Alan Hewitt Interview
Alan Hewitt serves on the AOG's National Leadership Team as the Area Leader of Wales. We met with Alan at Stronger Together 2016 to discuss the Area Leader role and the women in leadership forum he chaired at Stronger Together 2016.
You're the AOG's area leader of Wales. For people reading this interview and perhaps not aware of what being an area leader entails, could you give us an insight into this role?
Being Area Leader for Wales means that I’m part of the National Leadership Team (NLT) and that I represent the NLT and the values of the AOG into Wales. I’m casting the vision of the AOG and making sure that everything the AOG requires of churches and leaders is implemented, and also resourcing the churches in Wales. So it’s really not to do ‘my thing’ in Wales, but to do the ‘AOG’s thing’ in Wales. I’m also there to serve the churches, so we provide updates and information and are there to serve, support and inspire the churches to catch hold of the AOG ‘strapline’ and vision.
Do you notice any cultural difference between churches in Wales and those that you've been involved with in England?
Definitely! Wales is a different culture altogether. It’s known as the land of revival, but really throughout Wales you find empty chapels and [church] buildings converted into other things. The history of England is so different to Wales. There’s only about 3 million people in Wales, so it’s a smaller nation. There’s always been some tension between the English and the Welsh through history, a bit like the Scotland issue. And what was so good is that the AOG -- when they brought me on to this role three years ago -- made Wales its own area for the first time, which actually helped it with the Wales Assembly government. It’s a whole different culture, and spiritually it’s the darkest part of the United Kingdom: the least church-attended area in Great Britain. Our church in Newtown would be the largest AOG church in Wales, but regarding the local culture, many look upon us as something that doesn’t fit into Wales because what’s normal for Wales is a small chapel with a dozen old people. Any church that’s vibrant is looked upon as something a little bit different. The good thing is that the south of Wales is more open, and there’s more of a buzz there. Wales is like three countries: you’ve got middle Wales (where we come from) which is very laid back -- a sheep farming country. There’s the north of Wales, which has a lot of seaside places and retirement homes, and then in the south there’s the M4 corridor that goes to London, good communications and a lot of development. So it’s a totally different beast! And spiritually, it’s had revival in the past, is pretty secular today, but there’s lots of good things happening, including in the AOG churches in wales and a lot of smaller churches in the south that are growing and thriving with vision and reaching out to their communities.
One of the things you're doing at the conference this year is chairing a forum on 'women in leadership'. People who aren't Christians must seem puzzled as to why the inclusion of women in roles of seniority is such a big deal for some churches. Why do you think this is an issue for some Christians?
That’s a big question! In the first century of the church, the problem was between Jew and Gentile. Then it took another 18 centuries until they could deal with the slavery issue, people like Wilberforce and others broke the back of the slave trade, the gender issue, after 2000 years, is still an issue. Our prayer is that in the 21st Century the church will crack this issue and get it right. I think the world, in many ways, is ahead of the game, even though the church should be ahead of the game. The world supports equality, but many don't realise that it was Evangelicals that were at the forefront of the Suffragette movement. Women have been put down over the last 2000 years and treated badly by men, and often the church has been one of the worst for doing that. What's interesting is that every time that there's a revival, women get brought to the forefront and released, but when revival wanes, women get side-lined and men take over again. It's like a dark force, and I'm passionate about beating the drum to overcome the misogyny that's found in the church.
A lot of Protestant theology came from the Reformation, and the Reformation followed the big-name reformers who had negative views of women. And that's permeated some of the great doctrine and theology of the last three or four centuries, and to break from that is very hard. A lot of people who are very sincere Bible scholars and readers actually think that they are holding sacred ground by keeping women in a specific role, and not letting them be free in the areas of their gifting. They feel that they are doing God's will by preserving, what they believe to be, the right model. I think that model is flawed, but one time I held that view too. So that's why I'm passionate about this – once you get the revelation of Galatians 3:28 and realise that there is no difference and we are now all one in Christ, I think that settles the issue. But it is a fight, and also what's interesting is that often the opposition comes from women too. Because some women like the role of being under a male authority – so it's a very complex issue.
For the benefit of people who chose to attend other forums at Stronger Together 2016, what are some of the key discussion points that you'll be addressing in your forum?
We'll be addressing the issue of 'headship', equality and the interpretation of scripture. One of the points we'll be discussing is that it's not enough to quote scripture, we need to understand scripture. It's not so much what the Bible says as to what the Bible means. So a lot of people use what I call the 'flat book' approach. They say, 'the Bible says this, that's enough'. But they don't actually interpret that statement with the rest of the Bible, and if you don't do that you end up with bad theology. There's a theological issue here. There's also a Gospel issue here, because to me the Gospel is about total equality and includes restoring the equality that man and woman had in the Garden of Eden.
Another issue is that a lot of people read the Bible and think that because the woman is made after the man, then the woman is inferior to the man. We'll be discussing that too, and what the Hebrew text really means is something that's far different to what some people think it means. There's so many rituals in our culture... for example, even in our Pentecostal churches, when we have wedding services we often ask, 'who gives this woman to be married to this man'? This basically goes back centuries to when a woman was considered the possession of a father, who had rights over her. In some countries you still have the dowry issue, where a woman belongs to the father, and is contradictory to the equality found in the Gospel of Christ. There's a lot of issues like this that we'll be discussing at the forum.