In this Australian conference there has been a strong emphasis on justice issues, both locally and on the world scene. The organizers of this weekend were determined that the subject matter would be far broader than just the ordination of women. The perception is often expressed that because there are now many ordained women in some denominations, the whole gender equality issue is “done and dusted.” Through the variety of group discussions, this aim to broaden the subject matter was certainly achieved. Topics ranged from what it means to be a young woman in Australian church culture to how we can help women feed their families in Afghanistan; from how churches can welcome people with disabilities to helping women who are suffering abuse in Christian homes.
Overload was an oft-repeated word as delegates moved through three workshops and at least one plenary session each day. The morning and afternoon tea times went all too quickly and conversations had to hang in the air while we rushed off to the next session. With so much information and interaction, surely the cause for biblical equality will benefit enormously, and each participant will take away a lot of literature and new information to encourage them to “not grow weary in well-doing.”
There are recordings available for most of the conference sessions and these can be ordered through the Australian website mentioned earlier. Kevin Giles wrote a study book for release over this weekend and every delegate received a free copy of Better Together. Attendees from Victoria were encouraged to join the CBE chapter and folks from other states and New Zealand are now considering beginning chapters among their friends and colleagues.
Our final session was one of the highlights as Cheryl Catford spoke on “Riding the Third Wave, Biblical Equality in the Twenty-First Century.”
After giving an excellent summary of the first and second waves of feminism, we were made aware of what is typical of a young woman’s expectation now. This pointed out how we as Christians have been so influenced by the culture around us through magazines, TV and the media. To assimilate this with biblical equality has caused a lack of definition and also given rise to a resurgence of more “conservative” trends in church life.
We were reminded that it is biblical values and principles which should be guiding our lives and not our responses to waves of change and cultural shifts, even within the church scene. The whole message was one of hope and encouragement to “get on our boards” and be in the action, believing that God is in control and that his Holy Spirit within us will empower us to face the challenge of the coming waves, whatever form they may take. Each one of us will take from the conference a personal challenge to be more proactive in a Christ-like manner and to watch God at work.
Looking forward to reading other comments from those who attended and their sharing of how they were impacted by the whole event. Even if there are some questions still unanswered, please feel free to express them and perhaps we can listen to one another and grow together in understanding.
PS: Mimi said to say that the food was great too!!