The Mothers

I was exhorted today to encourage the starting of a Mothers’ Union branch. I won’t be offering any such encouragement. Like some other clergy I know, I’ve no great enthusiasm for the MU.

The odd thing is that one never gets asked why.

I know the reasons that I’m not really into the MU, but don’t know whether they are commonly held.

It isn’t just past experiences of MU folk which put me off, though I’m only human and that is inevitably a factor, as I think it might be for others too.

No, it is two quite specific things that the MU brand has come to mean to me, and both are issues which the wider church has struggled with, to its own detriment.

The first of these issues is divorce – it is still within living memory that if someone got divorced they got put out of the MU. The fact that an organisation committed to family life would abandon people at a time when they most needed fellowship and support caused untold hurt. I know that may not be the case now, but it lingers in the air and I’ve never been convinced that this has really been aired and dealt with.

The second is to do with the way the MU changed from being an organization which was really good at offering support to families where a gay child was coming out to being an organization which offered nothing.  They used to offer a  video which parents could watch if their child turned up at home saying that they thought they were gay. It was good, excellent family ministry. The video was withdrawn some years ago.  At the time of the Jeffrey John/Oxford incident, I was told that the MU had changed its policy and could no longer offer such support to such families. Indeed, I was told that this had changed in order to keep the MU links between members in this country and Africa which would otherwise fail.

I thought at the time that this was disgraceful and once again, families who were most in need of help were being abandoned.

The MU come to the Cathedral several times a year for their festival services and they are most welcome to do so. On at least one occasion, I’ve joined in their worship. They do lots of good work, including that in prisons, contact centres and with folk who have recently lost a child. Notwithstanding all that goodness, whilst I associate the Mothers’ Union brand with those two issues above, I’m afraid it is difficult to muster any enthusiasm for encouraging things to start up locally.

It is one of those organizations which one would really like to be proved wrong about sometime.