But it’s not just about percentages, Maspaitella insisted. “It’s about feminist theology.”
That’s why the church began, in 2019, a Women Mentoring Theology program to empower women preachers.
“We think this is a unique context in the Maluku Protestant Church in that we are 770 local congregations,” said Maspaitella, “There are a number of challenges—and part of the answer to those challenges depends on theology.”
Maspaitella believes that strengthening and developing theological thinking among women pastors leads to strengthening entire local communities. “For example, we would see movements to advocate for shelters or safe houses for women and children,” he said. “Communities will become more equal, peaceful, and inclusive.”
The island communities cope with many challenges. “We are a disaster-prone area, with earthquakes, forest fires due to droughts, floods, and even tsunamis,” said Maspaitella. “In 2020, we were dealing with the COVID pandemic, which disproportionately affected women, children, and persons with disabilities.”
Empowering women with equal access to technology remains vitally important, Maspaitella believes. “Women theologians have powerful hearts and powerful communication with people,” he said. “Women theologians can give answers on these issues.
So far, 35 female pastors have participated in the Women Mentoring Theology program, which gives them the opportunity to discuss and explore a feminist point of view.
“They have space and time for discussion,” said Maspaitella, describing the program. “In the end, I think there will be a publication by women theologians.”
Rev. Jenne Jessica Pieter said, as women pastors struggle to build congregations in island settings, they are simultaneously walking alongside Indigenous people fighting for human rights amid often exploitative mining practices. “We want to be together with the Indigenous people and, after COVID, it’s the same around the world: for women and children, domestic violence is increasing,” said Pieter.
Rev. Agnes Souisa said that the Women Mentoring Theology program is about women strengthening women. “We face many struggles and differences in our local congregations and we not only come to discuss them but we also find ideas on how we can serve as we discuss serious theological issues.”
Pieter and Souisa—along with Rev. Ruth Saiya and Rev. Vebby Songupnuan—were instrumental in initiating the project.
Rev. Dr Benjamin Simon, professor for Ecumenical Social Ethics at the World Council of Churches (WCC) Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, noted that the program was started by Bossey alumni. “Other churches can learn from this model,” he said. “The WCC Ecumenical Theological Education program is highly invested in supporting this type of work because we want to give women the space to reflect on a contextual basis their theologies,” he said.