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That everyone who thirsteth for the truth may obtain it, these publications are, as a Christian service, provided without charge. They levy but one exaction: the soul's obligation to itself to prove all things and hold fast to that which is good. The only strings attached to this free proffer are the golden strands of Eden and the crimson cords of Calvary - the ties that bind.
Shekinah Magazine


   Vol. 4, Nos. 3,4

SHEKINAH/Double Issue/July-December 1983 



The University of British Columbia campus has been turned into a colorful scene in the last two weeks [July 24-Aug. 10] as delegates of the world's churches have met to form the Sixth Assembly of the World Council of Churches [WCC].

The diversity of race, language, dress and church order has been obvious. More than ever before, the power, presence and peace of women made itself felt in the Vancouver Assembly, as can be seen from the excerpted articles, from "Canvas," the official newspaper of the World Council of Churches, Sixth Assembly, August 10, 1983.



The power, presence and peace of women is making itself felt in the Vancouver Assembly. Ask any participant to list his or her favorite speakers and the names Helen Caldicott, Dorothee Soelle and Pauline Webb crop up again and again....

Baerbel von Wartenberg, director of the WCC's women's desk, called the leadership women have shown at Vancouver "a pioneering experience for many men. We hope that the enlightened men will remember this in their churches back home."

But for Nicole Fischer, president of the National Protestant Church of Geneva, women were "balanced" rather than "dominant" in the Assembly. She was uncertain that their strong presence would have an impact overall, noting that change would take a very long time. Fischer said she would be happy if women's voices could "underline the real issues such as apartheid" rather than just be raised on feminist concerns.

Three female church leaders urged women to provide a new leadership style for the church. "Women have to bring back the church from authoritarian power holding," Director Baerbel von Wartenberg of the World Council of Churches women's sub-unit told an overflow crowd at the Well, the Sixth Assembly of the World Council of Churches women's centre. "It is only serving, loving power that can transform the world," said von Wartenberg, one of the three speakers.

Australian Jean Skuse, another speaker and the vice moderator of the WCC, said women have turned their attention from demanding equal rights and participation to raising the issues of more feminist values and a more participatory style. "Many of my feminist friends ask me, 'How can you stay in the church'?" Skuse told the more than 100 women present. "And my answer is that it is my church too."



 SHEKINAH/Double Issue/July-December 1983

Vol. 4, Nos. 3,4   


ordination won't wait


It's time the church realized the patience of women is running out. Women won't wait another hundred years for justice to be done with regard to ordination, said Jean Skuse, vice-moderator of the Central Committee.

The usually mild-tempered Skuse, head of the Australian Council of Churches, erupted during a press backgrounder on women at the Sixth Assembly and the work of the sub-unit on Women in Church and Society...

Asked whether women experience any frustration here, Skuse said a number were frustrated by the style of plenary sessions. "Men claim the microphone, make long speeches no one is interested in, and women get little opportunity to participate," she said..

Baerbel von Wartenberg, director of the women's sub-unit, added she resented the hard chairs and hours of rational debate in which emotions must be kept hidden. "I feel dominated by the male culture. ..."

Sitembiso Nyoni, a Zimbabwean woman panelist, said women in Africa struggle side by side with men but when it comes to enjoying the fruits of this labor "men push forward to enjoy them." In rural development projects women lead in the beginning, she said, but once the machine arrives, men come along to manage the technology and women are pushed back to the kitchen.

A Canadian journalist, quoting bulletin board graffiti, said the Archbishop of Canterbury would not have been allowed to celebrate the eucharist during the assembly if he had made the same statement about blacks that he made about women – that they could be ordained but not now...

Female view
important to theology


Hopes for the renewal of theology rest on seeing it from a different – and female – point of view, said Roman Catholic theologian Marie Teresa Porcile of Uruguay at yesterday's session at the Well, the Assembly women's centre. Women, she said, have a necessarily different perspective from men because they have three things men do not – a womb, a shedding of blood to give life, and breasts.

"The womb is a space of life," she said. "The blood has a language in time, a sense of waiting and of hope in human growth. And breasts are for nurturing."

Because of their bodies, Porcile said, women can provide a new way of talking about the mystery of God and the ministry of the church.


   Vol. 4, Nos. 3,4

SHEKINAH/Double Issue/July-December 1983 


Women can help to make the church a space of life, with a more natural sense of time and rhythm, and can nurture the faith. Like Jesus Christ himself, she said, "Women shed blood to give life to the world."....

"The feminist critique of God-language has helped us look at our images of God," said Ellen Leonard, a Roman Catholic Sister teaching at Toronto School of Theology....

"I am not even supposed to be interested in feminism," said Methodist Mercy Oduyoye, a Ghanaian living in Nigeria. "The men say, 'African women are not oppressed,' and the men speak for us in these international forums. But we have a saying that the person who sleeps by the fire knows how hot the fire is...

Oduyoye's family is traditionally matriarchal, something that might have contributed to theology, she said. But Christianity brought so much western culture to western Africa that matriarchy has had little influence on the church's theology.

Women work for unity


"We are different but there was no division," said Marie Assaad, Egyptian Orthodox deputy general secretary of the WCC. ...The women delegates come from a wide range of Christian faiths and cultural backgrounds, and only some of them are involved in the ministry or are part of established church hierarchies...

A European delegate said that for the first time in ecumenical women's gatherings it had been possible to get away from the more self-centered concerns which often

split women's meetings. "We were able to consider liberation in a global way, and not only for the women but including men and children. Women here were prepared to leave aside their various loyalties–be they of a confessional, national, regional racial or cultural nature."

Ms. von Wartenberg confirmed that as a group they hope to carry this unity forward "throughout the Assembly for a global sisterhood, not against men, but among us and with them ... all of us have to find a rightful place in the church," she said.


We began with enthusiasm, the enthusiasm of first-century Christians who through John's epistle shared with us that they had heard and seen and handled of the Word of Life. At the end of this Assembly enthusiasm still seems the keynote as people express how the Word has come to life for them here.

It's a pity that in our modern useage 'enthusiasm' has become such a suspect word, for it has strong origins. It literally means 'possessed by the Spirit of God within.' And I have the feeling that the Spirit has taken possession of a large part of this Assembly–not all of it, I confess, but a sufficient slice of it to have infected a new generation of ecumenical enthusiasts for whom life after this Assembly will never be quite the same again....

It is going to be hard to share this vision with those who have not yet seen or heard. Somehow we shall have to encourage others to make ventures beyond the normal bounds of their local fellowship. When we cross the line between congregations, races,



 SHEKINAH/Double Issue/July-December 1983

Vol. 4, Nos. 3,4   

nations, communities of faith, the Spirit comes to meet us.

But where is it all taking us? That I am not sure of...As we return to face critics of the ecumenical movement, we go not with defensive argument but with the evidence of experience. It is too early yet to ask questions about the future. For the moment let us just breathe in deeply the fresh air of our worship together and let the Spirit take us where She will!

us with badly needed energy....

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On theological education a Danish woman said many churches give women an opportunity for such education but do not find a use for them. She urged the churches to consider how women with theological training can participate in leadership roles as well as worship and Christian education.


Pauline Webb

Sarah Simon, 82, addresses women's meeting.

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It was here in Vancouver that women made the enormous impact on the Assembly that their pre-assembly event, The Well and their stronger presence in WCC circles since Nairobi first signalled.

Dorothee Soelle, Pauline Webb, Domitila Barrios, and Helen Caldicott brought to the Assembly that "power, presence and peace" that could help end much of the authoritarian, patriarchal leadership style that prevents our churches from being pilgrim, servant, loving.

When Pauline Webb, preaching in the Tent during the opening worship, linked together the blood of our martyrs - Archbishop Romero of EI Salvador, Bishop Samuel of Egypt and Archbishop Luwum of Uganda–with the blood of women preparing their bodies for the cycle of life, we heard a strong and discomforting call to birth and death. Crucifixion and resurrection are part of the Christian's calling to a sacrificial faith but one in which the gift of life offers such enormous promise.

Women urged on us a new leadership style less authoritarian, more participatory....

Sure it wasn't perfect. We quarrelled at times over petty structural concerns. We males can't seem to make the necessary changes in thinking and style to share power equally with women and recognize our mutuality. Youth and their often justifiable frustration with our cautious ways, makes it certain that if we don't change those young men and women will not be around to provide

The liveliest moment of one afternoon's debate came when Marjorie Matthews, the first woman bishop of the Methodist Church in the U.S., introduced herself. She was applauded.

She received a second round of applause when she declared that a very real issue of human justice and dignity "is the recognition of women as worthy candidates for the ordination to the ministry of Jesus Christ."

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Shekinah interviews
WCC delegates

In the press conference of July 25, Perry Jones, of SHEKINAH magazine, posed this question. "I notice that the books in the book store that have to do perhaps in a specific or general way with the Sheffield Study emphasize the patriarchal system of the male hierarchy, the put down of women for centuries. I am just wondering now that since the WCC is recognizing the ministry of women in the community, if there is going to be an emphasis or a study on the factor that many theologians are bringing out now, and even some of the books in the book store, about the Mother-aspect of the Godhead, the feminine aspect of God, or the Holy Spirit being the Mother figure. Is there any activity in this area?"

Archbishop Ted Scott, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada and outgoing Moderator of the World Council of

   Vol. 4, Nos. 3,4

SHEKINAH/Double Issue/July-December 1983 


Churches' Central Committee, fielded the question and made this repIy. "Certainly that is going to be a part of the continuing theological study that is under way. If you start affecting or thinking about one aspect of the relationship it always bears witness and reflects others. So that will continue. Jean might want to add something about this."

Hebrew language, ruah is feminine; the Greek language, pnuema, it is neuter; by the time you get to the Latin language it is spiritus, which is masculine. It is part of the curiosity. What is important is the reality of a Godhead who is inclusive and including of His creation, and we men have to learn this. That is all that I would say."


Primate Ted Scott of Anglican Church of Canada

Jean Skuse, General Secretary of the Australian Council of Churches, and outgoing Vice-Moderator of the World Council of Churches' Central Committee, responded by saying: "I understand a great deal of attention was given to this matter at the women's forum. There are many women who are concerned about the cultural aspects of the church life which has historically and traditionally been dominated not only by a patriarchal system in itself but also by the continuing overemphasis, if you like, of the images of male, and of the male images of God. The point has been made that the Fatherhood of God is one image of God, but there are many other images of God which we would like to hear expressed too."

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Perry Jones confronted Dr. Philip Potter, General Secretary of the WCC, during the August 10th press conference, with this question: "As Pauline Webb said in her article, on the front page of Canvas, in her closing statement, 'For the moment let us just breathe in deeply the fresh air of our worship together and let the Spirit take us where She will!' Dr. Potter, do you foresee a Sheffield-type study regarding the Holy Spirit as the Mother-figure of the Trinity?"

Dr. Potter answered: "God created Adam, that is humanity, in His image, and He called male and female. Therefore if God created male and female ... God is creator of both, and both are not only within the will and purpose of God, but both share in the character and being of God. Our problem is a problem of language and the way it has been used as an expression of oppression. For example, if you take the word spirit in the

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Lois Wilson, one of the seven newly elected WCC presidents, remarked that "the Holy Spirit as Mother, is one of the great revelations of our time."

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Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury, told Shekinah representative he was sharing Shekinah with his friends.

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At a later time, Archbishop Ted Scott stated it was "about time" people were beginning to understand about the Mother-aspect of the Trinity.

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Rabbi Jordan Pearlson, official representative of the World Jewish Congress at the WCC, and first Jew to participate officially in the WCC Assembly, when presented a Shekinah magazine, sang, "Nothing could be finer than to wake up to Shekinah in the morning!"

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In a women's meeting, speaker Padmasani Gallup of India stated that the English imported an all-male God to India, but now that the Indian Christians know about both the Heavenly Father and Mother, they have common ground with the Hindus who believe their God Shiva is both male and female. Gallup believes evangelism with the Hindus will be more effective now.

Articles and letters printed in SHEKINAH do not necessarily reflect the views or beliefs of the Staff. The SHEKINAH is simply a sounding-board and explores all sides and all angles, leaving the reader to choose, with the aid of the Spirit, that which is truth.

For further studies on these matters please see our other studies:

Shekinah Magazine:
Her Crusade: To tell the world the Holy Spirit is feminine
A History of Feminist Consciousness
'New' Concepts in Christianity Revive Ancient Ideas - Is Holy Spirit Best Seen as Female?
The 'Head' of the Epistles
The Ordination of Women in the Early Church: Our Right to Know
The Ordination of Women: YES
U.S. Woman Sees Holy Spirit as Female Figure

By Lois I. Roden:
The Bride of Christ
As An Eagle
By His Spirit
Behold Thy Mother, Part 1
Behold Thy Mother, Part 2
Behold Thy Mother, Part 3
Balancing Out The Trinity (coming soon...)
In Her Image
In The Beginning God...
In Their Image
Merkabah, Part 1
Merkabah, Part 2
Merkabah, Part 3
Merkabah, Part 4
Christ and the Holy Spirit, "Two Turtle Doves"
Christ and the Holy Spirit, Two "Turtle Doves" Jesus and Jonah (Dove) Part 2
The Wife of God
Monthly Field Letter, Sept. 12, 1985 - A "Mother" Eagle
Monthly Field Letter, January/February 1986 - The Holy Angels
Monthly Field Letter, February 12, 1986 - Michael, Gabriel, and the Spirit of Prophecy
Monthly Field Letter, March/April 1986 - The Angel of the Lord

By Doug Mitchell:
The Only Safe Sex is Holy Sex
The Real Ghost Story
Shelter From The Storm
The Poverty of Defeminization
Behold the Lamb of God
What The People Are Saying "Babylon, Babylon, Where Did They Get All Of Those Crazy (?) Ideas?"
It's all Greek to Them, The Holy Spirit He, She or It?
She is a Tree of Life
The Four Horns of the Altars of the Sanctuary

By Doug Mitchell and Steve Penners:
The Feminine Principle of Salvation
The "Only Begotten Son" of God

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