by Shieh Hui-Chuan, Taiwan SCM
In Taiwan, women are often being put in a vague and uncertain position. On the surface, men and women are equal in welfare and power distribution as well as under the protection of laws. But it is hardly the fact.
The Taiwanese family and society have long been influenced by the traditional Chinese culture: Confucianism. Under the influences of various deep-rooted concepts such as “male’s priority over female”, women are often limited into playing the role that is expected by society and family: a woman who is quiet, never expresses her own opinions, and always obeys her father, husband and sons and follows what they said. Many women are accustomed to live with these restrictions without considering the need of necessary changes.
The committee of Women Ministry of General conference in Taiwan has promoted “Gender Equality Decade 1998-2008” as a continuation and response to the “Unite Churches and Women Decade” campaign held by the World Council of Churches (WCC). From the statistics, we observe that the number of female elders and deacons is on the rise year by year in local churches (from 37% in 1992 to 42% in 1997). However, when it comes to the ministry in the general conference level, the ratio of women participation goes contrastively down. In the Presbyterian Church, female voting delegates (elder) from each congregation and ministers remain in the minority. This year the Presbyterian Church passed a law stipulating that the number of female workers must be up to 5% in all ministries and committees. Although this is a start, in practicing this, there is still a certain distance to reach the goal.
On the surface, Taiwan seems to be an equal society for both genders. But beneath it, women are still restricted by traditional ethics and culture in the society, in their families, and in the church. Therefore, women do not have many opportunities to optimise the strength and the power of female independence to the full extent.
As a female pastor, I have worked with the congregation as a pastor alone as well as with a male colleague pastor. Although I receive less discrimination from my partnership with this colleague, in the overall Church environment I am still restricted because I am a Woman. For example, women are always perceived under the opinion of being “weak”, and that women cannot be a leader and cannot make decisions. Or women could only take certain responsibilities to perform small menial tasks or could just be the leader in certain times. Unfortunately many a time, the pressure given to women does not only come from men but also from women ourselves. In the church, while female elders often listen and submit to the opinion of male elders, they would query and doubt on the opinion or decision made by female pastors. And if a married couple in the church is pastors, the wife is often limited to be the pastor’s wife, and she cannot be a leader in the church. These experiences left me feeling helpless being a female pastor. It makes me feel sad and distressed. We should do more and worker harder to reach the goal of gender equality.