The Anglican Church and Feminism: Challenging the patriarchy of our faith
Pillay, Miranda N.
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Gender-based violence is a problem in most Southern African countries and yet it has generally received little attention from governments and civil society—including Christian churches. In recent years, some churches have been responding by making public pronouncements when, for example, gender-based violence resulted in acts of brutal murder. This was the case in February 2013, when the seventeen-year-old Anene Booysen was gang-raped and left for dead. For example, the Anglican Church issued public statements and called on its members to act against gender-based violence. Arguments made in this essay are underpinned by the view that gender-based violence has its roots in patriarchy and, that patriarchal privilege (embedded in male headship) gives men power over women. The essay describes how prominent leaders of the Anglican Church make public statements when and where it matters. The call “to repent of the historic patriarchy of our faith” was one such statement made by the then archbishop during the church’s synod in 2005. Other Anglican archbishops have also made public that feminist insights have raised awareness about the injustices of sexism maintained by culture and the church. Thus, based on the observation that Christianity and feminism share certain concerns for just relationships, the argument made here is that the (Anglican) church could be more intentional about employing feminist insights in challenging “the historic patriarchy of our faith.” The essay identifies the reasons usually given for dismissing feminist insights and suggests that such reasons could serve as entry-points in the church’s response to gender power-relations in general and gender-based violence in particular.