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Women have always struggled to reach positions of power within every organised religion. Here are 5 Christian women who have been working hard to end discrimination against women in church.
In recent years, many Christian institutions have faced allegations of abuse by male clergy, as well as discrimination against women and marginalised groups. But many women gave up their silence, in order to slay the centuries old traditions and practices that oppress the voice of women. This has given hope to other women in the world as well, giving them the strength to raise their voices.
Many women of faith have been conditioned into believing that fighting for power or fighting against the oppressive is unworthy of a person of faith. But times have changed now that many women have been standing up for themselves. These women of faith too, who have always been speaking up for women, are trying to make a difference to their lives in the church, not giving their faith up as they work against the innate patriarchy in the church, to make it inclusive and appreciative of women, leading to the acceptance of women in powerful positions within the church.
Here are five women who have helped/have been helping to better women’s place and power in the church.
Sr Noella is one of the founders of the Indian Christian Women’s Movement, that was created to make women’s voices heard in the churches that silence them. She’s helped organize women to protest against discrimination of women, marginalized people of caste, class, who were often ignored or exclude from liturgical celebrations. The ICWM has also been active in protesting against the Church’s silence on, and in fact the support of many within the Church for rape accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal.
“We don’t have a say in the decision making of the Church. We are aiming at gender equality as equal disciples and inclusion at the decision making table” she had said in an interview, presenting the lack of gender equality in the churches, and also the movement’s continuous efforts to make women represented and heard at the churches. She also believes it is important for women to have equal participation in churches so the incidents of sexual abuses are not buried.
Vicky Beeching is an equality campaigner in the UK, who advocates against the discriminatory policies followed in church, especially against those from the LGBTQIA+ community. She is a former singer who wrote songs for the church, whose music career reached an abrupt end when she came out as gay. The doors to the churches closed on her despite her being a strong believer, and thus she decided to speak for the women who are discriminated against by the church.
She believes that the structural hierarchy that prevents women and marginalized communities from being accepted into priesthood is built on abuse and exploitation. Her international standing didn’t stop her from being looked down upon or dismissed by the churches. She has said that she is blocked from becoming a priest because the teachings of the church that support ‘conversion therapy’ are against the LGBT+ community.
In her book Undivided: Coming Out, Becoming Whole, and Living Free From Shame, she has addressed this, and has also spoken about the sexual assault she had faced at the hands of a male priest; where male religious leaders are seen as someone who can’t be questioned. She has also spoken up against the homophobia in churches; her field work being direct conversations with pastors and leaders, who’ve become receptive to her views of discrimination against women and the minority.
Libby Gilchrist is one of the first female Anglican priests to be ordained in Australia. She has been very vocal about the challenges she has faced on her journey, and the importance of women in leadership roles in the churches.
The barrier that prevents women from entering priesthood, according to Libby, is that the church lacks in offering full time senior positions. Offering part-time positions and assistant positions discourage women from pursuing for powerful positions within the church .
She believes that a balance within the church is achieved if there’s equality in the ordinance, where women should fill in to make it complete. The issues of both women and men can then be addressed. She believes that this can make the church more welcoming to everyone who needs love, that this can only be achieved when women take powerful roles in the church.
Phoebe Roaf is an African American bishop, who, while growing up, had never seen someone like her behind the altar, which meant that she grew up and went on to become a bishop without having a female or a black priest as her role model.
She had taken her recent position as a bishop to bring people together despite their differences, encouraging more women, as well as women of color not feel they have no role models in the church. Her law degree, experience working as a clerk and as a real estate agent is experience serves as a lens for her to serve in the church with a wider perception.
“Just my presence behind the altar has opened up people’s perceptions about who can be called to serve God in an ordained capacity,” Roaf had said, citing the lack of representation that women have in church, and especially the women of color.
Women are not allowed to vote at Synod of Bishop, which was limited to bishops (ordained men) and two non-ordained men this year. Kate called it discriminatory and wanted women given the rights to vote in the church as well.
Kate McElwee is the executive director of Women’s Ordination Conference, that works for women’s ordination as priests and bishops into a renewed priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church. She’s been advocating for the appointment of women into powerful roles, and in roles that doesn’t require ordination, to bring women into substantial leadership positions.
Kate called for appointing women into roles such as priests and bishops citing the recent increase in sexual assault accusations against powerful men in the churches. She claimed that it’s suggestive that the leaders had made it a priority to protect abusers and to silence the survivors.
Images: a still from the movie Sister Act
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Curious student for life. Periyar, Ambedkar, & Marx fills my gray matter; but I'm no blind pop-culture follower wearing a Che Guevara on my Tee, but a critical thinker who'll question any regressive read more...
Women's Web is an open platform that publishes a diversity of views, individual posts do not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions at all times.
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If you want to get back to work after a break, here’s the ultimate guide to return to work programs in India from tech, finance or health sectors - for women just like you!
Last week, I was having a conversation with a friend related to personal financial planning and she shared how she had had fleeting thoughts about joining work but she was apprehensive to take the plunge. She was unaware of return to work programs available in India.
She had taken a 3-year long career break due to child care and the disconnect from the job arena that she spoke about is something several women in the same situation will relate to.
More often than not, women take a break from their careers to devote time to their kids because we still do not have a strong eco-system in place that can support new mothers, even though things are gradually changing on this front.
A married woman has to wear a sari, sindoor, mangalsutra, bangles, anklets, and so much more. What do these ornaments have to do with my love, respect, and commitment to my husband?
They: Are you married?
They: But You don’t look like it
Me: (in my Mind) Why should I?
Why is being married not enough for a woman, and she needs to look married too? I am tired of such comments in the nearly four years of being married.
I believe that anything that is forced is not right. I must have a choice. I am a living human, not a puppet. And I am not stopping anyone by not following any tradition. You are free to do whatever you like to do. But do not force others. It’s depressing.