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A Rosalie story


  ' . . .   a reflection on experience and thinking over recent times  . . .  not an autobiography,'  suggested Evan.   A very difficult task because my reflectings reveal that any recent thinking doesn't stand in isolation:  it's a cumulative process.
Rosalie A zip through the decades discloses an issue for each:  40s formative;  50s fundamentalism;  60s liberalism;  70s the Women's Movement;  80s sexist language;  90s feminism.   These overlapping concepts form a garment I call  'A Theology of Inclusiveness'.   It's what comes of being incurably religious!   But God has always been part of my thinking,  and I am grateful to all my  'God teachers'.

Strong parental role models  -  both active in community and different churches  -  showed me good people can come to different conclusions,  but faith involves works.

Fundamentalism gave me knowledge of the Bible.   Liberalism gave me understanding of the Bible.   Women's Issues encouraged me to apply the understanding.   Addressing discrimination against women led to addressing discrimination on any grounds,  particularly,  as it happened,  against gay and lesbian people.

The 90s homosexuality issue within the Methodist church took me by surprise as I'd thought Methodism had dealt with the matter positively,  years ago.   It seemed incredible to me that a church could ordain women,  but refuse,  on scriptural grounds,  to ordain homosexual men.   I believed it was simply a matter of education.   I used my positions as editor of the local  Parish News  and District President of MWF to spread what affirmative messages I could  -  via articles,  devotions,  comments at meetings,  and speeches at Conventions.   I discovered the selectively literal approach to the Bible many based their opposition on was not simple.   I found myself involved in study groups,  letter writing,  and being available as a listening ear.   I have no proof I influenced anyone,  but I did raise awareness,  and firmed up  'inclusiveness'  as a theological twin to  'justice'  in my own thinking.



I began reading feminist theology and found it made a lot of sense.   I readily related to Godde the Nurturer who inspires respect for all creation.   Feminist theologians use words like liberation and mutuality,  and carefully detail systemic sins such as sexism,  racism,  and the rape of the earth.   They are calling everyone to be accountable both for their personal actions and for their actions as members of social,  political,  economic,  and religious groups.

My gripe with  'feminism'  is the word.   It has an exclusive ring.   I would like feminism to be but one group within an Inclusive Network  -  that welcomes all marginalised groups in a global quest for universal mutuality and respect.

Feminist theologians can get too theoretical for me.   I greatly appreciate the practical ties of women's groups.   In recent years I've particularly enjoyed the company of Methodist Women's Fellowship,  National Council of Women,  Business and Professional Women,  The Women's Programme of CCANZ,  and DAWN,  an Anglican feminist group.   I've found strength in sisterhood and know it as a powerful force for good.


But even more important to me has been Dunedin Methodist Parish.   Sound theology is its hallmark,  and this flows into creative positives for inclusive Christianity.   Here I see a parish blessed with theologians,  musicians,  and ordinary people willing to take a serious stand for justice.   Careful attention is directed to theological education,  and inclusive language permeates the hymns,  prayers,  and liturgies.   All people are valued regardless of gender,  sexual orientation,  or marital status.   I have been doubly blessed being a member of Mornington,  where much of the theory is worked through,  and later a member of Glenaven where the congregation simply gets on with living inclusively.

Now,  half a world away,  I feel more keenly than ever the specialness of Dunedin's inclusiveness.   It prompts me to challenge sexist and homophobic attitudes wherever I meet them.   I find myself preaching sermons the likes of which folk here have never heard before.   I am confident my Dunedin-nurtured theology is sound.   It has a flow-on effect.

Over the last month Dunedin legacies have prompted my speaking up at the Guild's  (mixed,  church social group)  AGM changing chairman to chairperson;  staying with a lesbian couple who had never felt able to host a straight family;  opening up a sermon for discussion evoking a spirited response;  accepting invitations to write an article on  'Inclusiveness in the NZ Church'  for the newsletter of a London Women's Resource Centre;  speaking on Colin's hymns during a service of Songs and Praise;  leading a series of workshops on  'The Changing Language of Religion'  in an Anglican church;  preaching on  'Let the women remain silent'.

Do I enjoy this stuff?   Yes,  usually,  but I do it because I believe God calls us to do what we can,  and I believe in the power of the individual to make a difference.

Rosalie Sugrue



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