Women in Ministry and Theological Education: Christian Educational Approach in Chin Society of Myanmar
Culture is defined in terms of the ideas, beliefs, customs, and attitudes that are shared and accepted by people in a society. Chin ethnic group is one of the eight major ethnic groups in Myanmar . The Chin people value their custom and culture, unfortunately, the culture and custom are under the patriarchal system. According to Professor Kim lecture on the class of Christian Education mentioned ‘three perspectives on gender differences in learning: Nature: inherence difference; Nurture: socio-cultural influence and nature and nurture approach. Under nature and nurture approach, she mentioned the way of women get knowledge in five different ways: Silence; received knowledge, subjective knowledge, procedural knowledge and constructed knowledge. Mostly Chin women are learning from the perspective of nurture under the socio-cultural influence, and get knowledge through silently listening and received knowledge. In Chin society, women cannot get an opportunity in everything like men. Women are secondary, inferior to men. Chin women do not have much opportunity to speak out, voice out in the family, in the church, community, and in the educational society. They learn education silently under the control of socio-cultural influence.
In addition, Chin women were not allowed to go to school, seminaries, and university. Instead of sending them to study, parents choose their son to send schools. Nowadays, women are coming up in the educational realms in universities and seminaries. In reality, they face various difficulties in schools and seminaries. Although they tried hard in their studies, only a few women can get a chance to serve in seminaries and some are serving in the church. Women consist of half of the population play subordinate roles in the churches and society. The existing Christian Education has not dealt adequately on the issue of gender injustice in educational ministry which needs a special attention. Women do not get a chance to fully exercise their callings and spiritual gifts in the ministry of God. On the other hand, due to the influence of the patriarchal system in our society, women themselves have no confidence to take a leadership position in the church, in teaching ministry that needs to be a breakthrough.
Therefore, in this paper, I would like to discuss how Chin Baptist Church women seminarian could actively participate in the theological discussion, in teaching ministry; and how women pastor should involve in the church as they should involve; how the church should accept and give a place for women participation in the church. This paper will be encouraging women those who are participating in the theological education and the ministry of the church. To reach my focus, I would like to present the importance of theological education and how Chin women have been participated in the church leading role in the patriarchal system, at what level the theologically educated women involved in the church, and after that, I would like to make some proposals for today Chin women ministers.
Statement of the Problem
The Chin people belong to the Mongoloid race of Tibeto-Burma group. The term Chin is the given name of Burma and they call themselves as Zomi or Laimi. Traditionally, most women did not get much opportunity to study and to go to the school. For women, if they can work in the field and know the housework, that is enough for them. It seems that women’s place was only in the field to work hard all the days and to extend their labor at home all the rest of the time. Therefore, as a result, women become poor and lack of education. Furthermore, these tasks are seen as lesser or more menial and trivial. The Chin women were negatively referred to domestic tasks.
But nowadays, Chin women get more opportunity to study in seminaries and in other fields. Especially in a theological education setting, women theological students do not get the same opportunity in the classroom, in ministry. Sometimes, they were asking to cook to help in the kitchen. When they travel or go to gospel together Chin women theological students or pastors are asking to help them only behind the scene. Therefore, Chin women think that they are weak, they cannot do anything by themselves, they are secondary, sometimes they think that even though they speak out people especially men will not recognize their voice, and opinions. Therefore, mostly they are silently listening to the lectures and received knowledge.
In the church, when we count the participants of the church service the majority are women and children. But they are neglected in the leading role in the church. Most of the time church services are led by men. They are always in leading role, even though they do not know how to pray, they have a chance to sit on the Pulpit. But for women they are prayer warrior of the church, they do not have much chance to sit on the pulpit. Women have a chance when it comes mother’s day, women’s day. Church women are often asked to fulfill stereotypical roles, such as keeping the altar clean, teaching religious education to children, and helping in the kitchen or other secretarial and menial jobs. Not only in Chin society but also in Myanmar, the leadership roles of women are very rare. According to 2012 record of Myanmar Baptist Convention, in the midst of 43 Baptist theological schools at present only two Bible school had female principals; all the other theological school’s principles are male. There are only 23 female ordained ministers out of 2885 ministers. Today many women’s eyes should be opened to see and to interpret the Bible with their views. Chin Baptist Church women should attempt to have gender balance in the leading position of the church, the association, and convention. Therefore, reading the Bible with its interpretation, and the hermeneutic way is needed for Myanmar churches especially for Chin society.
In this contemporary setting of Chin Society, there are many women theological students, but they do not get a chance to involve fully in pastoral ministry, seminary lecturer. Most of the theologically educated women are serving for teaching ministry; Sunday school teachers, women director, and pastor wives. It is the highest position for Chin Baptist theological educated women. In some churches, women have more experiences in ministry but they were not given the high position of Church pastor or senior pastor, principal. Instead of giving them, the church gives to young men pastor.
Ordination was limited for Chin Baptist women. Giving ordination to woman depends on two aspects; culture and denomination. In this time, ordination for women was a little bit opened for Baptist women based on the respective culture. For some culture like Lisu, Wa, they accept women ordination even though they got married. For some convention like Chin, Kachin, Karen, do not accept married women ordination, it allows single women ordination when they getting old. So that, how culture affects Baptist women’s life and their calling to God’s ministry. It makes me writing this paper to voice out for the equal opportunity in ministry.
Through this research, I want to discover how the first female Baptist theological students were serving in the ministry. I want to record and appreciate their hardworking under the very strict hierarchal system of Chin society of Myanmar.
Aim and objective:
– To rediscover how Chin Baptist women were participated and accepted in theological setting and ministry in the past.
– To awaken churches understand the true identity of women as equal with men in God’s image and equal partnership in God’s ministry.
– To promote the partnership of women and men to take up the responsibility for building and transforming the churches and society of Chin people.
– To redefine the use of the Bible in the Chin Baptist church of Myanmar.
– How does culture affect women in Chin Baptist Church of Myanmar in the theological setting and ministry of the church?
– How could the Chin Baptist Church of Myanmar consider that they need women in ministry equally as men?
– How would Chin Baptist Church reinterpret the Bible through the lens of women?
Through this research, I would like to empower and encourage Chin Baptist women in preparing for inside the church, and also for global leadership and to restore the confidence of women in the role of the ministry of God. Men and women are equally created by God so that all human beings are equal, “there is no Jews, Gentiles, men, and women in God”. Therefore, women should also have to exercise their callings, their spiritual gifts, and talents in the ministry. We all are liked a roundtable in God.
Significant of the Study:
This paper will encourage Chin Baptist women those who are studying and doing their theological education, lecturers and serving in the ministry of the church to fully exercise their callings and their talents in the ministry of God. Theological Education is the training of men and women to know and serve God.” It is a place of training and nurturing the Christian leaders to serve God and the church and the church’s role in Christian education. Therefore this paper will explore the Chin Baptist women those who are theologically educated have the capacity and ability to fully participate in the ministry.
Limitation of the Study
This research will cover the Chin Baptist Church women those who living in Chin state, Kalay Valley, Mandalay and Yangon in Myanmar where the Chin people are living. It will survey how Chin tradition, socio-culture have been effected on the role of theologically educated women those who are studying in seminary, and serving as lectures in seminaries and serving in the Baptist Church. This paper will not be covered for other denominations and ethnics groups in Myanmar.
In order to reach my thesis aim and objective, I will use the qualitative method, by using Library books, interview with Chin Baptist women ministers, and theological students, and my own experiences in theological education and ministry. In this paper, I will present Letty Russell’s Church in the Round: Feminist Interpretation of the church” and Limatula Longkumer’s “Christian Education for Transformation” books as my frameworks. Letty Russell presents women and men as a roundtable; we are a partnership in the ministry of God. Longkumer describes we need to deconstruct the traditional ways of Christian Education for gender justice. By using them I would like to encourage Chin Baptist Church women who are still under the structure of our myths, our social ideologies.