Christian feminism

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Christian feminism is an aspect of feminist theology which seeks to advance and understand the equality of men and women morally, socially, spiritually, and in leadership from a Christian perspective. Christian feminists argue that contributions by women in that direction are necessary for a complete understanding of Christianity.[1] Christian feminists believe that God does not discriminate on the basis of biologically-determined characteristics such as sex and race.[2] Their major issues include the ordination of women, male dominance in Christian marriage, recognition of equal spiritual and moral abilities, reproductive rights, and the search for a feminine or gender-transcendent divine.[3][4][5][6] Christian feminists often draw on the teachings of other religions and ideologies in addition to biblical evidence.[7]

The term Christian egalitarianism is often preferred by those advocating gender equality and equity among Christians who do not wish to associate themselves with the feminist movement.[8]

History[edit]

Some Christian feminists believe that the principle of egalitarianism was present in the teachings of Jesus and the early Christian movements, but this is a highly contested view. These interpretations of Christian origins have been criticized for "anachronistically projecting contemporary ideals back into the first century."[9] In the Middle Ages Julian of Norwich and Hildegard of Bingen explored the idea of a divine power with both masculine and feminine aspects.[10][11] Feminist works from the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries addressed objections to women learning, teaching and preaching in a religious context.[12] One such proto-feminist was Anne Hutchinson who was cast out of the Puritan colony of Massachusetts for teaching on the dignity and rights of women.[13]

The first wave of feminism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries included an increased interest in the place of women in religion. Women who were campaigning for their rights began to question their inferiority both within the church and in other spheres justified by church teachings.[14] Some Christian feminists of this period were Marie Maugeret, Katharine Bushnell, Catherine Booth, Frances Willard, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Issues[edit]

Women in church leadership[edit]

Main article: Ordination of women

In both mainline and liberal branches of Protestant Christianity, women are ordained as clergy. Even some theologically conservative denominations, such as Assemblies of God,[15] ordain women as pastors. However, the Roman Catholic church, the Orthodox Christian churches, the Southern Baptist Convention (the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.),[16] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and most churches in the American Evangelical movement prohibit women from entering clerical positions.[17] Some Christian feminists believe that as women have greater opportunity to receive theological training, they will have greater influence on how scriptures are interpreted by those that deny women the right to become ministers.[18]

Women as spiritually deficient[edit]

Understanding whether women are spiritually deficient to men partly hinges on whether women are equipped spiritually with discernment to teach. The following passages also relate to whether women are inherently spiritually discerning as men:

  • Galatians 3:28. "There is neither…male nor female for all are one in Christ Jesus."
  • Deborah of the Old Testament was a prophetess and "judge of Israel"[19]
  • Genesis 2:20. The word translated "help" or "helper" is the same Hebrew word, "ēzer," which the Old Testament uses more than 17 times to describe the kind of help that God brings to His people in times of need; e.g., "Thou art my help (ēzer) and my deliverer," and "My help (ēzer) comes from the Lord." Never once in all these references is the word used to indicate subordination or servitude to another human being.[20]
  • Genesis 3:16. "To the woman he (God) said, 'I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.'"

Reproduction, sexuality and religion[edit]

Conservative religious groups are often at philosophical odds with many feminist and liberal religious groups over abortion and the use of birth control. Scholars like sociologist Flann Campbell have argued that conservative religious denominations tend to restrict male and female sexuality[21][22][23] by prohibiting or limiting birth control use,[24] and condemning abortion as sinful murder.[25][26] Some Christian feminists (like Teresa Forcades) contend that a woman's "right to control her pregnancy is bounded by considerations of her own well-being" and that restricted access to birth control and abortion disrespect her God-given free will.[27]

A number of socially progressive mainline Protestant denominations as well as certain Jewish organizations and the group Catholics for a Free Choice have formed the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.[28] The RCRC often works as a liberal feminist organization and in conjunction with other American feminist groups to oppose conservative religious denominations which, from their perspective, seek to suppress the natural reproductive rights of women.[29]

Feminine or Gender-transcendent God[edit]

Some Christian feminists believe that gender equality within the church cannot be achieved without rethinking the portrayal and understanding of God as a masculine being.[30] The theological concept of Sophia, usually seen as replacing the Holy Spirit in the Trinity, is often used to fulfill this desire for symbols which reflect women's religious experiences. How Sophia is configured is not static, but usually filled with emotions and individual expression.[31] For some Christian feminists, the Sophia concept is found in a search for women who reflect contemporary feminist ideals in both the Old and New Testament. Some figures used for this purpose include the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene,[32] Eve,[33] and Esther.[34] Others see God as entirely gender-transcendent. [35] or focus on the feminine aspects of God and Jesus. [36] Some Christian feminists use and promote gender neutral and/or feminine language and imagery to describe God and/or Christ. The United Church of Christ describes its New Century Hymnal, published in 1995, as "the only hymnal released by a Christian church that honors in equal measure both male and female images of God." [37]


See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Harrison, Victoria S. "Modern Women, Traditional Abrahamic Religions and Interpreting Sacred Texts." Feminist Theology: The Journal of the Britain & Ireland School of Feminist Theology 15.2 (2007):145-159.
  2. ^ McPhillips, Kathleen. "Theme: Feminisms, Religions, Cultures, Identities." Australian Feminist Studies 14.30 (1999).
  3. ^ Daggers, Jenny. "Working for Change in the Position of Women in the Church." Feminist Theology: The Journal of the Britain & Ireland School of Feminist Theology 26 (2001)
  4. ^ McEwan, Dorothea. "The Future of Christian Feminist Theologies--As I Sense It: Musings on the Effects of Historiography and Space."
  5. ^ McIntosh, Esther. "The Possibility of a Gender-Transcendent God: Taking Macmurray Forward." Feminist Theology: The Journal of the Britain & Ireland School of Feminist Theology 15 (2007): 236-255.
  6. ^ Polinska, Wioleta. "In Woman's Image: An Iconography for God." Feminist Theology 13.1 (2004):40-61
  7. ^ Clack, Beverly. "Thealogy and Theology: Mutually Exclusive or Creatively Interdependent? Feminist Theology: The Journal of the Britain & Ireland School of Feminist Theology 21 (1999):21-38.
  8. ^ Groothuis, Rebecca M., Ronald Pierce and Gordon Fee eds. "Feminism Goes to Seed."www.christianethicstoday.com/CET/CET/CETJournal.pdf Feminism Goes to Seed]
  9. ^ Beavis, Mary Ann. "Christian Origins, Egalitarianism, and Utopia." Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 23.2 (2007): 27-49
  10. ^ Bauerschmidt, Frederick Christian. "Seeing Jesus: Julian of Norwich and the Text of Christ's Body." Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 27.2 (1997):189-214.
  11. ^ Boyce-Tillman, June. "Hildegard of Bingen: A Woman for our Time." Feminist Theology 22 (1999):25-41.
  12. ^ McEwan, Dorothea. "The Future of Christian Feminist Theologies--As I Sense It: Musings on the Effects of Historiography and Space." 79-92.
  13. ^ Ellsberg, Robert. All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses from Our Time
  14. ^ Capitani, Diane. "Imagining God in Our Ways: The Journals of Frances E. Willard." Feminist Theology: The Journal of the Britain & Ireland School of Feminist Theology 12.1 (2003):57-88.
  15. ^ "The Role of Women in Ministry" (PDF). The General Council of the Assemblies of God. 1990-08-14. p. 7. 
  16. ^ SBC Position Statements - Women in Ministry
  17. ^ SpringerLink - Journal Article
  18. ^ Harrison, Victoria S. "Modern Women, Traditional Abrahamic Religions and Interpreting Sacred Texts." Feminist Theology: The Journal of the Britain & Ireland School of Feminist Theology 15.2 (2007):145-159
  19. ^ Deborah the Prophetess
  20. ^ "Ezer Kenegdo" Word Study. God's Word to Women, 2011
  21. ^ Birth Control and Christian Churches
  22. ^ Ordaining Women: Culture and Conflict in Religious Organizations
  23. ^ Birth Control and Christian Churches
  24. ^ Paul VI - Humanae Vitae
  25. ^ Southern Baptist Convention Resolutions on Abortion
  26. ^ Sin of Abortion and the Reasons Why
  27. ^ Colker, Ruth. "Feminism, Theology, and Abortion: Toward Love, Compassion, and Wisdom." California Law Review 77 (1989):1011-1075.
  28. ^ RCRC—Member Organizations
  29. ^ National Women's Law Center
  30. ^ Kim, Grace. "Revisioning Christ." Feminist Theology: The Journal of the Britain & Ireland School of Feminist Theology 28 (2001):82-91.
  31. ^ McEwan, Dorothea. "The Future of Christian Feminist Theologies--As I Sense It: Musings on the Effects of Historiography and Space." 79-92.
  32. ^ Winkett, Lucy. "Go Tell! Thinking About Mary Magdalene." Feminist Theology: The Journal of the Britain & Ireland School of Feminist Theology 29 (2002):19-31.
  33. ^ Isherwood, Lisa. "The British Christian Women's Movement: A Rehabilitation of Eve." Feminist Theology: The Journal of the Britain & Ireland School of Feminist Theology 15.1 (2006): 128-129.
  34. ^ Fuchs, Esther. "Reclaiming the Hebrew Bible for Women." Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 24.2 (2008):45-65.
  35. ^ McIntosh, Esther. "The Possibility of a Gender-Transcendent God: Taking Macmurray Forward." Feminist Theology: The Journal of the Britain & Ireland School of Feminist Theology 15 (2007):236-255.
  36. ^ Kim, Grace. "Revisioning Christ." Feminist Theology: The Journal of the Britain & Ireland School of Feminist Theology 28 (2001):82-91.
  37. ^ http://www.ucc.org/about-us/old-firsts.html

Further reading[edit]

  • Rosemary Radford Ruether, Feminist Theologies: Legacy and Prospect (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2007)
  • Patricia M. Berliner, Ph.D., Touching Your Lifethread and Revaluing the Feminine Cloverdale Books (2007) ISBN 978-1-929569-20-5 [1]
  • Mimi Haddad, Ph.D., "Egalitarian Pioneers: Betty Friedan or Catherine Booth?" Priscilla Papers, Vol. 20, No. 4 (Autumn 2006)
  • Eryl W. Davies, The Dissenting Reader: Feminist Approaches to the Hebrew Bible (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2003)
  • Pamela Sue Anderson, A feminist philosophy of religion: the rationality and myths of religious belief (Oxford; Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 1998)
  • Pamela Sue Anderson and Beverley Clack, eds., Feminist philosophy of religion: critical readings (London: Routledge, 2004)
  • Letty M. Russell, Church in the Round (Westminster John Knox Press, 1993)
  • John Temple Bristow, What Paul Really Said About Women: An Apostle's Liberating Views on Equality in Marriage, Leadership and Love (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988)
  • Patricia Wilson-Kastner, Faith, Feminism, and the Christ (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983).

Journals[edit]

  • Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. [2]
  • The Woman's Pulpit

External links[edit]