The 10th General Assembly of the Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women took place in the Monastery Sveti Nikolai, Soko Grad, Serbia from 7-12 August 2018. The conference theme was taken from the book of Esther 4:14 ‘If you remain silent at this time …’
We will be posting our reports from the Assembly over the next few weeks. T
Kathy Galloway gave a keynote speech on the first day.
She described how a few years before she had been given the Esther text to preach from – it had become clear that the woman reading the lesson had not read in advance as her voice gradually became higher in pitch as she became more indignant. Ancient stories may be heard differently by modern woman – Esther is a horror story of misogyny and violence – three women speak within it.
Vashti – we are not told what she said – we are told what she did – she is perceived by men to be great threat to all men. The second woman to speak – Esther herself who has to be seen to be the most beautiful – after a year of becoming groomed in the harem. The wife of Haman also speaks – she builds him up – and tells him to raise the gallows.
We are presented with the bad wife, the complicit wife and the good wife.
Vashti is used to show asolute male dominance. The wife of Hamam brings disaster upon her family and Esther is the great tactical heroine.
But the saved people go on to kill 75,000 it is not a comfortable story. In a continuing struggle against patriarchy what does it mean to speak truth to power?
There are many biblical women to encourage us.
It is always important to speak to those around us – look at the Samaritan woman who risks to speak to Jesus. We can volunteer, post on bulletin boards, offer hospitality, meeting spaces in churches or homes, partner with existing resources and speak without words through our physical presence. Look at Rizpa sometimes all that remains is to bear witness and call to account the rulers of the world. We can become a resource like Mary in her home. We can give voice by supporting professional training like Lydia in her agency as a successful business women. In readiness to listen and act in faith
Our leadership is important – in Scotland – the Side by Side movement for gender justice -coordinated by Christian Aid to encourage male faith leaders to speak out on issues of gender justice especially violence – and especially violence within faith.
We can never give up
Politely and patiently – with determination- as women we are ensuring the silence breaks on gender injustice.
We can say no. We can resist everything that distorts the image of God in human beings. And we can be the one who says yes – like Mary the mother of Jesus.
The women in the bible are there because they broke the rules
To need to move from personal comfort to solidarity – we are not alone – in the midst of our struggles is Jesus saying do not be afraid.