- How do gender-based differences in religious experience — education, obligations, spheres of influence — affect dialogue across faith communities?
- Are women’s voices from each tradition presented as authentic? authoritative? alternative? (at all?)
- How are gender-specific power issues acknowledged?
- If women cannot be “clergy” or take certain leadership roles in some faith communities, how can interfaith “clergy” efforts be inclusive?
- How are worship and learning experiences organized across the egalitarian/gender-segregation divide?
- How are historical and contemporary gender inequalities addressed?
These were among the questions I had, as a newcomer to interfaith dialogue a few years ago. While I did not expect to find “answers,” necessarily, I did expect that, after years of interfaith dialogue around the world, there would be at least a framework for considering them. I assumed there would be a literature and some regular practices in place.
But my queries to practitioners of interfaith dialogue met largely with blank stares, sometimes anger: Why threaten a delicate set of communications with a “side issue”?
I have since discovered some academic literature on the subject but very few — I found one, actually, but assume there must be others — sets of dialogue guidelines that specifically address gender.
When I set up InterfaithandGender.org, in 2011, I wrote that it was “launched in a kind of desperation.” In 2014, as I move resources from that site to “A Song Every Day,” I still hope to create a place to share thoughts and resources wherever this topic has already been considered. While there has been some movement over these few years, I don’t think enough has changed for me to re-write this closing paragraph:
Where it is usually an afterthought at best, let us begin to address — explicitly and with care — the ways in which gender interacts with interfaith experience. Working together we can develop a framework for asking helpful questions and putting gender-related issues on the table in interfaith dialogue.
If I’m wrong, and I’ve somehow missed a groundswell of activity and improvement, please enlighten me: I have not followed this as closely as I would have liked.