I was saddened to receive Wally Shoults’ resignation as a member of the National Council last month. Wally, along with past president Bill Love has been an AOTS stalwart – flying the AOTS flag in Alberta and other parts west. He has held many positions in AOTS and has decided it is time to let some things go in his life. He’ll be maintaining his focus in Masters Singers (mastersingers.org) and you can catch them at the upcoming Banff Men’s Retreat in October. Wally will also be working on his memoirs and, as many will readily attest, he should have some stories to tell.
We shall miss your voice on our conference calls. Best of luck with all your endeavours, Wally!
Wally’s departure raises the question of leadership in AOTS. What is it? How do we provide it? Where do we go from here? What is our legacy? What does God call us to do?
Leadership and AOTS
Currently, many of us are engaged in Dondi Project work. And we are looking forward to raising as much money as possible for this worthwhile project along with other groups throughout the men’s ministry network. Bravo for that.
And bravo for all the community and church work the AOTS clubs are doing.
We are also finalizing a new constitution and by-laws and looking forward to a combined Central Region Round-up and National Biennial next April. I pleased to announce that Michael Blair, UCC Executive Secretary for Communities in Mission will be our keynote speaker. I will report more about Michael’s participation next month.
The change AOTS is going through now is not incremental change but discontinuous change. We are no longer expanding, rather contracting. What has kept us alive in the past is no longer able to sustain us. We are not regenerating. Radical change is at hand. Yet we feel compelled to resist. Our dilemma is that it is impossible to grasp what is new without letting go, of what was.
For many years in AOTS we grew exponentially from west to east year by year and those changes were predictable because we could base our planning on what was.
In the science of change, discontinuous change is the time when greater opportunity presents itself. We look forward to those times ahead.
Precepts of Leadership
Over the course of AOTS’ history many of the precepts of a spiritually-based men’s club have changed dramatically over time. We no longer are what we were. The composition of leadership in the church has changed over time from an overwhelming dominance of men to a predominance of women.
It is interesting to note that AOTS was founded in 1923, six years before Lord Sankey, Lord Chancellor of the Privy Council, announced the British Privy Council decision that "yes, women are persons ... and eligible to be summoned and may become Members of the Senate of Canada."
Women and Gender
We have come a long way, baby!
One of the things we know from our history is how much the women in the church have helped to keep AOTS alive. To be sure, there are a lot of good women ‘AOTSers’ out there.
Currently we have the media coverage and controversy regarding Caster Semenya’s struggle, as a person involved in competitive sports. Caster’s case if you will causes us to examine our understandings of sex and gender
Regardless of one’s thoughts on the issue, Caster, herself, may have it right. “I see it all as a joke," Semenya said. “It doesn't upset me. God made me the way I am and I accept myself.”
Articles of Faith
One only has to read the church’s Basis of Union to see that there are theological decisions based on the articles of faith which lead to further elaborations of the character and presence of God in our lives. The church responds to and is part of the community of spiritual and scientific understanding.
Currently the church is voting on a remit about whether to include these elaborations, like the Song of Faith, along with the Basis of Union.
These further elaborations are based on advanced scientific and human understanding. For example we know much, much more now about the life and times of Jesus than anyone did up until 200 years ago when great advances began to be made about our ability to understand scripture and study history.
And there are other theological questions, implicit in how we read and study scripture. There is the question of ‘sin’ and the divinity of birth which is ongoing one in the church.
We have evolved as church and as a men’s organization, away from what we once were. Yes. But in embracing the change God has in store for us, we enliven our spirit of gratitude and generosity, as one that serves.