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A feminist crituqe [sic] of pastoral counselling : transforming pastoral counselling into a liberative practice and an agent of social transformation.

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Feminist critique has become a central feature in most academic disciplines and has contributed to the radical transformation of these disciplines. As a critical tool, located within the feminist movement, feminist critique has forged its own identity that is linked to a number of fundamental principles that have become its trademark. All these principles cluster around the central goal of feminism that is its commitment to the universal liberation of all women and the creation of a society free from all forms of oppression. Feminists differ in their analysis of the causes of women's oppression and the means to end such oppression. These differences however do not interfere with the central commitment of the movement. The universal feminist movement is also diverse and may in some cases appear as separate movements with no connection, but on closer examination these movements are all linked to the fundamental goal of feminism. Theology is one of the disciplines that has been transformed by feminist theologians. It boasts of scholars from every continent which bring in dynamism within theology. There is a proliferation of material from feminist scholars covering just about every aspect of Biblical studies, ethics and systematic theology. There is also a great diversity among feminist theologians which provides a critical edge to the discipline. Unfortunately, this tremendous growth in feminist theology has not translated itself into the practical fields of theology such as Pastoral Counselling, Christian Education, Pastoral Care, Homiletics etc. All these fields represent applied theology i.e. the areas where theological systems and doctrines are applied in real life situations. Ideally there should be constant interactions between these two divisions of theology i.e. the theoretical and practical studies in order to critically monitor the effects of theology in practical situations. Unfortunately, there seems to be a gap between them and this is evidenced by the lack of integration of feminist principles into these practical fields. Pastoral counselling is the focus of this dissertation and has as yet to benefit from the input of feminist theologians. Probably it is taken for granted that when theology changes so should its practice, that the transformation of theology automatically results in the transformation of its applied disciplines. This is an unrealistic expectation because these disciplines have developed into separate fields and to move from one field to another requires commitment and effort - it will not just happen! The lack of feminist input into Pastoral Counselling has been unfortunate because the knowledge base on which pastoral counselling is based on has remained unchallenged and worse still has failed to keep up with the changes that are taking place in society especially with regards to the changing roles of women. The result has been a gap between Pastoral Counselling and progressive sectors of society which are promoting the equality of women. This should not be the case because there are valuable resources from feminist theology that could equip pastoral counsellors with the knowledge required to deal with these issues. This is indeed unfortunate because not only is pastoral counselling out of step with feminist issues in society but has been found lacking in the development of appropriate counselling specifically geared to meet the needs of women especially the growing number who are victims of violence. Violence against women has become a world-wide "epidemic" which requires a response from the church. Since it is through pastoral counselling that victims of violence, encounter the "church", how the church responds to them through counselling is evidence of whether pastoral counselling is a liberative tool and an agent of social transformation.


Thesis (M.Th.)-University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 1999.


Feminism--Religious aspects--Christianity., Theses--Theology., Pastoral counselling--Africa., Feminist theology., Womanist theology., Women--Pastoral counselling of., Church work with women.