A Reply On Women Participation in the Church


Dear all

I have
been following postings in ICON on the subject of women’s participation in the
Church. I am a student of Bible and theology. I have been so for the last three
decades. I have never seen any passage in the Bible or any statement in the
writings of our fathers that will stop us from giving equal participation to
women. I certainly was not reading the Bible or the writings of the father from
a prejudice on behalf of women. There are people who bring a statement from
Paul who said, “Let women be silent in Church” to argue their case. They say
that as if they have fulfilled all other directives from Paul and this is only
one left to be implemented. Paul was talking to a specific situation and it was
not meant to be taken as a universal law. Again Paul also has said, "there
is neither male nor female, neither Jew or Gentile before God" ( Read the
Epistle to Romans). We can see Jesus’ attitude on this when people asked him
about the question of divorce.  To answer that Jesus took the creation
story from Gen. chapter 1 and not from ch. 2 (only a biblical student will
understand the difference – sorry about that). His statement categorically
rules out any kind of sex discrimination. If we look at the kind of followers
Jesus had we can understand how much He honored the participation of women.
However He was wise enough not to include women among his twelve disciples
since He knew that in a male dominated society of His time, that will not help
spreading of His Gospel, on the contrary will only adversely affect. However, he
made them apostles to the apostles after his resurrection to tell the disciples
about his resurrection (John 20:17). The fact that Jesus did not have any woman
apostle to go to the world is no reason for us not having women in Church
general body. Let me state that once again: there is no reason ethical,
biblical, social, legal or practical to segregate women from equal
participation in the Church administration.

Coming to
the practical side of the issue; first our women themselves have to be educated
on this. I have seen women who hold very important positions in the service
sector of the Church saying “what is their problem, why do they want to be part
of the general body? These are all western ideas. Now they ask this, once they
get it, they will ask for ordination”. I have seen people addressing women as
Mrs. Mathew or Mrs Nair. I think this should be changed. Women need to be seen
as they are and not as appendix of some other person. I have seen wedding
anniversary prayer requests in H. Qurbana with names like Mrs.  and Mr.
Thomas or Mr. and Mrs. Abraham. Why can’t they mention the name of the wife
also? This happens on memorial- day of the departed too. These people have to
be educated. Ours is a democratic administrative system. It has its merits and
demerits. Our constitution was framed in 1934. Those days, at-least in our
community there was no question of equal participation. Then we were in the
court ever since and any kind of change on the constitution was looked up on
with fear of losing the battle.  So we could not take up this question.

In the
1995 judgement of the Supreme Court there was a reference to this issue. The
Hon. Court said, ‘you say that all baptized members are part of the Church but
do not give equal voting right to women, is it not a contradiction?’. But at
that stage we were not able to do anything. After the 2002 Association Meeting,
when the new Rule Committee (for the constitution amendment) was constituted, I
submitted a petition to them giving eight reasons to make necessary changes to
the constitution to include women voting right. But it was not taken up since
question of authority of H.H. Catholicos was again brought up in the court by
the Jacobites (I do not think that it could not have taken up then itself. But
when some say it is risky, people do not venture). Now that all general court
cases are over, time is ripe to take up this.

Once
again, we should remember that ours is a democratic system of government. It is
not just for the H. Synod to decide on this. The Rule Committee has to bring
this up to the Managing Committee and then it has to approve this. In both
these bodies we have only men members. We need to educate them too. That is why
I said in my posting, ‘women should keep raising their voice’. Unless there is continuous
voicing of the need people may conveniently forget it. Those who receive
Bishops, Achens and prominent members of the Church in your Churches and homes
should take up this question with them. It is sad and shameful that the wisdom
Moses had, some seventeen centuries before Christ, is still lacking in our post
modern community (Ref. Num. 27 with regard to the question of the daughters of
Zelophehad.
This is particularly in regard to the question Mr. Abraham Joshua of Baltimore
put before me). To Mr. Abraham, it is not proper on my part to say who is
against it. This has been a deep rooted injustice in our system. It can be
removed only slowly and through steady and patient handling of the matter. So
let us continue to struggle with this, not only women but also all men with a
sense of justice and equality should address this question. The Synod has
already shown its green signal (thanks to Barnabas Thirumeni who brought this
up). Concerned individuals and congregations write to the Rule Committee to
take this question up in its next sitting. Let this come in congregation
General Body Meetings. Let the Samajam committees send appeals to Church
General Body Meetings and let them be an agenda in the meetings. Let them pass
resolutions and send them to the Rule Committee. Let them continue to write
about it in all forums. This is the only way in a democratic system any change
could be brought in.

Let us be led by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit which our Lord said ‘will
lead us to all truth’(John 16:13).

Yuhanon Mor Meletius Metropolitan (Thrissur)


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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Father Theodosius
    Dec 22, 2008 @ 18:55:06

    Could we not make the same argument for children? Once they are baptized should them not be full members of the church. If they can receive all which Orthodoxy offeres and provides, why should not they have a voice when it comes times for the parish to meet and decide what to do? Just because they are six years old or 12 years old, why do we not listen to them? Jesus had the little childre brought to him. He talked with them. He taught them. He blessed them. When ever I ask if anyone has a question about what I have said, it is always a child who raises their hand. And it is alway an adult who later says that they had wondered the same thing but did not want to ask. I know that it is uncomfortable to some but all are invited to our parish meetings, and that means the children. Yes, I know that some children will only voice what they have heard from their parents, but I have seen that to be for the good. It is always interesting to watch a parent listen to their child put to words what the parent has said in private. There is no magic age when a person’s opinion has more value than another. Also, perhaps if we listen to the children when they are younger, fewer will leave the church when they are older. but all this is just this old priest’s thoughts. But I would like to hear what you think.

    Reply

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