Challenging the church

Dr Jenny Te Paa Daniel. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Dr Jenny Te Paa Daniel. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
A senior Anglican theologian, Dr Jenny Te Paa Daniel, has spoken out about what she terms ''theologically indefensible'' male leadership dominance in the international Anglican Church.

Dr Te Paa Daniel, who is the former Ahorangi (principal) of the St John's Theological College in Auckland, was commenting recently in a public lecture at the University of Otago.

In her talk, titled, in part, ''Peacemaking or Mischief Making Discourses in the Public Square?'', she recalled attending the global Lambeth Conference in England in 2008.

This world gathering of the Angli-can Church's most senior leadership is held every 10 years.

It was at this conference she had decided ''too many years/centuries'' of ''completely tradition-bound, theologically indefensible male church leadership dominance really was enough''.

Her premise was ''quite simple''.

Anglicans comprised about 80 million people worldwide-about 40 million of them women.

Yet at the Lambeth Conference, women - ''other than the dozen or so women bishops and the predictably dutiful spouses club'' - were in ''very short supply''.

At that stage, she calculated that among the four major international leadership and decision-making bodies of the world's Anglicans, there were perhaps only 30 to 35 women in ''genuine leadership'', in roles such as a bishop or as an elected member of the global Consultative Council.

That was compared with nearly 900 men.

''In other words 50% of the eccelsiastical household comprise maybe just 3% of the leadership?''

''This is hardly an impressive or indeed I would assert, an acceptable score for an institution which alongside all other Christian churches at least so readily uses the rhetoric of God's justice; of compassion, mercy, kindness; or recognising that we are all created equally in God's image and so on.

''It did not go unnoticed by me that I was virtually alone at that vast international conference as the token well-educated, highly internationally experienced lay woman of colour'', having been invited as a key resource person.

This had been the catalyst for her to ''start agitating for change''.

She also reflected that earlier, in 1995, she had become ''the first indigenous laywoman ever to be appointed to head an Anglican theological college anywhere in the world''.

Dr Te Paa Daniel stepped down from her Auckland post in recent weeks and is now a Visiting Maori Research Fellow at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at Otago University.

- john.gibb@odt.co.nz

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