Rev. Agustina Lumentut
Central Sulawesi Christian Church of IndonesiaFraternal Delegate from Christian Conference of Asia
l. We of the delegation of the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) join with you our brothers and sisters in offering praise to the Lord who is leading the journey of the Roman Catholic Church in Asia together with us, your fellow Christians. From the depth of our hearts we express our thanks and our highest regards to Pope John Paul II by whose invitation we of the Christian Conference of Asia are present at this important Synod. The Christian Conference of Asia considers this invitation as a very progressive, meaningful and valuable step in the process of restoring the unity of the Church, not only in Asia but hopefully in the whole world. May Pope John Paul II be blessed by God in his leadership of the worldwide Roman Catholic communion. And may all the bishops of this Synod be blessed by the Lord in this assembly as they wrestle with the Christian call upon the approach of the year 2000.
2. I am blessed in a special way by the trust the Christian Conference of Asia has given to me in this Synod, and moreover, in being given the opportunity to both extend our greetings as well as offer a contribution to the deliberations on the Synod theme. Certainly this means a golden opportunity for me to be here among you as a woman. A theologian belonging to the protestant churches of Indonesia, who started as an ordained pastor in a parish in my region, Central Sulawesi, who became a member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches in Geneva, was vice-general secretary of the Council of Indonesian Churches and for eight years, till last year, president (or should I say bishop) of the church of Central Sulawesi. Now I am a village pastor again.
3. In studying the Instrumentum Laboris I was impressed while discovering that the Roman Catholic Church is determined that renewal and revitalization become effective throughout the church as it carries on the mission of Jesus Christ in Asia, the mission of love and service. This is brought very clearly to the fore in point 5 of the Introduction, under the title The Synodal Pilgrimage. I quote:
The church in Asia is presently involved in a Synodal journey, a journey which is hoped will lead to internal renewal and revitalization of the commitment to proclaim the saving message of Jesus Christ through a new evangelization. In keeping with the etymological meaning of the word Synodus, ‘a walking together,’ this synodal journey is done in the company of Jesus Christ, in communion with all the particular churches of Asia and with the worldwide Church, and in the spirit of unity not only with the Christian churches and communities in Asia, but also with the followers of the great religions and religious traditions of Asia.
4. At the time of this Synod meeting, on the one hand violent conflicts are breaking out at different places of the world, on the other hand people are seeking reconciliation.
In Asia many countries are afflicted by a monetary and economic crisis. Therefore poverty and suffering increase for men, but in particular for women who will be hit most by the rising prices of their basic needs. Often the husbands and the older children of Asian women have gone away to the big cities to find a job-and never return. No ‘syn-odos,’ no ‘walking together’ anymore for many Asian women and their families. But there is not only a ‘syn-odos,’ a ‘walking together’ with women from the same religion, but also from other religions, women who have similar experiences. As Asian women theologians have stated: “These shared experiences can become one of the primary sources for theological reflection,” for re-reading the Scripture, for a new interpretation, a new perspective. As long as Asian women find the courage to tell each other their stories and share their experiences, they have hope. Women are walking together. But is the Church walking with them?
5. If we understand renewal as that which determines the path of the Roman Catholic Church from now until the year 2000 and thereafter, what form of renewal is to be expected? Whose voice is being heard and considered? Certainly the voice of Jesus Christ. Certainly also the voice of the Holy Spirit. Also the voice of the poor, of the oppressed, the voice of people who experience discrimination whether because of the color of their skin, their social status, or their gender. All of these are recorded and noted (Chapter III/22). A question that arises in my heart is, will the voice of women be considered among those already mentioned? The issue about women in point 22 does speak about what is done for them in order that they achieve equal status in society - equal status with whom? with men? And then - what about equal status within the Church?
‘(Through) the entry of religious sisters into the Asian missionary scene, the process of social emancipation of women gained a fresh momentum.’
If I understand correctly, this must be read alongside chapter VII/44. While positive in many respects, that chapter seems to assume that the proper role of women in the Church is among the laity. Of course, lay women do make a vital contribution to the Church’s life and witness. But I cannot hide the deep conviction of my church: first that among women, also, are found the gifts and graces of those who may appropriately be ordained to pastoral and sacramental ministry, and second, that the Church must order its life to be able to receive such gifts and graces. On this issue our churches remain divided, as indeed do the churches that belong to the CCA. But as an ordained pastor, as a bishop, I hope that we will make it a subject for serious dialogue so that, together, we may find our way to a shared understanding of God’s will for the Church.
May the voice of Christ guide your deliberations and decisions.