While conservatives insist that the Bible would have women remain silent, (except for Sunday School and serving men), we suggest that the origins of that notion may be a little less clear.
At the same time as the following two newspapers clips (1950s) two Australian synods were negotiating very slowly towards union. Is it surprising that the two synods did not include in their discussion the possibility of women’s ordination? The clips demonstrate how women were treated as children at best.
The politics of the oppression of the female gender are vast and insidious. In the first centuries after Christ women had a seat at the table of church leadership. Christians remembered the relationships that Jesus had with women and they knew that it was not for them to keep women from pastoral leadership.
Ah, but with the passage of time, time-worn traditions kicked in and women were once again relegated to lower status, and in some cases a status even lower than animals.
Thankfully in recent decades there is a new awareness about bullying in schools and workplace. There is a new awareness of domestic violence, but it would be naive to say that women are given equal respect and access to power in our society. Julia Gillard can vouch for that.
Some time ago, at a domestic violence workshop an older man related the advice that was given to him on the day of his first marriage. He was told by a respected elder that early in the marriage he was to give his wife a good thrashing. When she asked what it was for he was to say, “Just so you know”. Blood runs deep. It’s the stuff of tradition, power and even culture. It’s the stuff of gender oppression. It is passed on easily from generation to generation.
That was just how it happened in those days. Don’t believe it? Talk to your elders and hear how people knew who were the wife beaters in their churches and social groups, how they didn’t talk about such things, how they couldn’t report it to the police because nothing would happen, how they thought it was somehow the woman’s fault and how “That was how it was in those days”.
Of course, misogyny is much more than wife beating – libraries have been written about the politics of gender oppression.The physical violence that was meted out towards women is for some only a few decades ago and for others it has never stopped.
Violence against women persists today in many forms. In our church, the Lutheran Church of Australia, misogyny is still observed in how men meet together in groups called Pastors’ Conferences, with many not even stopping to think that something is awry. It persists in how Pastors’ Conferences will discuss women’s ordination in this current Synodical term without women even being present to provide some sort of accountability. It persists in those clergy and laity who can only read the Bible through the eyes of Law rather than Grace. It persists in how women don’t qualify for the same education at our Australian Lutheran College. It persists in how women cannot be pastors in an ailing church. It persists despite women being the backbone of our Lutheran Education system.
It is shameful that our institutional Church, so proudly proclaiming grace as central to its creed and doctrines, manages to shield God’s grace from women when it comes to pastoral leadership.
The following news clip is included to convey something of the impact of domestic violence on children. The sins of the fathers continue to leave their legacy long after the death of the fathers. Lord forgive us.