She Lives! (description of blog)

Growing up in the Baptist tradition, I learned from memory the hymn “He Lives.” I loved singing this hymn to a lilting tune, increasing in volume along with everyone in the congregation as we came to the refrain after each stanza: “He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today! You ask me how I know He lives: He lives within my heart.”

It would not be until many years later that I could even imagine singing or saying, “She lives.” I had learned to worship a God who was named and imaged as male. But while studying in a conservative Baptist seminary, I was surprised to find Her. I discovered female names and images for the Divine in the Bible and in Christian history. After graduating from seminary and being ordained as a minister, I began researching, writing, preaching, and teaching to persuade people that we need to include female divine names and images in worship if we are to have social justice, peace, and equality.

The title of my latest book comes from my continual discoveries of Her, living and working in all creation. She Lives! Wisdom Works in the World features one of my favorite female names for the Divine, found in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures and in many spiritual traditions. I continually see Wisdom working in our world and the great need for more of Her works. “Wisdom Works” then plays on the word “works” as both noun and verb. Wisdom works within, around, and among all creation to bring abundant life, new creation, justice, peace, liberation, love, hope, and joy.

This blog will continue to highlight the works of Wisdom in our world. It will include stories of people who join Wisdom in working for gender equality, racial equality, marriage equality, care of creation, economic justice, nonviolence, interfaith collaboration, and other works of justice and peace. In this blog you will also find Her works highlighted through worship resources, articles, videos, and information about feminist faith communities.

I’d like for this to be an interactive blog. I’d love to hear from you about Wisdom’s works that you see in the world and about people who are engaged in them. Also, please send me locations and information about feminist emancipatory faith communities and worship rituals that include female divine names and images. I’m drawing from Marjorie Procter-Smith use of  “feminist emancipatory” in her book The Church in Her House: A Feminist Emancipatory Prayer Book for Christian Communities (http://www.amazon.com/Church-Her-House-Emancipatory-Communities/dp/0829817018/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1415132115&sr=1-2). Dr. Procter-Smith explains her use of this term: “By ‘feminist’ I mean to place women at the center, to make women visible, audible, and active. By ‘emancipatory’ I mean being oriented toward the freedom of all people, recognizing the intersection and interrelationship of multiple forms of oppression.”

My vision is that this blog will be a great resource to help people find feminist emancipatory faith communities and to provide worship rituals for creating more of these communities around the world. You can respond to this post and other blog posts on my website by clicking “leave a comment” at the end of posts and/or through clicking “Contact” under “Lectures” on my website.

I invite you to join the adventure of creating rituals that include the Female Divine and to join communities that celebrate Her, affirming the sacred value of all people and all creation. Together we can change our world through joining with Wisdom in Her works of justice, peace, life, and love!

 

 

 

 

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She Lives! is out! Excerpts from Review by Letha Dawson Scanzoni

 

She Lives! Sophia Wisdom Works in the World just came out! Here are excerpts from a review essay that Letha Dawson Scanzoni wrote for Christian Feminism Today.

“A few weeks ago, a taxi driver told me how much he had enjoyed watching astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s 2014 television series, “Cosmos.”  “But I can’t believe this universe just happened out of nothing!” he said. “There has to be a Creator!  And I’m starting to think it might be a woman.”

Listening to him, it occurred to me that thinking of God beyond the familiar male imagery was gradually seeping into the imaginations of everyday people.  Not long ago, serious discussions about God and gender took place almost entirely in feminist religious circles and theological seminaries. Maybe more people are becoming open to such ideas because of books like The Shack, or the writings and media appearances of popular writers like Anne Lamott who frequently speaks of God as “She,” or Bobby McFerrin’s use of female pronouns in singing the 23rd Psalm, or simply the wider social world the Internet has opened up.

Even so, such receptivity to inclusive language and female imagery for the Deity is still the exception, whether among the general public or in houses of worship. We’re far more likely to hear someone on TV talking about “the Man upstairs” than we are to hear a prayer that begins. “our Loving Mother God,” in a Sunday service.  In some circles, shock and a kind of emotional vertigo— or even anger and charges of heresy— arise at the thought that God could be referred to in female terms.

The Writings of Jann Aldredge-Clanton

This is where Dr. Jann Aldredge-Clanton steps in to calm fears, enlarge our vision, and show the richness of expanding the way we think, sing, and speak about the Divine. Her latest book, She Lives! (the exclamation point is part of the title), helps us move beyond the limited gender binary to see God as both male and female, yet strictly speaking, neither male nor female, and at the same time inclusive of all gender identities.

Jann’s ministries include enlarging our vision by writing new words to hymn tunes and by telling us stories of real people who are traveling a journey much like her own, one in which she has experienced “the sacredness of all and of the dynamic nature of this Divinity—ever living, ever moving, ever growing” (p. x).  To tell these stories, Jann has been interviewing a diverse group of people in recent years and writing profiles of them, first for her previous book, Changing Church, and others of them for her weekly blog. Forty profiles, drawn from all of these interviews, are included in this new book.

Among the profiled women and men are nine members of EEWC-Christian Feminism Today:  Kendra Weddle Irons, Mark Mattison, Melanie Springer Mock, Mary E. Hunt, Gail Anderson Ricciuti, Rebecca Kiser, Judith Liro, Marg Herder, and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott.  Poems and a sermon excerpt written by another member, Shawna R. B. Atteberry, are also included.  Jann Aldredge-Clanton herself is a member and serves on the EEWC-CFT Executive Council.

Twelve of the forty persons profiled here were also included in Changing Church.

The Many Ways Sophia Wisdom Works 

Jann explains that the subtitle of She Lives!, “Sophia Wisdom Works in the World,” refers to one of her favorite female names for the Deity—Wisdom. “Wisdom is Hokmah in the Hebrew Bible and Sophia in the Greek language of the Christian Scriptures,” she says. “I continually see Wisdom working in our world and the great need for more of Her works” (p.x).

She has organized the sections of her book around eleven of these “works of Wisdom,” with each person’s story placed in the category where Jann felt it would fit best.

With so many outstanding spiritual leaders profiled in the chapters that comprise each section, I found it difficult to choose just a few representative stories. They are all so interesting, and I don’t want to leave anyone out!  In some ways, this is many books in one. So I’ve decided to extract a central idea from each of the forty persons profiled to give you a tiny sample from each (and hopefully to entice you to read the book).

Think of each section of the book—each “work of Wisdom”—as a mini-conference where you are hearing several outstanding speakers talk about a specific theme.  Or imagine eleven tables set up in a large room, each with a group of wonderful people conversing about an interesting topic and inviting you to pull up a chair and join in. . . .

Some Concluding Thoughts of My Own

I realize that by providing such an extensive overview, I’m risking the possibility that some readers will conclude there’s now no need to read the book for themselves. But that would be like deciding to skip a movie because you’ve seen the trailer and thus assume you already know everything about it!  Each of the forty persons profiled here has so much to share through Jann’s telling of their lives, works, and words that the best I could do was offer a tiny glimpse or central idea from each one, hoping you’ll then want to read that person’s chapter in its entirety.

One thing I liked especially about this book is Jann’s awareness that although it’s important to expand our image of the Divine, there is no strict orthodoxy about exactly what that entails.  There is no insistence that our journeys be the same in how we come to embrace and express the vision of a “gender-full God”— no strict rules or imposed uniformity.

In the book’s introduction, Jann points out variations in the approaches represented among the persons she has profiled. Some like to use the word “Godde” as a combination of God and Goddess to show the Divine is beyond the gender binary; others might chose some other combination (an example would be Rosemary Ruether’s introduction of the word “God/ess” in some of her writings).  At least two of those Jann interviewed had no problem with simply using the word “Goddess” as another name for the Divine.  Jann points out that some people “favor abstract over anthropomorphic names for Deity and suggest genderless designations like ‘Friend,’ ‘Spirit,’ and ‘Force.’” For some, this may serve as a first step in moving away from exclusively male terminology for God, even if they don’t feel comfortable using female pronouns. Others believe such a gender neutral approach doesn’t go far enough.

Some, such as Virginia Ramey Mollenkott suggest that combining the word “God” (which in many people’s minds suggests male) with “She” (when a pronoun is necessary) can jolt people into seeing that God’s image embraces all genders and therefore includes transgender persons. Some people like to use the term “Divine Feminine,” whereas others, such as Mary E. Hunt, may say, “I do not use ‘feminine’ anything as it seems to play into the sexist trap of dividing people into masculine and feminine.”  Masculine and feminine are cultural constructs and can lead to thinking in terms of gender stereotypes.  Jann Aldredge-Clanton herself has begun using the term, “Female Divine,” although she has been conscientious in recording the preferred terminology of each individual whose story she tells, with many using “Divine Feminine” or “Feminine Divine.”

I am glad that Jann has included this discussion, because we humans can so easily convince ourselves there is only one right way to view or express something— and that “right way” can too often be defined as “the way I see it (or speak it),” thereby stifling others’ expressions of their views.  I’ve not seen such a succinct discussion on the variations in inclusive language for God in quite this way elsewhere, and I commend Jann for including it in this book. . . . ”

See Letha’s full review essay, originally published on Christian Feminism Today: http://www.eewc.com/BookReviews/sh-lives-book-jann-aldredge-clanton. Excerpts reposted with permission.

http://www.amazon.com/She-Lives-Sophia-Wisdom-Works/dp/1594735735/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1408453981&sr=1-1&keywords=She+Lives%21+Jann+Aldredge-Clanton

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http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/she-lives-jann-aldredge-clanton/1119640577?ean=9781594735738

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She Lives!

She Lives! Sophia Wisdom Works in the World has recently come out. This book includes fascinating narratives of laypeople and clergy who are changing the institutional church and society by reclaiming biblical female divine names and images in Christian theology and worship. Their stories reveal the connection between including  multicultural female divine images in worship and justice in human relationships. The stories are organized by categories of Wisdom’s works illustrated in them: gender equality, racial equality, marriage equality, economic justice, care of creation, nonviolence, interfaith collaboration, expanding spiritual experience, and changing hierarchies to circles. She Lives! also provides creative inclusive worship resources and locations of feminist emancipatory faith communities.

My deep gratitude goes to the prophetic laypeople and clergy who gave me interviews for the narratives in this book and to those who gave inclusive worship resources and information about their feminist emancipatory faith communities. She Lives! grew from these generous gifts.

I am also indeed grateful for the gift of this endorsement from Dr. Stephen Sprinkle:

Jann Aldredge-Clanton’s newest book, She Lives! Sophia Wisdom Works in the World, establishes her as the leading voice standing at the crossroads of feminist emancipatory theologies today. 

Dr. Aldredge-Clanton interviews women and men who are both well-known constructive feminist theologians, and important players just now making their way into the broader theological discussions about God, Christ, Spirit, Church, and world.  Skillfully distilling the accumulated witness of academics, churchwomen, liturgists, ethicists, and musicians, Dr. Aldredge-Clanton challenges readers to expand our vocabularies and imaginations, reaching new depths of God-talk and ethical plausibility. 

This book is a comprehensive exploration of more than feminist theological issues.  It is a tour de force of engagement with the politics and imagination of theological liberation and faith expression where women and their male soul mates lead us into a whole new country where divinity embraces everyone, and challenges exclusionary religion to step aside.  Readers of this book will never be able to speak or think of deity and world in the same ways ever again.

Stephen V. Sprinkle is Professor of Practical Theology, and Director of Field Education and Supervised Ministry at Brite Divinity School, Texas Christian University. Dr. Sprinkle is an award-winning author; his published books include Disciples and Theology, Ordination, and Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims. In 2012,  Unfinished Lives won the International Silver Medal in Gay/Lesbian Non-fiction, given by the Independent Book Publishers Awards. In 2013, his book was translated into Korean and published in the Republic of Korea under the title, Who Trampled Down the Rainbow Flag?: Remembering the Death of Victims of Hate Crimes Against the Sexual Minority. Dr. Sprinkle is the founder and webmaster of http://unfinishedlivesblog.com/, and a blogger for the Huffington Post. A native of North Carolina, he holds a PhD from Duke University and ordination from the Alliance of Baptists. His most recent book, Honeysucker, is a hilarious account of his growing up in a small town in the Foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

To Order She Lives! Wisdom Works in the World:

http://www.amazon.com/She-Lives-Sophia-Wisdom-Works/dp/1594735735/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1408453981&sr=1-1&keywords=She+Lives%21+Jann+Aldredge-Clanton 

skylightpaths.com/page/product/9…

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/she-lives-jann-aldredge-clanton/1119640577?ean=9781594735738

 

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She Lives! Sophia Wisdom Works in the World


My new book, She Lives! Sophia Wisdom Works in the World, will come out at the end of September. This book presents inspiring stories of clergy and laypeople bringing transformation through restoring the power of Divine Wisdom and other biblical female divine images to Christian theology and worship. These stories reveal the connection between including multicultural female divine images in worship and justice in human relationships. This book also provides creative inclusive worship resources and locations of feminist emancipatory faith communities.

One of the chapters in the book is titled “Wisdom’s Works of Interfaith Collaboration.” In the introduction to the book I state my religious tradition and my commitment to collaborating with other traditions: 

This book comes from my location within the Christian tradition with the hope that people in other religious traditions will write stories of transformation through Divine Wisdom. More specifically, I am an ordained Anglo minister within the Baptist tradition, growing up in Louisiana and working in Texas. I have served mainly in ecumenical and interfaith settings as a chaplain, interfaith conference director, pastoral counselor, teacher, and speaker. While interfaith collaboration is an important part of my ministry and a common thread in the stories in this book, I have featured people from the Christian tradition because I can best work for change within my own tradition. When it comes to overcoming patriarchy and transforming society through Divine Wisdom, there is enough work for people in all religious traditions. I am a Christian feminist, trying to do my part from my tradition while collaborating with other traditions.

Thus I was delighted to learn that Rabbi Rami Shapiro shares my passion for working together to transform all faith traditions and the world through changing God-language to include Lady Wisdom and other female names. Rabbi Rami wrote this endorsement of She Lives! Wisdom Works in the World:

Words are maps that shape the territory they claim to represent. The more common a word becomes the more natural the bias it carries becomes. Just reciting “Our Mother who art in Heaven” shows you how entrenched “Our Father” has become. Change the words and you change the world…and yourself. In her new book She Lives!, Rev. Jann Aldredge-Clanton shares the power of changing Godspeak, of speaking of God as Mother, as Lady Wisdom, and the Divine Feminine by sharing the stories of women and men who have dared to do so. This is a revolution within Christianity that has wonderful ramifications for all faiths trapped in the idolatry of gendered Godtalk. She Lives! is an important book chronicling a revolution in Christianity—the reclaiming of the Divine Feminine; a revolution that must be duplicated in other faiths as well. Read the book. Join the revolution.

Rabbi Rami Shapiro is an award-winning author of over two dozen books on religion and spirituality, including The Divine Feminine in Biblical Wisdom Literature, Embracing the Divine Feminine: Song of Songs Annotated and Explained, The Sacred Art of Lovingkindness, and Perennial Wisdom for the Spiritually Independent. Rabbi Rami received rabbinical ordination from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and holds a PhD from Union Graduate School. A congregational rabbi for 20 years, he currently serves as Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies at Middle Tennessee State University, co-directs One River Wisdom School, writes a blog, and writes a regular column for Spirituality and Health magazine called “Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Traveler.” See Rabbi Rami’s  website.

To Pre-Order She Lives! Wisdom Works in the World:

skylightpaths.com/page/product/9…

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/she-lives-jann-aldredge-clanton/1119640577?ean=9781594735738

http://www.amazon.com/She-Lives-Sophia-Wisdom-Works/dp/1594735735/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1408453981&sr=1-1&keywords=She+Lives%21+Jann+Aldredge-Clanton

 

 

 

 


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“Feminist Faith-Based Social Justice” The Christian Feminism Today 2014 Gathering (cont.)


Dr. Mary E. Hunt

At the Christian Feminism Today Gathering in St. Louis, Dr. Mary E. Hunt gave an inspiring presentation titled “Feminist Faith-Based Social Justice: How feminists of faith can collaborate to amplify our voices and deepen our collective impact.” Mary is the co-founder and co-director of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER). 

At the Gathering Dr. Hunt challenged us to believe in the power of our collaborative work. She reminded us that “it’s not the failings of the churches but the needs of the world that set feminist agendas.” Dr. Hunt went on to say that the renewable resources and moral energy of our faith traditions focused on the needs of the world give us great power to bring change.

Here are some excerpts from Dr. Hunt’s presentation:

“Our foremothers would be astonished at the diversity of what is called feminist today. I think they would also be horrified by the fact that many of the same issues that claimed their attention still claim ours: inclusive language, access to ministry, poverty, reproductive health, etc. But I think they would be heartened by the fact that the movement, which began in the United States and Europe, has emerged around the world. Women throughout Africa, in India, around Latin America, in the Pacific Rim, and elsewhere are producing their own work; not translating or imitating ours, but making their own voices heard on their own terms. We are their students and colleagues….

What I call the “feministization” of religion, began with Christianity but continues undaunted in Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Pagan, Wiccan Goddess groups, and others. Even feminist atheists are making their contributions. The group Secular Women began in 2012. So there is no shortage of materials by/for feminists dealing with religion. There is, however, a woeful shortage of what I would deem real progress when it comes to structural changes that reflect feminist values of equality and inclusivity. Nor is there in church or society much spiritual change when it comes to seeing women and other marginalized people as integral parts of communities with full rights. We are far from such a moment, decades of hard work later….

The social justice agenda is where feminism is most obvious in the ongoing evolution of religion. What began as a sustained analysis of gender-based issues is now a complex and multifaceted approach to wholesale social change in an increasingly polarized and unjust world. While issues of sex and gender, especially gender-based violence, are still central to feminist work, they are incomplete and inadequate without equally serious and sustained work on anti-racism, post colonialism, economic injustice, heterosexism, transphobia, and the like. Today we train our attention on war, reproductive justice, climate change/ecology, human trafficking, immigration, and more. This is not simply a laundry list of current ills, but a checklist of the specific ways in which women and dependent children around the world experience the ravages of patriarchy, the same issues our foresisters faced but with the added dimension of huge economic disparities and worldwide instantaneous communication to make it all obvious.”

Included in Mary’s presentation was a time for reflection and interaction. She invited everyone at the Gathering to respond to these questions:

(1)  Where do you find exciting and helpful feminist work in religion today?

(2)   What are some of the challenges and forms of backlash that you are experiencing in your local group?

(3)  What are some strategies for social justice that we who are religious feminists can adopt for common work?

Dr. Hunt concluded with these hopeful words: “It is my view that we as feminists in religion hold many of the clues and tools necessary to create a more just and loving world. I say that not to flatter us, but because I think it is true at such a deep level that neither the wider community nor we have yet understood.” Then she proposed some strategies for feminists of faith to adopt in our collaborative work in order to amplify our voices and deepen our impact:

(1)  Start by saying we, not they, about one another in the Christian feminist world.

(2)   Collaborate with our sisters of other faiths.

(3)  Take concrete actions for justice and equality.

(4)  Facilitate more exchanges among our young women.

(5)   Share our theological, liturgical, and ethical resources.

(6)  Share our intellectual resources, such as blogs and books.

(7)  Develop more feminist religious education resources for children.”

Dr. Mary E. Hunt’s full presentation is published on Christian Feminism Today: http://www.eewc.com/Articles/feminist-faith-based-social-justice

Mary E. Hunt is a feminist theologian. With her partner, Diann Neu, she co-founded and co-directs the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER).  A Roman Catholic active in the women-church movement, Mary lectures and writes on theology and ethics with particular attention to social justice concerns. A prolific writer, Mary has written articles for numerous journals; contributed chapters to many books on theology, feminism, and other social issues; and is a frequent contributor to the website, Religion Dispatches.  Among the books she has authored, edited, or co-edited are Fierce Tenderness: A Feminist Theology of Friendship;  New Feminist Christianity: Many Voices, Many Views;  A Guide for Women in Religion: Making Your Way from A to Z;  and Good Sex: Feminist Perspectives from the World’s Religions. See her story on this blog: http://jannaldredgeclanton.com/blog/?p=1873

 

 

 


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