Sunday, 14 June 2009

No women speakers at Calvin 500th anniversary event

I spent most of this afternoon interpretting for the official national celebration by the Swiss Protestant churches of Calvin's 500th jubliee. It was a fascinating, thought-provoking and in many ways brilliant event. I'll say more about what some of the speakers said in a later post.
However, when I finally got outside for the apéro (interpreting is thirsty work) my way to a wine glass was hampered by several women who wanted to talk to me about why there had not been a single woman amongst the speakers (of whom there were at least nine).
Little had I expected to post about women in the ecumenical future and then immediately afterwards attend an event that completely underlined the point about the need for the inclusion of women in the ecumenical present. One woman pastor also remarked that often that when there are no women on the panel then the ecumenical dimension doesn't get mentioned. Another woman who is her cantonal church's president and whom I had never met before, said in almost her first sentence to me "They have got to start listening to our bottom-up approach. This top- down approach isn't working if it doesn't take any notice of us."
To be fair the issue of Calvin and his favouring women's education etc. was mentioned at the event but in rather an embarassed half a sentence as suddenly the panelists realised that there was not even one woman amongst them.
I have been involved in so many church events where men mutter about and question "women only" space. When a space or event supposedly for the whole church just assumes that it's ok for it to be a men only space, this passes without a murmur. Fortunately at the worship following the event the preacher was a woman.