SOR Roundtable discusses gender and authority in scripture and tradition

SOR Roundtable discusses gender and authority in scripture and tradition

From left to right: Mark Proctor, Jared Wielfaert, Rickie Moore, Skip Jenkins and Daniela Augustine lead discussion (Photo courtesy of Brandon Schoeneweis)

Students, alumni and faculty attended the SOR theology forum on Oct. 9 at 6 p.m. in the Jones Lecture Hall.

The panelists included Rickie Moore, associate dean of the School of Religion and professor of Old Testament, Skip Jenkins, associate professor of historical theology, Mark Proctor, assistant professor of New Testament, and Jared Wielfaert, lecturer in humanities.

The forum was hosted by Daniela Augustine, assistant professor of theological ethics.

Augustine began the discussion of the student-chosen topic of gender and authority in scripture by briefing how the fall of humanity'the curse of sin'was the beginning of the patriarchy.

'One of the aspects of the curse is that the woman [will] not only bear her offspring in pain, but will be subordinated to her husband, according to Genesis 3:16," Augustine said.

Moore continued the discussion by quoting Genesis 1:26-27, a verse that describes how God created humanity in His image, giving them dominion over the creatures of the earth.

'What God bestows here is given to both the female and the male," Moore said.'Woman is not made in the image of man, but in the image of God, just like the man and together with the man.'

Moore went on to explain the difference in what God originally intended for humanity and how it was changed by the fall into sin that took place in Genesis 3.

'The domination of man over woman is not God's original creation'it is man's perversion of creation," Moore said.

Proctor then picked up the discussion and presented it through the lens of the New Testament, more specifically, discussing the women in the gospel of Luke. He stated how this was a time in history that was very much a 'male dominated society' and then shared quotes from Aristotle and a Jewish Rabbi of this time that emphasized this idea.

As Proctor expanded on the role that women play in the gospel of Luke, he stated that even though the image of women is transformed in this gospel in comparison to previous ones, they are still largely underrepresented in the literature.

"The amount of ink in Luke's gospel that is spilt on men, still exceeds the amount of ink that is spilled on women," Proctor said.

Utilizing his expertise in historical theology, Jenkins discussed the way in which scholars have talked about the Early Church in order to suggest that women had authority and a place in it.

He began by exploring how women in the Greco-Roman world lead or had some variation of authority within their household. Because this was the culture that Christian women of this time period hailed from, he explained that it would then stand to reason that Christian women in this time who hosted house-churches were essentially leading them and had influence over those who came into their home.

Wielfaert spoke with a focus on the Western Church in the Middle Ages. He said that even though women were not allowed to have formal positions in the offices of the church, in the latter portion of this time period, they were allowed to serve as spiritual advisers, managers and administrators.

'It was generally granted that women were specialists, getting static religious experience in visions and prophecies,' Wielfaert said.

Wielfaert wrapped up the panel by giving the vivid example of a charismatic and authoritative woman, Hildegard von Bingen, who helped pave the way for women to teach in the Church.

The forum was completed by opening the floor to its audience for questions.

Upon being asked what he thought of the discussion, junior student, Austin Kamenicky was pleased with the overall experience.

"I was really excited about it and I'm happy we're going to expand on the subject," Kamenicky said.

Kamenicky was one of the students who voted for this discussion topic last year.

A former Lee theology graduate student, Casey Cole, felt similarly.

'[This subject] is proper for discussion at a place like Lee because it is preparing and empowering both male and female students for future generations of female leadership," Cole said.

Continuing the enthusiasm, Caroline Redick, theological ethics graduate student, explained that she had high hopes for what these kinds of theological discussions could generate.

"If this generation gets exposed to these questions in a a way that they can develop ideas and strategies to address it, it could change the future foundation of the Church," Redick said.

The topic of 'Gender and Authority' will be continued in future forums this semester, leading up to the discussion of what this issue looks like today. The dates of the remaining two forums are Oct. 30 and Nov. 20.

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