Christmas Carol Video: “O Holy Darkness”

O Holy Darkness, loving Womb, who nurtures and creates,
sustain us through the longest night with dreams of open gates.
We move inside to mystery that in our center dwells,
where streams of richest beauty flow from sacred, living wells.

Creative Darkness, closest Friend, you whisper in the night;
you calm our fears as unknown paths surprise us with new sight.
We marvel at your bounty, your gifts so full and free,
unfolding as you waken us to new reality.

O Holy Night of deepest bliss, we celebrate your power;
infuse us with your energy that brings our seeds to flower.
The voice out of the darkness excites our warmest zeal
to bring together dark and light, true holiness reveal.

O come to us, Sophia; your image, black and fair,
stirs us to end injustice and the wounds of earth repair.
The treasures of your darkness and riches of your grace
inspire us to fulfill our call, our sacredness embrace.

Words © Jann Aldredge-Clanton, from Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians

This Christmas season gives us a wonderful opportunity to sing carols for racial and gender justice. Our music can contribute to racial equality as well as gender equality.

Worship language and symbolism all too often contribute to racism as well as sexism. In many hymns, prayers, scripture readings, and sermons, images of darkness carry negative connotations while images of light carry positive connotations. Visual images of a white God fill many churches. This symbolism gives greatest value to white people while devaluing people of color.

Multicultural visual images of Deity and language that symbolizes darkness as creative bounty and beauty contribute to racial equality by affirming the equal sacred value of people of color. Imaging darkness/blackness as sacred lays a foundation for affirming that “BLACK LIVES MATTER.” The Creative Spirit works in the darkness of the night, the soul, the earth, the womb.

Multicultural images of Deity intersect with female images of Deity to form a foundation for equality and justice. “O Holy Darkness, Loving Womb” images darkness as a sacred well of richest beauty, as nurturing love, and as creative bounty. This song draws from Isaiah 45:3 that celebrates “the treasures of darkness” and from the Hebrew word rahum, usually translated “compassion” in the Bible, but Hebrew Bible scholar Phyllis Trible shows that it’s more accurately translated “womb-love.” “O Holy Darkness, Loving Womb” also includes Sophia (Greek word for “Wisdom” in the New Testament), a female divine name and image. Sophia is most often pictured as dark. The treasures of Her darkness inspire us all to claim our sacredness and to affirm the sacredness in all others.

It was a joy to collaborate on this video with Shannon Kincaid, an outstanding vocal and visual artist. Shannon sings “O Holy Darkness, Loving Womb” to the tune of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Her beautiful painting of Oprah Winfrey holding a child creates a powerful finale for this video.

Shannon painted “Oprah and Child” to get attention on a national scale for the cause of women with ovarian cancer. For many years Shannon has been a generous, tireless advocate for this cause. She generously gave her artistic talent for the covers of two books of stories by ovarian cancer survivors: TORCH: Tales of Remarkable Courage and Hope and TORCH: Still Burning Brightly. To get Oprah’s attention to do a show featuring ovarian cancer survivors, Shannon painted a large picture of Oprah cradling a child and sent it to her with all the TORCH materials inside the crate.

After a long and winding road, Oprah met with Shannon, accepted the painting, and promised to let her know if she ever discussed ovarian cancer at some point on her show. In February after this meeting in October, Oprah chose an ovarian cancer fund as one of her favorite ten charities. Soon after, The Oprah Winfrey Show went off the air, but Oprah influenced Dr. Oz to highlight the cause of ovarian cancer on two of his shows. Shannon’s painting of Oprah now hangs above the fireplace in the library of The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Video Credits

Performed by: Shannon Kincaid

Lyrics: Jann Aldredge-Clanton

Visual Art:

Stacy Boorn: “Mystery,” “Smokey Sky,” “Mother & Child,” “Dancing after Work at ‘Speak I’m Listening,’” “Streams,” “Sunset,” “Feather Dance,” “Sunrise Crete,” “Holy Night,” “Addis Ababa Market Vendors,” “Seeds to Flower,” and “LightDarkness” © Stacy Boorn.

David Clanton: “Garden for Good or Evil”

Mirta Toledo: “Sophia”

Shannon Kincaid: “Oprah & Child”

Elizabeth Zedaran: “Flow”

Instruments:

Keyboard: Ron DiIulio
Guitar: Danny Hubbard
Bass & Percussion: Jerry Hancock

Music Produced/Arranged by: Ron DiIulio

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“Ancient Wisdom, Mother of Earth” Video

On this first Sunday of Advent, “Ancient Wisdom, Mother of Earth” video comes as a gift to you. Advent commemorates the coming of the Divine into our world. This song video celebrates the Divine in the form of diverse cultures, races, and genders, bringing justice and peace to our world.

Ancient Wisdom, Mother of earth, bringing all creation to birth,
with Her power, we will flower, feeling our sacred worth.

Black Madonna, Mother of all, loving us whatever befalls,
always guiding and abiding, within our hearts She calls.

Guadalupe, Lady and Queen, from Her holy treasures we glean;
She is healing and revealing more than we’ve ever seen.

Christ-Sophia, Mystery of Old, in our souls Her blessings unfold,
Love abiding, always guiding into a future bold.

Refrain

O now return to Her for peace;
hope and justice will increase.
Re-creating, liberating, She will all our dreams release.

“Ancient Wisdom, Mother of Earth” contributes to racial and gender equality by celebrating multicultural, gender-inclusive names and images for Deity.

“Wisdom” is an ancient divine name, common to many religions and cultures. She is Hokmah in the Hebrew Bible, Hikmah in Arabic in the Quran, and Sophia in the Greek New Testament. Visual images of Wisdom have traditionally been dark or a combination of dark and light.

The Black Madonna is prominent around the world because of the miraculous nature of this image. Since the Middle Ages, the Black Madonna has been associated with miracles. Miracles have been attributed to the Black Madonna of Montpellier in France since 878. She is believed to have saved Montpellier from drought and plague. She is a stronger image of the Eternal Feminine than light-skinned Madonnas, and a more historically accurate image of Mary, a Semitic woman of the Middle East.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is another widely venerated, miraculous Divine Feminine image. She first appeared to a Mexican peasant named Juan Diego and gave him roses in the midst of winter. When Juan Diego took the cloak that Guadalupe had filled with roses to the archbishop to prove the miracle, the flowers fell to the floor, and on the fabric of the cloak was Her image. Our Lady of Guadalupe has become a powerful sacred symbol of hope and help.

The name “Christ-Sophia” is a symbol of divinity that makes equal connection between male and female, black and white, Jewish and Christian traditions, thus providing a model for a community in which all live in partnership. “Christ-Sophia” draws from the biblical and historical connection between Christ and “Wisdom,” a female name for the Divine in Hebrew Scriptures (Hokmah) and in Christian Scriptures (Sophia). The apostle Paul describes Christ as “the power of God and the Wisdom (Sophia) of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24), and states that Christ “became for us Sophia from God” (1 Corinthians 1:30). The book of Proverbs describes Wisdom as the way, the life, and the path (Proverbs 4). The writer of the gospel of John refers to Christ as “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

These multicultural, gender-inclusive names and images of the Divine hold promise for inspiring social justice through shared power. This Advent season we can sing and celebrate the Divine coming into our world in diverse races and genders.  Our inclusive worship inspires powerful partnerships that contribute to peace and justice.

Video Credits

Performed by: Spiral Muse (formerly Devi Vaani)—Dionne Kohler, Kathleen Neville-Fritz, and Alison Newvine with Lana Dalberg on violin—from album Sing of Peace, recorded at Joe Hoffmann Studios, Occidental, CA

Lyrics: Jann Aldredge-Clanton

Visual Art:
Katie Ketchum: Sing of Peace album cover

Mary Plaster: “Sophia, Divine Wisdom”

David Clanton: photo of children and adults dancing, from Imagine God! A Children’s Musical Exploring and Expressing Images of God event

Shonna McDaniels: “Black Madonna”

Katherine Skaggs: “Black Madonna and Child”

Mirta Toledo: “Saint Sophia”

Stacy Boorn: “Purple and Orange”

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Equity Live!

“Equity Live” kicked off this week with Rev. Dr. Irie L. Session interviewing Rev. Sheila Sholes-Ross and me about Equity for Women in the Church, an ecumenical movement to facilitate equal representation of clergywomen as pastors of multicultural churches in order to transform church and society. Our mission is not only to advocate and network for clergywomen to facilitate access and congregational receptivity, but also to dismantle patriarchal and white supremacist church practices and structures so clergywomen can thrive in pastoral positions.

These are some of the questions that guided our conversation.

  • How did Equity for Women in the Church begin?
  • What experiences have you two had that paved the way for your founding of Equity for Women in the Church?
  • What is the mission of Equity for Women in the Church?
  • Why is there still a need for an organization like Equity for Women in the Church?
  • Describe Equity’s current projects.
  • How can we inspire more men to join the work of dismantling patriarchy so there can be equity for all in church and society?
  • What is your vision for the future of Equity for Women in the Church?
  • How will “Equity Live” contribute to making this dream reality?

Equity for Women in the Church is partnering with The Gathering: A Womanist Church in creating “Equity Live” with a mission of dismantling the interlocking injustices of sexism and racism that impede clergywomen.

Although the number of women in theological education has increased to almost 40%, only about 10% of pastors of all Protestant churches are women. The percentage of women of color who find places to fulfill their call to pastor is much lower. In many denominations the percentage of women pastors of all ethnicities is lower than 1%. The average compensation of female pastors is much lower than that of male pastors, although clergywomen are more likely to have seminary degrees. “Equity Live” addresses these inequities, bringing change through the power of diverse voices advocating for women in ministry. “Equity Live” will contribute to gender and racial equality in church and society.

Here is a comment from one of our supporters about the need for “Equity Live.”

“For too long women have been silenced in our churches and not allowed equity in leadership positions. It is time for women to be heard and supported to help save our world. Women ‘hold up half of the sky,’ as the saying goes. Hope for better days is here through storytelling of strength, courage, creative ideas of women that can benefit all.”

Upcoming “Equity Live” conversations will include Rev. Dr. Alfie Wines, who initiated events on the theme “I Wish Someone Had Told Me: Women Gifted and Called to Ministry and the People Who Love Them.” Starting with these events and her blog article on the Equity for Women in the Church website, she developed a book titled I Wish Someone Had Told Me: Equity for Women in the Church, scheduled for publication in 2020. The book, with Dr. Wines as editor, will include chapters by clergywomen and clergymen, seminary and university professors, and family members of clergywomen.

“Equity Live” conversations will also include Rev. Andrea Clark Chambers, who created “Calling in the Key of She,” a program of Equity for Women in the Church that provides resources to develop and maintain “female-friendly” congregations who live out their beliefs that God equally loves, calls, values, affirms, and embraces the gifts of all females in the church. “Calling in the Key of She” guides congregations to work toward justice and equality for women and girls, and in so doing to transform everyone. The goal is to move beyond imagining to working to create equitable congregations in order to create a more just world.

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Biblical Solutions to #ChurchToo

News stories keep uncovering devastating, widespread sexual abuse in Southern Baptist, other evangelical churches and institutions, and churches of other denominations. Many church leaders have rushed to apologize and pledge to put regulations in place to prevent ministers and lay leaders from abusing women and girls. But they have failed to examine the biblical misinterpretations that form the foundation for this abuse.

For years Southern Baptists, other evangelicals, and other church leaders debated what they called the “woman question.” They ignored the fact that this debate over women in church leadership involves not only women, but also men. The whole church has a stake in the answer to the question of who has the right to exercise a call to ministry. This question is not just about women’s rights, but about human rights and the health of the whole church. The current widespread sexual abuse in churches is just as much a men’s issue as a women’s issue, as many men have discovered when they have lost their church positions because of abusing females or covering up this abuse, and when entire faith communities have been damaged.

The #MeToo movement that raised widespread awareness of the prevalence of sexual abuse and violence empowered women to break their silence about the abuse they have suffered in churches. #ChurchToo stories are a powerful reminder that sexual abuse isn’t limited to Hollywood or news organizations.

Male dominance in churches forms the foundation for this abuse of women. When men hold exclusive power as church leaders, they are more likely to feel entitled to do whatever they like and females not to question their authority.

This male dominance rests on misinterpretations of Scripture. To support views of only men in pastoral positions, many church leaders continue to take biblical passages out of context instead of using established hermeneutical principles they apply to other parts of Scripture.

Southern Baptist Seminary president Albert Mohler, for example, advocated women’s ordination at one time based on his interpretation of Scripture, but now interprets the Bible as excluding women from pastoral leadership roles that require ordination. Prominent evangelical Bible teacher and author Beth Moore responds:

I am compelled to my bones by the Holy Spirit to draw attention to the sexism and misogyny that is rampant in segments of the SBC, cloaked by piety and bearing the stench of hypocrisy. . . All these years I’d given the benefit of the doubt that these men were the way they were because they were trying to be obedient to Scripture. Then I realized it was not over Scripture at all. It was over sin. It was over power. It was over misogyny. Sexism. It was about arrogance. About protecting systems. It involved covering abuses and misuses of power. Shepherds guarding other shepherds instead of guarding the sheep.

At a recent conference, influential pastor John MacArthur said he thinks Beth Moore should “go home,” that “there is no case that can be made biblically for a woman preacher.” A room full of men at the conference laughed, but MacArthur’s comments sparked outrage among other male and female Christian leaders. On social media many clergypersons have been posting their photos with a meme that reads “not going home, I support women clergy.”

The interpretations of Mohler, MacArthur, and others who exclude women from church leadership are guided by patriarchal culture rather than the liberating message of Jesus. For decades many well-respected evangelical writers have demonstrated the deficiency of interpretations that limit the ministry of women. They have used a christocentric lens to affirm women in church leadership.

Evangelical professor and writer Paul K. Jewett, who taught systematic theology for many years at Fuller Theological Seminary, used christocentric biblical hermeneutics to advocate the equality of women in the church and in all areas of life. In 1973, at a Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary conference, Jewett supported the equality of women ministers with the actions of Jesus, emphasizing his choosing Mary Magdalene and other women as the first witnesses of the resurrection: “Women were the first to receive the central fact of the gospel and the first to be instructed to tell it abroad.”

Man as Male and Female, first published in 1975, helped launch the evangelical egalitarian movement with strong biblical support for the equality of women. In this book and in The Ordination of Women Jewett backed his egalitarian theology with passages foundational to Scripture: the creation of male and female in the divine image (Genesis 1:26-27) and the new creation of male and female as one in Christ (Galatians 3:28). Jewett gave thorough exegeses of Pauline texts that have been misinterpreted to subordinate women, pointing to the Galatians passage as the “Magna Carta of Humanity” through which Paul expresses his theology of gender equality. Jewett states that Paul “surely grasped the essential truth that the revelation of God in Christ radically affects one’s view of the man/woman relationship.”

Jesus “was a revolutionary” in the way “he related to women,” Jewett asserted. Jesus “treated women as fully human, equal to men in every respect.” Among Jewett’s many illustrations were Jesus’s affirmation of Mary of Bethany for choosing the role of disciple and Jesus’s receiving the ministry of Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and other women disciples who accompanied him on preaching missions. Jewett countered the traditional “argument that since God is masculine, only men may represent him in the office of the Christian ministry” with Jesus’s parable of the lost coin in which “a woman stands for God.”

First published in 1974, All We’re Meant to Be, by Letha Dawson Scanzoni and Nancy A. Hardesty, received recognition from Christianity Today in 2006 as one of the top fifty books that have shaped evangelicals over the past fifty years. The coauthors devel­oped their convictions from the life and work of Jesus. They focused their biblical interpretation on Jesus’s message of liberation for all, especially those on the margins. They critiqued the traditional evangelical prescription of gen­der roles as incompatible with Jesus’s teachings: “We became convinced that Jesus Christ came to set us free from restrictive roles.”

In an “extremely patriarchal society” Jesus’s interactions with women were “extraordinary,” Scanzoni and Hardesty emphasized. Jesus encouraged women just as much as men to become disciples. For example, Jesus commended Mary of Bethany for taking the role of disciple-learner, and women followed Jesus, “traveling in the band of disciples, and supporting him financially.” Jesus revealed “some of his greatest truths” to women: “he first declared that he was the Messiah” to the Samaritan woman at the well. Scanzoni and Hardesty underscored that Jesus’s selection of women as the first witnesses of the resurrection demonstrates the importance Jesus gave women as proclaimers of the gospel.

Scanzoni and Hardesty worked through passages that people still misuse, without excuse, to keep women from becoming all we’re meant to be. For example, some use 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12 as proof texts to keep women silent in churches. Scanzoni and Hardesty applied historical, cultural, contextual, and linguistic principles of interpretation to support their conclusion that the early Christian movement empowered women rather than silenced them, beginning with Peter’s proclamation at Pentecost of the fulfillment of the prophet Joel’s words: “your daughters shall prophesy” (Acts 2:17). Among the many examples Scanzoni and Hardesty gave of women leaders were the prophet Anna, teacher Priscilla, deacon Phoebe, and apostle Junia.

Equity for Women in the Church, founded in 2014, advocates for gender and racial equality in church and society. Recognizing the connection between patriarchal church practices and the #ChurchToo pervasive and persistent sexual abuse, violence, and harassment that exist within faith communities, the board members of Equity for Women in the Church wrote and adopted s statement on sexual abuse in churches. Below are excerpts:

Equity for Women in the Church is an ecumenical movement to facilitate equal representation of clergywomen as pastors of multicultural churches in order to transform church and society. Our mission is not only to advocate and network for clergywomen to facilitate access and congregational receptivity, but also to dismantle patriarchal and white supremacist church practices and structures so clergywomen can thrive in pastoral positions.

Through educational programs and publications, Equity for Women in the Church teaches gender and racial equality based on the foundational belief that all persons are created equally in the divine image (Genesis 1:27). Equity for Women in the Church also seeks to model an egalitarian leadership structure with co-chairs and board members, diverse in gender and race, who share decision-making power. . . .

Equity for Women in the Church is committed to changing the patriarchal culture and hierarchical structures in the church that contribute to gender-based discrimination, harassment, exploitation, and violence. Through teaching and modeling inclusive, egalitarian leadership and language we contribute to changing patriarchal culture that forms the foundation for sexual abuse. We help create a culture of gender and racial equality so that clergywomen and laypeople can become all we are created to be in the divine image.

See the full statement published on the Equity for Women in the Church blog.

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Equity Live! GoFundMe

Click here to support Equity Live.

(This invitation includes excerpts from “Calling in the Key of She: Empowerment Program” brochure, created by Equity for Women in the Church Board member Rev. Andrea Clark Chambers.)

You’re invited to support “Equity Live,” conversations on the equal representation of clergywomen as pastors. These liberating and illuminating conversations will be live-streamed on social media and available on YouTube. Your tax deductible donations go to the 501(c)3 nonprofit Equity for Women in the Church, Inc., to be used for professional video equipment and technological expertise and time of production professionals.

Equity for Women in the Church is partnering with The Gathering: A Womanist Church to create “Equity Live” with a mission of dismantling the interlocking injustices of sexism and racism that impede clergywomen. Equity for Women in the Church is an ecumenical movement to facilitate equal representation of clergywomen as pastors of multicultural churches in order to transform church and society. The Gathering’s social justice priorities are racial equity, dismantling PMS (patriarchy, misogyny, and sexism), and LGBTQ equality.

Many people would like to believe that we live in a post-sexist world because of the strides that have been made toward gender equity. Unfortunately, we know that gender inequality is still prevalent in every sector of our society, and painfully, often unashamedly, present in the church.

The #MeToo movement that raised widespread awareness of the prevalence of sexual abuse and violence empowered women to break their silence about the abuse they have suffered in churches. #ChurchToo stories are a powerful reminder that sexual abuse isn’t limited to Hollywood.

Male dominance in the leadership and language of churches forms the foundation for this abuse of women. When males are given God-like status, they are more likely to feel entitled to do whatever they like and females not to question their authority.

Although the number of women in theological education has increased to almost 40%, only about 10% of pastors of all Protestant churches are women. The percentage of women of color who find places to fulfill their call to pastor is much lower. In many denominations the percentage of women pastors of all ethnicities is lower than 1%. The average compensation of female pastors is much lower than that of male pastors, although clergywomen are more likely to have seminary degrees. “Equity Live” plans to address these inequities and to bring change through the power of diverse voices advocating for women in ministry.

Despite advances that have been made over the past decades, there are still alarming numbers of people who have only experienced male pastors and religious leaders because of the erroneous teaching that the Bible mandates that women should not and cannot serve as church leaders. Often congregants learn in Sunday school and sermons only about male biblical characters who are revered as God’s chosen ones, while females sit on the sidelines of the stories. They are taught about a male God who sent a male Savior who called male disciples. So in the minds of many, images of the clergy and leadership are exclusively male. For this reason, churches are frequently male-centered, male-dominated, and male-privileged in their practices even though females consistently make up the majority of church members. “Equity Live” will work toward gender equality in church and society.

Females experience prejudice and discrimination in churches through the theology, language, and practices. Congregants are trained and ingrained in patriarchal understandings of the Bible, misogynist views of biblical passages, and distorted theologies that promote the relegation of women in the church and the larger society. If they do hear about female figures in the Bible, they are often presented in a negative light. They are cast as insignificant players whose roles as mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, warriors, servants, midwives, prophets, queens, mourners, intercessors, disciples, leaders, and deacons only serve to bolster the males in their lives. So the very tool that should be used to bring liberation and freedom to women is regularly used as a means to assault and abuse females within our sacred walls and stained-glass ceilings. “Equity Live” will work to end this abuse and to transform church and society.

Often because of the church’s culture, the vocation of ministry is not even a consideration for females. When they do express their calling to serve in leadership positions, many are told that they are only allowed to serve as missionaries, teachers, or children’s assistants but never over a man. Women and girls are informed that they can work in the kitchen, but not in ministry. It is permissible for them to dust the pulpit, but not stand in it. They are allowed to clean the robes, but never wear one. It’s fine for them to prepare and serve meals, but never behind the Communion table. “Equity Live” will address these inequities in order to effect change on an individual and systemic level.

“Equity Live” conversations will include “Calling in the Key of She,” a program of Equity for Women in the Church that provides churches with resources to develop and maintain “female-friendly congregations who live out their beliefs that God equally loves, calls, values, affirms, and embraces the gifts of all females in the church. “Calling in the Key of She” guides congregations to work toward justice and equality for women and girls, and in so doing to transform everyone. The goal is to move beyond imagining to working to create equitable congregations in order to create a more just world.

Please join our ministry of transforming church and society. Your tax deductible donations go to the 501(c)3 nonprofit Equity for Women in the Church, Inc., to be used for professional video equipment and technological expertise and time of production professionals.

Donate to “Equity Live”!

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