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Women’s Human, Ecclesial and Missionary Identity: What Insights Does the Pauline Correspondence Offer the Contemporary Woman?

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A careful exegesis of the seven letters that the majority of contemporary NT scholars hold that Paul wrote suggests that women had significant public ecclesial and missionary roles in the primitive Christian communities. However, the Deutero-Pauline letters point to a shift in the status of women who appear to have lost the public roles that they formerly held. Over the succeeding centuries, women were increasingly denied public ecclesial and missionary roles. In the Catholic tradition, the ecclesial and missionary vocation came to be understood as flowing from ordination rather than baptism, a development which relegated women to an ancillary role in the Church’s exercise of mission. Vatican II reaffirmed that it is through baptism all the faithful are called to mission. In other words, missionary identity flowed from baptism, not ordination with its gender specific character. This paper proposes to demonstrate the centrality of the Pauline letters for better understanding women’s ecclesial and missionary identities.

Affiliations: 1: School of Theology, The University of Auckland New Zealand, Email:


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