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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 2407 , Mar 20, 2002
      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
      ...advance into battle without hesitation. Should you be visited by the troubling thought of the hatred and undying malice, which the enemies harbor against
      Message 2407 of 2407 , Jun 18 5:56 PM

        "...advance into battle without hesitation. Should you be visited by the troubling thought of the hatred and undying malice, which the enemies harbor against you, and of the innumerable hosts of the demons, think on the other hand of the infinitely greater power of God and of His love for you, as well as of the incomparably greater hosts of heavenly angels and the prayers of saints. They all fight secretly for us and with us against our enemies."

        Lorenzo Scupoli, Unseen Warfare.

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        "Bless the Lord, you His angels, Who excel in strength, who do His word, Heeding the voice of His word."  Psalm 103:20

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        The Bible reading for the 12th of Baunah, June 19, is: 
        24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, `Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?' 28 He said to them, `An enemy has done this.' The servants said to him, `Do you want us then to go and gather them up?' 29 But he said, `No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 `Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn. ' 31 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, 32 which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches. 33 Another parable He spoke to them: The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened. 34 All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them, 35 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world. 36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field. 37 He answered and said to them: He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. 39 The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. 40 Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. 41 The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, 42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear! (Matt. 13:24-43)
        Commemoration of Archangel Michael.
        Departure of St. Justus, 6th Pope of Alexandria.
        Departure of St. Kyrillos II, 67th Pope of Alexandria.
        Departure of St. Euphemia.

        The Bible reading for the 13th of Baunah, June 20, is: Matthew 25:31-46
        Departure of St. John, Bishop of Jerusalem.
        Commemoration of Archangel Gabriel, the Announcer of Daniel the Prophet.

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