Negotiating the sacred space: A comparative study of the impact of the dynamics of culture and Christian theology on women in the South Sea Evangelical Church, and in the Anglican Church of Melanesia, Small Malaita, Solomon Islands
The discourses on women’s empowerment, leadership and development in the contemporary Pacific, and Melanesia suggest that local women in these regions are discriminated against and denied gender equality with men. The experience of disempowerment, and the unequal relationship between men and women is evident in all levels of societies, including local communities, government agencies, civil society and even church organisations. Contemporaneously, women continue to seek, advance and aspire to forms of leadership empowerment, and embrace their own visions of development for themselves and their communities in specific areas, such as the main Christian churches and the fellowships, unions, groups and committees that constitute them. This thesis is a comparative study of the dynamics of gender relations and women’s empowerment, and development in the South Sea Evangelical Church (SSEC), and the Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACOM), in the Solomon Islands with particular attention to Small Malaita. The study draws on local church women’s experience, particularly the SSEC Women’s Fellowship, and the ACOM Mothers’ Union. The study suggests that major differences exist between the two churches, regarding doctrines and faith traditions, missionary philosophies, the treatment of the Bible, and approaches to local culture. Nevertheless, despite the differences, local women in both churches have continued to experience unequal treatment in the relationship between men and women in formal leadership in the two churches. Men assume formal and public leadership, while women take on a leadership role in fellowship groups, youth and children’s ministry and at the same time oversee the general care of local church buildings. This present scenario is historically constituted and shaped by missionaries’ philosophies, and reinforced by local cultural beliefs. However, I argue that while these experiences have become widespread, the local church women are not passive but actively deal with local situations in an appropriate manner relevant to their respective socio-cultural contexts. This has provided a framework for personal and collective development, self-fulfilment and varying forms of leadership in specific gendered domains.
Advisor: Rawlings, Gregory; Leckie, Jacqui; Frazer, Ian
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: School of Social Sciences - Social Anthropology
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Solomon Islands; Christianity; Gender; Women in the Pacific; Empowerment; Leadership; Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACOM); South Seas Evangelical Mission (SSEC)
Research Type: Thesis