A FEMINIST PERSPECTIVE by Tammy Barthels, M.Div. Middler

A group of Wartburg women students met with Dr. Arnfriður Guðmundsdóttir, professor at the University of Iceland, over lunch while she visited the seminary and discussed women in ministry. Following is a summary of that discussion:

Our experience shapes our theology. People assume if we are interested in a topic it has been our experience, but that is not always necessarily true.

What is Feminist Theology and how do we raise this controversial topic? A feminist perspective does not mean women strive to be over men; it means working towards equality.

Changing behaviors and habits is difficult. There is a resistance to learning new theology. What are the issues? What are the fears? We need to begin by listening. What are the realities for men? What are the realities for women? We need to ask ourselves and each other, “What are our dreams for partnership with each other?”

Women need to be in solidarity with each other. “We need to stay awake!” said Arnfriður. Women need to work together, not against one another. Women need to find a common ground where they can meet.  Arnfriður suggested that perhaps that common ground is Liturgy. “There seems to be a large gap between the theology we are doing and the liturgy we are practicing.”

The group laughed when Professor Guðmundsdóttir spoke of a newspaper headline: “Too bad women can’t chant.”   She said, “The reality is we need to open up discussion with musicians to work with ordained women. We need music that is more appropriate for women’s voices.”

Times are changing, slowly, but Iceland has just experienced a new reality. For the first time in history Iceland has a woman presiding bishop. Actually there were three new bishops elected within this past year. The women clergy spoke to the bishop and asked: “How can we help you? We are not here to impose but we want to assist where we can.”

The truth be told, there is a shortage of positions for pastors in Iceland. “We need to become aware of this reality,” she said. She spoke also about the need to move from a hierarchical church towards a church of shared power and partnership.

Student Christa Fisher asked Professor Guðmundsdóttir: “Where do we go from here?” Arnfriður responded: “Continue to find opportunities where you can speak, for example the confirmation rally where you spoke, Christa. Speak to the young women; tell them our stories. Don’t give in or give up. It is all of our responsibilities to make a change!”


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