LWF European Gatherings Call for Renewed Commitment to Gender Justice
GENEVA, 7 June 2011 (LWI) – Lutheran women from across Europe have expressed the need to recognize and acknowledge women’s contribution to the 16th century church reform movement, particularly as preparations get underway to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in 2017.
A meeting of Lutheran coordinators of women’s ministries from Central Eastern Europe at Kovačica, Serbia was challenged to create a vision of right relationships between women and men in church and society.
In Hamburg, Germany, women church activists from Lutheran churches in Central Western Europe were urged to increase their knowledge of women who were active during the Reformation era and to broadcast their findings.
Jesus represented a breakthrough in the patriarchal order and a revolution in relationships between women and men, theologian Daniela Horínková of Bratislava, Slovak Republic, said in her keynote address to the Central Eastern European regional meeting of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Women in Church and Society (WICAS) desk in April.
“The righteous balancing between the responsibility of man and woman in church has always been a consequence of the faithfulness to the gospel in all levels of life. It is a permanent and general calling to unity between the male and female parts of the church and the world,” Horínková said.
“This calling is based on faith, mutual love and commands, such as Paul’s: ‘In humility, regard others as better than yourselves (Phil. 2:3).’”
In her address, “Theology from the Gender Perspective in a Protestant Country,” Horínková said that while Christians may call God, ‘Creator, Lord and Father,’ God is not man. She added that the growth of the mariological cult in both Roman Catholicism and in Orthodox churches testifies to a lack of female images for God.
Participants from Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Serbia and the Slovak Republic exchanged viewpoints and renewed their commitment to women’s ministry in their churches and to networking throughout the region.
Lena Bondarenko of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia and Other States (ELCROS) said the meeting was important in helping Russian church members better understand the wider European context for Lutheran women.
“It is particularly important to strengthen the women’s ministry network,” she said. “The church of European Russia will try to be one of the pivots of women’s ministry in Russia, since it has always actively participated in it through Bible seminars for women, by implementing the World Day of Prayer in Lutheran congregations and in the ecumenical milieu, by consulting the au pair workers from Russia and [by] organizing different forums.”
There were many common problems in Central Eastern Europe, remarked the ELCROS representative, including loss of the older generation, a complicated attitude to women’s ordination in some churches and difficult relations between Lutheran churches.
Bozena Vincetic of Croatia said she expected the WICAS regional meeting to lead to an intensification of her church’s engagement with women’s work.
At the WICAS gathering in Hamburg in May, Dr Cornelia Schlarb of the Association of Protestant Female Theologians of Germany said Lutheran schools had long taught a male-oriented version of the history of the Reformation.
“Always the Reformation, the church-state relations and conflicts occurred as concerted actions of men only: the reformers, counterparts, humanist scholars, territorial rulers, council men in the cities, book printers or artists. Although in the Reformation time—like today—half of humankind were women,” Schlarb noted.
She said that during the Reformation decade (2008-2017) Lutheran churches should give church buildings and institutions the names of important women who were active in the Reformation, and they should found trusts and institute prizes under the names of important women who have contributed to Lutheran churches.
“During the Reformation Decade we have the chance to increase the public awareness about women of the Reformation on a European and worldwide scale,” Schlarb concluded. (653 words)