lens. As many Protestant churches have found, when that feminine lens is added a great deal begins to be seen differently, not just the gender of the priest leading a liturgy. It can be daunting – but also incredibly exciting and alive. Therefore, ordaining women as priests and feminising the church, though related, are not always the same thing. Feminising the church may include facing far deeper questions regarding Christian understanding, expression, and spirituality; modes of leadership and action; dogma and doctrinal questions; patterns of justice and environ-mental concerns.
Dialogue – or one-way traffic?
s I thought about all the questioning that I and many women have done over the years, one thing repeatedly occurred to me. I have invested an enormous amount of energy, commitment and time into trying to make this relationship between the institutional church and myself work. How much serious time, commitment and energy is the institutional church contributing to the consideration of side of this issue, on behalf of all the women who are asking the questions? I realised that in many ways it is not – and perhaps has never been – a dialogue.
This reawakening with my daughter brought a realisation for me that, for all the work I had undertaken to heal this wound in my own spirituality and regardless of all my effort to balance my daughter’s spiritual growth and understanding, the wound was nonetheless beginning to repeat within her. I responded instinctually as a protective mother. I found myself back in the anger for a time, and yet also somehow it was different. Our life and faith journey is not from point to point overcoming one obstacle to the next. It is rather as a spiral around a central core of concerns, questions and experiences. Each time we return to an issue it is with a different perspective and understanding, and each time the healing continues. Revisiting strong emotions is not negative. Consciously focused anger is a powerful motivator for change and justice. One very efficient way to silence women in the church is to call them ‘angry’ or, worse, ‘angry feminists’. This dismisses them as emotionally driven and not credible. This time my anger was experienced in response to my own daughter’s first real loss of innocence about the institutional church, and also to the reminder that I couldn’t just be ‘comfortable’ with my ‘take’ on this issue. Comfort breeds silence, and silence ensures ongoing wounding.
We are living in a time of church accountability. We have seen and heard the Catholic church apologise to various cultures over the process of some missionary approaches. We have heard apologies over the church’s role, or lack of it, in the genocide of the Jewish people during the Holocaust. We are witnessing church overtures towards different faiths attempting to find common ground and dialogue. We are also witnessing church accountability and apology regarding sexual abuse within its walls. We hear the church regularly calling upon world leaders for justice and humility towards those they serve and those they are in conflict
new generations are asking the questions
It has been predominantly about many women trying to find a way to survive with some hope intact within the church – being part of a process of change, hoping in the future, but acknowledging it may not happen in our lifetimes. It has been about trying to live with integrity. It has been predominantly a one-sided process. The prognosis for any relationship in trouble is bleak when only one side is prepared to look critically at them-selves. The relationship between a woman, her faith and her church can be just as intimate and soul-searching as her marriage, for it touches her ultimate beliefs.
with. At what point will the church become accountable to over half its membership for its treatment and perception of them? As my daughter reminded me that day, it is vitally important that the questions keep on getting asked. The issues have not been solved, and new generations are asking the questions. The frustration encountered in trying to change the institution sees many women finding solace and meaning in women’s groups and women’s spiritual reading. I too have found meaning and affirmation in this way. ss
Tui Motu InterIslands 19