- The main church societies in Africa, Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans, still do not have any female bishops. Lutheran clergy women now urge African churches to "embrace the gift of woman leadership."
African Lutheran churches are currently gathered in Abuja, Nigeria, to discuss policies and future plans. The male-dominated gathering was today overwhelmed by clergy women, speaking up against sexist conservatism in Lutheran Africa.
The male African church leaders were told to finally "embrace the gift of women in leadership" while at the same time "promoting inclusivity in all structures of governance." The women expressed their conviction about the essential perspectives that women bring to the ordained and lay ministry, especially in an increasingly fractured world.
"We affirm the wholeness of God's creation; whereby women are integrated within all structures of governance within church and society. Embracing full participation of women and men is a sign of continuous reformation and transformation of the church," they said. "Women are responsible for the management of their homes and their children’s education, why not in society and the church?" they further asked.
The women pointed out that poverty in Africa "has a woman's face," citing its relationship to harmful cultural practices and traditions, prostitution, human and organ trafficking, child labor, forceful abandoning of the faith, and HIV and AIDS among other issues that require urgent attention from the churches.
The Lutheran church in Africa is only one in several where women so far have failed to get equal access to leading positions. While most Lutheran churches in Africa allow for women priests, male church leaders have blocked women from larger responsibilities.
The Catholic church, of course, has no women in leading roles in Africa as it bans female clergy at large.
Among Anglicans, female clergy is becoming more normal. While Anglicans in Britain and the US recently got their first female bishops, no African woman has yet acceded to such a high position.
There is, however, one female bishop in Africa. In September 2008, Joaquina Filipe Nhanala got the honour of becoming Africa's first Christian bishop. Bishop Nhanala (53) leads the minority Matola United Methodist Church in Mozambique, a predominantly Catholic country. She was elected to the post by a predominantly male gathering.
Lutheran women in Africa now hope their time will come. In a letter to their male leaders, they asked "our church leaders and bishops, to act in solidarity, encouraging women to take up leadership positions and listening to the female theologians in their call into the ordained ministry."
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