Malankara World

Rights of Women in Jacobite Church

by Soman, Dubai, UAE

Women's Right in Church, is indeed an issue at certain parishes. Here there are few things, which I came to know from the books and church fathers.

Well the bible verses which I can refer in this particular case are:

1 Timothy 2: 11-15 "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety".

1 Corinth 14: 34 " As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church"

Based on the above Bible verses women's participation in clergical duties or church affairs are considered a taboo in our church. It may not go well with today's democratic set up, where right of speech, right of expressing views, religious rights etc.. If we suppress them it can go against feminism and human rights. So all of our church members (men and women), should understand and analyze this subject a bit more deep.

First of all what is the basic concept of our church? Unlike many protestant churches the basic principles and practices of our church is NOT solely based on Bible words. The uniqueness of our church (comparing to any other Apostolic or Protestant) churches is that, the church practices are based on Bible Laws, Traditions and Teaching of church fathers. If you look at the history, social laws were always derived from religion. This was the case of Hindu social laws, Jewish laws, Christian Laws or Islamic laws. Early days there was no difference between social laws and religious laws. They were same. Social justice was done on the basis of what the religion says or how the religious laws were interpreted. But when time passed, with the increase of transportation, people started migrate and every nation/country started to have multi-religious society. This compelled them to have 2 different laws: Religious laws for religious practice and social law for Social life.

Today we live in a democratic, and probably a more civilized society, in comparison with 1st or 2nd century society. The bible verses we can refer today for Women's Right in Church are St. Paul's teaching. St. Paul was a well studied scholar of mosaic laws and most of his teachings were for gentiles. His entire work was done among gentiles (Mediterranean coastal cities) and his teachings were aimed to them. So as Jesus taught us, when we interpret laws, it should not be based on the words, rather it should be based on its intentions. So I request each of you to read and understand the reasons for each laws in Bible, and the intentions behind it. It may be more interesting if you note the period of such law, or social circumstances when it created, or to whom such laws/teachings were addresses too. For example according to 5000 year old Mosaic law, adulterous person must be stoned to death. But 2000 years back, Jesus, said to the woman caught in adultery "Go now and leave your life of sin." Can we say, Jesus' acted against Mosaic Law which He was practicing through out his life?

Let us go back a little more.. We all know that Adam had one wife – Eve. But Abraham had a wife (Sarah) while he slept with his servant Hagar to produce Ismail. When Jacob's time come, he had 2 wives and 4 concubines (all together produced 12 children – tribes of israel). When it come to the time of King David, he had 6 wives (Beersheba was his 6th wife – mother of Solomon). Solomon had many wives and concubines.. However later when the time of Jesus come, He said that one should have only one wife and today we all follow the same. So which is the correct law?? 1 wife, 2 wives, 2 wives + 2 concubines or endless wives???

What we must understand is, early religious laws had 2 parts – (a) Religious part (b) Social Part. If you look at 10 commandments, first 4 laws are Religious – related to God and the rest 6 laws are Social (related to Man). Religious laws wont change and they remain the hard core of the religion. But social laws can change according to the social reasons. It happened in the history and it will happen in the present day as well as in future too. That is why Jesus pardoned the woman caught in adultery.

Coming to the current scenario. Our women are active in the church through various bodies like Vanitha Samajam, Sunday School (there are women teachers in many Sunday School outside Kerala). Today they are involved in almost all church activities, let it be a Nercha, a Charity works, Social events or even a big perunnaal. We must appreciate that many of their contributions (especially in charity works) are really commendable and they are doing with utmost sincerity. We know that every good works are counted in heaven – so their too.

Keeping the Male chauvinism aside, hand on heart, can we men say, women's presence can be harmful in Church Administration? I doubt it. If we are an ardent follower of St. Paul's gospel, you should then first remove Vanitha Samajam from the Church because their activities are within the church. But I doubt you have right to do so.. Let us not forget that, Jesus didn't stop any woman coming to him. Let us not forget, in His public ministry, he had many women followers.. till his Cross...

In Malankara, some time back Malabar Diocese has sent a Kalpana to allow women in Managing committee.

Today St. thomas Thrukkepetta. Kozhikode Church, Vvelangode Palli all have women in Managing committee.

Our church in Bahrain had women committee members, since 80s. (This was approved by H.H. The Moran many times as this comes under H H).

There are few churches (I forgot the names), in Bahya Kerala, which have women in Managing Committee.

I am sorry for this lengthy write-up however, I saw a lot of talks on this outside. I just thought of bringing this to this forum for a healthy discussion. I would appreciate if any of our Church Fathers who read may correct me if I am wrong somewhere.. let us all study the matters well and act wisely.

Rights of Women in Jacobite Church

by Dr. Sinu P. John, Boston, USA

I would like to add a few sentences to what Mr. Soman stated. At the time of the apostles, the church meeting didn't mean the general body as we have today, which exclusively discuss the administration and other temporal matters. The church convened in caves, mountains or other open places in those days. They were (in addition to celebrating holy qurbono) mainly to teach the faith and laws. For those purposes only men were allowed to teach (preach) as seen in 1 Timothy 2: 11-15 and 1 Corinth 14: 34. Jesus selected only men to the priesthood and the teachings (preaching) were done mostly by these men, as they were well learned (than any one else) from Jesus or other disciples. Our church even today follows that tradition and the highest ordination a woman can receive in the church is deaconess.

On the other hand, our general body meetings or managing committee today have no role in discussing/teaching anything related to faith, other than discussing temporal matters of the church. Thus, there shouldn't be any objection from any one against women in general body of the church. Moreover, the constitution of Jacobite Syrian Church (2002) give equal rights to both males and females in the general body (read articles 4, 8 and 193) and to the election of managing committee. It doesn't stop woman from talking in general body or managing committee meetings.

See Also:

The Role of Women in the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch
by Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka-I Iwas
The Role of Women is a topic of importance today in our Syriac Orthodox Church which is a deeply rooted traditional apostolic church.” In our presentation, we shall depend upon the Holy Scripture and the tradition of the Church, namely the teachings of the Apostles which have not been recorded in the Scriptures.

Woman’s Role in the Church Affairs
We have a double standard system within the church, within our parishes and communities and within our families. Jesus gave more importance to Martha, Maria, his mother and even appeared to Mary Magdalene even before appearing to any other disciples of His, there by giving importance to WOMEN, in my opinion.

Women and Church Affairs
Can women be allowed to enter the Madbaha (the holiest place of our Church)? I have seen an active discussion about this topic in IOC Website. IOC actively encouraging this dangerous trend without considering the biblical teachings.

God, Trinity and Role of Women in Heaven
There is only manhood and son-ship in Heaven, making it transparently clear that femininity is meant only for the procreation process that is akin to this earth only. Anything thus associated with Heaven has no womanhood or maternity.

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