Women and Spirituality 1

Maybe it is time for me to do a post about women and spirituality. 

 

I have been following with great interest the conversations on women and ministry over at Jesus Creed and Emerging Women.  I realized these are issues I have dealt with in my life, sometimes gaining wisdom, sometimes still struggling with issues.  I feel a bit frustrated that young women lack older women mentors who have enough freedom and guts to forge a path through these issues; a path that above all else seeks God’s way.

 

A lot of what follows is personal opinion, derived over time experiencing life as a woman who has been called by God first of all to faith, to service as a missionary and as a leader in the congregation I am a part of now.  I guess it could be developed into a paper on the subject but there are women better equipped than I am to write academic papers on this.  These are just matters that I am exploring as I live them out.  I guess you who read this get to help me think.  Or simply let me rant.

Maybe it is time for me to do a post about women and spirituality. 

 

I have been following with great interest the conversations on women and ministry over at Jesus Creed and Emerging Women.  I realized these are issues I have dealt with in my life, sometimes gaining wisdom, sometimes still struggling with issues.  I
feel a bit frustrated that young women lack older women mentors who
have enough freedom and guts to forge a path through these issues; a
path that above all else seeks God’s way.

 

A
lot of what follows is personal opinion, derived over time experiencing
life as a woman who has been called by God first of all to faith, to
service as a missionary and as a leader in the congregation I am a part
of now.  I guess it could be developed into a
paper on the subject but there are women better equipped than I am to
write academic papers on this.  These are just matters that I am exploring as I live them out.  I guess you who read this get to help me think.  Or simply let me rant.

 

The term “feminist” frightens a lot of people.  I have lived with it for a long time.  When I was a young adult in the late 60’s, it had so many negative connotations that I shied away from its use.  Now I am more apt to use the term to describe my way of looking at the world.  The term “womanist” might frighten you less.  Whatever these terms mean to you, they do not mean “anti-male” to me.  I
have a lot to thank my husband for in helping me appreciate my value as
a person, letting me come to terms with who I am and supporting me all
the way.  I think we have a pretty healthy partnership.   And he is not the only male that has helped me accept who I am.  In fact, sometimes opposition forms one faster than support.

 

My personal project for the Spiritual Direction course I am taking is Women and Spirituality.  So far, I have read The Interior Castle by Teresa of Avila, Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd, and Called To Question by Joan Chittister.  I guess it all started when I read Kathleen Fisher’s Women at the Well: Feminist Perspectives on Spiritual Direction this summer. The reading has been enlightening, frightening and encouraging.  It has taught me things about the history of women in the organization of the church.  It
has also opened my ears to the frustrations of women reacting to being
stuffed into “female” pigeonholes in the patriarchal structures that
most of our church organizations are.  In spite of much oppression, women have contributed in huge ways.  They
have had the audacity to listen to God calling them to action rather
than to the voices of those telling them “you are just a woman, you
can’t.”  So Teresa of Avila becomes a Doctor of
the Church and Sr. Joan Chittister becomes a current voice calling the
Catholic Church to question on its sexism.  Other
women – Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, Florence Nightingale, and the list
goes on back in history, have lived out exemplary lives by responding
to the call of God.  I have even known some – Vanette Thorsell and Melvina Benson who lived fully as women with a calling from God. 

 

What
I have learned so far is that women have always played a central role
in Christianity and, even before that, God used women to bring his
message to the world; Sarah, Miriam, Hannah, Ruth, Rahab, etc.  There were judges and prophets, mothers and queens.  Their stories are not always elaborated on their own but are intertwined with those of men.  Throughout history, God’s redeeming work has been worked out through the lives of women.  We just don’t often think about their roles.  All the great male heroes of the Bible had mothers, sisters, lovers that influenced their ability to hear God and respond.  Women were not the writers so their stories are not always complete, they were however present and active. 

 

Then came Jesus.  The Son of God, certainly.  Also the son of Mary. 

 

Jesus seems to have a whole new way of relating to women.  They
follow him, provide for his needs, listen and learn at his feet – a
place normally reserved in that culture for male students.  He speaks to them, heals them and cares about the injustices they are forced to endure.  And the women, of no account politically, can follow unhindered to the execution site when the men scatter.  Women often rank among the oppressed – not a bad place to be in the upside down kingdom of Jesus.

 

The early church seems to follow Jesus’ lead with women taking a significant place in the churches activities.  Again we see prophets, mothers, business women and trades people; women of influence active in the early church.

 

Presently,
as women recognise their value as persons created in the image of God,
old patriarchal structures are being questioned.  And they should be.  More and more, the secondary position of women is being seen as a result of humankind’s broken relationship with the Creator.  Is God leading us all into a healthier way of being as men and women treat each other with equality?  I
believe it makes sense to take the teachings of Jesus, the examples we
have of how he treated women and extrapolate that he came to redeem
women as well as men; to restore us all to a right relationship with
him and to healthy relationships with each other.

 

Until
we can be fully human together —until we can all come into the
wholeness of ourselves, neither men nor women will be really happy.  Men will go on being threatened, women will go on being half developed.  What kind of world is that?  I was not born to wash a man’s socks.  He was not born to make my decisions.  I want no part of such slavery, not even when you couch it in God-talk.
Joan Chittister, Called to Question (Sheed and Ward 2004), p 148

 

 

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Comments Off on Women and Spirituality 1

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0 responses to “Women and Spirituality 1

  1. There’s an interesting pair of quotes (the first I’ll use elsewhere if you don’t mind):

    “among the oppressed – not a bad place to be in the upside down kingdom of Jesus.”

    “I was not born to wash a man’s socks. He was not born to make my decisions.”

    While I hope that quote isn’t completely representative of Joan Chittister’s approach, I’d say your attitude shows considerably more Godly wisdom and attitude than hers. I’ve been having quite a few thoughts in this area too, although I’m not sure I have the energy and enthusiasm required to actually write them all up. Sometimes these days it’s just better to shrug one’s shoulders and stay schtum.

  2. SharonK

    You have a lot to tell us as women, Linea. Perhaps we can get you to lead us in a “Women and Spirituality” or a “Mentoring our Younger Women” type of workshop at Gateway and host other churches. Something for you to think on. I’d be all for it.

    Get better very soon, O Bloodshot One! Here’s mud (or a cold pack) in your eye!! Love ‘ya.

  3. Linea

    Toni

    SR Joan is a woman I have a lot of respect for. For one thing, although she calls the Catholic church to question over issues, she has stuck by her commitment to faith and to her church in spite of it not always being what she wants. She is one of those people who are solid, intelligent and sure of who she is in God’s eyes.

  4. Toni

    Linea – quotes in isolation are often fraught with mis-understanding. From both personal experience and most of what I know of leadership guidelines, if that quote were indicative of someone’s overall attitude then they would not be well suited to Christian leadership irrespective of sex. I trust therefore that this is not the case.

    Chris and I are currently engaged in a ‘leadership’ training course, spread over the next 18 months or so. This is run by Oxfordshire Community Churches, and has both men and women on it, which you may find interesting. Steve Thomas’ (the guy that heads up OCC and salt and light, Europe) take is that women can and do lead, but the biblical model is not for them to be in church government. In our churches that would mean eldership and defining/teaching instructional church theology. There does not seem a problem sharing out of their experience however.

    As always, there is plenty to think through.