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Calling the church to account: African women and liberation.

Saying that God is male does not make the male God.

Because Christianity succeeded in establishing a European image of womanhood in Africa due to the fact that their first converts were slaves, outcasts and servants, a people without status in the community, the true embodiments of the African image had no chance to influence the new faith and the new system.(1)

There is a myth in Christian circles that the church brought liberation to the African woman. Indeed, this is a myth, a claim glibly made and difficult to illustrate with concrete or continuing examples. Yet, what actual difference has Christianity made for women, other than its attempt to foist the image of a European middle-class housewife on an Africa that had no middle class that earned salaries or lived on investments? The system of wages created by Westernization has produced an elite, a class that serves and upholds Western Christian attitudes, and a church that continues to mirror pre-1914 Europe. For many Christians, this description of Western churches is hard to stomach, but it is a view shared by many African Christians who see and experience Africa's present predicament of religious, political, economic and social chaos.

The way Western churches that have been implanted in Africa look at women mirrors their Euro-American predecessors. As transplants that have never firmly taken root, they have not yet grown free of the attitudes of their "mother churches", nor have they been able to cope with reforms that have taken or are taking place in those churches. Issues such as the ordination of clergy and ecumenism are prime examples, as is their firm attachment to nineteenth-century evangelical theology. Faced with the vastly complicated, hydra-headed challenges of living in today's world, Africa finds little sustenance in the continuing importation of uncritical forms of Christianity with answers that were neatly packaged in another part of the world. These churches, which most often take the form of patriarchal hierarchies, accept the material services of women but do not listen to their voices, seek their leadership or welcome their initiatives. One African spokeswoman has said: "It is an indictment on the Euro-Christian world that African church women have no significance in the church."(2)

My criticism of African churches is made to challenge them to work towards redeeming Christianity from its image as a force that coerces women into accepting roles that hamper the free and full expression of their humanity. As with class and race, on issues of gender discrimination, the church seems to align itself with forces that question the true humanity of "the other" and, at times, seems actually to find ways of justifying the oppression or marginalization of "the other". Although nineteenth-century missionary theology has been revised or discarded in most areas of the world, the Western churches in Africa continue to disseminate neo-orthodox theology from pulpit and podium, in academic journals and religious tracts. This continued dependence on Euro-American modes and hopes is no substitute for working out our own salvation as Christians who have a particular culture and history.

Women and scripture

In African churches, it is not unusual to hear reminders of what "the Bible says" about women.(3) African churches, with their many variations, have not produced a body of official dogmatics hewn from the African context; however, they have developed a theology of folktalk on what God requires of women. Instead of promoting a new style of life appropriate to a people who are living with God "who has made all things new", the church in Africa continues to use the Hebrew scriptures and the epistles of St Paul to reinforce the norms of traditional religion and culture. In the same way that the folktalk of Akan proverbs delineates cultural norms for women, so the theology of "the Bible says" defines accepted norms for African Christian women.

Growing up in Mmofraturo, a Methodist girls' boarding school in Kumasi, the focal point of the Ashanti nation, I remember clearly our morning ritual assembly for prayers and announcements. Each girl, in turn, was required to recite a biblical text. It was our tradition to quote from the Book of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes or the Sermon on the Mount; Proverbs was our favourite. Proverbs were already a part of our culture and we schoolgirls could easily get away with converting Akan proverbs into King James language and then simply inventing chapter and verse numbers. Many biblical pronouncements that have direct parallels in our traditional corpus of proverbs, such as those that deal with relations in the family, acquire a universal character, which in turn is cited to reinforce the traditional socialization of African young people. (Perhaps the morning ritual in our Methodist boarding school accomplished goals other than those sought by its leaders!)

Throughout Africa, the Bible has been and continues to be absolutized: it is one of our oracles that we consult for instant solutions and responses. Although Nigeria has a budding association of Nigerian biblicists, "biblicist" seems to me to be interpreted as someone who feels that "whatever is in the Bible is true". This norm of biblical usage among African Christians is problematic to me, as it seems highly dependent on one's interpretation of "truth". I also question any uncritical reading of biblical texts, knowing something of the fluidity of their many translations.

The Bibles Africans use today are either older versions in English, French, Spanish or Portuguese, or translations in local languages of these outdated versions. Few Africans, even those in religious studies, read the biblical languages of Greek or Hebrew. Among the faithful who read the Bible, the King James translation with its heavily androcentric language and local-language translations based on it have become the standard. The familiarity of these texts is a veritable opiate that will not be easily or wilfully discarded.

To speak to African Christians on feminism, or rather woman's being, I find it necessary to begin where the majority of us (Africans) stand as a people. We keep the wise sayings of the Bible and our African traditions in our hearts with pleasure; we have them always ready on our lips because we believe it is for our own good and, by extension, the good of the whole community (Prov. 22:17-18). It is most important to note that, whatever their religious persuasion, Africans take God seriously. When an eminent Nigerian lawyer was invited to speak about the legal rights of women, she quoted the Bible, interpreting Ephesians 5:28-31. She instructed preachers to: "Place emphasis on love, honour and care... rather than subjugation, for love means security for both parties - in love there is no loss of face."(4)

The expression "no loss of face" raises the serious matter of cultural influences in biblical interpretation. In both Yoruba and Akan, the expression refers not simply to physiognomy but to one's whole being and personality. In this sense, it is like the Hebraic "face", which goes beyond one's feature to one's countenance. Hence, Folake Solanke was pointing out that just and loving human relations can survive only when the equal value of all persons is upheld. It is the oft-announced Christian principle of imago Dei that ought to be operative.

Unfortunately, biblical interpretation and Christian theology in Africa have had the effect of sacralizing the marginalization of women's experience, even in traditional African religions. It is painful to observe African women whose female ancestors were dynamically involved in every aspect of human life define themselves now in terms of irrelevance and impotence. This distorts the essence of African womanhood. Yet it is generally admitted that the large dose of Christianity that has been part of the socio-cultural Westernization of Africa, especially in terms of women's education, vocations and the interpretation of marriage, has oriented women to accept the meaning of helper as subordinate.

Although the Christian heritage of the biblical, prophetic denunciation of oppression has served Africa well, oppressive strands of the same Bible do reinforce the traditional socio-cultural oppression of women. At this point, prophecy resumes its original character as a voice crying in the wilderness, ignored by the powerful and the respectable. On the whole, we can say that Christianity has converted the African people to a new religion without converting their culture. It has simply appropriated parts of that culture and attempted to blot out other parts without understanding how the total culture functions as an integrated worldview and system of human organization. One can understand how Western missionaries in their eagerness, unfamiliar with African culture and clothed in ethnocentric pride, snatched converts from an unconverted culture. Today, though, must this continue? Must the church continue to base its theology on an alien terminology, using outdated exegetical methods that enthrone an uncritical use of biblical texts against women?

On worship

Visualizing God as male and experiencing leadership as a male prerogative have blinded the church to the absence or presence of women. It has made it difficult - and indeed, in some churches, impossible - to conceive of women priests and women leaders.(5) In the Judaeo-Christian tradition, announcing the word of God or witnessing to the "finger of God" was never a strictly male prerogative. One factor that seems to have prejudiced the tradition against women is the primal role of blood in religious sacrifice. In Africa, a collaboration between the traditions of Hebrew scripture and aspects of traditional religion has effected the nearly total exclusion of women from rituals; this naturally militates against women priests. Even worse, significant exceptions in Africa's religious practices that validate the contributions of women have been overlooked because they do not conform to Judaeo-Christian perspectives.

A scholar of African Traditional Religions has remarked that it would appear all religions agree in principle that men and women are equal in spiritual matters, but that women's "religious sense and strong spiritual craving have been utilized to make her yield implicit obedience to her menfolks, father, brother, husband"; thus, a woman surrenders herself to the man-made world in which she finds herself.(6) Rather than admitting that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is unnecessary (obviously here I am not referring to the Roman Catholic Church), there is a constant effort to evolve "forms of ministry" to utilize the women's talents developed in mothering, motherhood and the management and organization of homes.(7) Given the range of varying policies on women's ministry, why do not the churches seek a more visible unity?

For some women, seeking ordination to the priesthood is asking to be co-opted into the ranks of the oppressors: for until the concept and purpose of the ministry change, they argue, women's creative energies are better employed elsewhere. If the church that claims to be doing Christ's work among the people actually repels people baptized into Christ, then we do well to ask questions about the "Christ-likeness" of that church. If the ministry appears bankrupt in any way, it is an indictment that should not be taken lightly.

In assigning roles based on gender, the theory of complementarity plays a negative role for women in domestic organizations and in the church. In practice, complementarity allows the man to choose what he wants to be and to do and then demands that the woman fill in the blanks. It is the woman, invariably, who complements the man. Generally, the woman has little or no choice in the matter - she has to do "the rest" if the community is to remain whole and healthy. This leads some Christian women (and the number of Africans among them is growing) to say that women should be given the same opportunities as men: women should be allowed any vocation in the church that they believe God has called them to.

Some women have awakened to the fact that they have surrendered not only to a "man"-made world but also to a "man"-made God who has decreed their isolation from public life and sentenced them to serve in obscurity and silence. In debates on the ordination of women to the priesthood, it has been argued that the maleness of Jesus of Nazareth and his twelve disciples precludes women from representing Christ at the eucharist. (I've always found it curious that the ethnic factor has not been similarly used against Gentiles.) Maleness, however, has not been used to hedge the table from women. Women can receive the ministrations of men, but they themselves cannot "serve at the table". Does the fact that men serve "at table" in church (spiritual) and women serve "at table" in the home (material) mean that the church has succeeded in making motherhood incompatible with priesthood? Why are spiritual needs separated in this way from material needs? This docetic Christianity goes against any integrated worldviews, whether they are African or theological. If - and, indeed, many African women suspect this is true - it is menstruation that still poses a problem, then the church has a responsibility to deal with this biological function rather than to hide from it or to use it as one more weapon of mystification.

On God and gender

As few African theologians talk about women outside of marriage or family life, there is little awareness of or interest in ongoing theological reconstructions of the "feminine nature" of God. While some of us women theologians have had and continue to have lively debates in this area, many theologians, including Africans, have only reluctantly come to terms with the fact that to be relevant they have to discard the "lofty" idea that theology is theology - universal and objective; they have begun to take seriously how context shapes what one says about God.

Although the gender of God does not have a big role to play in African religious language, questions of a gendered or non-gendered understanding of God have become a crucial point in the global theological dialogue, and the African religious experience can contribute to the discussion. However God is named in any African language, in the traditional African experience God is not transferred directly or indirectly onto human beings as the imago Dei. While the African myth of "destiny" is related to God, it is not said to mirror God in any way and, if it does, the relation is with the individual woman or man and not with the abstract of gender.

If anything, the African mind contains an image of a motherly Father or a fatherly Mother as the Source Being. Individuals are directly responsible for their destinies and they are accountable before God and the ancestors and before history and posterity for how they function in the community in which they find themselves. In the Source Being, there is no question of male preceding female or appearing simultaneously in the collective memories of the peoples whose concern is with the unfolding of individual destinies.(8)

For African Christians, African religio-cultural presuppositions have meant that the fatherhood of God in the Bible does not confer any special priority on human fathers; in the tradition the father's role is carefully balanced by a mother's counterpart. So, calling God "Father" or using a masculine pronoun in relation to God does not unsettle women in Africa. One could say the same is true for Christ, whose historical maleness in Jesus of Nazareth has yet to be interpreted in Africa as excluding women from associating with Christ's role or from being children of God.

However, here is where, for me, the dynamics of the interplay of words and functions begins to give the lie to Christianity. When theologians and preachers begin to argue that priesthood is barred to women because Jesus was a male, I see the argument begin to fall in place and things for me begin to fall apart. Why is this clan of male priests being created? Did not baptism replace circumcision? Does my baptism make me less a child of God because I do not have the physiology with which Mary's child was born? Absurd! The church in Africa cannot afford this logic, not in cultures where women are named after men (as I was after my paternal grandfather) and men are named after women. Unable to sustain the menstruation pollution argument - we do talk after all about being washed in the precious Blood of the Lamb - we are turning to abstruse arguments as to the gender of the risen and exalted Christ, our only priest and mediator before God. This is either cultural captivity, in which God's loving intentions for life ("increase and multiply") become tied to the idolatrous worship of blood, or we have simply decided - by whatever logic we may call it - that women should not touch the ritual of the eucharist, the blood and body of our Lord.

In such an atmosphere the church in Africa must participate in the Western debate on the exclusive masculine language of Christianity. We need to share our traditional African understandings of democracies in which Ruler-in-Council is not an individual acting alone, but one who pronounces "what is good" after consulting on all levels and reaching a consensus showing the road the whole community ought to travel. It may be that we might redeem both King and kingdom. Surely it is better to join the debate than simply to continue mouthing what we were taught a hundred or more years ago by European and American missionaries.

On women

Sometimes African theology, African God-talk, seems no more than a pretentious smokescreen that dissipates on close examination. Apart from South Africa, where apartheid has dramatized what it means to class people according to physical traits, African theologians have not related their God-talk to issues of justice. Hierarchical and oppressive terms like Omnipresent, Omniscient, Ruler or Almighty translate into race relations as racism and into gender relations as sexism. Being non-white or non-male imposes a penalty simply for not being born into the group that defines true humanity. Being "non-anything" excludes a person from being fully human. The power to define - to enable a group to name itself the representation of true humanity - is truly an awesome power. The person or group defined is then in a position of non-being that is only active to the extent that it is allowed to be. This is how structures of injustice develop.

African theologians who have used the liberation paradigm to express the church's faith have taken up these structures of injustice, analyzing class (economics) and race (skin colour); they usually ignore gender. This has happened, to some degree, because in the rhetoric of the construct, as in African languages, one does not need to single out women.(9) It is the English language (and gendered European languages) that have had adverse effects on the presence/absence of women. It would help if African Christian writers and preachers were more faithful to their African languages, ending any ambiguity in this area by translating what is intended to include both women and men with humanity.

God cannot be said to have brought into being one variety of humanity that is inherently not up to the mark. Our cardinal human sin has always been that of broken relations with the source of our being, God. The result has been brokenness in human relations and in our relations with the rest of creation. It is this brokenness, this inability to touch the other without transmitting death instead of life, that the church must deal with if it is to be able to empower women and men to celebrate each other's being and thus spread love and life. Theology is essentially a reflection on our human experience that begins with our belief in God, the Source Being. In Christian scripture as in the traditional religio-cultural corpus, what salvages all brokenness and leads to salvation - wholeness, well-being, shalom, healthy living - is what is inspired of God.

The credibility of the church is not enhanced by any exhibition of sexism in its beliefs and practices. Either women and men are of equal value before God, both created in the image of the one God, or else we declare Genesis 1:26 a lie. If we stand with the text, then the male alone cannot stand for God if the female cannot also do so. We cannot use scripture to legitimize the non-inclusion of femaleness in the norm of humanness. To be authentic, Christian theology must promote the interdependence of distinctive beings and stand by the principles of inclusiveness and interdependence.

The African church needs to empower women not only to speak for themselves and manage their "women's affairs", but to be fully present in decisions and operations that affect the whole church, including the forming of its theology. Only then will the church become a home for both women and men. Since for generations women have attempted to enable relationships and promote life, God-talk and theological education remain deficient as long as their life experiences continue to be excluded or marginalized. Male blinders have turned the African church's seminaries into male-run theological factories where the ecclesiastical organization (whichever church it may be, Catholic, Protestant or Independent) imprints its stamp on all who pass through. (Occasionally, there may be a female member of the faculty.) In this world of rising expectations, few people will continue to take the church seriously if it persists in preaching Christ but does not live Christ. A church that consistently ignores the implications of the gospel for the lives of women - and others of the underclass - cannot continue to be an authentic voice for salvation. Not until we can say that what hurts women also hurts the entire body of Christ will we in truth be able to speak of "one body".

The Spirit

Whatever is keeping subordination of women alive in the church cannot be the Spirit of God. The church is intended to be the ecclesia of all people, women and men, across all social barriers. In the church we expect to experience "reciprocity and mutual respect, support and protection of each person's freedom in continuum with our freedom as the children of promise".(10) When we find patriarchal hierarchies enthroned in the place of all this, we must begin to wonder if we are not closing our eyes and ears to the truth revealed by the Spirit of God.

We see the visible manifestation of patriarchal structures and hierarchies, whether in the church or in African cultures, wherever we encounter the subordination of women's services or a refusal to listen to women's voices. Where leadership and initiative are seen as contrary to the female spirit (or are viewed as characteristics only of rebellious women) and are not encouraged or supported, we can suspect the Spirit of God is being ignored. The pyramids of power that exist in African culture have found companions in Christianity.

The tension these attitudes generate is a barrier to unity and community, yet this does not seem to bother the church or worry the people in the pews of Africa's churches - as long as the hierarchy seems to serve the church's interest. "Good" church women, who continue their work and service only to see their men and the church hierarchy content, sacrifice their leadership abilities at the altar of the church's unconcern for women. This is a tragedy. Participation in the ministry of the church should be an exercise of responsibility and of full personhood. Inclusiveness as a principle of community-building is severely curtailed if women are limited in their exercise of initiative and authority to women's groups, where they meet to decide, to plan and to work to contribute to the unified budget of the church, a budget in which they may have had absolutely no input.

In my opinion, it is still debatable whether or not the influence of Christianity has been beneficial to the socio-cultural transformation of Africa - and I am most concerned with its effects on women. It seems that the sexist elements of Western culture have simply fuelled the cultural sexism of traditional African society. Christian anthropology has certainly contributed to this. African men, at home with androcentrism and the patriarchal order of the biblical cultures, have felt their views confirmed by Christianity. The Christian churches have not encouraged or even accommodated women who have raised their voices in protest. Indeed, some African women endowed with strong voices and leadership abilities have followed their calls to ministry by founding new churches. By and large, it would appear that African women have remained dependent on male exegesis and male theology; they have accepted male interpretations of biblical events as universally and historically normal. Thus, they simply manoeuvre as best they can within these confines.

Ecumenical experience has taught me that Christian churches in the West are at least willing to examine and discuss these issues. African churches, on the other hand, declare that no problem exists. This must change. The place of women in the church is perhaps the most crucial issue in our century for the total work of evangelization. In the words of Teresa Okure, a well-known African theologian: "The church cannot afford to continue to preach the equality of all human beings and races in Christ and yet allow its practices to be in living contradiction of this truth."(11) While the preaching of the church proclaims that "old things" have passed away, the practice of the church clings to these "old things" instead of searching out the "new".

The imagining and visualization of God as male has created an authority in the church that wears blinders to all but male needs and ear plugs to all but male voices. Interpreting biblical myths and stories to suit socio-cultural preoccupations, the church continues to absolutize the world of generations long gone. This is not to say that the church in Africa is not conscious of the ethics that accompany salvation in the Bible. Biblical ethics demand that all who would be moral agents, responsible to God, have to be on the side of the poor, oppressed and marginalized; God calls all people to defeat the enemies of the imago Dei and of wholesome community by a concerted effort.

The fragments of human separations are diverse yet connected. They go beyond the clear-cut pairs of slave-master, Hellenist-Hebrew, metropolis-suburb, urban-rural or male-female. All human separations need mending, and we must choose a place to begin. The challenges to the churches in Africa are many. In the past, by and large, the church has stood by impotently, unable to remonstrate clearly with God's word. The church in Africa has not always accepted that brokenness exists; and this has been shown, for example, in its refusal to see the hurt of women.

Christian feminists call the church to open up its structures to unmask the thinking that sets up patriarchal hierarchies and to enable the divine plan for full human relationships between women and men to develop. The linear, non-participatory way of looking at human community of such hierarchies conceals with a tragic negative mask the beauty and connectedness with the divine which Jesus' naming of God as Father should give us. Christian feminists remember that our Christian church grew from a religion that survived because its earliest adherents were willing to die to obey their God rather than to live in obedience of fellow human beings.

A call for change

In Africa, as in other areas of the world, the churches often wait for political crises to make statements, civil wars to work on reconciliation, natural disasters to provide humanitarian aid. The church in Africa tends to be a "rear-action" church, rarely visible on the front lines, and often delayed in arriving on the scene afterward to pick up the pieces. In terms of being with the people in crises, the church in Africa, with the significant exception of some clergy and lay leaders, has usually stood aloof and remained mute.(12)

In spite of the pain and the ugliness of brokenness, there often seems to be a lack of concern in the churches in Africa on issues of woman's being. The church has not joined in the search for a new value system; rather, it has suggested that there is no issue, thereby demonstrating its complicity in the structures of injustice that Western feminist and womanist thinkers are uncovering.(13) This position should be abandoned. The church should enable all people to enter in hope into the struggles of others, to seek creatively to suffer our way through contradictions, to cope joyfully with diversities and with the varieties of being human, and to celebrate them. Liberation must be viewed as men and women walking together on the journey home, with the church as the umbrella of faith, hope and love. The church must shed its image as a male organization with a female clientele whom it placates with vain promises, half truths and the prospect of redemption at the end of time. Wider vistas of human living are needed here and now.

Since the report on women by the World Council of Churches in 1948,(14) the ecumenical movement has been trying to establish guidelines by which Christians can build a community of women and men based on the vision of cooperation. Although many African Christians are associated with this movement, either by belonging to member churches of the World Council or other Christian movements and associations, little has happened. The literature is vast and yet it seems as if nothing has happened before. Attitudes and hierarchies die hard. When women have made progress, it has usually been by their sheer efforts and against all the odds. One thing is clear: sisterhoods (whether of market women, church women or professional groups) have been the backbone and source of energy for women's economic and social change. The very least the church can do is to make a conscious effort to promote and support women's study meetings as well as refresher courses for clergy and lay preachers on women's issues in order to enable the church to understand and to take effective steps against sexism.

To begin with, we Christians who form the visible church must boldly identify as sin the suppression of the full humanity of persons by the use of generalities that in actual practice do not apply to them. In fact, generalities often hide basic inequalities. Part of our search should be for new forms of being together. Most African churches with Western roots have thriving women's groups; although some also have mixed young people's groups, men's groups are rare. I have wondered why Christian men seem to have little need to talk to each other in organized groups. I know from my own experience that the "clients" of the church - women and children - need supportive groups to survive. I can only conclude that the men of the church do not need to "group" because they are the church: they sit on the official boards to direct the affairs of the body. The "men's group" really does exist: it is the church's decision-making body, on which women and young people must be represented so their presence in the pews will not be ignored altogether.

We must remember that we are talking about more than half the membership of the church. Talking to and hearing one another (more than just listening) will go a long way to uncovering the hurts, healing them and developing understanding of what is at stake in the feminist demand for a new and higher anthropology. We Christians who form the church will be judged by how we relate with one another as human beings, how we relate as human beings to our environment and to the Source Being.

To make a difference, joint groups of women and men might study the scriptures, guided by historical-critical methods that take into account both the circumstances of the original writers and readers/hearers as well as our own cultural, political and economic situation. By doing so, we may move to a better appreciation not only of women's issues but also of what the church should be about in Africa, with its economic quandaries, political instability, poverty, oppression and pretended innocence of sexism. Then we shall begin to build a community of interpretation, breaking our old habits of treating the Bible as an oracle used by priests and preachers who tell us "the will of God". Small mixed groups studying the Bible and the issues of our society will work to transform hard-crusted attitudes in a far more effective way than preaching, pronouncements or protests. Their very existence will demonstrate the community of women and men that is the church.

Women, it seems to me, have survived the oppressive notions of the church by looking on the brighter side. Sometimes we must laugh to keep from weeping. Other times, we can do no more than weep. Yet, women have stayed in the church against all odds. Women continue to be the clients of the church because of their unsuppressible hope that the Christian community will bring liberation from brokenness. Women continue in the church in order to appropriate the healing powers of the Christ who cared so much for community that he died for it. Living in community before God keeps alive their hope that the church will become a living community of women and men relating to one another and to their Source Being.

In August 1998, the member churches of the World Council of Churches will account to one another for what they have accomplished during the Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women. What transformations have occurred in congregations and synods to demonstrate the churches' solidarity with women? The target areas agreed upon in 1987 were church teachings about women, women and poverty, women and racism and violence against women. Will 1998 (which coincides with the jubilee of the founding of the World Council of Churches) bring a morn of song or will the night of weeping continue?


1 Zulu Sofola, unpublished lecture given to the conference of African theologians, University of Ibadan, 1979.

2 Ibid.

3 In Africa, generally, the historical-critical method of biblical scholarship has remained within the universities. Biblical models of human relationships, which fit well with the African traditional worldview, have been accepted as unchanging norms for all times and all peoples. It is not surprising, then, that anything other than a literal reading of the Bible is unacceptable.

4 Folake Solanke, address given at the religious studies conference, University of Ibadan, 1976. A selection of the papers was published in Orita, Ibadan Journal of Religious Studies, vol. 10, no. 2, 1976. This journal is a particularly rich source of information about African Traditional Religion.

5 Modupe Owanikin, "The Priesthood of Church Women in the Nigerian Context", in Mercy Amba Oduyoye & Musimbi R.A. Kanyoro, eds, The Will to Arise: Women, Tradition and the Church in Africa (Maryknoll, NY, Orbis, 1992), pp.206-220. See also papers of G.T. Ogundipe ("The Ordination of Women in the Methodist Church Nigeria") and Mercy A. Oduyoye ("And Women, Where Do They Come In?"), published in 1977 by the Methodist Church Nigeria.

6 This point was made at a religious studies conference (1976) at the University of Ibadan by J.O. Awolalu. See Orita, Journal of Religious Studies, op. cit., 1976.

7 See, for example, the Sheffield recommendations to the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches in Lima in 1982 in Constance Parvey, ed., The Community of Women and Men in the Church, Grand Rapids, MI, Eerdmans, and Geneva, WCC, 1983. For a discussion of how the World Council of Churches has "managed" the discussion of the participation of women in the church, see Marga Buhrig, Woman Invisible: A Personal Odyssey in Christian Feminism (Valley Forge, PA, Trinity Press International, 1987), and Mercy Amba Oduyoye, Who Will Roll the Stone Away? (Geneva, WCC, 1991).

8 Barthian anthropology, for example, founded on 1 Corinthians 11:3, Colossians 2:9-10, Philippians 2:6-8 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 and on the logic of the biblical creation myth is utterly irrelevant vis-a-vis the African world-view.

9 When African theologians use the term "man" in a generic sense, they use words like Nipa (in Akan), Enia or Araiye (Yoruba). All these names are generic, like humanity or humankind.

10 Parvey, op. cit., p.3.

11 Teresa Okure, unpublished papers, seminar of women theologians of Nigeria, Institute of Church and Society, Ibadan, 1981.

12 See Daisy Obi, "The Uninvolved Church", The State of Christian Theology in Nigeria 1980-81 (Ibadan, Daystar, 1985). See also Jean-Marc Ela, The African Cry (Maryknoll, NY, Orbis, 1986), and Margaret S. Larom, ed., Claiming the Promise, African Churches Speak (New York, Friendship, 1994). Particularly informative about the current more dynamic involvement of the church is Andre Karamaga, ed., Problems and Promises of Africa: The Mombasa Symposium (All Africa Council of Churches, 1991), which addresses the challenges of structural adjustment programmes and the scare of HIV/AIDS.

13 "Womanist" is a term African-American feminist theologians use. See, for example, the essays and books by Jacqueline Grant, Marcia Riggs, Emilie Townes, Delores Williams among others.

14 "Life and Work of Women in the Church", Geneva, WCC, December 1948.

Mercy Oduyoye is a Methodist theologian from Ghana who has long been active in the ecumenical movement. From 1987 to 1994 she was a deputy general secretary of the WCC. This text is taken from Daughters of Anowa: African Women and Patriarchy, copyright 1995 by the author, published by Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York 10545, and is used by permission.
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Author:Oduyoye, Mercy
Publication:The Ecumenical Review
Date:Oct 1, 1995
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