The Anglican Church in New Zealand ordained its first 5 woman priests in 1977. Other Anglican provinces around the world set the tone for us, and others have followed us since. Excitingly, we remain committed to seeking equality for woman and men, and recently started a review of gender representation following a motion to review gender balance passed by General Synod/Te Hīnota Whānui in May. We have a female Bishop in Christchurch, numerous female vicars, and in our very own diocese an incredible female dean at the Cathedral – Dean Jo Kelly-Moore. Things are not perfect, and gender equality is an ongoing issue in the Anglican Church today; however as Anglicans we are on that journey, we have been on it for a while, and are continuing to grow, morph, and heal as we follow the Risen Christ.
Nonetheless, in many areas around the world, Anglican churches continue to only ordain men, and multiple denominations of church in New Zealand are yet to have an official position endorsing the work of women in ministry.
Gender inequalities are also prevalent in society. They vary in their scope, effect, impact and severity. They can range from covert sexist jokes or remarks, to the belief that people wearing very little are “asking for it.”
There are issues that affect men harshly too, but often these are the result of patriarchal remnants which history has handed down. For example the masculine image of the stoic, stable man has made the topic of emotions taboo for guys…and it’s had a tragic effect on our mental health to the point men are more likely to die from suicide than women. However, by and large, women bear the brunt of gender inequality in New Zealand when it comes to leadership roles, pay packets, housework, abuse, and suppression.
These are the realities within churches and in spheres of society in Aotearoa. Within the dysfunctional Body of Christ, there will be many untold stories inside us, paining and straining to come out which we have been paining and straining to hold in.
There will be those of us who are told that it’s unfortunate they are good preachers because they are a woman and woman aren’t allowed to. Those of us who are not respected in our roles on vestry because the men on the team are trusted more. Those of us who are called bossy for being assertive. Those of us who are abused in marriages because their husband has told them to submit. Those who are overlooked for jobs, talked over, looked past, walked around, walked over, and dehumanised because of their gender. And I am not one of those people because I am a man. I have never experienced such problems based on my gender. But I know woman who have. And that makes this issue an important issue for us to discuss as young adults.
Regularly I have conversations with people, both in and outside the church, asking me “Is Jesus a feminist?”, “Does Scripture support gender equality?”, “Is gender equality even an issue for us in Church and society in 2016?”, “Why did/does the church subjugate woman?”, “What about that verse in…”, and “Wasn’t Eve just a rib of Adam’s anyway?” But I find myself unsure how to best articulate what I think in response to these questions, and I’m sure you are similar to me. Our church, the Anglican Church, has had lengthy discussions on the matter, but they took place in the 70s so most of us now are probably for gender equality, but most of us now also probably don’t know how to say why.
So with many people still committed to opposing opinions on the matter, with many issues of inequality still prevalent in church and society, and with many of us still unsure how best to tell people what Scripture has to say to this, I would like to invite you to join us on the 27th of July at 7:30pm, Crave Café, for a round-table discussion on gender equality in Church and society in Aotearoa.
Come and hear from New Testament Scholar, Rev. Dr Sarah Harris, explain how Scripture supports equality. Come and hear what you can do to be part of the solution. Come, share, talk, discover, listen, and explore with us what it means to follow our homeless rabbi, King, and friend, Jesus on the topic of gender equality.
For more details, and to stay updated, click attending on our FB event.
Jeremy Harris is a student, youth leader, the Grace Collective Co-ordinator and all round badass. He is passionate about connecting young adults and talking over the hard stuff – topics that the church sometimes tried to avoid. You can get a hold of Jeremy at JHarris@auckanglican.org.nz.