Ecclesia of Women in Asia

Forum of Asian Catholic Women Theologians

I. Day Session: After the different paper presentors discussed their papers with their clusters, cluster members shared their thoughts on the following questions:

1. What are the points of convergence and divergence in the presentations?
2. Identify any three key theological issues from the cluster presentations.
3. How does the Church of women in Asia respond to these issues?
4. What are the points that suggest hope and new energies?

Cluster 1: WOMEN AND VIOLENCE

1. Convergence
1. social construction of woman
2. direct role of state in VAW particularly through militarism
3. intersection of gender/ethnic with capitalism
4. religious leaders ignore VAW

2. Divergence
1. level of awareness of women of these issues
2. question of ethnic oppression as it intersects with gender

3. Theological Issues
1. how suffering is theologically justified
2. need to recognize existence of tragic moral situations
3. ecclesiology – hierarchical model of Church

4. Response
1. individual level – women Catholic social activist out of their own initiative
2. organizational level - e.g. hotlines for battered women

5. Signs of Hope
1.initiatives of women (religious/lay) /NGO’s


Cluster II: WOMEN AND SPIRITUALITY

Convergence
a. context, women stories and appreciation of women’s spirituality as a starting point for reflection
b. women as image of God
c. Recognition of the Holy Spirit as a source of power for women
d. quest for wholeness

Divergence
a. approach to women spirituality: feminist (with justice underpinnings) or highlighting femininity

Theological Issues
a. harmony
b. who is Mary for Asian women
c. theology of harmony (Asian women’s perspective) – with critique of culture
d. contextualized Asian women’s spiritualities

Response
a. reclaim the Mary of the Magnificat- Mary in salvation history

Signs of Hope
a. our coming together
b. reclaim women in the Scriptures


Cluster III: WOMEN AND CHURCH STRUCTURES

Convergence
a. women clamor for more visibility in the Church especially in decision-making
b. we still labor under patriarchal structures
c. we do have women models to follow
d. images of God as related to patriarchal structures
e. problem of religious identity as linked to fundamentalism and VAW
f. lack of religious understanding of women’s movement
g. struggle to spread women’s consciousness

2. Divergence
a. is there any progress in the Church?

3. Theological Issues
a. image of God – from patriarchy to wholeness and inclusivity of images
b. ecclesiology – reclaim the Church identity as the people of God; current Church structures are sinful
c. biblical authority- need to really know or study the Bible e.g. what is oppressive, what is liberating
d. need for proper biblical training

4. Response
1. develop theological study for women in Asia - interconnected with praxis
2. work on the Asian image of God e.g. Christ and Mary
3. collaboration between religious and lay women
4. enabling Asian women’s self-confidence – writing women’s own story as a bible story, a holy writing to give to the next generation.

5. Signs of Hope
1. our discussion – lots of energy
2. solidarity from grassroots to influence Church leaders
3. women’s participation and personal involvement – sisterhood solidarity
4. connections beyond boundaries
5. documents and resources from this meeting


CLUSTER IV: Eco-Feminism and Method


1. Convergence
1. all the papers are fruits of personal experience
2. see the need for a new paradigm in our search for new ways of responding to the calls of today
3. overlap in the papers:
- 2 spoke about the need to envisage sexuality in a positive way
- 2 spoke of the new cosmology
- 2 wrote about methods of formation and reflection

4. need to recognize women’s dignity especially on the level of making decisions

2. Divergence
a. on the emphasis each one gave but on the whole, a deep sense of connection was felt

3. Theological Issues
1. need to be open to the new consciousness
2. incarnation especially in the area of sexuality
3. develop a new ecclesiology with the Trinity as the model of being Church – mutuality, equality and diversity

4. Response
1. in grassroots work – education, formation, conscientization of marginalized groups and those who are open to the issues mentioned
2. re-reading of the bible from the feminine perspective
3. by not being caught up with the thinking of the hierarchical Church

5. Signs of Hope
1. our being here
2. recognizing that we need to move away from the category of lay and religious women to being women sharing the same consciousness
3. recognizing and acknowledging that there is a prophetic value to work from the margins while being open with those at the center at the same time.
4. growing awareness of more women of their dignity and their role


CLUSTER V: Women and Bible

1. Convergence
1. realization that women are in a lower position both in the world and as portrayed in the Bible
2. reclaiming of women’s identity and role in the Bible e.g. Junia and Mary
3. scholarly presentation and research be made available in simplified form to the public at the grassroots level
4. use of Bible to reinforce patriarchy
5. many women find themselves in a double bind situation in reference to women in violent marriages

2. Divergence
a. NONE

3. Theological Issues
1. paradigm shift from patriarchal to holistic model
2. dialogue, collaboration and inculturation for the future of the Asian Church
3. re-reading of the scriptures from a feminist perspective using Asian methodology

4. Response
1. healing the division and reclaiming our dignity and worth as human beings created in God/s image
2. conscientization through the Bible
3. dialogue with other religious traditions

5. Signs of Hope
1. our coming together
2. more women getting higher education
3. collaboration between religious and lay women
4. changing of the self-image of women
5. promoting greater solidarity together as women of Asia
6. need for a holistic approach


CLUSTER VI: Women and World Religions

1. Convergence
1. attentive listening to each other
2. acceptance or rootedness in immanence, connection
3. urge to go out and connect with others
4. enjoyment in going our own way
5. increasing awareness of our oppression within religions
6. focus on women and religions

2. Divergence
1. relationship which connects and divides
2. telling personal stories as opposed to speaking from a removed national analysis
3. tension between relatedness and independence
4. experience of the Eucharist as either life-giving or not

3. Theological Issues
1. image of God e.g. divine immanence
2. openness to other religious traditions
3. our Catholic identity and its implications to our community and the world

4. Response
1. sing songs in a different voice and in a different way
2. share our own stories with each other

5. Signs of Hope
1.doing things in a way which feels right to us
2. immanence of God
3. from each other – by speaking of our experiences
4. the many things that Asians have in common
5. resources, people with whom we can connect
6. women as builders and life-givers
7. the kind of movements which some have started which can be models for us


EVENING PLENUM

8:00 P.M.

Moderator: Sr. Antoinette Ngutzler

I. Discussion Proper

1. What is that which you feel we need to clarify: Important Issue for Discussion
a. how suffering of women is theologically justified
b. question of Mariology
c. what is really the Asian face of Jesus
d. feminist and femininity
e. marginalized women
f. images of God
g. sexuality and tragic moral situations
h. reclaiming our place in the Church
i. conscientizing the clergy
j. theology of the Church as Jesus movement
k. globalisation
l. celebration of our strength as women
m. women as life-givers


2. Areas of Concern

How do we do it: positivist, negativist or action-oriented approach?
Do we have to discuss again and again the problems which have been there for a long time? Why don’t we share concrete acts of empowering women so there’s something we can bring home?
Why don’t we share our own stories and/or experiences? Otherwise, everything will just be up there in the air.
Why don’t we do it by groups?

3. Resolution: Dyadic Discussion: Is Christ’s suffering liberating for you or not?

3.1. Reactions:
3.1.1. The question I think hits the nail right on the head. It’s about time to look at ourselves and our faith in terms of what it means to us and our life.
3.1.2. This process (theological reflection) may be a dangerous process because it will entail looking at our own context but this is crucial.
3.1.3. Why do we have to be bogged down with the importance of coming up with a document? It’s not good to let it just boil down to money. We’re all worth it. We’re all beautiful.
3.1.4. Theology is for social transformation and it will be quite difficult to do it.
3.1.5. But we need to look at ourselves, our faith, and the people who are most oppressed in our country. We have to do this. Let us use our intelligence, creativity, womanhood and stand our own ground. We have to draw from our inner resources.

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