"For healing and transformation" : a feminist ecclesiological study on the gap between gender policy and practice in the Methodist Church of Southern Africa (MCSA)
The main premise of this study is that while gender justice is enshrined in the Constitution of South Africa and in the declared statements of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa (MCSA), in practice gender justice receives minimal attention in this church. The existing ‘gender policy’ of the MCSA, which is a mere recommendation, endorses an equitable representation of women, youth and men at every level of Church governance. Since this ‘policy’ is couched in the language of ‘recommendation’, this study argues that a gap continues to exist between policy and practice in the MCSA. Using Letty Russell’s (1993) ‘Table Fellowship’ analogy in her book Church in the Round – Feminist Interpretation of the Church, and Musimbi Kanyoro’s subsequent (1997) In Search of a Round Table: Gender Theology and Church Leadership, the discussions in this thesis focus on ‘the Table’ of the Church. The research question this study seeks to address is: Why does the MCSA continue to marginalise and exclude women, even though its mission is to be a church of healing and transformation and its gender policy is meant to prevent such marginalisation and exclusion? Hence, the objectives of this study are firstly, to demonstrate the ways in which the MCSA continues to be patriarchal in its ecclesiological practices and secondly, to analyse the reasons why the MCSA remains steeped in patriarchy. In order to respond to the research question this study utilises a feminist ecclesiological theoretical framework, which examines and analyses the MCSA’s source documents, its liturgies and its hymns. The theoretical framework is also used to consider the stories of five Methodist women from a narrative perspective. The Wesleyan Quadrilateral – Sacred Scripture, Church Tradition, Human Reason and Personal Experience – was engaged in this research, when deemed relevant. Transformative models of being church, that will enhance and enable the healing and transformation that the MCSA has declared to be its mission, are proposed in the conclusion, thus fulfilling the third objective of this study. It is here where the hope for gender-healing in the MCSA is expressed, along with a dream that this study will be ‘one more voice’ that is heard. Key Terms: African Feminist Theology; African Feminist Ecclesiology; Gender Justice; Gender Policy; Women in Ministry; Church Women’s Organisations Community; Healing and Transformation; Women’s Narratives; Feminist Leadership Principles; Ecclesiological Practices; Alternative Models of Being Church; Circle Leadership Styles; The Methodist Church of Southern Africa.