A paradox in a theology of freedom and equality : the experiences of pastors' wives (amayi busa) in the Baptist Convention of Malawi (Bacoma)
This study is a critical exploration and analysis of the experiences of 'being church‘ for women married to pastors in the Baptist Convention of Malawi (BACOMA). The study focused on the following research question: 'What does being church mean for women who are married to pastors in the BACOMA, whose distinctive mark is freedom of choice in matters of faith and ministry according to the Baptist-held principle of the priesthood of all believers? It is a qualitative empirical study of the life experiences of pastors‘ wives which used feminist narrative methods of inquiry. In order to get a full picture of the role perceptions and experiences of pastors‘ wives, the study used in depth interviews, group discussions and participant observation. A purposely selected group of twenty-nine pastors‘ wives from BACOMA-affiliated Lilongwe Baptist Association of Malawi were individually interviewed by the author. In addition, two group discussions with members of the Lilongwe Baptist Association Pastors‘ Fraternal group (LBAPF) were conducted and fifty church members that included women, men, and young people were also interviewed in order to determine the congregational perceptions of a pastor‘s wife. The purpose of my study was to determine the ideo-theological and socio-cultural factors that contribute to the construction of the identity of a pastor‘s wife in the BACOMA. By presenting a synthesis of the various perspectives on the experiences of pastors‘ wives, this study has demonstrated that a plurality of perspectives contribute to the construction of the identity of a pastors‘ wife. This causes her to be identified as a "dialogical self"¹ because of the many positions that contribute to the self understanding of her identity. These perspectives, which are embedded in patriarchal ideologies, include: doctrinal or biblical, ecclesiastical, congregational, cultural, and the "Self". I have also shown that the areas of conflict and tension between the Self and the "others" can be clues towards transformation. This is in addition to the alternatives suggested by feminist theologians in the study. Baptist ecclesiology in Malawi is challenged to take cognisance of these factors in order to build an inclusive ecclesiology that affirms the humanity of women in general and pastors‘ wives in particular.
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