been found wanting in many respects.

In the midst of that, the NIC is proclaimed as the way forward. Which immediately puts Asia on the spot. If there is any modeling at all, still being proclaimed -- it is in Asia. There is "growth, progress and a movement" from South to North.

Where was I during this earthquake? I was in Europe in an intermediate phase between the solidarity movement and the fragile platforms of NGOs.

Yes, there are very bright, very committed, technically capable people in NGOs but in the end I ask what is the relationship between this NGO or institution to the base communities? Is there a way out of the contradiction between the macro advocacy and even creativity going on among the NGOs and the stagnating work in the grassroots? The big slogan is: "Think Globally, Act Locally". But what have the NGOs been doing? They have been thinking globally and acting globally as well. They tell the locals, just take care of local problems. Global problems are too big for you.

For me, the hypothesis and big question was, if I go back to the Philippines and work with the grassroots again locally, even from an NGO base, is it fair, is it possible to load such big questions to local people?

On the other hand, if we cannot load it there where will the alternative base be? We are not downplaying the role of churches and NGOs but we have always said our strategic advantage is we are more faithful, more linked to the base. But not a base that simply believes us, but a base that also understands and is part of this critical thinking.

I have been in the Philippines less than a year. I have been working on, in addition to IPD (Institute for Popular Democracy), a new project with a grand title called, Education for Life Foundation which is partly influenced by a Danish thinker whose work I got acquainted with by accident. He is long dead. I got acquainted with his work in Denmark which had 100 folk high schools, which he started as part of a larger democratization movement at the turn of the century but which is now a school offering "Life Enhancement, Flower Arrangement and Horseback riding, Ceramics" type of courses. But I saw the brilliance of the original idea of investing in a more sophisticated and long- term training of grassroots leaders who should not only grasp local issues well but also national and global issues. Whether rural or urban. That’s my kind of work now: "Education for Life" vs. "Education for Death". Within this setting, I prepared my Bible study for today.

In the past few years I have been a part of "rethinking" in URM. URM seems to have this dilemma that having been around for a long time, having had its glory days, funding agencies, former church opponents, friends who are going through their own crisis are asking, "What happened to your cutting edge?"

I’m not going to speak only of my "crisis" but also of yours. If you share yours, I hope that some of the reflections and the texts and themes will make sense to all of us, as they have made sense to me.

My first text today is Luke 24:13-53. It is very long so I will just summarize it. Its a combination of the resurrection story and ending with the Road to Emmaus. Why did I choose this text? Two reasons and just to show you how these things get stimulated.

I was recently in the US for the first time in 6 years. They finally allowed me in again. The US gave me a visa for a Philippine solidarity conference among support groups, which also wanted to rethink their roles. In fact, their theme was, "Claiming Our Voices in the Wilderness", which I reformed to "Between the Wilderness and the Market". You have to claim your voice not as a lonely voice where no one hears, but a voice trying to be heard in a babble of so many other voices in the market place. And towards the evening, there was this usual sobering sharing of experiences among people who have been doing solidarity work there for 15 years. And we were asking each other: "Where is our hope?" That is how this text came to mind.

The key phrase is: "Why do you look for the living among the dead?" When people proclaim the death of socialism or the death of old models, they nevertheless try to find some hope in what is dead. Are we looking in the wrong place? Should we not look elsewhere? It is very difficult to answer that. The same way when institutions and programs are in crisis, one theologian in inner Liverpool said, "It is very difficult in church circles to allow things to die." We are afraid of letting things die. And yet, isn’t that the condition for rising? Yet, because we want to see the risen we look for it in the place where it was buried. Or where it was last seen.

Of course, the younger people say, "Fine, the past is dead, let’s go ahead. Let’s forget all these institutions." But many of us say it cannot be as simple as all that. It was the old Greek who said, "If it is to be changed, to be resurrected, if it is to be new, no matter how new, it has to have a link with the past. There must be continuity. If it is totally new, it has not changed. It is something else."

There must be simultaneous "going away and carrying forward". Then there is really change and transformation. This brings me to the second point, I didn’t think the two stories were textually and editorially connected until then. In Luke, in the whole Emmaus episode, the disciples were not looking for Christ in an empty tomb. They had resolved that Christ was dead. They were just mourning his death. And then they are confronted by someone whom they could not quite recognize but who started, what we call in political language, "summing-up" the past with them.

Gathering the memories, interpreting what they might have forgotten. And that is the second point of this morning’s reflection. The first one is the dilemma: What do we let go of? What do we consider dead? Where do we look for the living and the hope?

Secondly, what do we remember? What lessons do we draw even as we search for the new that is not in the past? For the living that is not among the dead.

At the heart of it are two key words or themes. My entry into URM was in 1970-1971, some 20 years ago. My first ecumenical involvement as a good Roman Catholic in a majority Roman Catholic country that didn’t care about Protestants was in a URM-related enterprise in Tondo -- PECCO. And in a very typical Alinsky process, I was brought in because the radicals were picketing the project. And Herbert White wanted to neutralize the radicals. So he said let us get someone who is not radical whom we can deal with. So he brought me to the board to neutralize the picketers.

It was not because URM liked me. I was just useful. No problem for me. That was the problem of other church people who were always afraid to be used. I say if you are useful, you will be used. You should worry if you are not being used because it means you are useless. Our only desire is that we are used well.

At the heart of the ecumenical theology that appealed to me, a Catholic, were two themes:

First is "people". When I had yet no clear left ideology, "people" was the most convenient substitute for ideology. In case of doubt, you are for "people". If you can’t choose a system or line -- then choose "people" and be safe.

In the Philippine popular language, where you had Nat-Dems, SocDems, Lib-Dems, we were Let-Dem -- "Let the people decide." Because we could not decide ourselves, so Let Dem. And we could criticize the Left by saying you are deciding for people not with them. The real people are just starting to struggle. Their consciousness is not yet very sharply formed. Let-Dem decide.

That was my interesting theological, political, populist, anarchist entry into URM.

The other theme that came from a very specific Roman Catholic tradition which was strongly echoed in URM was the cycle of Suffering, Struggle, Passion, Death and Resurrection. It is the core of a Christian paradigm and it is the core of Christy s summing-up with the disciples on the road to Emmaus. And in a situation where paradigms are being questioned, it is important for us to ask, "Is this our paradigm and should we at least rethink it?"

(The Transnational Institute is publishing a book entitled, "Paradigms Lost". The old framework we had socialism, strategy, victory are all shattered. But you cannot live without paradigms. You have to have a framework of meaning, not just personal but also communitarian.)

What is the URM paradigm? First, people at the heart of the action. And second, a cycle of Passion, Death, Resurrection. The problem is we seem to be getting a lot more passion and death than resurrection. It is, I think, important to quote because while we self-criticize and recognize the criticism of others about where the suffering is, where the dying must be, we must also keep asserting that there is a rising that is not just in the distant future, but soon!

I think that the paradigms are still valid. But it is a question of re-interpreting them and understanding them at this point of crisis and questioning.

Now, what do I offer in terms of very personal and specific reflections on the text?

I think the first is about the question, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?" I will not interpret it to mean "we are stuck, looking in old places, trying to revive things that cannot be revived, let’s move on to new things." I don’t think it’s that. In real political life I think the task rather is how to refocus our eyes, how to have eyes that can see. How do we see signs of hope of people rising. Changes come even if they come in different guises or in a different appearance. If our eyes were expecting something familiar and traditional, we might not be able to recognize the new things before our eyes.

This afternoon, some of the ARENA people are asking me to talk on "What’s Left of the Left in the Philippines?" And often the ambiguity of the term Left, really defines the condition of the Left in many places. What is left of you? Or are you left behind? Of course, despite everything there are still people who declare themselves Left. I said it once in Europe and now I affirm it in the Philippines, maybe the Left has more colors than red. We cannot keep looking only for the red? We have to assert that red has a place in a rainbow of democratic pluralism. But shall we say the hope lies only in that tradition? We say greens are okay but not quite. Or purples, feminists, are okay. And this is the year of IPs. I mean, do indigenous people have to be explicitly revolutionary to be considered integral to the progressive forces? They are pushing forward not only their protest but also their alternatives. I do not think we are "grasping after straws". Maybe there is something wrong with our eyes, rather than with reality. It is an important issue of faith. That is primarily a question of "Do you see? Do you recognize?" This is important in the resurrection story. No one could recognize the risen Christ. Because maybe they had their own imagination of what the risen Christ should be. Either he should look exactly the same as before or he should be totally dazzling and spectacular. I think that is a very important political, theological task.

As a community that struggles for hope, we have to be able to say with the rigor of our analysis, and with language that is adequate, "Here are the new things happening. Here are the forces that are bringing the birth of something new." However, while we say some things die, some things do not work anymore, we do not let go of every old category or vision. There is continuity. At the same time we recognize that the new is precisely new because it is not so familiar. But then the human condition is such that the new can only be understood if it has some links with what you already know. That’s why in the charisms of the spirit, you always had to combine Glossolalia and interpretation. Glossolalia is speaking in strange tongues which, by definition, you cannot understand. So you need a gift of interpretation to say, well it really means this, and that is part of our search in URM. That is part of our search in the Philippines because the traditional Left revolutionary forces are definitely smaller then before, fragmented, in crisis and are quarreling. The traditional ecumenical progressive forces seem to be smaller, more divided, less sure of what they want. Now, is it enough to concentrate on that and help to shape it up again. No! Is that integral too? Yes. But we must look for other breaking forth in the churches or out of the churches. That is part of the challenge of the resurrection story. Where do we recognize the new life, the resurrection?

I already alluded to a few in the URM "rethinking" process. The whole rediscovery, re-appreciation of the indigenous communities. Not simply as another victim group that we must work with or to whom we must make reparation. Precisely as a source of critique and of creativity, the indigenous people offer seeds of a new paradigm of sustainability and categories that are less rigid than Left, Right, Middle. While we recognize class differentiation emerging in their societies, I think rootedness in the earth is important. I think the whole women’s feminist movement has not been quite incorporated. I mean, we take it as one more URM concern but what is the core of its critique or its creativity about power and hierarchy. I think these are important pointers which we have taken on only at the surface level. We have not brought them into the heart of the resurrection question. They are like add-ons rather than new facets, new entry points to our search for: "Where is the resurrection? Where is the living Christ?"

The second one is then, how do we come to terms with our past and interpret it within the paradigm pattern of Passion, Death, Resurrection. In 1989, I arranged an exchange visit, partly financed by URM I think, in Europe between Filipino community organizers in the urban slum areas and one in trade unions and some of the communities in Britain. Mary McAleese brought them to what the British called, Urban Priority Areas. We call them "slums" in the Philippines. Liverpool, Birmingham, parts of Wales, London. In the beginning, they thought it was going to be just a simple exchange of techniques. How do you organize in the Philippines? How do you educate? Kind of a reverse missionary mistake saying that "someone from outside will tell you this is how you do things. You really don’t know how to do things. We will tell you from the Philippines." And of course the Filipinos there, after a while realized they committed one first mistake which reflects our colonial mentality. The people in Liverpool asked them, "How come you speak so posh? What is articulate?" The English of the Filipinos was too much for those in Liverpool. It was Philippine College English. And then the Filipinos asked themselves "How come we did that? When we go to the slums in the Philippines, we automatically adjust our language but how come we did not adjust it when we talked with the Liverpullians? Because they are white, they must speak good English. "My God," I said, "our colonial mentality is very deep."

The second lesson was, there were 15 years of struggle there. But it was a struggle that was at the point of crisis. With 24,000 workers participating, they were down to 3,000 now. This group of community organizers from the Philippines asked, "Have you ever done a summing-up?" Another one of those posh terms. What’s "summing-up"? Have you come to an agreement about your past? Do you have a common memory of the 15 years? There was so much hostility between them because each one had separate judgments about what went wrong and what went right in the past. So they said, "Ok, ok, how do you do that?" Well, it takes a long, long time but let us have a first go at it for maybe 8-9 hours, two sessions. After hesitating, they agreed. There was a lot of shouting, quarreling, crying, laughing after that. But at the end of it, at least a part of 15 years became a common memory. They agreed -- that one we really won, there we really blew it. More important - Why? Why did we win? Why did we lose? Whom do we praise? Whom do we blame? What lessons do we draw? I personally think we have to do a summing-up in URM. Because in addition to this search for new directions, we still have to have a common memory. What is really our achievement? Where are our shortcomings, our failures? If we do not do that, then we have others doing the summing up for URM and we ourselves say "We were together, nice memory, let’s move ahead," and you miss the whole value of the shared journey. It is not integrated nor internalized.

When I read this text in Luke, this Emmaus story, I thought of inviting URM to think again about its paradigm and how to interpret our passion, death and resurrection. All national movements have to do that too but I’m thinking especially of URM in Asia. It’s hard as it is to talk of an Asian collective memory but in the ecumenical movement, URM Asia also partakes of a myth. Like myths, we expect someone to puncture it and demolish it. Or de-mystify it. If you are post-modernist, you would want to de-construct it, which is very close to destruction. But now that there is a new generation, how do you hand over a memory, a tradition, to them? If you don’t, they will do exactly the same thing all over again. Rather than go forward, they will go through the same primitive cycle of learning afresh and making the same mistakes in more unfavorable circumstances. In the past, we could make mistakes because there was a bigger margin of error possible. Now, the margins are narrower in terms of resources, space, risk. It is a tremendous responsibility for those of us who identify with the URM experience to sum-up and to hand over memories to the next generation. It is our important responsibility to the churches, the popular movement in Asia and the world, to sum-up.

My last point is about the point of awareness, at which the disciples recognized Christ. The point of recognition was when Christ broke bread. Awareness was not enlightenment. It also brought forth warmth and fire, which is important. Consolation is necessary but inspiration to act is equally important. Even while we do this grand task of focussing our eyes, theoretically, intellectually, theologically through summing-up, I think we have to find out where these acts of recognition will make our hearts burn.

And my own personal reflection on it dates back to my early years of work with the farmers in the Philippines when my first love theologically was liturgy. I was not too interested in politics then. I wanted to reform Philippine Catholic liturgy which has not yet happened. Anyway, in the 60s, liturgical changes were "in" rather than social change, and the point was "mass, mass" and native language. Most of my relatives [I have 9 grandmothers and grandfathers from Cavite and they] joined the Philippine revolution against Spain. Logically, they joined the Philippine Independent Church when Rome cut off links. Except for a grandmother who remained faithfully Roman Catholic who transferred to another island. She was my maternal grandmother. That is why I am faithfully Roman Catholic. When I go to Cavite, my relatives say, "Ed, we are also Catholics but Filipino Catholics. You are Catholic but Roman." So I said, well therefore, I must be better. This was my colonial mentality. You pray to God in Tagalog, I pray to God in Latin. Therefore, God understands. Why? Because we cannot understand. What is more mysterious is more powerful. When Vatican II happened and the priests turned around and spoke in Tagalog and broke real bread (not just the host), they said, "Ah, you finally joined us," which I found very hard to accept.

That was my interest in liturgy. Imagine, what if during World War II there was a blockade, we run out of foreign exchange, we could not import wheat which is not grown naturally in the Philippines. Then in Roman Catholic tradition, Christ could not be sacramentally present in the Philippines.

It was the farmers who gave me the insight on the breaking of bread. They said: bread is small it is not enough so we have to break it and share it with each one. No one has enough because they are all in small pieces. Capitalist logic will say we better let a few eat first, all of it, then produce more and we will give the rest of you later.

The farmers said maybe the message is, even when there is not enough no one should have nothing. We cannot use the small size of the pie and the lack of sufficient growth as an excuse to say, "Sorry some have to be satisfied first."

All I’m saying is that no one among us has a theoretical, theological, spiritual bread and pie big enough to satisfy all of us. I think even if you subsidized all theological enterprises in the world, the very character of our vision will be too big, there will not be one perfect, satisfying theology sufficient for all of us. But we have to share the little we have right now. Little bits of hope, little bits of insight. New methods. We can’t say sorry we have not enough, we cannot share.

It is in that sharing, in recognizing "it is not enough" that this recognition will happen and the hearts will burn. It includes very simple things like, "Yes, we’re still part of the same struggle."

We need to have honest exchange of experiences, unlike before where we, in a way, also postured. We come with large national movements. How big are you? We are bigger. When will you win? I think we will win earlier. Now no one talks that way. But there is need for sharing even on "how do we maintain our sanity, principle, commitment. What explorations are we doing? How do we deal with hurt? hope?" in our respective areas, and share that.

That is not a simple emotional appeal for sharing. I do think that is precisely what Marx, URM tradition, the ecumenical tradition, Christian tradition, socialist tradition needs now. There is a community bias here, an alternative paradigm versus the paradigm of a lonely, personal individual search for meaning which one will eventually write in one book. And others will read it.

In Africa, they call it "Sharing Work and Struggles in Progress". We should have provisions for that. Because that is where we will recognize the resurrection in our midst. That is where our hearts will burn and our heads will clear. It will not be sudden. We have never lived with suddenness and wholeness. We lived in hope, with imperfections as a movement, with people dropping out, coming in, in different phases. We have to recover that. It was easy to understand that in a period of flow. It is important to say that when revolutionary flow doesn’t seem to be as fast where it doesn’t even seem to flow anymore, there will be a resurrection.

I hope that is sufficient stimulus for discussion.

Discussion:

Bishop Longid: Just a foretaste of things to come. Questions? Clarification?

Rajan: Just a reflection. What is the meaning of summing-up with a new generation of people who are in a totally different context? What kind of sharing. Self-criticism. Its basis lies also in the past. Certainly not only in the present. One of these attempts, which I was involved in, turned out to be a negative experience because the guys all around did not know what the hell we were talking about.

Ed: In my own education work with grassroots leaders, I have learned that you cannot transmit a memory, an experience nor knowledge to someone unless there is some common experience. Even if they had not shared the same experience, people themselves must have undergone, are undergoing a similar experience.

They check with you, ask you how it was with you last time. There is also a time to sum up. You don’t just impose it. The questions must come first before you share your answers.

How do you develop second-liners? The most you can do is kick them off and launch them. They must undergo the experience. And then in their search for meaning, you are there to interpret your own parallel experiences. Your experience becomes valuable to them. My favorite example of this is, in the Philippines the college women students in the 1970s liked to say they have read this book by E. Fromme, "The Art of Loving". They read it when they had not yet experienced love. It is like a biblical passage about sin, passion, resurrection before you have even sinned. It’s nice, it’s evocative, but external to your experience.

The same women, who have become activists and had fallen in love, quarreled, got disappointed, read the same book 7 years later, and the thing really rings with meanings. The book has not changed. The reader has changed.

Part of our problem is to whom do we say our word. Maybe we are saying our word to the wrong people, at the wrong time. They will say you are just dwelling on your past. We don’t have those hang-ups. We are new. Yet we think that paradigm is valid. Everyone does go through Passion, Death, Resurrection. There our reflections will be useful. Part of it of course is honest to goodness questioning. What do we emphasize in our summing-up? What do we transmit. We can also have criticism and self- criticisms. We have been criticized for our macho culture or competitiveness - unwittingly reproducing certain oppressive ideological influences. It’s not as if URM has got the gospel and everything that come out of a sum-up is valid. That’s the other half of it.

I’m turning 50 this year. Recently, I talked to some Christian activists and for them I was already a memory. I thought they still knew me. I belong to another generation. But when I was telling them stories about my beginnings, it spoke to them. Often we transmit our latest. Actually, what is valuable to the young ones is how we began.

God’s pedagogy is different. He became a human being. Interpreting the link between the Old Testament and the New Testament, we see God leading others by the hand, teaching in many ways. My favorite is the New Testament. It’s clearer there already. Its a long process of learning summarized. It’s a historical process. No short-cuts. You can accelerate it slightly but there is no skipping. If you skip, people will skip back and go through what they missed. So some activists who missed their teenage life in their passion for struggle now are indulging in self-development, going to discos and dancing. Is that relapse? Revenge? The logic of agriculture is different from the logic of machines. In machine technology, you can accelerate production. In farming, you cannot. If you forget to plow and to sow, then you cannot harvest even if you need to harvest next week.

When it comes to living processes, maybe you can’t cheat. There is a time for planting, nurturing, dying, rising. It is important for every crop to transmit its own experience to its seeds. Sometimes we over-emphasize the urgent when what we need to do is to do important work even if it is not yet urgent. We need to do both. There are things that cannot wait. There are others that are not immediate that will not yield immediate fruit but which will have impact in the future. In hi-tech, they call it R & D. In broad society, it’s called Basic Sciences. In investment in general, education - not geared to immediate employment.

Maybe our summing-up cannot be transmitted because the audience is not there. But we need to do it now because when the audience is there, we cannot rush it. We have to do our own quarreling about it yet. I don’t think people in this room have a common memory of what was right and what was wrong. My hypothesis is it may not be urgent but that will be our valuable contribution to forge an accurate and liberating ecumenical memory.

Alex: It was only when the disciples accepted Christ’s death that they could recapitulate on the past. Recapitulation can become a painful experience. This can be a threatening experience to those who do not want to face the past and are afraid of the future. We in URM must face this in our experience.

Ed: I forgot to mention one important point. The first condition of a good summing-up process is that you already have made a decision to continue. Your decision is based not on the results of summing-up. It is based first on a renewal of vows. We want to continue but we want to continue on a more solid, serious foundation. Then you do summing-up. There must be a commitment to unity first. To work together. Then we can haggle. Otherwise, we become like a married couple that tries to renegotiate a marriage contract, that is not going to work. You come in the renegotiation trying to make points in order to withdraw or knock the other out. But if the point is how do we make our unity (we are already committed to) stronger, more real, then we have a different attitude.

It’s not clear here. The two disciples were disheartened and were not too sure whether to continue. If we do not start with clear desire for unity, self-criticism will not work. It will turn to fault-finding. My premise is at least out of inertia, we want to continue. Our generation wants to affirm that the experience was worthwhile. Let us not deceive ourselves. We’ve got problems. But let’s not say there is nothing in our experience worth redeeming or worth sharing with the next generation, including theological, political, programmatic but also personal, psychological lessons.

Max: My experience in Vietnam is something we have summed-up. We have learned lessons. What we thought were good actions were actually prolonging their suffering. Now, fortunately or unfortunately, I find myself involved in the Burma issue and some of those things are so clear in my mind. Now there is a new generation coming in and they don’t care about the lessons of the past. They are getting involved. So I say, OK they don’t seem to want to know. Well, five years from now they’ll start making the same conclusions. Why do the village people in Burma have to go through that experience all over again. How do you put that together?

Ed: We are discussing leadership. There are always one or two who are more open than others. In other words, it is one thing when it’s a kind of a generation block arriving at a realization, "Hey, we better link-up with the past and learn lessons."

Unfortunately, I’ve not seen this to happen so quickly. Sometimes you just have to accept they must go through a learning process and a lot of people get hurt and are sacrificed. But it is also true (in leadership) in every context. There will always be a few who will be much more open, ahead of others. The question of looking for those people is basic CO.

Example, our folk school has 24 leaders from different areas. One of the leaders was fond of sowing intrigues and back-biting. The staff were getting angry. And so were the other participants. So they wanted the staff to solve the problem. And I said, this is a learning process. If they will not learn to exercise leadership/responsibility to criticize and correct him, they would not have learned. They would simply have shifted responsibility to us. What if no one does take responsibility. Then no one does! But trust that there will be one or two who will lead, who will risk. And there were.

I think we should also learn to trust. There will be leaders. We just need to look.

For general summing-up, maybe we need to write it down and let the next generation read about us at their own pace. When they are hungry, they will read. We had better be sure they will have a document to read when they are hungry.

Beng 1mm: On the feminist critique on power structure, I was just reminded of the GWOLF book, and the opinions expressed there. Many have worked in the URM for years. How do we see the URM structure being criticized and reformed?

Ed: Let me share what we are trying to do in the Philippines about inviting participants: 50-50, male and female participants. In the staff it is alright. But when it comes to grassroots participants, we found it difficult not because grassroots participants were not willing to participate but simply because of the structures of our program. If there are nursing mothers, how can they join? Our training programs are designed for single women or, men whose wives can take care of children because it is a 6-week course. So we must revise the structure.

Now, I think in corporate, government, ecumenical circles there is a lot of analytical critique of the inadequacy of structures but the response to that has been less than successful because it’s a creative thing that cannot be given in a textbook. A feminist friend of mine believes in the ordination of women, but she says do I want to be ordained? Do I want to be a woman cleric in a clerical institution? And what is the alternative?

That’s where our inadequacy lies. Raymond Fung once said, "URM lends itself to blocking projects and derailing but does URM prepare you to construct and build something that works." Because structures, even if participatory, do involve people who are used to operating with power, resources and designing it structurally. We lay our agenda and produce something better. You address it to architects who can only think traditionally according to budgets. Perhaps part of the responsibility is to help women in the grassroots to dream and imagine - but give limits. Like architects, you give a budget. This is the reality. Let’s not be utopian. That is part of the discipline we need.

Delphine: It appears to me that ecumenical structures seem to be such that there are people and there are women. That is true also for URM.


[This Bible Study was presented at the 24th URM Committee Meeting held in Hong Kong from 28 January - 1 February 1993]