The issue of women leadership in churches and society is being raised as the world marks the international Women’s Day on March 8.
The World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) is calling on all churches to recognize the significant role of women in church and society. Traditionally, the social status of women is lower than that of men in most cultural settings, whether it is in the West or in the East. The inequality have been improved considerably following decades of hard work, women are now able to gain better position in workplace, politics, social welfare and church, yet in Middle East or other developing countries, women are still being discriminated.
Patricia Sheerattan-Bisnauth, executive secretary of WARC’s office for Church Renewal, Justice and Partnership, noted that International Women’s Day is both a time to celebrate the gains made by women and audit any setbacks while drawing attention to the need for gender awareness, struggling for just relationships and enacting policies that support the equality of women, according to a press statement.
"In spite of all the advancements made, women’s rights have not been guaranteed to the optimum level. The fact remains that the majority of the poorest people in the world are women," Sheerattan-Bisnauth said.
Sheerattan-Bisnauth cited some typical examples of injustice prevailing in some parts of the world, such as receiving lower average paid than men for the same work and violent crimes against women. She noted that rape and domestic violence have been actually rising in the last decade.
In terms of women’s role in churches, Sheerattan-Bisnauth commented that more work could be done, "The church is still slow in recognizing the urgent call for women’s equal partnership with men in all areas of ministry and witness."
"Since the early days of the Alliance, women have been playing a significant role in claiming their rightful place in the church, breaking the chains of gender injustices and building partnerships between women and men," she continued.
“We must not rest on our laurels. We must celebrate with an eye on the continuing struggle for justice,” Sheerattan-Bisnauth concluded.
WARC’s general secretary, Setri Nyomi, echoed, "We celebrate International Women’s Day 2006 with a call to the church family and society at large to never let up in pursuing justice for women. Until we have that, we will never have true justice."
For the Anglican Church worldwide, since the first women priest was appointed in England over a decade ago, some groups within the Church has pushed forward the ordination of women bishop. However, the proposal has outraged the conservatives and no decision has been made so far.
Compared to the United States, the voice of opposition against women bishops in Hong Kong and Mainland China is surprisingly less strong. This maybe explained by the shorter history of Christianity in the Asian Chinese community, and the concept of "men-only leadership" is less influential.