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Kamis, 09 Agustus 2012

Women Leadership in the Church: Approaching the Text using Asian Feminist Hermeneutic

I.       Introduction: Women Leadership in the Church
Discrimination against women has been occurring since a long time ago. It threats women in many aspects of life and making them experience double-suffering. They are not considered or regarded as also ‘human’ who have ability which is equal to men or to the other creatures. They always become victims, facing violence and trafficking within the society. They also cannot get an access to the better education and occupation. The later phenomenon is something which is common where they are limited to the public roles. What has been described here could be clearer when we conceive it in the frame of the Patriarchal System which has to be responsible to the discrimination cases. Throughout the history, even the history of the church such a cultural construction has been growing and bounding the community of faith.
In church, women are also seen as the second-class people. If we want to be honest, we have to say that this discrimination is supported by theology and doctrine which have been developed. It influences church’s attitudes toward women that are discriminative. In some churches, they are not allowed to be ordained as priests or ministers, but for some they are allowed but without any opportunity to be the decision makers. It means that they lack of access for leadership. By this I am going to say that they cannot easily be involved in the structure of the church as the decision makers, i.e. Bishop and the other important roles. So, we can see that the way of patriarchal thinking still bounds the church. Another thing that I found here is that such discrimination is not only caused by male in the church itself, but also by women themselves. They are not really free of the patriarchal construction. In this context, I am wondering about the causal factors are. Based on my colleague’s investigation, we can see that it is also influenced by their understanding of about leadership in the church which is only for men. It is contributed by the interpretation of the scripture, especially I Timothy 2:8-13. So, I am going to put my attention to this text in order to find what the problem of the text is, and how to make in sense in our context today through deconstruction effort. For this project, I will use the Asian hermeneutical approach proposing by Phyllis Trible who divides it into three parts; identifying cases, discerning critiques toward patriarchal, and retelling it creatively.

II.    Discrimination Against Woman in I Tim. 2:8-13
Using her approach should be begun by identifying the cases of discrimination against women in this passage. The text is begun by stating about the manner of praying that has to be taken by men, and even women.  They can pray everywhere while lifting up their holy hands without wrath and doubting, and with the same manner women should pray (v.8-9a). This two verses do not show anything about gender injustice, for women and men are allowed to bring a pray, even in the same manner. It sounds very positive for the equality in doing worship. Through this verses, the author of the letter wanted to instruct the local church at that time about what the right manner of pray really is and the “prayer” itself. Constable says that the way of praying that the author proposes here is the public praying as the Christians practiced commonly in his day (cf. 1 Kings 8:22, 54; 2 Chron. 6:13; Ezra 9:5; Ps. 28:2; 63:4; 134:2; 141:2; Lam. 2:19; 3:41; Isa. 1:15). This posture was also common in the pagan mystery religions and early Christians of the first century. Commonly they raised their palms upward and open to heaven evidently to symbolize their inner openness to God and their desire to offer praise to God and to obtain a gift from Him. So, I repetitively state that there is not any indication of discrimination in verses 1 and 2a (first line).
In the following lines of the same verse (8b) and v.9 we can see that he talks about how women can dress in local meetings (church services). He concerns on the issue of the appearance then followed by the attitude. For him, a woman who attends that meeting should dress appropriately. It should be prosperity and moderation, not braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing (v.9). He neglects such an appearance of the women in order to replace it with ‘the appropriate attitudes’. By this he is trying to distinguish appearance with attitude. I see that it will not be problematic, for I also agree that attitude is more important than our physical appearance in worship. But, it will be so when he tries to limit it only for women, as if their attitudes are not appropriate compared to men. What has been emphasized here also indicates that women concern only to something which is not important as long as the service is held. With the other words, women are really busy to think about how to be looked very well than how to do the good. Constable clearly says that the author saw that “Women like to look good, so they need to remember that good deeds are more important than good looks”. In this context, I see that it is the first indication within the text which shows that there is an unjust thinking of the author toward the women. In short, there is a case about discrimination against women in v.9. The question will be raised here, “does it mean that the men at that time were right and the women were not?” For me, it is relative to be answered depending on people themselves.
 Concerning this verses, I also think that I can say that if the author does not make any instruction dealing with the appearance of men, I can suspect that he deliberately avoids the speaking of men’s adornment in order to let the men look very good than women. So, it is also possible to say that men should be look good and be adorned with gold, pearls, and costly clothing, whereas the women are disallowed. Is not it patriarchal construction? Yes, that’s it.
The next verses (vv.10-11) strongly indicate that there is a gender injustice here. The author says that, “let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence”. It is really patriarchally constructed. These two verses explicitly emphasize two things at the same time that are about “teachings” and “leadership”. These mean that (1) they cannot stand in the public spaces to teach or to give an instruction; even they have ability for that. What is meant here should be understood in term of teaching the scriptures. For the historical community in the early century, the role or function of teaching is only limited for a male because of the assumption that he is an authoritative figure chosen by God to do so. He is also seen as a mediator between Him and His people. Here we see that a woman can only be “the subject of learning”, but not “the object of learning”. What I mean with the later term is that they can ‘learn’ but cannot ‘be learnt’. They have to learn with all ‘submission’ (Greek: Hypotage). If they are able to teach, what is the problem? The author gives an answer in vv.13 and 14 which will be seen later. (2) Someone who will be the decision maker or “leader” should not other than a man. He has an absolute right to instruct the people in the family, the church, and the society. Consequently, a woman has not an authority over a man. I can guess that the author said so in order to prepare a foundation for the church as institution. At that time, the church had been organized institutionally changed from its traditional form that was “house church”. In House Church, a woman played an important role for leading the worship, but (I just guess that) when the situation was changing and the very strong leadership was needed to the institutional one, the author then promoted the men’s leadership. From these verses, I am going to say again that no matters what the arguments are, I think it still remain unjust.
Verses 13-14 give two reasons as basis for the author’s instruction in the previous verses. He says that “For Adam was formed first, then Eve (13). And Adam was not deceived; fell into transgression (14)”. It is not just a reason, but an unjust one. He refers to the creation passage which was constructed in the patriarchal circumstances too. He then adds that woman was the trouble-maker or tempter who caused the falling in sin. About the later, he forgot that not only woman who ate the fruit of the tree, but also man. That sin was the sin of both man and woman. So, I can categorize this reason as discriminative.
If we read the last verse at glance we may think that it sounds very positive because of women are involved in God’s salvation work. It is indicated by the verb ‘be saved’ (sozo). For me, a statement in this verse includes two assumptions. Firstly, it repeats what has been stressed in previous verses about women’s domestic role. But I see that it becomes interesting because of the ‘apology tone’ he gives here. Somehow giving birth or child bearing is spiritual thing which causes blessings. So, all women should be prior to this kind of role, for it is important than many others things, including “teaching” and “leadership”. Secondly, this statement about women also discriminates the other women. How about the women who cannot bear children? Will they be saved also? The text answers, No! In this case, there are double-discriminations against these people. So, I can conclude that there are three aspects of discrimination; appearance, teaching and leadership. I will concern on issue about leadership.

III. Some Critiques to the Patriarchal System in the passage
Here I am going to discern some critiques to the patriarchal system, starting by trying to answer the question, “is there any critic of it here?”. In analyzing the text, I did not find anything about the critique made by the author toward the unjust system within the community. He sounds quite positive when begins his words in the earlier verse (v.8), but it is not the critique! So, I will quote some others texts as the counter-points to what have been stated in this chapter.
It is common to say that men’s leadership is proposed by the author. As I said before, it might be the manner for strengthening institutional church at that time. Hyunju Bae says that in the period of the New Testament women had an important role to be played; even the dominant culture was patriarchal. The world where the Roman Empire and Early Christianity existed together gave opportunity to involve them in public spaces with so many roles they had. For instance, in the class structure of Roman Empire which consists of (1) royal family (Aristocracy), (2) merchants soldiers, civil servants, traders, and other entrepreneurs, and (3) slaves, former slaves, urban working people, rural farmers, and laborers (non-citizens). Women involvement was in all the sections, for they had a variety of places in it. Whereas in early Christianity, we can also find references which show that they were involved in its development. Bae also mentions Mary Magdalene, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna (Lk. 8:1-3), Mary the Mother of Mark (Acts. 12:12), and Lydia who was a woman merchant or trader (Acts. 16:14). Some of them were financial supporters for Jesus’ movement. The other woman is Nympha who held the church in her house (Col. 4:15). Ramon Jusino in talking about the authorship of the Fourth Gospel indicates that Mary Magdalene, for example, was the very famous and important figure at that time. She was the founder and leader of the Johannine community who saw the life and works of historical Jesus. No matter whether appropriate or not, he has shown how woman played a public role. What I mean here is that the others parts of scripture which are about women’s participation can be the counter-points to such discrimination in this I Timothy 2:8-13.
In v.12, a woman are disallowed to teach or to give instruction. But in other text with the same author, we can see that he talks about this talent which possess not only to man, but also woman. In I Cor. 12:7, everyone has their own talent; there is talent to heal (v.10) and even to speak wisely. In this context, perhaps we can say that woman can also teach and having authority to be learnt and to instruct men, not only in secular institution, but also in the church. Paul says that both man and woman have ability for that given directly by God, their Creator. Nowadays, we find that they are more able to learn and to teach about what they have been learnt, they dominate the educational institutions as teachers and lecturers.
The author grounds his instructions on the idea that God created woman later after man, “Adam was formed first, then Eve” (v.13). In another passage, Paul also states that woman came from man, and man comes from woman (I Cor. 11:12). This correction is made by him immediately to posit the problems altogether. He wanted to complement the idea of woman being second in the order of creation (Gen. 2) with the idea of man being second in the order of birth. Bae adds that by doing this the historical Paul attempted to lay bare a more fundamental theological principle of God as the ultimate author of all life. He emphasizes that human being comes from God. The implication of his idea is that woman and man are equal in their existences before God, so none powers over the other. In short, there should not be “inferior” or “superior” based on the chronological time of creation, for God is the first of every created thing.
In verse 14 he says that woman is source of sin, they tempted the man and then falling in sin. I can understand that he wants to implicitly state that man was holy and made no mistakes, but woman did. For this idea, I will argue that (1) sin is not about who causes it, but who wants to do so. The serpent came to both man and woman and offered possibility to eat it. Woman then took an initiative but man finally also ate it together with her. So, it was their mistake, not only woman. (2) In Rm. 3:9-20 Paul talks so much about sin. For him, everyone is sinner because none is right before God (10). If the idea of sin in Timothy is based on Genesis which tends to mean that that man was holy, we could use this argument to counter it and stating that everybody are potential to do mistake.
I actually want to discuss it more here, but I am limited for two until three pages of paper. But what I am saying here means that the argument which Paul gave for limiting woman’s role is unreasonable. Women have ability to sit together with men in the same table and to think about what the problems are and then how to solve it with men as their partners. So, the first thing that should be done is liberating our church’s mindset about women’s leadership while criticizing patriarchal construction preserved in it. Women should be empowered to be ready for empowering the other.

IV. A Letter to the Leaders of the the Churches in the World

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

 I thank God for the communion created by God as churches in the world, the God’s. I appreciate your leadership very much, for it should be so. If you give me a chance to ask for something, I will ask you for acting like a mother who cares their children very much. Your other children and I need your attention and a warm hug. We miss the motherhood figure that cares about us, and hopefully you can be so. But…, if it is allowed I may want more than it! “…PLEASE GIVE A SEAT TO WOMAN FOR SITTING NEXT TO YOU…”; to embrace and to care about us! They have also ability for that, for God has created them and filled them with the same talents He put on you. They should not be women only in the margin lines or to be led by you. They are not only people who bear a child of man, but who bear the children of God.
It is the time for stopping the patriarchal construction in the body of Christ. They are under discrimination now; discriminated because of they are women, and not men. They are inferior, and the men being superior. I am so sorry for this… I hope that the church became realize that in God we can find “Equality”.
Through this, I just want to invite you to empower women by giving them a chance to stand as you stand and sit as you sit. I do believe that they will be the great leaders whose emotional and intellectual capabilities.

Thank you, God Bless.

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