9 September 2014 - With the Church of England’s ‘facilitated discussions’ credited with creating the conditions for the acceptance of women bishops, Christian Aid has brought together emerging church leaders from four continents to highlight some of the challenges around gender inequality.
Church leaders from as far apart as Tanzania, India, Wyoming and Leicester met last week to discuss the issue, and the role the Church can play in tackling it.
Their dioceses are part of the companion links scheme, which brings together churches from across the Anglican Communion.
Led by Christian Aid’s churches resources officer Wendy Young, a day of worship and theological reflection around the Luke 8 accounts of the bleeding woman and Jairus' daughter were held at Emmanuel Church, Loughborough.
Pastor Andrew Kajembe, Area Dean of Arusha, in Tanzania’s Mt Kilimanjaro diocese, praised the ‘powerful’ nature of the discussion.
'We are coming from different continents with different cultures so it can sometimes be difficult. But we have common goals within that diversity. Ultimately we are all in the same boat,' he said.
'In Tanzania, especially the northern part, women are sometimes excluded from having property, land, access to health services and even involvement in church.
'Most of the girls, in the Masai culture, for instance, don’t go to school. When they come to that age, their parents are often happy to see their daughters get married. The parents encourage it.
'We need to teach one another about the talents that are seen in man and a woman or a girl and a boy. We have to think twice about gender and how we can promote people and know that all of us are created by God and have different talents without limitations, without barriers.'
The Reverend John Whittaker, vicar of St Mary’s , Hinckley, said: 'It’s the reality of sitting down and looking people in the eyes and hearing their stories and their experiences which helps show us that God is a God of the world and meets us where we are incarnationally.
'It’s God taking us seriously and coming to us where we are and that is brought to life by having people from four continents together.
'It made me ask what broken values do I have or understandings that are easy to hush up and hide away. How do I need to be prodded and challenged to face up to some things where maybe I need transformation in my life?'
Samuel Rajadurai, Church of South India Presbyter from the Diocese of Trichy-Tanjore in India said: 'We all believe the church will grow. But growth is a challenge in every context.
'Saying ‘these are my hurdles’ enriches everyone’s knowledge and ability to face difficulties with vision. Learning from success and failures is a great thing, helping us to grow in quantity and quality.'
Wendy Young, who is a part of Christian Aid’s Worship and Theology Collective, said the intention was that that lessons learned might shape church communities both here and abroad.
'The hope was that looking at a difficult issue such as gender from a cross-cultural perspective would provide the opportunity to challenge assumptions by being exposed to different assumptions,' she said.
'By looking at things theologically, a basis was provided for a potentially difficult conversation to happen on equal footing, by recognising that we all have something to learn from each other.
'Reflections on scripture allowed participants to identify ways in which women and girls were disadvantaged, and consider how this measured up to the message of the Bible.
'We were working with emerging leaders in the hope that this will influence the conversations they will have and the way they will shape their own church cultures in the coming years.'
For churches keen to find out more about the Companion Links Scheme and how they can be supported by Christian Aid, contact Brad Frey, Church Relations Officer, on 020 7523 2305.
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Notes to editors:
1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in around 50 countries at any one time. We act where there is great need, regardless of religion, helping people to live a full life, free from poverty. We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance in tackling the root causes of poverty as well as its effects.
2. Christian Aid’s core belief is that the world can and must be changed so that poverty is ended: this is what we stand for. Everything we do is about ending poverty and injustice: swiftly, effectively, sustainably. Our strategy document Partnership for Change explains how we set about this task.
3. Christian Aid is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance, advocacy and development. Further details at http://actalliance.org
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5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid visit http://www.christianaid.org.uk