Is Church Life Consistently Anti-Women?

We had an interesting discussion in the subject Triune God the other day. The topic was feminism and the Trinity, and we read Janet Martin Soskice,  “Can a Feminist Call God Father’?” We worked the issue of androcentrism in Christian discourse, especially in the traditional language of the Trinity. We ran through the reasons why ‘Father-Son’ has remained so popular, as well as considering its future prospects. Some wondered if ‘Father’ would have to be dropped before women would find equality in discipleship within the church.  It was pointed out that, whether that be true or not, correcting an androcentric bias in imagery for God will not guarantee the end of patriarchy. Consider the place of female divinities in other religions and the continuation of patriarchy in those religions. It was also pointed out that, although there is clearly a male bias in much of Christian ministry and life, it is not consistently so. Parish life has plenty of evidence of male dominance in some areas (often key areas) but the female majority of members in many parishes creates its own counter. Moreover, although androcentric language prevails in so many ways in our churches, the temper of much of church life is not typically male. Many men find our liturgy and theology alienating because it seems to exclude what they think is important, or their ways of speaking. Try and find a male priest who hasn’t been mocked by men (and women) for wearing a dress in the liturgy!

Warren Huffa

Tags: language | Trinity | women and men |

4 thoughts on “Is Church Life Consistently Anti-Women?”

  1. Its interesting how the Father-Son-Spirit formula endures so powerfully. Back in the eighties there,was lots of experimenting mother /lover/friend (McFague) creator/redeemer/sanctifier, earthmaker/painbearer/lifegiver (NZPB) . Thought/word/breath (Augustine). I’ve preferred Creator/Christ/Spirit but I cant find an ideal that both reinforces relationality as well as the essence of each member. Perhaps that means diversification is best to try to capture something we cannot ever fully capture in any case.

    1. Yes, thanks Andrew. I remember trying “Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier” but realize now the problems with it. (I’m going to post on it soon.) The discussion in class focused on what feels like the overwhelming nature of male language in Christian discourse. We also discussed the reasons why Father/Son hasn’t found an easy replacement, and given the way language mediates reality the inadequacy of only supplementing male language. The article we read by Soskice concludes with a confident prediction that the depth of the Christian symbolic world and experience means we will come up with a way forward, eventually.(Wish it would hurry up and arrive.) Warren

  2. In the Bible God is written of as “he” although feminine images are also used. In ancient times the father was regarded as the originating parent who planted the see in the woman. In modern times we know that both parents contribute to the genome of the child, so perhaps “God the parent/originator” would be appropriate. We, and probably the ancients, recognise(d) that God as a spirit has no gender. I regard gender as a biological attribute, belonging to the body. Perhaps one of the Cappadocians (Gregory of Nyssa) recognised this when he said women had weaker bodies but their souls were equal to those of men. I think, however, that we can keep the traditional way of speaking while recognising it as a metaphor and that God is neither male nor female. Note that Julian of Norwich called Christ our mother, I regard gender as a human concept used to explain the roles played in reproduction of men and women and male and female animals.

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