Calling the Church to Account: African Women and Liberation

By Oduyoye, Mercy | The Ecumenical Review, October 1995 | Go to article overview

Calling the Church to Account: African Women and Liberation


Oduyoye, Mercy, The Ecumenical Review


Saying that God is male does not make the male God.

Because Christianity succeeded in establishing a European image of womanhood in Africa due to the fact that their first converts were slaves, outcasts and servants, a people without status in the community, the true embodiments of the African image had no chance to influence the new faith and the new system.(1)

There is a myth in Christian circles that the church brought liberation to the African woman. Indeed, this is a myth, a claim glibly made and difficult to illustrate with concrete or continuing examples. Yet, what actual difference has Christianity made for women, other than its attempt to foist the image of a European middle-class housewife on an Africa that had no middle class that earned salaries or lived on investments? The system of wages created by Westernization has produced an elite, a class that serves and upholds Western Christian attitudes, and a church that continues to mirror pre-1914 Europe. For many Christians, this description of Western churches is hard to stomach, but it is a view shared by many African Christians who see and experience Africa's present predicament of religious, political, economic and social chaos.

The way Western churches that have been implanted in Africa look at women mirrors their Euro-American predecessors. As transplants that have never firmly taken root, they have not yet grown free of the attitudes of their "mother churches", nor have they been able to cope with reforms that have taken or are taking place in those churches. Issues such as the ordination of clergy and ecumenism are prime examples, as is their firm attachment to nineteenth-century evangelical theology. Faced with the vastly complicated, hydra-headed challenges of living in today's world, Africa finds little sustenance in the continuing importation of uncritical forms of Christianity with answers that were neatly packaged in another part of the world. These churches, which most often take the form of patriarchal hierarchies, accept the material services of women but do not listen to their voices, seek their leadership or welcome their initiatives. One African spokeswoman has said: "It is an indictment on the Euro-Christian world that African church women have no significance in the church."(2)

My criticism of African churches is made to challenge them to work towards redeeming Christianity from its image as a force that coerces women into accepting roles that hamper the free and full expression of their humanity. As with class and race, on issues of gender discrimination, the church seems to align itself with forces that question the true humanity of "the other" and, at times, seems actually to find ways of justifying the oppression or marginalization of "the other". Although nineteenth-century missionary theology has been revised or discarded in most areas of the world, the Western churches in Africa continue to disseminate neo-orthodox theology from pulpit and podium, in academic journals and religious tracts. This continued dependence on Euro-American modes and hopes is no substitute for working out our own salvation as Christians who have a particular culture and history.

Women and scripture

In African churches, it is not unusual to hear reminders of what "the Bible says" about women.(3) African churches, with their many variations, have not produced a body of official dogmatics hewn from the African context; however, they have developed a theology of folktalk on what God requires of women. Instead of promoting a new style of life appropriate to a people who are living with God "who has made all things new", the church in Africa continues to use the Hebrew scriptures and the epistles of St Paul to reinforce the norms of traditional religion and culture. In the same way that the folktalk of Akan proverbs delineates cultural norms for women, so the theology of "the Bible says" defines accepted norms for African Christian women. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Calling the Church to Account: African Women and Liberation
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.