The Journey of Women’s Empowerment in a Chinese Congregation
Dr. Elaine YIP
Hostess & Speaker
An Online Faith Forum “Salt Light Fellowship”
In a Baptist church where women’s role had been restricted owing to the biblical interpretation of the western missionaries, only men could be found in the pulpit during worship. Women were not allowed to speak or lead the liturgy in worship. However a change was initiated and women’s roles were transformed. Women were allowed to stand on the pulpit to perform different roles afterwards. The breakthrough itself manifested a decolonisation of the influence of the western missionaries and the transformation of the culture and tradition of the congregation. The changes in women’s roles also helped in establishing and strengthening the image of women’s leadership. This journey generated a new understanding of women’s empowerment in this congregation where the concept of “headship” still demarcated the roles of women, with women still not holding top leadership posts. Empowerment was expressed in terms of greater visibility of women and equal partnership of men and women in worship, as well as a new perception that applied to all women and through the construction of new identities for the women leaders without acquiring the formal posts of ultimate leadership, and without having to abandon the conservative theology of male headship, which is both inherited from the colonizers and is also culturally Chinese.
This paper attempts to discuss how women’s empowerment can be made in a Chinese congregation with missionary influence, including the decolonisation in the use of the Bible, the interplay of different factors contributing to the success of changes in women’s roles and the obstacles hindering the further changes in women’s roles, the impact of the culture and tradition in a church, women’s diverse views towards the changes and their self-perception. On the other hand, the impact of the changes made on women and the congregation as a whole will also be explored.
Dr. Elaine YIP is a graduate of Professional Doctorate in Practical Theology in Anglia Ruskin University in 2019. Her research interest was feminist theology and her thesis was entitled “Exploring the journey towards Women’s Empowerment in a Chinese Congregation in Hong Kong”. She has been a deaconess in a Baptist church and has deep concerns for women’s rights in the church. She is also a founding member of “Asia Academy of Practical Theology HK”, and now a hostess and speaker in an online faith forum “Salt Light Fellowship”