A History of Gender Insensitivity in URCSA

  • Mary-Anne Plaatjies Van Huffel University of Stellenbosch
Keywords: autoethnography, counter-history, covert and overt, Foucault, gender, gender justice, gender sensitivity, patriarchy, post-structural feminism, slating


This article utilises autoethnographical methodology to dissect the history of gender insensitivity in the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA). According to Carolyn Ellis (2010), autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to “describe and systematically analyze (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno).” Ellis (2004) states that autoethnography refers to writing about the personal and its relationship to culture. This paper utilises self-reflection to explore anecdotal personal experience and to connect this autobiographical story to wider understanding of gender in URCSA. Sandars (2009) defines reflection as a “metacognitive process that occurs before, during and after situations with the purpose of developing greater understanding of both the self and the situation …” This article concentrates on research grounded in personal experience. It aims to sensitise readers to issues of identity politics in URCSA. It will highlight experiences shrouded in silence within URCSA, and deepen knowledge about the struggles that women in ordained positions within URCSA have had to endure. Foucault (1982) describes three types of struggles: either against forms of domination; against forms of exploitation; or against that which ties the individual to himself and submits him to others. The article deconstructs the relationship between text and theory, praxis and context, and presents an alternative interpretation. It highlights central themes regarding women in ordained positions within URCSA, but focuses more on the sub themes: from ordination to academia; ordained women in leadership positions, the gender equity policy of URCSA; a milestone never embraced 1994–2005; inclusive language and the draft worship book of URCSA; women as delegates to ecumenical gatherings.


Author Biography

Mary-Anne Plaatjies Van Huffel, University of Stellenbosch

Department Systematic Theology and Ecclesiology

Professor Church Polity