Africanwomenculture: Gender and Theology in Africa today - Mercy Amba Oduyoye

Africanwomenculture: Gender and Theology in Africa today - Mercy Amba Oduyoye
My experience of gender as it functions in theology on the African continent is located in my intentional involvement with African women in theology dating back to the mid seventies and to the first conference of African Women theologians organized in 1980 by Daisy Obi, then director of the Institute of Church and Society of the Christian Council of Nigeria, Isabel Johnson, then secretary for women's department of the All African Conference of Churches and myself then on the faculty of the Religious studies department of the University of Ibadan.

From Ibadan the circle widened and relationships of trust grew, flowering into convocation of African women theologians in 1980 held in Accra. The fruit of all this is the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians with membership from more than twenty countries including Egypt, Ethiopia and Madagascar, Angola, Mozambique and Namibia. The women of the Circle are practitioners of African Traditional Religion, Christianity, Islam and Judaism may be others too. We do not ask for religious affiliations in the Circle, only that one should consciously live by a belief in God.

This make up the Africa that I speak about until recently theology by African men was not gender sensitive. It was meant to be objective and generic and consequently subsumed women into man. This paper therefore deals mainly with the theological output of women, with the significant exceptions of a handful of men like John Pobee and Tinyiko Maluleke and Gerald West who begun to consciously examine the gender parameters in African theology, I now do hear Christian preachers saying "and women" where the Bible or a collect omits them, it will repay study to read the recent writings of the "fathers" of African Christian Theology with an eye for their sensitivity to gender. This, I have not done. But I know that in the academic world, what counts as theology has been defined by men. This definition - makers we are going to have to acknowledge that both hermeneutics and ways of accessing knowledge are constantly changing. The power of definition of what is theology has to be exercised by the community of women and men in theology.

The academic world remains uncertain as to how to assess the alternative epistemologies and methodologies that women claim mainstreaming gender in theology demands. But like it or not the concern for gender has opened up a new academic field, and this has to be acknowledged and appropriated to make the academy responsible and responsive to the world out there. The same goes for the ecclessia. The presumed right of church and bishops to determine what is to be believed, stands in the ways of mainstreaming gender in theology as long as leadership in the ecclesia remains male.

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