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Feminism

“Any woman who says she is not a feminist, but wishes to be treated as more than a piece of seagull poo on the windscreen of life, has simply got the terminology wrong.”  Attributed to Kaz Cooke

Recent events in Australia and around the world – from the accusations of misogyny, to the sad and senseless death of Jill Meagher, to the shooting of young Pakistani girl Malala Yousufzal have sparked a wave of feminist debate about the right of women to be safe and to live their lives without fear of ridicule or harm.  More than 320 000 people have joined Jill Meagher’s Facebook tribute page (unsubstantiated) and almost 30 000 people gathered in Melbourne in her memory.

Feminism is not a dirty word.  It quite literally and simply means insisting that the political, economic, and social rights of women are clearly defined, established and defended as equal to men.  The feminist movement has always sought to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment.  In short a feminist is “an advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women“.

Over the decades, the feminist movement in Australia and indeed many parts of the world have campaigned for and achieved to varying degrees women’s rights when it comes to contract law, property ownership, right to vote and reproductive rights.  Further, feminists have advocated for women’s workplace rights, such as maternity leave and equal pay.

Sadly, the feminist movement has even had to work hard to ensure that women and girls are protected from domestic violence, sexual harassment, and sexual assault.  There are many who argue that while feminism has mainly been focused on women’s issues and rights, the very fact that feminists seek overall gender equality, means men’s liberation is a necessary part of feminism, and that indeed men have also benefited from gender equality.

I am confident that almost of my family and friends are 100% in favour of rights and equality for all.  Most of them want to see an end to gender-based discrimination in society, the home and the workplace.  Most, if not all of them, would agree that women should be free and safe to walk our streets and that young girls like Malala should be free to speak up about injustice.  And yet most of them would not call themselves a feminist.  I wonder why?  Reference: To be or not to be a feminist, Tish Champion, in AEU Journal SA, 44(7), Nov 2012, p19

We have every reason to be thankful for feminism.

As most people support the equality of women it can be said that most people are feminist.  However, some people will want to refer to something nasty that individuals have done in the name of feminism but that gives us no reason to dismiss feminism.  Plenty of wars, child abuse and domestic violence are carried out by Christians but that gives us no reason to dismiss Christianity.

Without feminism in the LCA women would still be barred from taking leadership roles in the congregation and from participating at District and National Synod levels.

You may like to review the growing freedom that women have had in the LCA.

 
 

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Motion on Women’s Ordination to General Convention 2013 from St Stephen’s

St Stephen’s Lutheran Church, Wakefield St, Adelaide

The move towards women’s ordination continues in the Lutheran Church of Australia. It must be acknowledged that St Stephen’s Lutheran Church has been providing significant initiative for many years with their motions going to General Convention over the years and the organisation of the Time to Soar conference in July this year.  The most recent initiative is the following motion, which has been sent to be included in the proceedings for the next General Convention next March.

It would be useful if there were multiple motions that congregations, from around Australia, submitted to General Convention, particularly if the wording was such that they couldn’t all be amalgamated into one motion. If you are considering lodging motions please be aware that proposals from congregations must be emailed to the Synod Secretary at Debbie.venz@lca.org.au by 15 November 2012. Get them in early to avoid any motions getting ‘delayed’ in the in-tray.

Consider sharing this blog address to inform your network of St Stephen’s motion ahead of the General Convention next year.

Consider also taking action in any way that is open to you.  Women’s ordination will not happen by itself, but depends on many people doing what they need to do. Have you thought about writing a letter to the College of Presidents? – cop@lca.org.au    We understand that there is considerable support amongst District Presidents for women’s ordination but that their voice is not heard, given the seniority of Pastor Semmler.

Here’s the wording of St Stephen’s motion:

Given that the Lutheran Church of Australia’s Commission on Theology and inter-Church Relations (CTICR) has reached a majority agreement that the Bible and the teachings of the church permit the ordination of women to the pastoral office in the Lutheran Church of Australia;
 
and, given that prior to the 2000 National Convention of Synod, the CTICR and General Church Council stated that, “On balance scripture and theology permits the ordination of women”;
 
and, given that a simple majority of delegates at both the 2000 and 2006 General Conventions of the Lutheran Church of Australia voted in favour of the ordination of both men and women to the pastoral office;
 
and, given that, in our view, the ministry of the church is diminished by preventing women from serving Jesus Christ through the ordained ministry;
 
and given that there are theologically qualified women in the Lutheran Church of Australia who have received God’s call to the ordained ministry, and have had their personal call and fitness for ministry recognised by many;
 
be it resolved that the General Convention of the Lutheran Church of Australia approve the ordination of women to the pastoral office.

It may be late for inclusion in the blog, but here is the Facebook link for the All Saints conference on women’s ordination at St Peter’s Lutheran Church, Indooroopilly, Qld.  It’s THIS weekend starting Friday night, continuing through Saturday.

 

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2012 in politics, women's ordination

 

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Nothing compassionate about conservatism – it’s about certainty

Women’s ability to vote in society, and thus be recognised as more competent than children, is a relatively new phenomena (table below), but still incomplete.  The dates are inaccurate when it comes to indigenous peoples of some of these countries.

  • 1893 New Zealand
  • 1902 Australia
  • 1906 Finland
  • 1913 Norway
  • 1915 Denmark
  • 1917 Canada
  • 1918 Austria, Germany, Poland, Russia
  • 1919 Netherlands
  • 1920 United States
  • 1921 Sweden
  • 1928 Britain, Ireland
  • 1931 Spain
  • 1944 France
  • 1945 Italy
  • 1947 Argentina, Japan, Mexico, Pakistan
  • 1949 China
  • 1950 India
  • 1954 Colombia
  • 1957 Malaysia, Zimbabwe
  • 1962 Algeria
  • 1963 Iran, Morocco
  • 1964 Libya
  • 1967 Ecuador
  • 1971 Switzerland
  • 1972 Bangladesh
  • 1974 Jordan
  • 1976 Portugal
  • 1989 Namibia
  • 1990 Western Samoa
  • 1993 Kazakhstan, Moldova
  • 1994 South Africa
  • 2005 Kuwait
  • 2006 United Arab Emirates
  • 2011 Saudi Arabia
We live in heady days! The recognition of women has made great progress over the last century.  We might be excused for thinking that full recognition of women will soon be realised, but another perspective is that the lingering abuse of women, the ownership of women, their lack of legal status and their enforced submissiveness has persevered for far too long.
Conservatives resist changes to the status quo. They call it tradition and endow it with reverence. They defend tradition, despite the inequities that it delivers. They resist every new position of leadership for women, including women’s ordination, but then you’ll hear the term ‘compassionate conservatism’ – a misleading framing.  Rather than indicating that conservatives are compassionate, it indicates a strategic surrender to irreversible advancements that once were strenuously resisted.  Conveniently they forget about each of the lost battles.  It’s been a long time since a conservative reminisced about the glory days of slavery, or the halcyon days when women couldn’t vote in the LCA.  In that way they aim to bolster their credibility for resisting the next step towards equality.  Their current cause is to resist women’s ordination, but they have resisted:
  • women voting at congregational meetings (1966)
  •  women being delegates at Synod (1981)
  • women being a member of church boards and committees (1984)
  • women being included in the guidelines for reading lessons in worship (1984)
  • women assisting in the distributing of Holy Communion (1989)
  • women being lay assistant as an alternative to elder (1990)
  • being chairperson of a congregation (1990)
  • women being synodical chairperson (1998)
  • women lay-reading (2003)
Conservatives are forced to give ground again and again, their causes being transient and ethereal, vapourising as society realises that for 10 000 years of civilisation women have been denied fair treatment.  There is nothing compassionate about conservatism.   Its focus is resistance – resistance to mutuality, to questioning, to open two-way conversations.  It’s about absolute certainty while retreating to the next fortress to be defended.  It’s about fear and sometimes even hatred.  You cannot embrace women in one context and fear and hate them in another.  Consider the women-hating theology of Jack Schaap in his fundamentalist Baptist church in Indiana.  Not surprisingly he has been dismissed from his parish because of his affair with an underage girl who came to him for abuse counseling.
If we are simply products of our past, it might be understandable that so many men (and women) relegate women to subservience. There’s so much that supports a theology of domination. Consider the Danvers Statement (1987) which forms the basis of the fundamentalist renewal of misogyny in U.S. Christian churches. Consider the long history of violence towards women, justified and maintained by our legal systems. Consider the hatred shown towards women in the witch trials throughout Europe and the USA around the 15th century. Consider the theologians that formed the foundation of our theology (Augustine, Aquinas, Luther):

St. Augustine of Hippo (354 to 430 CE). He wrote to a friend:
“What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman……I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children.”

Martin Luther (1483 to 1546) (this link leads to other misogynist quotes):
“If they [women] become tired or even die, that does not matter. Let them die in childbirth, that’s why they are there.”

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 to 1274 CE):
“As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from a defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence.”

We are not, however, simply products of our past.  We have the God-given intellect to analyse cultural traditions and decide what is helpful or destructive.  We have a wealth of scriptural scholarship that allows us to go beyond a fundamentalist proof-texting.  We have the ability to listen and to learn from the stories of women denied access to ordained ministry. We can jointly envision and mould a future where women are empowered to share in the leadership and create the welcoming, embracing church that we want it to be.

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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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Female Jet Pilot? Sure. Preacher? No.

Rev Susan Sparks, New York, New York

From Rev Susan Spark’s blog on Huffington Post:

One third of the U.S. Supreme Court justices are women; more than fifty female astronauts have traveled into space; and forty-one women have won the Nobel Peace Prize. But place a woman in a pulpit and blood pressure and eyebrows immediately begin to rise; rise, that is, within the religious tradition of my upbringing: the Southern Baptists.
It’s not so different in the LCA.  We have women doctors, lecturers, CEO’s, social workers, therapists, lawyers, singers, school principals, administrators, counselors, accountants, translators, missionaries  … and yet women are not fit for the pulpit.  Lord forgive us. If it was the post-war 1950’s, when the two Synods were discussing union, it would be understandable, but the 21st Century is another matter.
 
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Posted by on April 21, 2012 in sociology

 

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