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Tag Archives: Confessions

The abyss between faith and women’s empowerment

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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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Getting along with each other

What lens do we view Scripture through?

One’s culture can limit one’s perceptions. This is the principle of ethnocentrism, the viewpoint that “one’s own group is the center of everything,” against which all other groups are judged.  More  A common idiom for ethnocentrism is “tunnel vision.” In this context, ethnocentrism is the view that a particular ethnic group’s system of beliefs and values is morally superior to all others.  All about philosophy.org

The LCA has been accused of tunnel vision, but it could be said that faith of any persuasion walks close to ethnocentrism. How does one hold a conviction without implicitly asserting that one’s system of beliefs and values, one’s worldview, is superior to somebody else’s system of beliefs and values?   Under ethnocentrism one consciously believes that one’s cultural arts are the most beautiful, values the most virtuous, and beliefs the most truthful. Is this the perspective of those proposing a male-only pastorate?

On the other hand, those who counsel tolerance of diversity may be accused of cultural relativism (where there is no absolute standard of right and wrong). Is this the perspective of those proposing women’s ordination?

Perhaps it would be better to use the term, pluralism, which stands in opposition to one single approach, or homogeneity. Is this the perspective of those proposing women’s ordination?

Theocentrism may be suggested as a third way. This is where God’s will is accepted and adopted regardless of any controversy.  Deciding just what is God’s will, however, is the issue.  At this time the lenses we bring to a text, the hermeneutics we use to interpret Scriptures from another time and culture, becomes a new focus of discussion.

Are these terms necessarily exclusive?

Theocentrism does not exclude pluralism. The key convergence between theocentrism and pluralism lies in the concept of God-centeredness in our life and acceptance of unity in diversity as a divine mandate. This “theocentric view of pluralism” presents a solid moral basis for tolerance of other religions and cultures. … Pluralism and theocentrism are compatible and complementary and can lead humanity to peace, collaboration and mutual respect both locally and globally. Ref

While this passages refer to inter-faith and inter-cultural tolerance, and the building of world peace, they are just as appropriate as a call for mutual respect within the LCA over women’s ordination.

We suggest, rather than looking at how we operate, (progressive/conservative, liberal/fundamentalist, ethnocentric/cultural relativist, theocentrist/pluralist) it could be useful to take a broader perspective and look at our culture, from where our tensions arise and divisions become attractive options. We find that our culture is not alone in displaying a disparate and conflicted membership.

We have learned from work in critical sociology and postcolonial, feminist, and cultural studies that cultures are heterogenous and heteroglossic (K+M: a diversity of voices, styles of discourse, or points of view), written through and through with complexity and difference, with conflict over power.  Ref. Reading Online – Research: Four Resources Model.

Any culture, or Christian denomination, is heterogenous and ‘written through with complexity and difference, with conflict over power’.  Despite beliefs of institutional homogeneity, and beliefs about consensual rules and cultures, the LCA is complex and far from being homogenous. Pretense of homogeneity is pointless.  Pretense of the Church, shining like a beacon of unchanging theology in a storm-tossed society is counter-productive. It is time for another paradigm of God, of faith and of our evangelical presence in our society and culture.

We have experienced change through women’s new voice and position in society, through leadership of lay women and men within the Church, through the watering down of ‘German-ness’ in the LCA, through couples living together outside of marriage, through a new era of information and education, from ecumenism, inter-church dialogue, inter-faith dialogue, through birth-control, television, the pill, social networking, through the ease of international travel, through awareness of different theologies within other Lutheran synods, through the reporting of war and civil strife on news broadcasts, and so on.

The LCA will continue to change at an increasing pace. Women’s ordination will be a reality soon in the LCA, however, asserting something is right doesn’t make it right. Our key challenge is how to get along with each other fairly. Ref

 
 

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