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Re: Digest 426/ Role of Women in Church

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  • Mrs. Shanta Thomas, Canada
    I have been receiving brickbats and kudos after my piece appeared in this forum (Digest # 424). More brickbats from members of our church. (Since women are not
    Message 1 of 2194 , Mar 20, 2002
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      I have been receiving brickbats and kudos after my piece appeared in
      this forum (Digest # 424). More brickbats from members of our church.
      (Since women are not technically members of the Church, I do not have
      to specify 'male members'). Of the many responses, both inside this
      forum and outside, the one from Mr Varghese Thomas (Digest # 426)
      deserves a specific response.

      Mr Thomas has three major points in his arguments regarding the role of
      women in the Church.

      1. "Family is the basic unit in the Kingdom of God, not the individual".
      From my limited understanding of Christianity and other religions, the
      relationship with God is on an individual basis. Each individual
      encounters one's God and establishes
      a relationship with God. "The immense ideality and effort of being a
      Christian consists, in being related to God as an individual" wrote
      Soren Kierkegard, the great Danish philosopher and Christian thinker.
      That is why we have individual prayers, and sacraments. The sacraments
      are received by the individual, not by the family. Certainly, we worship
      as a community of believers, both 'the quick and the dead', in the
      Church. If man is the "head" of the family and he can represent the
      family before God, he (only) should be receiving the sacraments on behalf of
      the family.

      When a woman enters the married life she is not required to give up all
      her rights, thinking ability and reasoning power and her relationship
      with God. With marriage a woman leaves her family and becomes a member
      of her husband's family. A woman gives up familiar surroundings which
      was part of her being from the day she was born. She accepts and adjusts
      to the new surroundings and to the members of the new family. Thus she
      begins her new way of life, giving up part of her being. Has she to
      give up all her rights as a human being, on the doctrine that "man is
      the head of the family"? Oh, no, not in 21st century. Marriage is a
      partnership, not a dictatorship, where both men and women are equal
      partners in establishing a new life. They share their dreams and
      aspirations and grow together as friends through happiness, sorrow,
      sickness, and disappointments. The husband should be prepared to see his
      wife as a person with feelings, concerns, dreams, and intelligence. He
      can't expect his wife to see him as the head of the family who will make
      all the decisions by himself. I wonder whether this "head of the family"
      attitude is the cause of increasing number of divorces in our community.

      If the man is the head of the family and has the sole right of
      representing the family in all church activities, who represents an
      unmarried woman, a widow or a divorcee? Does it mean that they do not
      have a "head"? In other words, a woman has no place in the church
      unless she accepts the authority of a man. Is not belittling a woman?
      God created both men and women as intelligent human beings with freedom
      to choose and exercise their responsibilities. Women are, or rather
      should be, entitled to exercise these faculties in the church also.
      The church is the last place you expect discrimination. Reality is
      different.

      I hope reasonable enlightened men and women will have the courage to stand up for rights of women.

      2. "A dress code has been developed for male and female ..." says Mr V.
      Thomas. We have come a long way from mundu and shirt for men, mundu
      and chatta for women. Now we see men in pants and jeans; women in mini
      skirts, salwars and sarees. Women in chatta and mundu are rare sights
      even in village churches in Kerala. Mr Thomas can't be blind to these
      changes taking place in our society. In a few years women in saree will
      be another rare sight. Change is part of a living society. I have seen
      changes in the behaviour and attitude of Malayalee Christians in North
      America during the last 35 years. Many members of our church organize
      Christmas and New Year dances so that younger members will not go out to
      the local clubs. But the same members who felt free to dance in the arm
      of the opposite sex, part company with their life partners when they
      enter the church and move to different "allotted" sections in the
      church. Women sit away from their sons and husbands and cover their
      heads. I wonder, why this false piety in the church? In all our social
      life, most of our people follow the dictum "When in Rome do as the
      Romans do". Well and good. When we come to the church we want to
      transplant Pongamthanams and Kunnamthanams to North America and other
      places, as it was when we left it in 50s or 60s. The immigrant
      community seldom realize that the places they left behind have changed.

      Modesty is not something you show only in the church. It has to be part
      of one's being. Why only women have to be modest? Young women often
      speak about the harassment they receive from "poovaalans" in the church
      and other places. I am yet to hear some one preaching modesty to them!

      3. I am glad that the Thomas family members are happy with the present
      situation in our church. I know that there are activities for all age
      groups in the church. Women need more participation than we have now,
      so that we can contribute in all aspects of church life. The basic
      question is, Whether we treat the female half of our population just as
      we treat the male half? If everybody is happy with the status quo,
      women would not have achieved voting rights, maternity leave, pay
      equity, etc., etc. Nor would we have achieved the developments in
      medicine, science or technology.

      If we want any change to happen in the present situation in our church,
      we have to bring the issues to the forefront so every one can perceive
      the problem and realize the need for change. Of course we Christians
      should pray together so that we will have the grace of God to see women
      as human beings and not as second class members of the community.

      How many members of our community, male and female, know that women are
      not members of the congregation now. Not to speak of membership in the
      Church. Yes, we are considered members of the invisible "Body of
      Christ". Not to do anything with the organized, visible Church. Majority
      of men and unfortunately some women too, do not see issues regarding the
      role of women in our Church as a problem. First we have to accept the
      reality that half of our congregation (more than half according to the
      general census), have no right to sit in the general body meetings. The
      next step is whether we are ready at least to discuss this issue in our
      congregations without strong objections from the male members. I hope
      and pray that the younger generation will have the openness to face this
      issue and discuss it objectively.

      Until the late forties in most of our churches, boys stood in the front
      row and men behind them. The place of girls was behind men and women
      took their place at the far end of the church. Our fathers had the
      wisdom to change that tradition, in spite of objections from a
      minority. It shows that there is nothing sacrosanct about the
      seating/standing arrangements in the church. It also brings to mind the
      fact that we are not averse to changes in general. Women's issues, it
      seems, are totally on a different level for the leadership of the
      Church.

      Happy Easter to all members of the Discussion Forum.

      Mrs. Shanta Thomas, Hamilton, ON, Canada
    • Mark Sadek
      CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! Persistently suffer hardships in order to avoid the hardship of vain sufferings. St. Gregory of Sinai. ... Let the
      Message 2194 of 2194 , Apr 13 7:29 PM
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        CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!

        "Persistently suffer hardships in order to avoid the hardship of vain sufferings."

           St. Gregory of Sinai.

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        "Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord! Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face evermore! Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth."  Psalm 105:3-5

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