Indian women theologians seek new ways of being Church

May 19, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Bangalore, May 12, 2016: As Indian feminist theologians committed to a Church in which all, female, male and transpersons, are one in Jesus Christ, 15 women from different parts of the country gathered at Montfort Spirituality Centre, Bangalore from April 24-26, 2016, to reflect on the theme: “Liberating Christ” in the Indian Context: A Feminist Theological Search.

Our deliberations began by defining theology as an articulation of our knowledge of God in the daily business of living, thereby moving the discourse from text to context and the texture of life. Taking our life stories as the locus of our theologizing, we looked into our experiences of Christ at the different stages of our lives. Our shared transitions from a cultic to a liberating experience of Christ helped us to discover Christ outside the box of traditional Christology, as a God who stands with us in our human struggles, who is at home and incarnated in the lives of the marginalized and who is experienced as the Cosmic Christ, beyond religions and even anthropocentric Christian categories.

From the personal, we moved to encounter Jesus in the pain-filled and sometimes hopeless stories that are so much a part of the fabric of India. We recognized him in the crucifixion of our Dalit sisters and brothers who courageously struggle to climb out of the abyss of caste, people like Rohith Vemula and his mother Radhika, and the countless couples that dare to cross caste and sub-caste boundaries only to be sacrificed in honor killings. Using powerful art forms and images that enabled new depths of understanding we watched Jesus suffer as women’s bodies were broken and their blood was shed in the struggle for survival and in the domestic violence, deprivation and neglect that were their lot.

We critiqued however, the traditional use of Jesus as the “suffering servant of Yahweh” to glorify suffering. Instead, we affirm him as a person of conviction, making a choice for justice and Truth that involved challenging the religious authorities of his times and initiating a counter culture. Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion were a consequence of this choice. This Jesus stands as an inspiration to women who have been taught to “suffer in silence”, and urges them to demolish the social, political and religious structures of their oppression. In the triumph of their rising above their crushing circumstances, we witness the power of the resurrection.

As feminist theologians, we find that our answers to Jesus’ crucial question “Who do you say that I am?” are colored by our experiences of exclusion from ordained ministry and leadership in the Church. We recognize that the image of ‘Jesus the male savior’ has been used as a powerful patriarchal tool to privilege men over women in the Church. The maleness of Jesus has been assumed to reveal the maleness of God (Jn 14:9); it has been presented as the norm for what it means to be human; and its historical reality has been appropriated and presented as a theomorphic and Christomorphic identity, one beyond the reach of women. Consequently, since women can never bear a “natural resemblance” to Christ, they must remain in perpetual subjugation to a patriarchal clerical hierarchy.

Using a feminist lens we sought to liberate Christ from this prison of patriarchal ideology. We understand Jesus’ “human flesh” as including all genders. Looking to the gospels we experience him as a compassionate mother and healer, but also as a liberator and revolutionary who prophetically led a movement for religious, social and spiritual change. We learn from his egalitarian attitude that gave every woman, no matter her background, the respect due to a human person. Jesus’ refusal to treat women as sex objects or shun them as insignificant is a serious challenge to the hierarchy in the Church. His theological discourses with women – as he offered them living water, a place to learn at his feet, insights into the resurrection and finally the honor of being the first to proclaim “He has arisen”- in turn liberates us from patriarchal shackles and affirms our personhood.

Jesus’ politics of the Reign of God that made him break the traditional barriers upheld by the Jews and include in his “kin-dom” children and women; publicans, prostitutes and sinners; the sick and the maimed; and the cultically impure, provokes us to consider new ways of being Church.

As Indian feminist theologians we therefore envisage the Church as…

  • a ‘discipleship of equals’, non-hierarchical and participatory, with women being co-responsible in decision making and the services in the church;
  • a community that is open to all irrespective of class, caste, creed, gender or sexual orientation;
  • a body incarnated in the lives of the poor and the marginalized;
  • a people in dialogue with religious and cultural pluralism, “revered” tradition, and the ‘signs of the times’;
  • a member of the wider human family, networking with people of good will for the common good, and intervening prophetically to address violence and injustice;
  • an ecological blessing committed to protecting and sustaining creation; and
  • a sign of peace and harmony promoting the communion of all faiths.

These new ways of being Church entail rediscovering and translating to our present times the egalitarian vision of the Jesus movement that says no to all forces of domination, and promotes inclusive, liberative and welcoming spaces for all.

– matters india

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One Response to “Indian women theologians seek new ways of being Church”
  1. shashi minz says:

    dear sisters in christ , you nuns are doing great work in the farflung reaches of india esp koraput bolangir and khandmal jungles and village homes without being recognised, for your labour and your sacrifice . i admire the spread of the message of love to the dalit women of varanasi who received instructions about sexuality and the love of god from my elder sister rev sr thomas queen of apostles and the credit went to the bishop of varanasi . well the heirarchy has to be maintained and so is the spirit of obedience taken as a vow by somany of our youngsters today . wish and pray the word of god taught to them esp munni whom i met as a domestic servant married to a carpenter in the homes of delhi relating the basics she has learnt about jesus which has encouraged her to share the scriptures through the psalms with the people living in the chawls in and around her .i remember talking to a group of domestics in delhi during the feast of sarhul , you ar the light of the world , do not allow yourself to be exploited sexually emotionally anritually by any man . economic deprivation alone is the source our salvation . bringinging the scriptures alive to the homes in which the women work as domestics is the only reason why they are planted in a hindu household . gods plans to use the women of chotanagpur ,chattisgarh and odisha to enrich homes with the word of god has been his plan and this agenda is long seen by the keralite and the manglorean nuns and priests working in the tribal belt . instead of coaching up children who become drop outs from schools in maths and english they are sent to grihni schools allover the tribal belt to educate them in looking after the homes of the rich . well the exploutation of the weak and economically disabled people has to first stop from within the church and only then can we expect the word of god to reach every household to share the peace and joy of the risen lord which is the reason why we exist .the reason we live is to share the love peace joy and mercy of the living god in all spheres of our lives . imagine akl our village homes in jharkhand and chattisgarh and odisha is being vacated because of this phenomena .mass migration of the young girls who are school or college drop outs to the metros where they can earn a living to sustain their families while the men folkjs in their homes are vbusy pretending to work in the feilds and looking after their cattle and aged parents and are found half drunk iin the laurels of the earnings of the girl child sent from home . while kerala does not enjoy this reputaion why do these regions so called most backward regions of india have such a miserable reputation . what have allthe girls passing out of ursulines the st annes and the sacred heart dissapear ?it is a cryong shame to find our priests and nuns of the oraon munda and kharia origingins being relegated to the kitchen garden while the rest are sent to climes abroad to specialise in theology and philosohy and psychology to further the game of exploitation . what and how are we going to answer our lord when he comes back in our midst and sits on the judgement seat . can we have aliitle mercy on our selvees and introspect dear fellow believers in the ressurected christ .glory halleluia .

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