Raiot recently published a critique of patriarchy within the Presbyterian church in Khasi-Jaintia by Gertrude Lamare. Today we have Roney Lyndem’s engagement with that critique.
The question of woman’s role in the church has been discussed from time to time at the different levels of the Woman’s wing or ‘Seng Kynthei’ of the Presbyterian church setup right from the Church level committees to the District level – Presbytery levels – Synod level and the Assembly Level committees on question of ordination of women and inducting of women to church elders.
This question has been debated many a times and it saw women belonging and representing different churches, districts etc time and time again had detailed and intensive discussions on the subject matter but no concrete decision as such came out of such debates either to a resounding AYE or NAE. However, there is no such restriction that is in placed that would be seen as putting restriction on the ordination of women and their election as church elders. In fact, the Presbyterian Church of India has usually very little objections to change that are required and necessary, and if this is the want and need of the hour then I’m sure that there will be no opposition either. But, there are procedures and regulations that need to be followed and nothing can be drastically changed without public consent or in this case members consent. Would you want this democratic process of asking for consensus and putting it to a vote to be override simply because it does not suit your idea of what should and shouldn’t be?
It shall also be made known that some churches have welcomed the idea of having women as church elders and have inducted them to the status of church elder like in Pariong where woman who were eligible are voted in a democratic process by the church members accepted by the Church with no opposition from the male members but these posts filled by these woman has been relinquished by the woman themselves as they admitted to the task being too difficult for them. Yes, many churches in urban location like Shillong still see male dominance in such positions but not because of any restrictions but usually by choice of the members and church. If I may, the opinion of whether woman should be included or not in patorship and as church elders is also an opinion that is personal to an individual which the Presbyterian Church Administration see no urge to control it or influence it.
As this is a question that is important to me as a member of the Presbyterian Church, I discussed this matter with many prominent women of different ‘Seng Kynthei’s’ of different churches, I found that there are mixed responses but the majority is still against women being pastors and church elders citing many reasons. Even younger generation of women who is serving under different heads and programmes of the church and who themselves are holding different leading role/posts in different government and nongovernmental setups are also against women serving as pastors and some would even try to quote restrictions found in the scripture. However for those who would claim scripture authority over the issue, I suggest that they must understand the context in which the scripture arose.
One Lady who has always been a leader of the women in many programmes and duties of the seng kynthei’s who i had the chance to talked too, believes that women have not yet reached the point of readiness citing examples of Pariong and on how these woman had relinquished their post because they weren’t ready for the task they were to undertake. She also said that as believers we must remember that what differentiate us from other secular groups is that we believe in something that is called ‘ka jingkhot’ or a calling and ‘ka bynta’ which means a rightful place that has been ‘pyrsad da u mynsiem bakhuid’ which means guided by the holy spirit and that it is in His will that if this is necessary, then it shall be and how those who never have stood in the mud will look at it and condemned it as dirty but have themselves never stepped on it or made attempts to clean it. She also lamented if we (women) are patient enough and if we are ready for it to wait in prayer and continue to discuss and debate on this delicate issue until a path shall be shown or be made clear by our God who does things for they are with reason. Her comrade who was with us during the whole discussion and who was preparing this delicious red ginger tea for us said, ‘people who have never felt God’s presence in their lives would not understand why it is necessary to take things slowly, patiently, and allow God and the Holy spirit to do what should be done without forcing it because ‘ka don ka bynta bad ka por ia kiei-kiei baroh’. I couldn’t help but be reminded of when Paul said that when the time comes, everything will be revealed or be made clear.
It should be understood by those who stood in the mud that we should never undermine the role of the different seng kynthei’s as their engagements in different levels have been the major supporting strength of any church activity and spiritual growth. These seng kynthei’s have from time and time again have been seen to lead where there lacks a leader and provides the supporting strength in numbers and vigour in any work necessary for the success and uninterrupted services to the Lord Our God whether be it as minute as floral arrangement and tea serving or to arranging and micro managing every single detail of the service or event. These women with their male counterparts have always worked together in arrangement and preparation of Food and drinks especially during various church events/services. As one woman of Mawkhar Seng Kynthei said, these men and women behind the scenes are the true unsung heroes who serve god in the most delicious way.
The work done by the Seng kynthei (Women Wing) and also done by the Seng Samla (Youth Wing) and Seng Khynnah (Children’s Wing) along with many of the Rangbah’s (Men) of the church are done without payment are done not expecting payment. The work is done because it is service to God and that is payment. Pastors on the other hand do receive a salary because it’s their job; it’s the church employing them. This payment is also given to other post that the church may employ like bible men & women, coordinators, missionaries, accountants etc.
Some of the Men i talked to also believe that there is no such restriction and that women should move ahead in ministry and take their place amongst men as they are also have equal standing in the Church Hierarchy but they are also aware that debates and discussion on this have taken place in many seng kynthei committees but are unaware if they decided on anything or not.
Yes, some are against it and would try to cite scripture authority over the matter. However for those who would claim scripture authority over the issue, we must first understand the context in which the scripture arose. When Paul wrote, he wrote influenced by the socio-politico-economic conditions present at the time and we shouldn’t twist the meaning of the scriptures to suit one’s need or greed just so that we can influence others around us to blindly push or restrict for necessary policy changes without there being an open and in-depth discussion on it in a major minute scale within the different setup and levels of the Presbyterian Church because once the door opens it shall not remain shut.
I believe that this will be a major problem in the future if we ignore it now when talk and discussions on it are taking place, and when we keep on producing theologian after theologian both Women and Men without thinking about their place and role in the church.
But, before any of us Parabangeit (believers), can understand and agree on a resounding Aye or Nae on the matter, it is the wish of this Presbyterian church member that this matter be painstakingly discussed (following the proper procedures of the church) and understood by Pastors, Church Elders, Women leaders, and other Members of the Presbyterian Church to together, taking into consideration that Man and Woman is One, for when God took a rib from man, he made a woman and brought her unto the man. And Man (whose name was Adam) said, ‘this is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man’.
“Don bun ki buit ha ka dohnud u briew; hynrei ka jingpyrkhat U Trai, kata kaban neh.”…..Proverbs 19:21