Church and Culture? : exploring the reception of women’s ministries in the Reformed Church in Zambia in view of 1 Corinthians 14:26-40

Phiri, Jackson (2017-03)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2017.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The Reformed Church in Zambia (RCZ) was established in 1899 through the missionary work of the Dutch Reformed Church of the Orange Free State in South Africa. After its establishment, the church maintained its ministries through the leadership of male deacons, elders and ministers/reverends who served in all the (official) ministries of the church. This was mainly because of how the Bible was understood and interpreted (literally). In the process, the socio-cultural context of the Bible was mostly disregarded. One example of such a one-sided history of interpretation in the RCZ is that of 1 Corinthians 14:26-40, according to which women were not allowed to take up leadership roles in the church. However, things changed when the Synod of the RCZ took a decision (during its 1989, 1998 and 2000 synod meetings) to allow women into all the ministries of the church – as deaconesses, elders and reverends. This went along with serious challenges to understanding the Bible in new ways. A major implication was that biblical texts were now to be read from different perspectives, which included taking into account the socio-cultural world behind these texts. This inevitably led to questions regarding the authority of the Bible. This research explores the RCZ general membership‘s reception of the Synod‘s decision, in view of the members‘ understanding of 1 Corinthians 14:26-40. Through a multidimensional analysis of the text, the study argues that the ban on women speaking in church in 14:34 has to be understood primarily within the Greco-Roman socio-cultural and political contexts as well as the value systems of the first-century Mediterranean world. It concludes by saying that Paul was addressing a context-specific issue in the Corinthian faith community which prevailed at the time, and that it was not meant to serve as a general ban on all subsequent generations of women in every time and place. The challenge of interpreting the Bible (specifically with regard to women‘s leadership in the RCZ) is, however, not only about reading the Bible in context, but also about accounting for the contexts within which the Bible has been and is still being received. In the case of the RCZ, the challenge concerns how (patriarchal) indigenous cultural traditions and values have been upheld for a long time, thereby oppressing and marginalising women as baptised members of the church, created equally and affirmed by God. While the RCZ is challenged to appreciate these traditions and values, it is called to bring its entire life, including its culture, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. In this way, cultural traditions and values are profoundly challenged to be liberated, healed and transformed by Christ, and should not be allowed to dictate or dominate the ethos of a Christian community. In the end, the study challenges the RCZ to account for, and take responsibility for, their interpretation of this text when appropriating it in today‘s context. In the final analysis, it seems that 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 may be seen as a text of terror unless one applies a multidimensional exegetical reading to it and identifies the aspects that are socio-culturally defined. Once these aspects have been identified, this text can be read as a text that radically calls Christian believers, men and women, to the unity of the body of Christ while recognising that they are equally gifted and empowered to carry out all the ministries of the church – for the purpose of its edification, strengthening and growth as the ekklēsia of God in the world.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die Reformed Church in Zambia (RCZ) is in 1899 deur sendelinge van die Nederduits-Gereformeerde Kerk in die Oranje Vrystaat in Suid-Afrika begin. Sedert die ontstaan van die RCZ is al die (amptelike) bedieninge van dié kerk deur die leierskap van manlike diakens, ouderlinge en predikante in stand gehou. Hierdie praktyk het hoofsaaklik ontwikkel op grond van 'n letterlike verstaan van die Bybel met betrekking tot die posisie van vroue. Die sosio-kulturele konteks van die Bybel is tydens die interpretasie-geskiedenis daarvan meestal buite rekening gelaat. Een voorbeeld van so 'n eensydige verstaan is 1 Korintiërs 14:26-40, waarvolgens sommige gemeen het vroue nie toegelaat is om leiersrolle in die kerk te beklee nie. Vir die Sinode van die RCZ het hierdie praktyk egter verander toe 'n besluit (tydens sinodale vergaderings in 1989, 1998 en 2000) geneem is om vroue tot alle bedieninge van die kerk toe te laat – as diakens, ouderlinge én predikante. Hierdie besluit het gepaard gegaan met die enorme uitdaging om die Bybel op nuwe maniere te verstaan. 'n Belangrike implikasie was dat die Bybel nou uit ánder perspektiewe gelees moes word, wat onder andere beteken het dat die sosio-kulturele wêreld agter die tekste in ag geneem moes word. Dit het onvermydelik tot vrae oor die gesag van die Bybel gelei. Hierdie studie verken die ontvangs (resepsie) van bogenoemde besluit van die RCZ-Sinode deur lidmate van die RCZ, in die lig van hulle verstaan van 1 Korintiërs 14:26-40. Deur middel van 'n meerdimensionele benadering word geargumenteer dat dié teks primêr binne die Grieks-Romeinse sosio-kulturele en politieke konteks en waarde-sisteme van die eerste-eeuse Mediterreense wêreld verstaan behoort te word. Dat vroue nie toegelaat is om in die openbare vergadering van die gelowiges in Korinte te praat nie, moet eerstens binne hierdie konteks verstaan word. Die proefskrif kom tot die slotsom dat Paulus hier 'n konteks-spesifieke saak in die geloofsgemeenskap van Korinte aanspreek wat ten tye aandag gevra het, en dat dit nie bedoel was om as 'n algemene verbod op die deelname van vroue in alle plekke en tye sedertdien te geld nie. Die uitdaging om die Bybel (spesifiek met betrekking tot vroue-leierskap in die RCZ) te verstaan, gaan egter nie slegs daaroor om die Bybel in konteks te lees nie, maar óók om die kontekste waarin dit verstaan is, en steeds verstaan word, te verreken. In die geval van die RCZ, gaan dit veral oor hoe (patriargale) tradisies en waardes van die inheemse kultuur oor 'n lang tyd gehandhaaf is, en oor hoe vroue wat as lidmate van die kerk gedoop en deur God as gelykwaardig geskep en bevestig is, daardeur onderdruk en gemarginaliseer is. Terwyl die RCZ enersyds uitgedaag word om hierdie tradisies en waardes te waardeer, word die kerk andersyds geroep om haar totale lewe – kultuur ingesluit – onder die heerskappy van Jesus Christus te stel. Op hierdie manier word kulturele tradisies en waardes fundamenteel uitgedaag om deur Christus bevry, heelgemaak en verander te word, en behoort dit nie toegelaat te word om die etos van 'n Christen-gemeenskap voor te skryf of te oorheers nie. Uiteindelik nooi en daag die studie die RCZ uit om verantwoording te doen van, en verantwoordelikheid te neem vir, hulle verstaan van hierdie teks wanneer dit as riglyn vir vandag se konteks gebruik word. In die finale instansie moet 1 Korintiërs 14:26-40 gelees word as 'n teks wat Christengelowiges – mans sowel as vroue – radikaal oproep tot die eenheid van die liggaam van Christus terwyl hulle erken dat álmal op 'n gelykwaardige manier toegerus en bekragtig word met die oog op ál die bedieninge van die kerk– met die doel om die kerk as ekklēsia van God in die wêreld op te bou, te versterk, en te laat groei.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/101336
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