Original Research - Special Collection: Ethics education and social justice

Women, priests and patriarchal ecclesial spaces in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa: On 'interruption' as a transformative rhetorical strategy

Miranda N. Pillay
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 76, No 1 | a5820 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v76i1.5820 | © 2020 Miranda N. Pillay | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 September 2019 | Published: 11 June 2020

About the author(s)

Miranda N. Pillay, Department of Religion and Theology, Faculty of Arts, University of the Western Cape, Bellville, Cape Town, South Africa


In spite of the presence of women in previously male-dominated ecclesial spaces, patriarchal normativity continues to be re-inscribed through the reproduction of knowledge, which sustains skewed gender power relations amongst the clergy. This was a case in point when a newly ordained woman priest in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa was recently addressed as, and given the official title, ‘mother’ during the vestment ritual at a church service where she was to celebrate the Eucharist for the first time. This while the male priests present had retained the title ‘father’ without any critical reflection on the male-headship theology it perpetuates. If one considers that the ordination of women has opened the possibility for them to celebrate the Eucharist, which gives authority to preside at (or head) the ‘Table’, then one has to be mindful of the subtle ways in which language is used to regulate the production and reproduction of gender bias in a patriarchal system. Being the guest preacher at the celebratory service of this former Ethics and Theology student, I could do no other but interrupt the sermon I had prepared. In this article, I argue that interruption is a helpful theoretical concept – both as a transformative rhetorical strategy in the interpretation of biblical texts and also as an act of resisting discourses and practices that uphold and re-inscribe patriarchal norms. I will approach the hermeneutical concept of interruption from what I call a feminist theo-ethical perspective.


Women priests; Anglican church; Patriarchal normativity; Feminist theo-ethical perspective; Intertextual reading; Interruption; Hermeneutics


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