Visions for theological education: some perspectives.
ALLIE ERNST, LUTHERAN CHURCH OF AUSTRALIAH
1. The nature of theological education
Theological education has some unique characteristics that make it different from other disciplines of education. Theology grows out of the encounter with God: it is an experience and expression of our encounter with God and a reflection about this encounter. As such, it proceeds by revelation and reflection. While there are many points of continuity between the epistemology of theology and other academic disciplines, in this regard the epistemology of theology differs and has something unique to contribute to the conversation with other disciplines.
All Christians share the encounter with Christ who calls us, embraces us in baptism and knits us into the divine life by the Spirit. All Christians are addressed by the Word of God. All Christians are therefore called to the task of theology. This is reflected in our theology of the church as the body of Christ. However, as Dorothy McRae-McMahon points out, often the patterns of traditional ministry (and I would suggest also the patterns of traditional education) do not reflect--and in fact run counter to--our theology of church. (1) On the one hand we speak of theological education as the formation of the people of God for their vocations, yet on the other hand, our traditional attitudes and metaphors for the laity see them as empty vessels, `the sheep', whom the clergy/theologians are to shepherd. This leads to:
1. A view that `doing theology' is the domain of a small, expert subset of the church. This means that the voices of children, women, indigenous people, of marginalised, ethnic or other minority groups are easily missed. Failure to engage parts of the community in theological dialogue is/leads to/reflects failure to engage these voices in decision-making processes and disenfranchises them. The result is a hierarchical structure in which theological knowledge (and power) is concentrated in the hands of a select group who `distribute' it to others. Theology (and theological education) then becomes `secret pastor's business', or `secret men's business', or `secret western middle class business'.
2. A `jug-to-mug' (2) approach to theological education, a unidirectional flow of information from Seminary to students, from pastors to laity (who are then supposed to pass it on to `the world').
3. A large gap between the theology taught in the seminary and the theology taught in the congregation, which further isolates theologians/clergy from the rest of the congregation. This has important implications for mission, since it also widens the gap between clergy and secular world, and church and secular world.
4. Clericalism, which values clergy above laity and maintains hierarchical church structures. This can pit clergy against laity, rather than facilitating the body of Christ working together in all its parts. It also has gendered implications as long as women are not eligible for Ordination.
What we need is a new struggle [dealing] with what it means to be body of Christ, what life in the body of Christ entails, how we do ministry together and how we equip one another to better fulfill our vocations.
There is a fabulous conversation going on at the moment about the nature of theological education, of which this LWF consultation is a part. Questions are being asked about who the subjects of theological education are, about the most appropriate educational goals and processes, and about whether the traditional content of theological education (and the traditional division into subject areas) is still appropriate. (3) I believe that the first crucial step is to engage more people in this debate, since the debate concerns shifting paradigms and attitudes. Such shifts are not effected by top-down processes, by getting a small group to tell us what to do, since no small group can `make up our mind' for us.
I think that too few educational institutions discuss the nature of theological education in the changing context. In too many places life and education just goes on without too much reflection. In too many places the discussion that does occur around curriculum and education engages only a very few and select people--such as the faculty or even just a small subset of the faculty such as an academic committee. What I would like to see first of all is much greater engagement in these crucial questions; more open discussion that invites the voices of students, of congregations, of community groups.
In some instances we have changed policies without changing attitudes, because we have not sufficiently engaged in this conversation together. My own experience of studying theology as a woman testifies that often it was not enough to have the right policies and the politically correct rhetoric. Policies don't change attitudes or behaviour. Theological education must proceed from the right attitudes and must inculcate these attitudes in students in order to produce a community that reflects our theology. We need a forum to talk about what our defining goals and metaphors should be for education; what our central metaphors and core values are for understanding our life together and how these are reflected in our teaching. (4) That discussion needs to take place within the body of Christ, not just within academia or within faculties, so that the voices from the margins can be heard. For too long western, white, middle-class male theology has been considered normative theology. For too long the theology of non-western, non-white, non-middle-class, non-male theologians has been relegated to the margins, labeled unorthodox or discounted. Still the goals, processes and content of theological education are determined largely by western, white, middle-class, male theology. As long as we continue to engage in theological education without a lens attuned to issues of gender, ethnicity and class, we will continue to take western, white, middle-class theology as normative. I believe that this dialogue about what we are doing in theological education, for and with whom we are doing it and why, is crucial towards shaping theological institutions that are inclusive, relevant and prophetic.
2. The process of theological education
Unlike many other disciplines, which can limit themselves to imparting a body of knowledge, theological education by nature involves faith formation, which engages the whole person. This has several important implications:
1. Theological education does not begin and end in the classroom. Feminist theologians have recognised this for a long time, of course. It is meaningless to speak in a classroom about male and female equally created in the image of God as long as we use exclusively male language for God and for humanity in worship.
2. Theological education needs to address spiritual development. Theological education is a journey of faith; yet all too easily it becomes an academic discipline that engages the mind but not the spirit. Students' experience of seminary often becomes one of spiritual dryness or of a separation of faith/worship life and theological reflection. It can also easily become overwhelming. In the encounter with great Christian thinkers and with the demands of learning ministry and theology, a student's own faith can seem inadequate. The processes of theological education can mitigate against closing that gulf between faith experience and theological reflection. For example, where theological educators are also those who will assess and decide a candidate's vocational future, students may be unable to bare their souls or reveal their struggles. While students typically come to seminary to deepen their faith, they may find themselves trapped between this desire and a perception that it is not safe to reveal any `spiritual flaws' or sense of inadequacy. For this reason it seems vital for the faith journey of students to offer (or encourage them to seek out) places in which they can safely explore this edge between theology and faith. It is at this edge that the difficult existential questions arise which lead into deeper understanding. Leading students to this edge and encouraging them to wrestle with these questions is essential for faith formation and for good pastoral practice. Students who have not integrated the theoretical theology in their head with the existential faith questions in their heart do not make good pastoral counsellors, or good preachers.
3. Theological education needs to ensure that in shaping persons, it does not damage them. For women in the Lutheran seminary in Australia, theological education has often been painful, alienating and destructive. There have been far too few safe places in the Seminary to express our anger or bind up our wounds or pick up the broken pieces of a faith shattered in the collision between official theology and lived experience. We have recognised that theological education involves faith formation and personal formation; but for too long we have assumed that we know how to do this. Again we return to the issue of attitudes and theology: we need to grapple with what it means to be made in Christ's image. Have we made Christ in our western, white, male, middle-class image? Have we assumed that the experience of faith and of church is the same for all people no matter where in the church structure they find themselves? Does our faith formation sufficiently consider students' cultural background, history and gender? Up until quite recently, theological student bodies were fairly homogenous. This is patently no longer so. Education which fails to grapple with the implications of this change for the way in which we engage in faith formation is liable to miss the mark or even do harm rather than good.
How do we address these issues? Again, it seems crucial to engage in conversation with one another. Moreover, as we engage in conversation about the nature of theological education, we also need to ask also whether our educational processes are adequate to our theology, our goals and our student body. Is education carried out predominantly in the classroom appropriate to shifting student bodies or to a commitment to training vocational skills for a congregational or workplace setting?
Are our assessment methods appropriate? It seems to me that our assessment methodology promotes a hierarchical approach and so stands in some tension with a commitment to theology as an exercise of the community. We may unwittingly promote a competitive and individualistic orientation through assessment methods which involve grading and comparing students to each other. Would other methods, such as pass/fail systems or qualitative rather than quantitative approaches, suit our goals better? Do such academic grading systems actually measure what we need to measure: viz. do they measure `good theology', or rather `academic competence'--thereby disadvantaging certain groups of students who do not think in traditional western male academic ways? This is a complex issue, but one which I think is crucial to tackle, particularly in terms of enabling participation and success in theological education for students whose class, ethnicity or gender do not fit the traditional academic western middle-class mould. Engendering theological education also involves engendering theological assessment methods.
3. The content of theological education
Deciding on the appropriate curriculum content has become much more complex in our context. On the one hand we need to teach `the tradition' because it provides the moorings for faith and theology. On the other hand, the question has rightly been raised: whose tradition are we teaching? Whose tradition is privileged to the position of being `the' tradition? Judith Berling suggests there is much greater need for contextualised education. She offers the example of a church history course which begins `in the native village, with the family and clan of the village and their traditions ..., moves out from there to the alliances the village has with other native communities and traditions; to its place in the region and nation; ... to the coming and role of Christianity in this locale and from there to a study of the church as it functions in [this place] and the globe, and thence back to the origins of the church.' (5) Such an approach teaches students `how to recover their own histories and to assist other people to recover theirs. It recognizes that there is not a single historical narrative of the Christian church, but that there are many stories shaped by the particular experiences of particular communities, who then come together to form the global church.' (6)
Contextualised theological education requires that we identify the questions and concerns that need to be addressed in each place. In my situation, in the Australian Lutheran Church, there is a profound need precisely to engender theological education. At the Synodical (national) level we are discussing the issue of the ordination of women, but in the educational curriculum of the seminary, specific discussion of gender is relegated to an extremely marginal position. We need space in the curriculum to reflect on issues of gender and ministry. As a country that has a fourth world nation, we need to grapple with the issue of how we engage in ministry with and to Aboriginal people. We also need to think about our place in relation to the world. As I write, the political debate is raging on our engagement in the war in the Middle East and on our attitude towards refugees. Issues like this are usually given little or no space in our curriculum. Yet our desire to be relevant and God's call for us to do justice require that we bring them much more into the centre of our focus. We need to learn about systems and organisations and power so we can talk about how we as individuals and as a church, experience and use power. We need to learn about gender, ethnicity and class and how these variables impact on our experience and our theology.
Theological education is done for the sake of the proclamation of the Gospel. Engagement with communities and disciplines wider than just the Church are therefore essential to theological learning. This is the edge at which theology becomes proclamation. Without meaningful engagement with the secular community there can be no meaningful proclamation and theology becomes a venture unto itself. It is the questions we encounter at this edge that sharpen, clarify and challenge our theology.
Theological education needs to lead students to the edges: to the edge between church and world, where proclamation takes place; to the edge of the community--to hear the prophetic call for justice to the powerless; to the ecumenical edge--to struggle for unity; to the edge between theology and other disciplines; and to the inner existential edge, the edge between our own fears and the encounter with God. It is at these edges that questions are born, that theology is sharpened and clarified. A curriculum which teaches students to live on these edges will draw them into profound engagement with what it means to confess Christ here in this place.
(1) Dorothy McRae-McMahon, `The Formation of the Laos' in John Pobee (ed), Towards Viable Theological Education (Geneva-WCC Publications, 1997), 109-131. Dorothy was the national director for mission of the Uniting Church of Australia.
(2) `Jug-to-mug', as an expression of that type of teaching in which the teacher is the `jug' who holds wisdom and pours it out into the students, who are empty vessels, is particularly appropriate in the Australian context, since `mug' is a common slang expression for a gullible person or fool.
(3) Cf. eg Robert Banks, Reenvisioning Theological Education: Exploring a Missional Alternative to Current Models (Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans, 1999); Bruce Kaye, `Theology for Life in a Plural Society' in G. Treloar (ed.), The Furtherance of Religious Beliefs: Essays on the History of Theological Education in Australia (Sydney: Centre for the Study of Australian Christianity, 1997), 203-216; Rebecca Chopp, Saving Work: Feminist Practices of Theological Education (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995). Pacifica, the Journal of the Melbourne College of Divinity, recently devoted an issue to this topic, entitled `Beyond 2000: Theological Education in an Ecumenical, Global and Plural Context', Pacifica 11/2 (1998).
(4) Metaphors are critical in shaping thinking. For example, as long as we use the shepherd/sheep model as the dominant model for congregations, we will expect very little of lay people. Sheep bleat and are obstinate and can be fleeced for their wool. They do not go out and proclaim the gospel. They do not transform the world.
(5) Judith Berling, `Beyond 2000: The Global World and Theological Education', Pacifica 11(1998):135.
ROBINSON RADJAGUKGUK, INDONESIA
One of the challenges facing the Huria Kristian Batak Protestant (HKBP) church is culture. The majority of the members of the HKBP church are Bataks. The Batak culture is very patrilineal and thus the status of women is very low. Even though women are ordained in the HKBP church, some congregations still hesitate to accept women as pastors. Some female pastors work as "pendeta ressort" but many of them are only accepted as assistant pastors. They are assigned stereotypical jobs, such as teaching the young, home-visitation, tending to the sick, and the responsibility for women's fellowship and outreach to women in general. Many parishioners feel more comfortable with men as their pastors and some are even against women's ordination, because they have internalized male superiority. Even at the HKBP seminary, the majority of the instructors are men--only two are women. For years, the theological curriculum has followed that of the seminaries in the West, with some adaptations to the local context. The kind of theology taught, often reflects the mindset of middle-class Western churches, instead of actively responding to the urgent issues of the day or the pastoral needs of grassroots people.
The church and the seminary are now challenged to solve this old problem and to move and work with a new vision and system of education. We have to develop our holistic and creative understanding of ministry in order to meet the new challenges today. Our context influences our understanding of God and the expression of our faith. We can only speak about a theology that makes sense at a certain place and in a certain time. And, therefore, it is clear that cultural sensitivity in witnessing to Christ is an imperative. As Stephen B. Bevans strongly stresses, the attempt to understand Christian faith in terms of a particular context is really "a theological imperative". (1)
A Basic Guide for Education in HKBP strongly stresses that HKBP must reform her system of education. HKBP Theological Seminary is asked to redesign the current curriculum and if needed, to open new programs in order to meet the needs of the congregations. The HKBP Pastors' Convention this year also strongly declared that a female pastor has the same rights and responsibility as a male pastor in serving the congregation. Therefore, it is hoped and expected that the congregations should not differentiate between male and female pastors. The new Theological curriculum has to be more open to new and sensitive issues in the church and society, such as, equal partnership between men and women, gender issues, feminist theology, ecology, health, violence, sexual abuse and children, etc., so that these issues are not considered only women's problems but the common concern of both men and women. Gender Study is not to be considered a complementary, supplementary, additional, optional or elective course, but has to be fully integrated with all subjects or courses in the main curriculum. It is also important to have comparative studies among theological schools in national, regional and international levels in order to broaden the horizons needed in church ministry.
There has to be a paradigm shift from the model of "power-over-others" to "power-with-others". Ranjini Rebera, a consultant in communications originally from Sri Lanka says, "Power-with-others can lead us on the journey to create `a partnership of equals within the community of Faith." (2) She further writes:
"Power-with-others seeks justice for all who belong to the community. This implies the accountability of those who use power to control. It challenges authoritarian modes of leadership and unjust structures that create a power imbalance. It works to create community in which freedom, justice, peace and inclusivety prevail, instead of fear, separation, anxiety and alienation ... The exercise of power must be dynamic, fluid, open and transparent.
Mechanisms of accountability must be created and sustained so that power will neither be misused nor abused. Authority must not be based on position, credentials and status alone, but on charisma, the ability to build community and genuine qualities of leadership." (3)
If the church is really aware that theology is not only for men and men's business alone and that there is also the woman's worldview beside man's worldview, in future there will be a great change in theological education. The problem is that in many theological schools in Indonesia, it is still difficult to accept the reality of pluralism. And for this reason, I am convinced, that our task is not to approach gender perspectives individually but enrich and intensify the plurality in theology in a spirit of togetherness.
Theological education is not concerned only with humanity as a new creation in Christ, but also for pursuit of justice, reconciliation and the integrity of all creation. Ecumenical theology must be the color and target of theological education. The Communion of Theologically Trained Women in Indonesia (PERWATI) can be of great help in organizing networks at many different levels, at grassroots level in the parishes and communities, as well as through consultations, meetings, conferences, seminars and workshops, to promote women's access to theological education. PERWATI is also called to provide resources and support for the crossferilization of ideas and critical dialogues. It is an imperative for theological schools in Indonesia to create a more flexible curriculum with gender perspectives not only for those who want to become pastors in the church but also for every one who wants to study theology.
(1) Stephen B. Bevans, Models of Contextual Theology. Faith and cultures Series (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1992), 1; for more details, see 1-10. Bevans refers to Henri Bouillard by saying that a theology that is not up-to-date (actuelle) is a false theology. He even paraphrases Bouillard by saying that "a theology that is not somehow reflective of our times, our culture, and our current concerns--and therefore contextual--is also a false theology" (p. 3) Then he refers to Charles Kraft who says practically the same thing when he says that theology, when it is perceived as irrelevant, is in fact irrelevant. For details see, C. H. Kraft, Christianity in Culture (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1979), 296f.
(2) Quoted from Kwok Pui-Ian, Introducing Asian Feminist Theology (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000), 106.
(3) Ibid., 106-107.
BY PANG KEN PHIN
Feminist Perspectives in Theology is one of the important subjects needing further development in Asia. This theology is progressing slowly and, in the process, has become a motivating factor behind many women's movements in Asia. It aims at promoting women's concerns within church and society. Feminist Perspectives in Theology, however, is not an exclusive theology, solely directed towards the building up of the future for women. The ultimate aim of this theology is the manifestation of the reign of God, where justice, peace and the integrity of creation abound. Equal partnership between woman and man, based on respect, solidarity and the Sense of justice towards one another, as promoted by Feminist Perspectives in Theology, is one of the signs of God's reign. It is in this context that the contribution of Feminist Perspectives in Theology should be taken seriously. Both women and men can make use of this contribution in building up a new community based on equality and solidarity, justice and peace.
When we stress the importance of feminist perspectives in theology, we should not forget to ask this question: What is its place in our seminaries? In general there are very few theological seminaries in Asia having Women's/Feminist Theology included in their curriculum. One of the reasons is that many theological seminaries do not see the need to have such a course. Another reason is the deep-rooted male domination of cultural tradition in Asia. Many churches still think that feminism is a western idea that will create a power struggle between men and women, as well as confusion in our beliefs. For many women and men, it is not possible for Christian faith, feminism, and the church to be combined. Furthermore, people have seen Feminist Theology as only a women's matter, and very few men are willing to struggle with women and become feminist theologians advocating for women.
Although Malaysian seminaries train a large number of female students and a significant number of women enter church work after graduation, most Malaysian churches are not yet prepared for the ordination of women. (1) At the same time there are relatively few women on the teaching staff of seminaries; there are no women principals, and to my knowledge only one Association of Theological Education in South East Asia (ATESEA) has recognized a seminary in Malaysia which has appointed a female Dean of Studies. In addition, no Malaysian theological seminary includes Feminist Perspectives in Theology in the curriculum.
There is an unmistakable need to explain the relevance and define the meaning of Feminist Perspectives in Theology. It is clear that feminist theology is a theology of struggle and hope for the whole of humanity, along with the particular concern for the inferior position of women in society and the Church. In promoting inclusiveness instead of exclusiveness, cooperation in place of competition, unity rather than disunity, and equality replacing inequality, Feminist Perspectives in Theology helps both women and men to rediscover their own worth, potential and dignity. A new channel could open up for real communication, equal partnership and rediscovery of their God-given humanity. Feminist Perspectives in Theology is, therefore, a gift to the church.
No doubt, it is necessary to convince the church of the importance of women's studies and to persuade men to join in the struggle. At the same time, the Malaysian seminaries must explore what programs are appropriate, how to equip faculty members to teach this subject, and how to encourage and share resources with one another.
For the above reasons, the Sabah Theological Seminary is trying to implement the program step by step. At the moment we do not have a course on Feminist Theology, and none of our lecturers have been trained in this field. What we are doing now is only encouraging those faculty members who are interested, to integrate women's issues into their courses. For example, when someone teaches Pastoral Ministry, he/she can discuss the questions such as: Ordination of Women, Women's Full Participation in the Church Ministry, Partnership in the Church, etc. In the Adult Ministry class, he/ she can discuss the changing roles of men and women at home, in church and society. We can also study and initiate partnership programs to be used for adult class. For example, how to promote the concept of partnership as parents bring up their children. In addition, we can introduce the Development of the Feminist Movement in the Church History class. I am sure we can offer more solid courses in feminist theology when we have well-trained lecturers in this field.
However, theological education must not be offered only to the highly educated women and men. It should also be for those who have little literacy. In many theological schools in Africa, the students' wives are offered a `Ladies' Class' while their husbands receive formal theological training. Bible study materials are produced for empowering women to develop a theology of their own--A Land Flowing with Milk and Honey is a good example. This is a one-year Bible study course, which consists of 40 lectures. The themes include the concerns and experiences of the suffering of women from different economic and social strata. Through this course, the Bible speaks to women's physical context, which helps raise women's awareness and restores their human dignity?
Sabah Theological Seminary has a program for the students' wives which started in January 2000. The women learn leadership skills as well as biblical knowledge. We hope that through this program, women can be equipped to be the co-workers with their husbands and take up leadership responsibility, both at home and in the church, after finishing their studies at the seminary.
Another project is to collect books on feminist theology for our seminary library. I have to say that it is not easy to find such books in our own language. At the moment we have some in English ordered from overseas or sent by friends as gifts. This indicates that local publications need to be encouraged.
Sabah Theological Seminary is a member of the Association of Theological Education in South East Asia. We are improving in the field of Women's Theology in line with ATESEA's policies. The accreditation team will come to visit the member Seminary every five years. The questions usually asked on the encouragement of promoting the program of Women's Theology are: How many female lecturers are there in the seminary? How many female members sit in the Board of Governors? Do you have sufficient books on women's concerns and issues in your library? Does the curriculum include women's concerns and issues? Is the seminary promoting faculty development plan? I think these are the basic questions we should ask more often in order to strengthen the place of Feminist Perspectives in Theology in our Seminaries.
(1) See the comparative figures for men and women in "Malaysia: Church Workers' Profile" which appeared in, Yeow Choo Lak, ed., ATESEA Occasional Paper No. 5, Women Participation and Contributions in the Asian Church, Singapore, p. 61-61
(2) Christina Landman, `A Land Flowing with Milk and Honey' Musimbi R.A. Kanyoro and Nyambura Nyoroge, 1996, op. cit., 99.
BY ULRIKE WAGNER-RAU
The theme of gender difference should, of course, be part of one's reflections throughout one's theological training, entering into both the content and the methodology of one's studies and thus also into the areas of practical theology. Our awareness of persons as women and men is a distinction which substantially determines our perceptions and actions, especially when we are not conscious of it. It is a fundamental insight of feminism that, in a patriarchal context, women are put at a disadvantage by the denial of the form which gender difference takes in that context and its effects on the structure of the society and on personal life histories. Thus, it is of great importance for theological education to confront this issue consciously.
However, it is by no means clear, what approach to the issue of gender difference has a constructive effect on the problems of justice between women and men. There are two difficult conclusions, which emerge from feminist discourse.
1. In the 1980s especially, and into the early 1990S, feminist approaches to the gender issue were basically focussed on the difference between the sexes. They sought to raise consciousness and appreciation of women's lives, their understanding of themselves and the world from their point of view as female subjects, and to propose new versions of this understanding which could lead to new ways of living. The assumption that beyond all other differences women were bound together by their existence as women was very productive at first. It offered women the possibility of identifying with one another, the possibility of solidarity. It brought out essential aspects of the realities with which women live and which could then be penetrated by analysis.
But in the long run this viewpoint, which brought the difference between women and men to the fore and made it the essential one, became problematic as the only way of seeing things, since it took no account of the factual differences among women themselves. It also involved, contrary to its own intention, the danger of prescribing set gender roles, thus confirming the pattern of gender-oriented perception. In other words, any time one makes the difference between women and men the basis of one's thinking, however that difference is described, one runs the risk of reinforcing sexism, against all intentions.
2. For this reason, and also because they no longer saw themselves in the self-descriptions of their mothers' generation, young women since the 1990s have turned to theoretical concepts which aimed to deconstruct the polarity of gender. There is also interest in those approaches which offer possible methods of observing and describing the way we continuously "do gender" in the everyday rituals of communication and social behavior. These approaches draw attention to the way gender roles have developed as part of cultures, and to the great variety of possible ways of being a woman or a man. This is their strength. But they also have a weakness in that there is a risk of relativizing the meaning of gender difference to the point where we lose sight of the facts of women and men's life situations and the injustice, which is empirically evident in them.
This points to the necessity of trying to keep "engendering" somewhere between these two poles, that is--as in Carol Hagemann-White's postulated method for gender research--to take the viewpoint of gender difference seriously, and to disregard it, by turns. In other words, we should assume the existence of gender difference and derscribe its phenomena and effects. At the same time we must keep making it clear that this perspective from which we see the difference is a construct, showing that it is the cultural product of interaction between women and men in a specific social context and that in principle it can take completely different forms and can change.
This approach also has its counterpart in the Biblical witness. On one hand, we find there the assumption that human beings are created as women and men, as different beings related to one another, who have equal value and dignity as persons created in the image of God. And there is also no real area of experience beyond this difference. On the other hand, this difference is transcended and surpassed in Christ: "... there is no longer male and female ..." (Gal 3:27f). In other words, there is no ultimate definition of what it is to be a woman or a man. Each definition can be changed, surpassed, relativized by God. The ways in which women and men live, each for her or himself and in relation to one another, are not defined; instead, in Christ, they constitute an open space of infinite possibilities.
As the basis of my further reflections, I would like this approach to be heard: The attention which is given to the problems and questions of gender difference in theological education must itself be open to question. Whatever aspect is recognized of the structure and form which gender difference takes must be carefully perceived and heeded, but it must equally be regarded as a phenomenon of transition and change. Particularly because the women's movement has brought about a state of flux in gender roles, we must keep track of this flow and understand its diverse forms. Yet we must also make sure that gender difference itself does not disappear from the agenda as an outdated issue, since this would have immediate negative effects on women's interests and scope for action.
So much for the basics. I would now like to mention five points, which must be included in consideration of the "engendering" angle in theological education:
1. Gender difference within the community of learners and teachers;
2. Gender difference in the context of the society;
3. Repercussions of the analysis of gender difference on theology, its symbols, thinking patterns and language;
4. The consequences for the practices of the church;
5. An integrated study of theology.
1. A first and important point is attention to the representation of and the community among women and men as learners and as teachers. It continues to be a fact that it is primarily women (even though by no means all women) who are researchers in, and teachers of, gender topics. Thus it is indispensable that the number of women who teach be increased, so that the issues of gender difference may take their place in the context of teaching.
This also means that attention must be given to a just distribution of the resources available at seminaries and educational institutions - to women and to men--such as jobs, grants and research facilities. It would make sense to have a period of transition in which women with equal qualifications were given preference for positions, to make up for their relative under-representation.
It is equally important that attention be paid to the communication between women and men during teaching sessions. There are now plenty of studies and insights about specific patterns of communication between women and men. It is well known that frequency of participation in discussions is often very unevenly distributed, that more or less attention is given to arguments according to the gender of the speaker, that stimuli to further discussion and achievements tend to be ascribed to men rather than women. Seminars and other teaching situations should give time and space to bringing up these concerns and raising consciousness of them. It can be especially meaningful to do so when a conflict arises among the students of which gender difference is a significant cause. It can be just as important for the teaching staff to make it a rule to bring up the subject for discussion, to raise awareness to it, and perhaps at times to assign students to observe the pattern of communication in the group from the viewpoint of gender difference. Awareness of the way gender functions in the learning situation will stimulate and enrich the learning process itself, and will heighten attention to comparable processes in the future working life of the students, for instance in parish groups or religious instruction classes.
Finally, there are situations in which women have a particular need to be promoted or supported. This is the case when they are numerically a small minority and their status is therefore dubious and difficult. There also continues to be many women who need support from the teaching staff, or from the other students as well, to increase their feeling of self-worth, and give them the courage to come out in the open with their own convictions or actions and to exert influence.
2. If students are to discover the significance of gender difference and the methodical tools with which to deal with the difference productively and insightfully, they need to know theories which help them understand and give shape to their individual perceptions of and experiences with their own sexuality and their relations with the opposite sex. Thus theological education must include, in the context of an introduction to sociological analysis, an introduction to theories of gender difference, so that students develop their own awareness of and positions regarding this topic. To study theology means that one acquires a reflective way of perceiving and interpreting a reality in which the world of texts, symbols and signs of the Christian tradition enters into dialogue with contemporary perceptions, and theoretical analyses of reality penetrates and is in turn penetrated by them. As an elementary knowledge of economics, politics, sociology and psychology is acquired, which give shape and depth to one's perception of reality, gender should be among the topics covered within each of them, since it has a sustained influence on the life experience and opportunities of both women and men.
3. But consideration of gender also has substantial repercussions on theology itself. As one becomes conscious of the effects of gender difference in one's own life situation, awareness grows of sexist patterns of thinking and language in theology. And the transformation in the self-understanding of women and men gives rise to the need, not simply to reproduce religious symbolizations in the form which has been handed down to us, but rather to investigate their scope and deduce their meanings anew, and to change the way in which they are represented and worded.
For theological education, this means that the acquisition of knowledge of the thinking and forms of devotion of the Christian tradition must enter into a dialogue with the religious self-understanding of the students. The tradition should not be an authority and a norm, which limits and defines a student's thinking. Tradition should rather, in all its worthiness and dignity, be a dialogue partner taken with extraordinary seriousness which inspires and tempts students to do their own theology. By testing it against their own life experience, against the crises and limitations they experience, but also against steps taken towards liberation, students gain an important criterion for judging whether theology is of any help in living their daily lives. This includes testing tradition against their specific experiences as women and men in their particular social context.
Theological education, therefore, should not just introduce students to the tradition and teach them to know and understand it, but must also promote and take seriously the expression of subjective experience, reflection upon it and its religious interpretation, by both women and men, and bring this into dialogue with the answers and thinking patterns of the tradition.
4. Finally, theological education must translate consciousness of gender issues into guidance for practice in the church. In all areas of practical theology--ecclesiology, homiletics, liturgics, pastoral counseling, religious education--one question to be asked and reflected on is what the relevant practice of the church means in terms of gender relations.
Among the many possible examples, I will take one: What does it mean to take gender difference seriously in reflecting on the Christian wedding ceremony?
* The first requirement is to form an idea of the situation of marriage in the society, and of the situation of women on one hand, and of men on the other, in marriage. It should be thought through with the perspective of what this situation would look like in order to correspond to the Christian understanding of love, salvation and all human beings as children of God.
* The next question is, how does this prior understanding come through in the pastoral conversation with the couple planning marriage? How do I perceive the different situations of the woman and the man? What typical patterns of gender difference do I recognize? What are the particular issues for this couple, and how do I deal with them? What does all this have to do with my being myself, a woman or a man?
* Next: How do I plan the wedding service and the sermon? What images, what language, what symbols shall I use to represent the situation of this couple and their hopes for their life together? How shall I illustrate the roles of woman and man? What patterns for communication do I want to get across to them, perhaps subconsciously as well? What images for a fulfilled married life shall I present to them? What images of God shall I propose in the language I use, and what is their meaning for woman and man?
* Finally: What images of life together for women and men are coined in the public relations work of the church? How do we pray for marriages and partnerships during Sunday worship? Which issues are in the foreground, and which do we systematically hush up?
In the same way as I have done here using the example of the wedding ceremony, we could take up all the other areas of practical work in the church and demonstrate the relevance of gender issues within them. The consequences must be drawn for training persons to do this work. In general, it is a matter of calling attention to issues of gender difference as an essential category for learning and for teaching, of acquiring theoretical models with which to analyze and understand them, of spelling out their existential dimensions in one's own life and of reflecting on the consequences for theological language, the use of symbols and Christian devotional practices.
5. For many women theologians, it is important that their theological reflections, their everyday lives and their spiritual practice not be separate worlds, but rather related to one another, influencing and inspiring one another. I hesitate to designate this as something specific to women. I think it is true that there are more women who suffer from such divisions, but there are also men who do so, and quite a few women who take the divisions as much for granted as many men do.
Nevertheless, that theology is an area of knowledge which has to do with the whole person, which must penetrate the soul as well as the brain and be clearly related to the concrete reality of a person's life, has been one of the demands of feminist theology since its beginnings. I continue to believe that it is an important demand with regard to education for theological students. Inasmuch as in their future careers they will be challenged to interpret their theology in terms of people's experiences and questions, theological students should learn during their training how to proceed in this interpretation, and to read persons and the circumstances in which they live as thoroughly as the texts. Inasmuch as they will be challenged to portray the Gospel in many shapes and forms, their training should include this diversity of shapes, forms and methods. And inasmuch as they will face questions and challenges not only with regard to their knowledge, but also in matters of faith and action, they should learn not only to think, but also to pray and to act.
BY MAGDALENA FORGACOVA-SEVCIKOVA
Lutheran Church in Slovakia, (Evangelical Church of Augsburg Confession in Slovakia) has been ordaining women to ministry since 24th April, 1951. We certainly belong to the group of European churches who were the first to welcome women into ordained ministry and therefore deserve to be numbered among the most progressive churches in Europe.
But is this the reality? Are we really welcoming women? Are the doors for women open in all spheres of church mission and work? Do women really appreciate and value their position?
Even though official status for women in ministry is welcoming, voices from below the surface, at times signal something different.
Recently I started an online discussion with my colleagues. Their opinion about women in ministry revealed very interesting views:
* women in ministry yes, but not as parish pastors
* women--better as teachers of religion, or as a deaconess
* women as helpers of men in ministry
* women as parish pastors yes, but only as celibate ones
The most common arguments against women in ministry are:
a) Woman cannot be both mother and parish pastor. Care for family does not allow her to be a manager of congregation.
b) Women have never achieved any great deal in theology.
For the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Ordination of Women, less then one-fourth of the ordained women participated. It must be admitted that there were also gracious and noble voices, protecting women's place in ministry, proving their devout and diligent work by concrete examples.
Higher position in church is not closed for women, but women themselves do not want to be there. Actually now, we do not have any women in higher position beside parish pastors.
These are not official statements, but they prevail. Even more, they magnify in number. This is a warning situation, perhaps a small crisis or a disparity between official and "real life". But we have to pay attention to these voices. We have to re-affirm ordination of women, cure the reactionary spirit and appeal to women to appreciate their ordination and to understand it soundly and clearly. It is alarming, that women in Slovakia are often questioning their ordination.
The General Bishop, Doc, ThDr. Julius Filo, in his sermon at the celebration said:
Ordination of sisters into spiritual ministry should not remain a victory of emancipation. It is not just a matter of righteousness. It is and should be more: a gift and blessing. Go and gift our common ministry by your example willingness to take on you the suffering of people around. Help us to achieve greater humbleness and be the examples of courage in overcoming alienation. (The sermon at this final appeal was based on Mathew 15: 22-28)
In the Bishop's appeal, I see a beginning of vision for women in ministry and theology. The core is not just legal relevancy of women's ordination, but a positive evaluation of women in ministry and theology
I suggest the following steps to treat the unbalanced state of affairs between official and unofficial views.
Vision as a treatment
1. Special theological conference
Our church annually organizes theological conferences of all clergy. It is always unitopical and publishes final documents. Conferences always lasts for few days, allowing a lot of discussion in small groups, beside common plenary.
Conferences on women in ministry should be organized to deal with the level of ordination of women and with ideas and opinions about it.
2. Special education for couples
Too practical, but not worthless. As women are generally understood as to be the manager of the household, we need to reconsider this role with woman as manager of the parish. Couples, in where the woman is to be a parish pastor should undergo special training for modeling the views of life and roles in life, to be able to serve the parish and prevent family crisis.
3. Inviting more women to theological education process at teaching positions
Recent years are witness to a greater interest of women to study of theology and in becoming of parish pastors, or theology teachers. Still some teaching positions, such as systematic theology are more open to men. These prejudges are irrelevant and should cease.
4. Enriching curriculum by course on great historical female teachers of the Church
Neither women, nor men in our seminary are aware about great female teachers of the church such as: Catarina from Sienna, Julian from Norwich, Hildegard von Bingen and the others. Their teaching and analysis of their works should enrich the curriculum of systematic theology.
5. Encouraging women to achieve a healthy self-esteem in their ministry of Church
Special seminars should be organized for women, both at seminary or in church retreat centers where women should be trained to appreciate their ministry and to be sure that they do not stand in just "emergency" position--as there were not a sufficient male pastors in past.
6. Synod law should explicitly confirm ordination of women as a good thing
As the unofficial voices corrode the official state of things, for the sake of silencing them and for the sake of affirming women in position of pastors, the synod, as the supreme organ of effective power in our church should publish law, that would explicitly welcome women in ministry and theology.
7. Theological study of women in the ordained ministry
To start a concise theological program, which could embrace all chairs at Seminary, explore ordination of women in their special fields of interest and make them gradually discuss and publish their results.
BY MERCEDES GARCIA BACHMANN, ARGENTINA
I am a professor at a theological school in Buenos Aires, called ISEDET, where we prepare people for ministry in several Protestant denominations. I teach biblical courses, and I am also an ordained pastor of the Lutheran Church.
Theological Education as a Tool for Mission
Usually people consider theology as what theologians and pastors study in class, at seminaries and universities, and in their particular meetings. This is true, but it is not the whole truth. Theology is what we say about God, about salvation, about Jesus Christ, about sin and forgiveness, about God's care. All of us have ideas, opinions and visions about these and other theological issues, even if not verbally expressed.
Theological education is and should be broader than preparing pastors, professors, deacons and others for service in the Church. It is true that the Church needs servants who are not only faithful, but also clear about their faith and doctrinal practice. God also needs faithful servants where there is no institutional church, bishop, theologian, or pastor. By this I mean not only in those now rare far away places where Christians are alone in their witness, but also in crowded places where daily witness is needed. We are called to witness to Christ in our job or joblessness, health and sickness, in our immediate neighborhood and in areas not so easily accessible, from Monday to Saturday as well as on Sunday morning. Has it not happened that we hear our neighbor saying something, or we see somebody in the street or on a bus, and wish we had the right words for this person's need? We know that the Holy Spirit puts the right words in our mouth, but being theologically educated--knowing our Bible, our faith, our tradition, some of the new explorations in these fields--would certainly help our witness.
Again, this does not mean that people can't witness to Christ if they have not gone to the seminary. It just means that the more resources we have for our mission as Christians, the easier that mission will be for us and for those who seek God's words. This I think is a good enough reason to be constantly educating ourselves on our faith. Therefore, it makes me happy when I hear somebody say, "I come to school because I want to be better prepared when I talk about God to my neighbors and co-workers."
Theological Education as an Encounter of Cultures
When we deepen our faith through theological education, be it formal or informal (workshops, bible studies, personal readings, classes), we encounter cultures that are different from our own. Beginning with the Bible, we meet traces of cultures that flourished between two and four thousand years ago. For many of us, the area of the world written of is far away geographically. Thus, there are sayings and references that we simply do not understand, because our environment is so different. To give an example: It is not the same to speak of rain when you live in a dry area as when you live under constant danger of floods; when you count on it for your garden or when you live by a great river. Thus, every time we read [of certain examples] we accommodate our minds to a different setting. Often, this is an unconscious process, but at times true understanding requires a conscious "translation" of concepts or situations.
Let me give you another example. In the commandments we find one that states "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife." In many cultures, this would be the same as not committing adultery. However, the fact that there is also a commandment against adultery makes one wonder whether they are saying something different. Only when we know the culture of Ancient Israel in its Near Eastern millieu, can differentiate between the two.
We women make yet another cultural adjustment. While it is obvious that the commandment speaks of "wife" and means wife, we do not say, "Since I am a woman and I am heterosexual, the commandment does not apply to me." Rather, we read it to mean that we are not to covet the spouse of our neighbor, no matter what the sex of that person be, according to our gender. Thus, unconsciously we translate a culture that considers the sexuality of a woman as belonging to her husband, and a culture that only speaks to a male when prohibiting taking another man's wife, as if we women were also addressed and it was a free choice.
To these cultural encounters we have to add others. For instance, for centuries, formal theological education all over the globe was based on scholarship by males from Europe and United States. We slowly let our own experiences and insights inform our theology and finally managed to have them enter the academia. Today we read African, Asian, Native-American, African-American and Latin-American theologies in addition to those of Europe and North-America. We might have our preferences, of course, but this is an area in which globalization has meant something good. It has meant a deeper understanding of God taking human flesh. Throughout the whole world, the Spirit raises servants, men and women, in very diverse situations, and humans respond to God's acts in ways very much determined by the context in which they are immersed. This diversity in theologies shows us the diversity of the world God has created and saved.
Let me give another example. There is hardly a theological seminary or school today that does not receive students from other countries. Moreover, we do not need to go very far to encounter different cultures. Today we also recognize that societies are not homogeneous but are composed of particular groups with their own subcultures (teenagers, homeless, middle class, upper class, indigenous, migrants, tourists, etc.). Thus, we are constantly confronted with cultures different from our own and from the culture of biblical times. With each diverse cultural encounter we see our horizons broaden--if we let them!
As a teacher, I am learning to take these characteristics into account, not only in my regular classes, but also in a theological program with indigenous peoples that our seminary (myself and other colleagues) are engaged in.
Theological education as a tool for enriching the people of God
One of the great discoveries of the Reformation was that the Word of God speaks to the whole people of God, not to a few specialists. It speaks to us in our mother tongue, not in Latin, Greek, Hebrew or whatever the "theological language" is of the moment. God speaks to us in our culture, not only in our language. The Word became human so that humans can hear, see, experience and accept God's word and thus be saved. If the precious word of God is not restricted to a few specialists but it is at hand for everyone, how much more should theology be available to all.
Theology is great; it can be very serious and it can be fun; it can be removed from reality or rooted in it. Theology can be described in many ways, but one thing is sure: Theology is different from the word of God. Theology is our words about God, and thus these words can be said or erased, they can be tried, confirmed or rejected, they can be used for enhancing the people of God or used against that same people to subjugate them. Therefore, there is a huge responsibility for us as theologians.
Theological education can be a means of making people better Christians and better persons, or it can be a means of making people fit for serving institutions. I guess it does both, even if both goals might not be so compatible in the end. What is important, however, is that theological education should enhance and enrich the whole people of God. The more we all elaborate our own theology and ethics, the less we will be subjugated or drawn to follow false messiahs, false masters and evil leaders. The more we all know our basics, the more we can make informed decisions and be responsible for them at all levels--from personal and family levels, to government and environmental levels.
Of course there is always the temptation of thinking for others, telling others what to believe, what to say and how to act. No matter whether this is done out of goodwill or not, I believe, it betrays its purpose and the trust God puts in each one of us. So let us be wary of anyone who discourages us from studying saying, "What for? It is too difficult" or "It will shatter your faith". Let us be wary as teachers when we dismiss too quickly a heterodox vision. Let us be wary of the temptation of walking for the student instead of walking with her or him.
Theological education as an exposer / revealer of prejudices
It seems to be part of our condition as sinners that we have prejudices against others and we also suffer prejudices from others. These are not due to the "reasons" adduced for them, i.e., color, gender, habits, food, religion, and others. They are due to our unwillingness to accept others as they are; to our fear to put what we are under someone else's searching eye; to our reluctance to choose in short, to sin. It is easier to put others in pigeonholes than to take the time and effort to understand them.
God's plan for humanity, however, is that we respect each other and treat each other well, because we are all God's creatures and Jesus died for the world, not for the few people we like.
The Bible and our Christian theology challenges our prejudices and our sinful practices and attitudes and calls us to repent and change. I see unmasking or exposing our prejudices, and thus helping us change them, as one of the most important tasks of theological education.
Theological education as permission to think, question, ask and try
When we deal with God we deal with the sacred. This is a basic principle which does not require much explanation. However, when we deal with theology, as I stated earlier, we deal with human constructs--human constructs that, hopefully, are inspired by the Holy Spirit and are made on the basis of faith in God. And God is so great that God can afford our questions and our thoughts that seek a better understanding, even if these thoughts and questions seem disrespectful. God is not diminished by our explorations. We are not speaking of a card tower that gets knocked down as soon as one of its cards is touched. We are speaking of the Almighty, the Rock, the Mother who protects her children, the Creator and Savior. Thus, I envision theological education as permission to think, question, explore; to try new images, new words, new symbols and rituals, new ways of expressing the Truth that encounters us.
I am fully aware that I am often short of the mark, so these thoughts are presented with a self-critical attitude in the hope that they will invite people to their own reflections and responses.
BY REV. KATHLEEN M. GRIFFIN, INSTITUTO SUPERIOR EVANGELICO DE ESTUDIOS TEOLOGICOS, ARGENTINA
The institutional policy of the Instituto Superior Evangelico de Estudios Teologicos (ISEDET) on the incorporation of gender issues and feminist perspectives in theological education includes three points:
1. The inclusion of gender issues in introductory courses and, when possible, the offering of electives that focus especially on gender issues, women's issues, and/or feminist perspectives.
2. The production of educational materials in Spanish by means of the Forum on Gender, which meets monthly at ISEDET. The Forum is an interdisciplinary and ecumenical group of men and women involved in theological and university education.
3. The direction of doctoral theses by women doctoral students treating gender issues.
My own vision for theological education fits in well with the first point of the policy of ISEDET. I believe if seminaries and theological institutes are to have an impact on local congregations and on the societies in which these congregations are located, ALL students, male and female, who pass through the seminary's curriculum must have an integrated understanding of how the Bible, theology, cultures and societies have understood gender perspectives, both through sin and abuse and through redemption and liberation. I believe that an integrated dialogue leads to conversion and the transformation of churches, societies and cultures. I also believe that in societies where the voice of women is not recognized or barely recognized, men must be educated on gender issues, as in many contexts, so they will be the acceptable voices of instruction for transformation. Thus, the separation of "women's issues" from integrated dialogue within various issues in theological education, and the teaching of feminist perspectives in elective course materials that few men choose to take, will not achieve the transformation that is necessary at a more popular level of Christian education.
In Argentina, the unemployment and underpayment statistics are very high and increasing in all sectors of society. The general culture here highly values the role of the mother (but not necessarily the role of the father) and the economic and social instability makes the tasks of motherhood increasingly difficult. Birth control and family planning are options that are not universally available or acceptable. The ideal of the Virgin Mother Mary, is lifted up in popular and formal religion. Many young women seek boyfriends and motherhood rather than the completion of basic educational requirements and job skills. Many young men seek girlfriends without commitment.
My church activity here in the greater Buenos Aires area is surrounded by "villas" - settlements of lower class families on fiscal lands - and lower middle-class neighborhoods. In these neighborhoods, among the grandparent generation, the percentage of women who have only completed their primary education is much higher than that of their male contemporaries. In the generation of the parents, there is a more equal tendency of men and women who have at least completed part of their secondary education. Amongst the children and youth, the high school dropout rate is growing among boys and girls alike. (1) The unemployment crisis works against those who have not completed their secondary education. The black market working conditions are deplorable, but often the only choice available for many men and women. Many young women who seek fulfillment in motherhood suffer because they do not have job skills, and because the men in their lives often leave them and work for their own advantage rather than for the advantage of their families. Men who attempt to stay with their families work under extremely inadequate conditions and return home to vent their frustrations on their growing family.
In order for theological institutions to have a transforming impact in the increasing number of "marginal" neighborhoods, male and female church leaders must be adept in gender related dialogue with the Bible, with church members, and with social structures and cultural attitudes so as to provide an informed critique of the social pressures which young men and women face, and which are often the reason behind the abandonment and abuse of mothers.
The inclusion of gender sensitive analysis in my own field of study, the history of Christianity, can reveal important comparisons and contrasts of gender issues in a variety of cultural and historical contexts. Professor Emerita of the history of Christian Doctrine of Princeton Theological Seminary, Jane Dempsey Douglass, has indicated to me that "historians are in a good position to help students see that different cultures and different moments in history have defined the social roles of the sexes in different ways, even though the biological sexes have not changed. Historians can also help students see that `prescription is not description.' In other words, the fact that a text from a given century declares that it is forbidden for women to speak in church does not in fact prove that women did not speak in church." (2)
The study of gender issues in Church history should not be limited to research on outstanding women in the church, but should also include official theological positions and doctrines concerning women, marriage, and parenting (both motherhood and fatherhood), as well as alternative theological positions throughout the history and geography of Christian churches. To understand the transforming possibilities of theology, one can compare, for example, pre and post Tridentine Catholic theologies and practices concerning women, and the exegetical work of the Protestant reformers on biblical texts concerning women.
When one can study the writings of Christian laywomen on their readings of biblical texts concerning women, for an example the work of Christine de Pisan, "The Book of the City of Ladies", from the 14th to early 15th centuries, an exceptional view can be discerned of a debate and dialogue between the commonly accepted male readings of the Bible and Church history with an educated, gender conscious reading of a laywoman. Her intellectual contributions directly transformed her cultural context.
Unearthing such works and thoughts of the millions of women who have made up more than half of the Christian churches throughout the ages and the nations, as well as the teachings and attitudes of their contemporary male clergy will help theological students, future pastors and church leaders understand how helpful and hopeful a proactive church can be for the transformation of societies.
Furthermore, dialogue must be encouraged in Systematic Theology and the History of Doctrine with Social History. Church history coursework must not limit itself to the study of Christian doctrines and institutions, but must integrate a solid understanding of social and cultural history in order for students to be able to see the LIFE of theology in the history of the Church and of Humanity. (In other words, the incarnation of the history of Christian doctrines and institutions within their social historical contexts) This will also help us to see how the issue of gender in the Bible has transformed or has been transformed by their social historical contexts, how teachings of the Bible on gender issues can transform their own social and cultural contexts, and the dangers of social contexts transforming the liberating news of salvation in issues of gender that leads to repetition of sinful attitudes.
(1) Marucco, Marta, "Aprender en la Argentina--Igualdad de Oportunidades?: Organizacion del sistema educativo argentino," Buenos Aires: Facultad de Psicologia, Universidad de Buenos Aires, 1996. This is a comparative study of public education amongst the five educationally lowest geographical areas of Argentina and the five educationally highest geographical areas. The Federal Capital, Buenos Aires, is within the top five, and the greater Buenos Aires suburban area is within the lowest five. The study does not include a gender analysis.
(2) Personal e-mail correspondence of September 13, 2001.
DR. NORMA COOK EVERIST
My vision for engendering theological education starts with glimpses from the past, beginning over forty years ago. A feminist methodology incorporates life journey.
1961. Sometimes we need to act even before the vision is clear. I enrolled in Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, even before it occurred to me to work towards ordination. Sometimes we need to walk through a doorway, even when the door is open only a crack, and then open it more widely for those who will follow. There were two of us women among 800 male students.
1962. I was married and continued to serve as a deaconess. This was a new view of women. Before 1959, women in our community could not marry. A woman's theological voice was silenced and transferred to her husband.
1964. I was "retired" as a deaconess, dismissed from the church deaconess roster, because I became a mother by adopting a child. Mothers, it was clear, could not be seen as theologians.
1970. Women were ordained in the American Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church in America. Because I was in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, I did not see this opportunity.
1971. Through the eyes of another deaconess, I saw myself again as a deaconess. I was subsequently elected to the board of directors of the Lutheran Deaconess Association, and then elected president. It was important to finally have women in leadership, shaping the vision of women's theological education.
1972. We changed the rules, declaring that all women who had received theological education and had been consecrated as deaconesses were still deaconesses. Thus began a rediscovery process of "former" deaconesses which lasts to this day. When one has been told one cannot serve in the church because of one's body, it takes a long time to reclaim the vision of oneself.
1973. Vision through books.
I use the book In But Still Out by Elizabeth Howell Verdesi (Westminster, 1973) to this day in a Church Administration course I teach for men and women. Studying women's participation in their own cooptation, the author traces the power cycle. The powerful ignore the powerless as long as possible. When oppressed groups say, "We are here," the powerful utilize ever increasing tactics of trivialization, ridicule, manipulation, and, if these do not work, they finally get rid of people they feel are a threat. My vision includes being vigilant.
1976. While serving on the board of Christ Seminary-Seminex, I delivered a presentation to the ELIM women's assembly, "Receiving One Another's Ministries: The Significance and Insignificance of Women's Ordination" My view at that time: "There are women in the church. There are women in the ministry of the church. There always have been. The question is how men and women view themselves and each other in ministry. That view either binds or aids the full use of the total talents of women and men."
1976. I was graduated from Yale Divinity School and was invited to teach there. Theologian Letty Russell helped me claim my voice and name as a "theologian." Our vision is part of the vision God already has for us through Christ's death and resurrection. We live and make decisions escatalogically.
1977. Fifteen months after receiving my M.Div., a year after I began teaching at Yale Divinity School, and after being turned down or asked, "Can't you wait a few more years?" by three Lutheran church bodies, I finally was ordained. It takes time for some to clear their eyes.
1982. Vision needs research. As part of my Ph.D. work, I researched [the perspective of] the women ordained in the American Lutheran Church at that time. They were claiming new models of collaborative leadership which empowered the laity.
1986. To envision engendering theological education, we need to see women as learners, actors, leaders, in the women's sphere. Research on "Sixty-Five Years of Lutheran Women's Work" revealed that women have always been concerned about issues beyond domestic ones: bridging the private and public world, working for justice, equality, and peace.
1986. Publication of "The Possible Impossibility" on partnership of women and men in the church: "We have been called to be the Body of Christ, women and men, diverse and interdependent, but realization of that gift, which is already ours, remains elusive."
1980's and 1990's. Questions continue: "Whom shall we chose to fill one slot on theological education faculties, a man of color or a white woman?" "If we fully include all the formerly excluded in theological education, won't that diminish the role of the laity?" We need a broader vision of inclusivity.
1990. The Persistent Voice. Change comes slowly. We need persistence for the journey. We can give voice to women and publish those voices.
1993. I gained a broader vision while visiting and lecturing at Lutheran seminaries in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Tanzania and Namibia. We have much to teach one another about life in community and styles of leadership.
1994. Publication of "Servant Leaders": We err either by abusing power or by abdicating authority. Martin Luther's Treatise on Christian Liberty says, "A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all." We need to see power differently. A radical resurrection theology trusts the Sprit's power as unlimited. Barbara Jordan said that we cannot give another person power, but we can act in ways which allow and encourage others to claim their own power. Sr. Marie Augusta Neal wrote about a theology of relinquishment. "If you grow and become more powerful, it does not mean that I have less power," and vice versa. We need theological education which is not threatened by anyone's growth, for the sake of multiplying ministry.
2000. A new view of leadership, "Freed for Servanthood": We are all freed from subservience for powerful servanthood. We are freed from domination by anyone who would lord it over us, for only Christ is dominus. We need theological education which frees us to be healers, helpers, listeners and leaders."
2000. From the book, Ordinary Ministry: Extraordinary Challenge: With the growing number of women entering public ministry, it is time to reflect not only on the phenomenon of women ordained, but for men as well as women to learn from the viewpoints of women engaged deeply in parish ministry. Twenty-five stories inductively present theology done by women as they faithfully and effectively serve congregations.
2001. My vision was shaped by what was seen. We, like the early disciples in Acts 4, cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard. Together, we create ongoing visions for transformation:
Vision for Method
From "Re-membering the Body of Christ: An Ecclesiology for Leadership and Theological Education": We need methodologies for theological education congruent with the content of our theology: trustworthy learning environments, places for all to be present and all voices to be truly heard. We need a curriculum, which is accessible, communal, interdependent, and mutually accountable.
A Comprehensive Vision
Having women professors in all theological disciplines has changed our seminary community positively over the years. Feminist theology is deeply integrated in most courses; meanwhile we continue to offer electives for men and women in feminist and womanist theology in bible, history, theology and ministry areas. I envision a time, however, when we will have as many men as women taking these elective courses, focusing on the partnership of women and men in the church. Team teaching of women and men models partnership.
A Vision to Explore
From "Seminary as a Translating and Transforming Experience": I envision exploring the languages, gifts, strengths, learning styles, barriers and growing edges of people who come to the seminary community with a view towards enhancing theological education, lifelong learning and ministerial leadership.
Voices and Visions
Two of my eight classmates from the deaconess class of 1960 are deeply involved in urging the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod towards more equity for women. The summer issue of a networking newsletter, "Voices and Visions" had to be published anonymously. When I was ordained 25 years ago, an LCMS laywoman gave me the charge, "When you leave us--as you must--do not forget us." Our vision needs to be broad enough to keep in sight those not yet free.
A Global Vision
In July, 2001 I was privileged to participate in Global Diakonia held in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. That ecumenical gathering reaffirmed the need for and power of servanthood ministries. I also was privileged to once again speak with small groups of women and men in The Lutheran Church in Australia in Sydney and Adelaide. Having fallen short of the necessary two-thirds vote in the summer of 2000, for women's ordination, they have been told to, "wait a few years" before bringing up the subject again. I am committed to visibility so that full opportunities for women in theological education globally will be achieved.... soon!
A Vision for Women as Mentors
The Seminary regularly assigns male students to female internship supervisors. Growing numbers of men serve as assistant pastors with a woman senior pastor. Yet the churches are slow to claim collaborative leadership styles. Women as leaders in all facets of theological education have changed the churches. We need to continue to mentor men as well as women, communities as well as individuals.
A Vision for Inclusive Language and Inclusive Living
Once again, as we do each Fall at Wartburg Seminary, the community gathered to continue our learning in regard to inclusive language for God and for humankind. Why is this so hard to learn? How can seminaries be teachers of the Church and local congregations? Why do old abusive patterns persist?
A Vision for Sustained Leadership
We need to shape theological education to prepare women and men to be messengers of peace in a world dancing with death. The Rev. Kimberly Wilson, a pastor from Long Island, NY, is such a woman. She commemorated her fifth anniversary of ordination this fall, and, since September 11, has been called upon to be priest, teacher, preacher, prophet, and leader in her multi-cultural, interfaith community. Many times as the weeks unfolded, she wondered if she had the strength for the task, but this woman of faith is trusted by her parishioners. She has been able to draw on her theological education and to minister with courage and love.