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Dr Mercy Oduyoye receives an honorary doctorate for changing how women are viewed in theology
2015-07-08

Dr Mercy Oduyoye.
Photo: Johan Roux

Dr Mercy Amba Oduyoye received an honorary degree from the UFS Faculty of Theology in acknowledgement of the trailblazing work she has done in the field of African women’s theology. Known as the Mother of African Women’s Theology, Dr Oduyoye is the first black woman in Africa to have received a degree in theology. Ever since then, she has been changing views on gender in theology across the globe. Still at the office at the age of 82, Dr Oduyoye’s life work has centred on two areas: her work with churches, and her work with female theologians.

Women in religion and culture
Following the 2015 Winter Graduation Ceremony on the Bloemfontein Campus, during which Dr Oduyoye received her honorary degree from the University of the Free State (UFS), she presented a lecture on women in religion and culture at the Faculty of Theology. Dr Oduyoye gave a brief overview of her involvement in organisations since the early 1970s to eliminate patriarchal structures in theology, in order to produce a relationship of partnership between women and men. An area that lies especially close to Dr Oduyoye’s heart is that of storytelling, and the use of language. Therefore, a driving force behind her work has been the question: “How do we communicate what we believe as Christians?”

Writing in a way people can understand

This question led Dr Oduyoye on her journey to vernacularise theological language, and it became her mode of writing. “Very seldom will you find the classical or official theological language in my writing, because I’m writing as if I’m speaking to a youth group, a women’s group – or even my grandmother.” In this way, communication became her focal point to present Christianity in such a way that people can understand it, thus rendering it relevant to the situation in Africa.

Changes toward inclusive language
Dr Oduyoye has gone on to author four books and over eighty articles on theology from a feminist perspective. And after toiling for many years, Dr Oduyoye can now see the changes emerging – especially in the US – as Bibles, lectionaries, and hymns are increasingly adopting an inclusive language, giving women a presence and voice within the church.

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