The abyss between faith and women’s empowerment

11 May


Paparella was horrified. “I realized, they don’t want me to think. After that, I just didn’t see how faith and women’s empowerment could be reconciled.”

This quote comes from a post entitled, “I believe you”: The Silence and the Shame of Sexual Violence in the Church, by Catherine Woodiwiss.  It reflects on how campus leaders and student Christian leaders’ masculinised view of God gave them little understanding of women’s points of view within the church.

What is it about the misogyny of the church?  Why is still ruled by the boys when most of its members are women? Why does patriarchy seem to persevere longer in the church than in society?  Is it based on such verses as Gen 3:16? …

16 To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”

It is somewhat unsettling that some take this verse, and similar others, as prescription for how women might be treated.   It’s unsettling because it reflects a view of God as domineering and lacking in compassion.  It’s unsettling that some readers of this blog take an anti-intellectual view and insist on using the hermeneutics of “it says it in the Bible so it must be true”. It’s unsettling that the heritage of Luther and The Confessions is boiled down to proof texts.  It’s unsettling that a panorama of theologians in the last century is dismissed in favour of the most basic, simplistic tool.

We don’t believe that many people hold that view of God.

It does however make sense to view this verse as sin being enacted, rather than God’s prescription for relationships.  Ruling over another person may be the language of empires, but it is not the language of relationships.

If the Church is unable to accommodate a view of women as gifted, enabled, empowered, equal and pastoral, then the Church is not a safe place for women.  Under such circumstances we could not encourage women (or those supporting them) attend LCA congregations.

For the LCA to have a future there is no alternative but absolute equality for women and men.

While this, no doubt, is shocking for some who correspondent with this blog, living with diversity should only be as shocking as visiting the local bank, supermarket, school, accountant, music shop, opticians…, for diversity in Australia’s cities and towns is a reality which is never to be reversed.  No congregation should ever be forced to call a woman and no congregation should ever be forced to call a man.


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12 responses to “The abyss between faith and women’s empowerment

  1. Wally Schiller

    May 11, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    Thanks, XXXX – for your ungracious reference to me. This is a sad reflection on your integrity! I invite you to remove it in your own interests. But, then, I remember that you have failed in my call to you on this blog to correct your seven blatant misrepresentations a number of posts ago when you made those wild, imaginative and malicious accusations against the President of our Church, and when you continued to tolerate other responses on your blog which encouraged dissension and legal action against the Church based on complete misrepresentation of simple legal fact, so I guess another aberration is well in keeping with your usual practice on this blog.

    • Katie and Martin

      May 11, 2013 at 6:06 pm

      Quite wrong. It is our understanding that XXXX has already made public statements rebutting such theories. She has made it clear in a different forum that the adversarial style of Katie and Martin is not something that she would use or condone.
      Wally, the issue in this post is that women often do not find safety in the LCA. Under such circumstances the healthy thing is to leave the abusive community. The healthy thing for the community to do is to examine itself and consider the needs of all its members.

      • Wally Schiller

        May 11, 2013 at 8:13 pm

        XXXX, you have never rebutted any of those 7 points I made. You have never rebutted the Miller suggestion that there should be legal action in respect of administration. Yes, you did make the statement: “to advance an atheist’s view of the world then we ask you not to post here”, but there it ended. You never objected to his subsequent suggestions that amounted to a call for legal action against the Church. It is time for some honesty in this matter.
        Frankly the real safety issue is the risk to those you so regularly attack without real evidence – trial by blog! Publicly, you besmirch them without recourse. In the face of that, I have numbers of women who work with me in my Parish and all feel completely safe – even those who support the view that women should be ordained. These hyped-up assertions, as demonstrated in the follow-up comment below, have the potential to cause real harm – exponentially greater than any harm caused to those upset that women are not supported for ordination in the LCA.

        • Wally Schiller

          May 11, 2013 at 10:19 pm

          Now that I have been informed that I named the wrong person in my earlier posts, I am more than happy to apologise for that assumption. I was wrong. I hope now that some honesty will prevail in regard to the matters I have mentioned. Their severe error stands at this point and reflects entirely upon the integrity of those who anonymously hide and throw stones.

  2. Karin

    May 11, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    I do not know what makes me more sad, that we have to publicly announce that the LCA is not a safe place for women, or the fact that the only thing that one pastor could focus on was the “false accusations” against church leadership and the Church in general. I guess this confirms that the safety of women is not a high priority to the male pastorate.

    • Katie and Martin

      May 11, 2013 at 6:13 pm

      This certainly seems to be present reality. We can be thankful for the new broom about to sweep through Church administration. Perhaps congregations will now be given the authority that the Constitution asserts they have.

  3. John Miller

    May 11, 2013 at 10:42 pm

    You write: ‘It’s unsettling because it reflects a view of God as domineering and lacking in compassion.’

    My reading of the Old Testament is that the god Yahweh was (is) indeed domineering and lacking in compassion. Just ask the parents of the little boys killed in Egypt or the peace-loving burghers of Jericho, or the boys who taunted Elisha, or Lot’s wife, or poor Onan and his brother’s wife …

    This is the vindictive, mean-spirited, misogynistic god who visits the sins of the fathers on the sons. Who in their right mind would think that they’ve been dealt a poor hand because of the sins committed their father, grandfathers and great grandfathers? That’s a lot of sins, a mighty burden.

    On the question of legal action, if the LCA (in the form of its presiding council), does not play by the rules, either of it’s Constitution, its Synod or the SA Association’s Act, then of course one recourse of the members who’ve been hard done by is to mount a challenge . There is nothing dishonourable about such an action. The other is to give it away altogether. I’m surprised women aren’t giving it away.

    The LCA is suffering from the same ‘disease’ as the Catholic church. The clergy think that it’s their church and that they should run it for themselves based on ancient dogmas. It was to be expected that sooner or later someone would challenge this view. it is certainly interesting that the challenge is not being mounted by men but by women. All power to them.

    However, and I think I’ve said this before, if women are ordained the house of cards may collapse altogether. The second reformation will be a better show to watch than the first.

    I was there at the Adelaide Oval in 1966 at the amalgamation service. The clergy put on a grand parade, all dressed in black smocks, in a display reminiscent of similar displays at the Wayville Show Ground each year in September.

    It’s still all about the clergy and what they think is best for the laity, dredging up ancient texts to justify the position that this god wants women pushed into the background and not heard. This was Luther’s view as well.

    • Wally Schiller

      May 12, 2013 at 12:16 am

      OK, John, who says the LCA is not playing by the rules? That is nothing more than an assumption on your part. You have made all sorts of assertions on previous posts with no evidence to back them up. But, given the outlook you appear to outline, I guess that suits you.

      • Katie and Martin

        May 12, 2013 at 8:44 am

        Wally, your comments on contributors’ thoughts are welcome. You may present another perspective and request clarification but disparaging remarks about someone’s thoughts are not welcome.

        • Wally Schiller

          May 12, 2013 at 10:22 pm

          Not sure what is happening here – the earlier comment did not show a moment ago, but, as soon as I added this comment, it appeared again with the proviso that it is still awaiting moderation.

          • Katie and Martin

            May 13, 2013 at 7:07 pm

            Wally, if you have constructive contributions we’ll approve them.

  4. Katie and Martin

    May 12, 2013 at 12:06 am

    John, one could choose to view the Old Testament God as the vindictive god you describe, however, that makes no sense to us. That is not the God of love and grace we worship. Rather we choose to understand that the Old Testament God was described with limited human understanding. If Israel suffered it was presumed to be a result of sin, if it prospered it was assumed to be the result of faithfulness. If Israel won a battle it was presumed to be because of God’s blessing, regardless of whether the troops lacked any compassion and killed every man, woman and child.
    Concerning your view of clergy, “They think it’s their church,” we agree that the signalled review of Church governance is long overdue. We would add that the current synodical structure gives clergy far more influence at General Synod than is healthy. We love to claim that the congregation is the key level of authority in the Church but that does not reflect where the votes lie.
    Certainly the presidential style of ruling, similar to that which we see currently in federal Labor and Liberal parties, where leaders either create the policy or have an overblown influence on policy, is not a healthy one for a community of faith.


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