Women in the World 2015
Women in the World 2015
For the past 30 years, Women in the World (previously Women and the Word: 1985-2009) has been a witness to women’s participation in the church, which has often been troubled, and at times painful, but still audacious and victorious. Despite the numerous challenges and pains, our brave women have transformed what it means for women to participate in ministry through the integration of their specific contexts, styles and forms of preaching, and movements for the rights of many different people. Celebrating 30 years of our Women in the World, we are exploring the foundations of these progressions, what challenges still face us, and asking where we hope to go. We are envisioning and sharing the vibrancy of future women’s ministry.
Bishop Hope Morgan Ward
Dr. Eunjoo Mary Kim
Dr. Cristian De La Rosa
Dr. Diana Swancutt
Rev. Dr. Julie Todd
Rev. Jacqueline Blue
Dr. David Jacobsen
Presentation of the History of Women in the World Presented by:
Dr. Kathe Pfsisterer Darr
Dr. Carole Bohn
Ms. Margaret Wiborg
Rev. Dr. June Goudey
A Recap of the Event:
by Choi Hee An and Kaci Norman
Over 30 years the Shaw Center has offered a place to explore questions ranging from the uniqueness of women’s preaching, preaching wholeness, honoring difference, privilege, and finding voice, to interfaith dialogue, immigration, economic injustices, leadership and power dynamics. The wide range of conversations and speakers has held the attention of School of Theology students, female clergy, board members, faculty, lay members of the church, and all those willing to question and converse with us. This year’s conference, ’30 Years and Going Strong’ spoke to all the creativity, passion, and brilliance of the history of Women in the World.’ Throughout this conference, we looked back at this history to understand where we are today, and envision together what questions we need to continue asking and what work still needs to be done.
Dr. Diana Swancutt, professor at Boston University’s Graduate Department of Religion, Xochitl Alvizo, a PhD candidate at BU who recently accepted a professorship at California State University: Northridge, and Rev. Dr. Julie Todd, Affiliate Faculty for Justice and Peace Studies at the Iliff School of Theology, commenced the conversation with an invigorating and challenging discussion on the difficulties faced by LGBTQI peoples every day in conversation with poverty. Dr. Swancutt began by examining the common source for both sexism and homophobia, each being rooted in misogyny and the need for control. Swancutt explored how these two underlie multiple forms of oppression, noting that this highlights an interconnectivity for them all. She also discussed the economic and political implications of control and misogyny, and how people are often intentionally pitted against one another making progress exceptionally difficult. To realize our connectivity elicits a call for solidarity and action with our community. Xochitl Alvizo then continued the conversation by locating it in the church and the household. In these places, it is possible to practice new models of inclusivity. Alvizo noted too that the church still has work to do in its acceptance of heteronormativity, and reminded the audience that the gospel is good news for all people. Because of this, the church should reexamine the implications of heteronormativity within its theology and teachings on sexuality. Julie Todd, as an activist involved with LovePrevails, then brought this panel to a close discussing how misogyny and control continue to exist in the church, and that disruption is needed. If the status quo of the church is to be toppled, more people need to consider themselves agents of change, keep a strong back bone, walk like a lion, and network so that we can support each other in the struggle.
In the second panel, Dr. Eun Joo Kim, Dr. David Jacobsen, and Rev. Jackie Blue discussed preaching from different perspectives, and the importance of putting these different perspectives in conversation with one another. Kim framed the conversation in an address on the direction and impact of women’s preaching, mentioning the reality that many factors (sexual discrimination, globalization e.g.) continue to impact the reception of women pastors. Globalization, especially, begs the question of shifting contexts and the necessity of relevancy in preaching. Kim argued that shared ministry, the extension of preaching to include the congregation and a redefinition of authority, offers the tools and space to deal with constant change. The pulpit should be a place from which the church can experiment with different ways of participating in the life of the church. The directive of a preacher should be to expand her capacity for imagination and creativity, constantly reevaluating the identity of the church; this is also one of the most difficult things to cultivate. Jacobsen then expounded on the importance of cultural competencies and cosmopolitan personalities for the formation of theological knowledge, which blossoms when God’s presence is made known in the complexities of race, culture, and gender. Theological knowledge leads to a transformative impact on gender and mainline church disestablishment and re-imagination of where God is in the world and what shared ministry will look like. Finally, Rev. Blue offered an analysis of the call of the preacher from the perspective of the black church, where the call is indicative of a mystical divine partnership. Blue spoke about how the black church exists in and because of community, and how the preaching of the black church flows from the experiential reality of shared suffering and oppression. Blue discussed then that Kim’s shared preaching has the potential to help people to continue to ‘name the evil in the room.’ Blue ended with a call to keep showing up and preaching the truth of the gospel.
In the final panel of the day, Bishop Hope Ward, of the southeastern jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church, along with Dr. Cristian De La Rosa, and Jordan Zepher, a first year MDiv student at the School of Theology, gave poignant observations on the current atmosphere within churches and the multiplicity of contexts the church must be ready and willing to address. Ward began with what she called a reality check—a temperature gage on how clergywomen perceive themselves in ministry. Her correspondence with several clergywomen showed by an embrace and continued questions of how to balance the many expectations and roles of women. This includes family obligations as well as inclusive language. Bishop Ward pointed out that while women bring unique and helpful gifts to the life of the church, such as collaboration, sharing of power, mentoring, and listening, the church often mirrors broader culture, which does not espouse these traits as highly as their masculine counterparts for a leader. For many of the clergywomen she consulted though, other women have been a source of strength, with one of them writing, “Women bring a collaborative energy bring to the table. They’ve always been the ones who were willing to walk beside me and wipe my tears. To tell me when I’m off my rocker. To trust my decisions to have my back. To be my surrogate sisters and mother.” While the news is not all good, and there are certainly things to lament, women have worked with each other to find their own space within the church, and this work is not going to end anytime soon. Dr. De La Rosa joined the conversation, noting the particular experiences of Latina women in the church and remembering the pioneers who have helped the church take steps forward. Using examples from Las Hermanas, a Catholic group of women organized around anti-colonialism, and the Methodist Latina Clergywomen, she emphasized some of the important work for ‘little justice’ these groups have been doing within the institutional church, even when it is difficult to participate. According to De La Rosa, Latina women bring specific strengths of flexibility and the ability to live in the in between spaces. She argues that in order to do this, epistemological retrieval, recontexualization, and a ‘redirection of subjugating powers and institutionalized violence,’ is necessary. “This process begins with telling our own stories from within privileged spaces, and this is difficult to do,” said De La Rosa. Jordan Zepher added her voice to the conversation, discussing her journey in discovering her identity, voice, and community. These particularities lend themselves to different experiences in the church, but also to different forms of preaching and participating in the life of faith. She notes that while it might seem more pragmatic for women to present a united front, “we become more powerful and more enriched within ourselves when we know who we are and we know who we represent… We are the pioneers. We are the ones who are constructing the picture, forming the image.” Even in all of the manifestations of what it means to be a woman, we have the beauty of the truth of the Gospel, which is a story worth sharing. Our conference concluded with a celebration dinner, where we celebrated the long and beautiful history of Women in the World. Dean Mary Elizabeth Moore moderated a time of sharing from long-standing and foundational members of the Shaw Center community. Margaret Wiborg began the sharing of memories discussing the cause and struggles for the conference on women’s preaching, followed by, Rev. Dr. June Goudey, who talked about the Anna Howard Shaw scholars and the influence that feminist theology events had on the STH community. In the memories of Dr. Carole Bohn and Dr. Kathe Darr, the Shaw Center has provided and continued to be a space to explore the new questions of feminist scholarship, such as Dr. Darr’s first book, Far More Precious than Jewels, and in solidarity with struggling female faculty in both the life of the church and academia. Many other participants also had opportunities to share the profound influences the Shaw Center has had on their lives, in the remembrance of liturgies, friendships, and the powerful messages of women.
For 30 Years, the Shaw Center has continued to work on supporting women in their ministry and advocating for the people who are marginalized and oppressed. The Anna Howard Shaw Center is proud to continue to participate in the legacy of all the amazing women who have been bold enough to push the boundaries in their explorations of what it means to be church. Although we had difficult times and struggles to sustain ourselves, because of support from our donors, friends, alums, and STH community members, for the last 30 years, we have flourished and thrived, and we believe we are ‘still going strong!’
Thanks to everyone who participated and helped make this event possible!