Changing History

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In 1869, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and a few other women birthed the movement that gave women the right to vote. In 1974, Letha Dawson Scanzoni and Nancy Hardesty birthed the Christian feminism movement with their book All We’re Meant to Be: A Biblical Approach to Women’s Liberation and their subsequent founding, along with a few other women, of an organization now called Evangelical & Ecumenical Women’s Caucus-Christian Feminism Today (EEWC-CFT). On November 9, 2016, Teresa Shook, a retired attorney and grandmother living in Hawaii, birthed a movement to preserve and expand women’s rights and all human rights. A small group of visionary women have changed the course of history.

The January 21, 2017, Women’s March on Washington began on November 9 with one woman’s creating a Facebook event page. Before she went to bed that night, she had 40 responses. When she woke up the next morning, she had more than 10,000. Soon sister marches sprang up in cities in all 50 US states and more than 75 countries around the world, drawing an estimated 3.2 million people.

capitolNow I must tell you that I’d rather write than march. I’d rather be alone or with a few friends or family members than in large crowds. But I felt compelled to join the sister march in Austin, Texas, and I’m so glad I did. It was an incredible, empowering, inspiring experience.

group photoFinally getting through heavy traffic into Austin, I was moved to tears as I saw crowds of people gathering in colorful hats and shirts, holding signs with messages of justice and peace. I met my friends Judith Liro ( priest of St. Hildegard’s Community, featured in She Lives! and on my blog), Francesca, Sarah, Wyatt, and others from St. Hildegard’s.

We were just in time to fall in step with the throngs to inch our way down Congress Avenue to the state Capitol. No one pushed or shoved or spoke anything but words of peace and kindness and passion for justice. Some held signs advertising “free hugs.” Many of the signs quoted Hillary Rodham Clinton’s famous statement at the 1995 Beijing World Conference on Women: “Women’s rights are human rights.”photo(2) copy

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Excitement and joy filled the air as we marched for more than an hour to chants and drumming. We spoke with many people along the way, taking pictures with their enthusiastic permission. The amazingly diverse crowd, estimated at 50,000, moved slowly along, some in wheelchairs and some in baby strollers—various ages, genders, races, gender identities, religions, abilities, political parties. Even dogs joined the march and were as polite as the people!

photo(8) copyWhen we reached the Capitol, I was awestruck by the sea of people and signs. Our spirits continued to soar as we stood crammed together for more than two hours of stirring speeches and music. Sheryl Cole, the first black woman elected to Austin City Council, told the crowd that her son attends the University of Pennsylvania where he received a mass text threatening him after the election. She told the cheering crowd she is now more “fired up” than ever to take action. Congressman Lloyd Doggett also spoke words of hope: “This is not a time for despair; it’s a time for democracy.” Sarah Wheat of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas called on us to challenge the Texas Legislature which “every session tries to find a way to cut women’s health care.” Chuck Smith of Equality Texas said his LGBTQ rights group came to stand in solidarity with Planned Parenthood to support health care access for all. Senator Wendy Davis challenged us to take the energy of the march into local organizing, contacting representatives, and running for office. Pointing to the Goddess of Liberty crowning the Texas State Capitol dome, she inspired us to protect and expand freedoms for women and for all.

Judith LIro and I, as crowds dispersed, handing out Christian Feminism Today brochures

Judith LIro and I, as crowds dispersed, handing out Christian Feminism Today brochures

The Women’s March renewed my resolve to work for women’s rights and all human rights through Equity for Women in the Church, Christian Feminism Today, Dallas Gathering of Religious Leaders, and other justice-making organizations. Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Letha Dawson Scanzoni, Nancy Hardesty, Theresa Shook, and other visionary women show us how to change history.

 

 

Published on Christian Feminism Today. Used with permission.

 

 

 

 

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Mother Eagle Award Recipient: Dr. Virginia Ramey Mollenkott

MotherEagleAward

Dr. Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, author and Christian social justice activist, received the first annual Mother Eagle Award, presented jointly by Christian Feminism Today and The Gay Christian Network. This award honors women who have taken the lead in courageously advocating for LGBTQIA equality in Christianity. The purpose of the Mother Eagle Award is to express gratitude to these women and to ensure their stories are known and their sacrifices remembered. The name of the award comes from Deuteronomy 32:11: “… like an eagle that stirs up her nest and hovers over her young, that spreads her wings to catch them and carries them aloft.”

The official presentation of the Mother Eagle Award took place during the WomenConnect retreat at the Gay Christian Network Conference in Pittsburgh, PA, on January 5, 2017. Virginia was unable to travel to accept the award in person, so a videotaped acceptance speech was created and played during the WomenConnect retreat. Listen to her inspiring speech in the video below.

Dr. Virginia Ramey Mollenkott is one of the visionaries featured in my book She Lives! Sophia Wisdom Works in the World. You can also read about her on my blog.

Virginia has devoted her life to working for gender justice and equality. In 1978 she co-authored with Letha Dawson Scanzoni one of the first books by Christians that takes a positive stand on homosexuality: Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? A Positive Christian Response. She has continued to publish and lecture widely on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights. Among her 13 books are Omnigender: A Trans-Religious Approach (revised and updated version published in 2007), winner of a Lambda Literary Award, and Transgender Journeys (co-authored with trans activist Vanessa Sheridan and published in 2004), a Lambda Award finalist.

I also appreciate Virginia’s writing and speaking on the importance of inclusive language for people and for Deity. She served as a member of the National Council of Churches’ Inclusive Language Lectionary Committee. In her speech accepting the Mother Eagle Award, you hear her connect inclusive language to justice for people of diverse genders, races, sexual orientations, gender identities, abilities, ages. She emphasizes speaking publicly of God as “She” in order to call attention to the sacredness of women and to honor females as well as males. She says that including the Divine Feminine “is an absolute necessity if there’s to be justice on this earth. Because males are considered sacred and females are not, that discrepancy provides justification for a hierarchy in which men continue to rule and women continue to serve.”

Virginia refers to her book The Divine Feminine: The Biblical Imagery of God as Female (first published in 1983 and again in 2014) as “just a Bible study” on biblical female divine images, including the Mother Eagle. In her book and in her acceptance speech Virginia laments that exclusively male language for Deity still predominates in most churches. In The Divine Feminine she challenges religious leaders who long to alleviate injustices to change their language for God and for people to include females: “By recognizing the female presence in their grammatical choices, and by utilizing biblical references to God as female, they could demonstrate the sincerity of their commitment to human justice, peace, and love.”

Through her prophetic words and actions, Dr. Virginia Ramey Mollenkott contributes to justice, peace, and love in our world. She greatly deserves the Mother Eagle Award for her lifelong work.

 

 

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Intercultural Ministry: Hope for a Changing World

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Almost two years ago Grace Ji-Sun Kim and I began talking about collaborating on a book project. At this time the Black Lives Matter movement was growing in power and influence. Churches were becoming involved in the movement, but few were coming together in conversation with others of diverse races. Black churches were talking about racial profiling and racial inequality, and many progressive white churches were talking about these same issues. But they were not talking with one another. They were having these discussions mainly in their racially segregated churches.

Martin Luther King Jr. often repeated this indictment in his preaching and teaching: “Sunday at 11:00 a.m. is the most segregated hour in America.” More than fifty years later, Sunday morning continues to be one of the most segregated times.

Grace and I reflected on what might happen if churches were no longer segregated by race. We knew that many church growth experts say that it’s impossible and even undesirable to desegregate churches because people naturally group with others of their own race. But we wondered what might happen if churches brought people together across races and cultures to engage in learning from one another, giving equal value and power to each one, preserving cultural differences, and celebrating the variety of cultural traditions. Would these intercultural churches advance racial equality and justice?

Believing in the possibilities, we invited people engaged in intercultural ministry to write about their experiences. Intercultural Ministry: Hope for a Changing World includes chapters by a racially and denominationally diverse group of pastors, theologians, and teachers who reflect on their experiences and experiments in intercultural ministry. These are some of the questions they explore: Why are most churches still segregated by race and culture? Is it possible to build intercultural ministries today? What are the challenges of creating and maintaining these ministries? How do intercultural churches give equal power and privilege to each culture? How do they avoid assimilating minority cultures into dominant cultures?

When we began to dialogue about this book project, Grace and I felt a great need for churches to contribute to healing racial divisions and advancing racial justice. Now after the 2016 election, we feel an even more urgent need for churches to claim our prophetic calling to make the gospel vision of radically inclusive love and justice a reality. Our country and our world need intercultural churches and ministries which contribute to understanding, justice, peacemaking, equality, mutuality, freedom, and respect.

Many thanks to Grace Ji-Sun Kim, my co-editor, to Dwight N. Hopkins, who wrote the Foreword, and to all the contributors for their collaboration. It has been rewarding to work with these visionary people.

I am also indeed grateful to Colette Casburn Numajiri, one of the ministers in New Wineskins Feminist Ritual Community, for her encouragement and contributions to this project. Colette went with me on the adventure of visiting numerous churches in the Dallas area, trying to find intercultural congregations. Thanks also to Equity for Women in the Church for living the vision of intercultural ministry, for enthusiastic support of this project, and for contributing to the book.

Intercultural Ministry: Hope for a Changing World will be available March 31, 2017. It’s now available for pre-order on Amazon and Judson Press.

Many thanks also to these endorsers:

“The ministers who wrote these chapters are intent on building intercultural communities that embody new forms of church and society. Sharing a common faith does not guarantee anything about common life, common worship, or common action. But with the creative, concerted, compassionate efforts reported here, we discover new ways to advance that work. This is a compelling resource for forward-looking congregations and students of ministry.” —Mary E. Hunt, Co-director, Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual (WATER)

“Buried deep in the subterranean recesses of this thoughtful, provoking, timely collection of essays representing the breadth of world Christianity is the fundamental, and ultimately transformative, not to mention far-reaching insight, that diversity, multiculturalism, inclusion, in and for theological education and ministry, are not enough. Their futures, and indeed the future of our planet, depend on the creation and nurture of intercultural competencies that are not only practical, but learned; critical but also hopeful; uncompromising, while being gracious; strategic, and at the same time tactical.

“This is a volume that will not only disturb but also comfort, disrupt as well as protect, both the faithful and the cynical, providing readers with ‘solid’ resources and ‘liquid’ perspectives for ministry and the living out of their lives—especially in these deeply troubled and troubling times.

“Intercultural Ministry is a must-read for all peoples of goodwill who desire the ‘creation of the fundamentally new that is also fundamentally better’ as they aspire to repair our broken world.” —Lester Edwin J. Ruiz, MDiv, PhD, Senior Director, Accreditation and Institutional Evaluation, The Association of Theological Schools, The Commission on Accrediting

“This impressive collection of essays gathers years of wisdom from seasoned pastoral leaders. By combining personal narrative, theological reflection on current events, and practical suggestions for the church, the authors offer abundant resources for pastors, scholars, and students engaged in the work of intercultural ministry. They do not sugarcoat the many challenges of this work in our time, but they do offer the outlines of hope for a more intercultural future.”—David H. Jensen, Academic Dean and Professor in the Clarence N. and Betty B. Freierson Distinguished Chair of Reformed Theology, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

“In pulling together the fifteen essays that make up Intercultural Ministry: Hope for a Changing World, editors Grace Ji‐Sun Kim and Jann Aldredge‐Clanton have done a great service to congregational leaders seeking a faithful way forward in the midst of the one of the defining challenges of our time – the fact that in a world of ever‐increasing mixing of races, ethnicities, and nationalities, the vast majority of churches remain stubbornly segregated. Acknowledging that creating intercultural communities is often a “disorienting, shocking, and at times, traumatic” process that never occurs without conflict and never comes to completion, the authors clear away naiveté and dismiss simplistic answers, offering instead a vision that is honest, complex and nuanced enough to actually be helpful. Even while addressing the difficulties, the authors offer testimony to the transformative power of such communities along with a stirring reminder that these churches continue a story that began with Christianity’s first congregations, the power necessary to create them being inherent in our faith itself and the Spirit that gave it birth.” — Rev. LeDayne McLeese Polaski, Executive Director/Directora Ejecutiva ‐ BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz

“Grace Ji‐Sun Kim and Jann Aldredge‐Clanton have done a phenomenal work as they gathered essays from a diverse group of religious leaders to discuss the creation and implementation of intercultural ministry in their communities. A copy of this masterpiece should be in every theologian’s library as a reference book which gives understanding to the importance of the creation of intercultural ministries as we attempt to live in our diverse communities which are constantly changing.” —Rev. Leslie Robin Harrison, MDiv.

“For those committed to reflect God’s diverse future today, Intercultural Ministry is an invaluable tool. What passes for multicultural church today is often a surface mix of people of different races and ethnicities, but they essentially share the same culture. This book challenges us to go deeper—too deep perhaps for some!—as it provides the theological and practical resources to move the church toward genuine interculturality. It calls for openness on our part to the Spirit’s work to change the heart and soul of the church, and not just its face.” —Al Tizon, Executive Minister of Serve Globally, Evangelical Covenant Church

“Replete with stories of struggle and testimonies of faith, this collection can instruct and inspire believers who seek more excellent ways for all peoples. In its purview the book embraces diverse cultures and individuals to offer grace, challenge, and healing.”—Phyllis Trible, Baldwin Professor Emerita of Sacred Literature, Union Theological Seminary

“Creating and sustaining a ministry that embraces diversity within the leadership and the membership has been the great challenge of the church from its inception. This book is a much needed guideline on how to overcome those barriers.” —Marvin A. McMickle, PhD, President and Professor of Church Leadership, Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School

Table of Contents:

Introduction: Grace Ji-Sun Kim & Jann Aldredge-Clanton

Foreword: Dwight N. Hopkins

Part 1: Building Theological Foundations for Intercultural Churches

Chapter 1: Becoming the Beloved Community, by Amy Butler

Chapter 2: A Collective Amnesia: The Church and its Prophetic Call to Steward our Collective Memory, by Brandon Green

Chapter 3: Disrupting Babylon, by Emily McGinley

Chapter 4: Every Nation, Tribe, People, and Language: Building Intercultural Churches with the End in Sight, by Curtiss Paul DeYoung

Chapter 5: Embodying a Disruptive Journey: Pursuing Reconciliation in the Context of Intergenerational Trauma in the Body of Christ, by Carlos Ruiz

Part 2: Strategies for Building Intercultural Churches and Ministries

Chapter 6: Beyond Resurrection Sunday, by Sheila Sholes-Ross

Chapter 7: Pushing Boundaries in Baltimore: An Experiment in Radical Religious Openness, by Brad R. Braxton

Chapter 8: Laying a Foundation for a True and Viable Intercultural Church, by Christine A. Smith

Chapter 9: Just Power: 10 Principles for Building Intercultural Leadership Teams, by Daniel Hill

Chapter 10: Equals at the Table: Strengthening Our Identities to Engage with Others, by Angie Hong  

Part 3: Future Possibilities of Intercultural Churches and Ministries

Chapter 11: Ministry at the Margins, by Karen Oliveto

Chapter 12: New Wineskins, by Peter Ahn

Chapter 13: Long Thread, Lazy Girl, by Katie Mulligan

Chapter 14: Ministry on a University Campus: Intercultural Successes, Failures, and Hope for the Future, by David Hershey

Chapter 15: The Kin-dom Coming in the Joyful Worship of the God of All People, by Karen Hernandez-Granzen

Conclusion: Jann Aldredge-Clanton & Grace Ji-Sun Kim

Notes 

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Wisdom Comes to Bring New Life to Birth

peaceonearthWhatever happened to Wisdom? In all my years growing up in church I never heard of God as Wisdom. I never heard God referred to as “She,” even though the Bible uses Wisdom as a female personification of God and refers to Wisdom as “She. “Happy are those who find Wisdom. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with Her. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all Her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of Her; those who hold Her fast are called happy” (Proverbs 3:13,15,17-18).

More than ever, our country and our world are in deep need of Wisdom. But Wisdom is sadly missing. Instead of Wisdom, we have racism, sexism, misogyny, heterosexism, and other injustices. Instead of Wisdom, we have violence. Instead of Wisdom, we have greed. Instead of inclusive images of Deity that affirm all human beings as created in the divine image, we have exclusive images that devalue more than half of humanity. We need Wisdom and other female divine images so that there will be justice for females and for all human beings. Without Wisdom we all suffer.

In a world of divisions and brokenness, hatred and violence, Wisdom can bring peace, love, and wholeness. We can join Wisdom in labor to bring new life to birth.

Shannon Kincaid, in recording studio

Shannon Kincaid, in recording studio

Recording artist Shannon Kincaid sings “Sound Forth the News That Wisdom Comes,” with pictures from various artists. This video is a Christmas gift that comes with the hope that Wisdom will guide us to co-create with Her a peaceful world.

Sound forth the news that Wisdom comes
to bring new life to birth.
Arise with hope, Her labor join,
and peace shall fill the earth,
and peace shall fill the earth,
and peace, and peace shall fill the earth.
 
No more let fear and custom hide
the path of Wisdom fair.
She leads the way to life and joy,
with gifts for all to share,
with gifts for all to share,
with gifts, with gifts for all to share.
 
Joyful are we who heed the call
of Wisdom in our souls.
With Her we break oppression’s wall,
so love may freely flow,
so love may freely flow,
so love, so love may freely flow.
 
Crown Wisdom Queen of heaven and earth.
Her reign will set us free.
Fling wide the gates that all may come
join hands and dance with glee,
join hands and dance with glee,
join hands, join hands and dance with glee.
 

Words  © Jann Aldredge-Clanton, from Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians (Eakin Press, 2006).

 

Vocal Artist: Shannon Kincaid

Visual Artists:

David Clanton: “Tree of Life” and two dancing children photos © David M. Clanton. Used with permission.

Lucy A. Synk: “Ruach” © Lucy A. Synk. Used with permission.

Alice Heimsoth: seven photos inside Ebenezer/herchurch Lutheran, San Francisco, and two photos from “Sisters Stepp’in Pride” events © Alice Heimsoth. Used with permission.

Mirta Toledo: “Sophia” © 2003 Mirta Toledo. Used with permission.

Shannon Kincaid: “Oprah & Child” and “Queen Maeve” paintings © Shannon Kincaid. Used with permission.

Mary Plaster: “Sophia, Divine Wisdom” © 2003 Mary Plaster. Used with permission.

Elizabeth Zedaran: “Flow” © Elizabeth Zedaran. Used with permission.

Instrumentalists:

Keyboard: Ron DiIulio

Guitar: Danny Hubbard

Bass & Percussion: Jerry Hancock

Music Producer/Arranger: Ron DiIulio

 

 

 

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More Carols for Justice and Peace

Lana Dalberg, Dionne Kohler-Newvine, Alison Kohler-Newvine, Kathleen Neville Fritz

Devi Vaani: Lana Dalberg, Dionne Kohler-Newvine, Alison Kohler-Newvine, Kathleen Neville Fritz

Words matter. Recent events in our country show the power of words to incite prejudice and hatred. Words of love, justice, and peace have greater power. Words we sing have the greatest power to bring transformation because the music embeds the words in our memories. Devi Vaani sings stanzas 2 & 3 of “Come to Our World, O Christ-Sophia”  (to a familiar carol tune) at Ebenezer/herchurch Lutheran in San Francisco (Pastor Stacy Boorn). This is one of the songs on the Christmas album “Sing of Peace.”

Come to our world, O Christ-Sophia, Wisdom;
our hearts are longing for Your peaceful way.
Lead us from fear and bondage into freedom;
with You we labor to bring Your new day.
 
Transform our world, O Christ-Sophia, Wisdom;
the poor and wounded await healing days.
Give us the power to sound Your call to freedom;
as equal partners, we show Your new way.
 
Led by Your Truth and Life within us growing,
we follow You on Your pathways of peace.
Filled with Your grace, Your loving kindness showing,
we share our gifts and our visions release.
 
REFRAIN:
 
Our weary world still longs for new creation,
for peace and justice coming to the earth.
Hope springs anew; we sing in celebration;
O Christ-Sophia, blessed be Your birth;
O Christ-Sophia, blessed be Your birth.
 

Words  © Jann Aldredge-Clanton, from Inclusive Hymns for Liberation, Peace, and Justice (Eakin Press, 2011).

“Christ-Sophia” is a biblical symbol of the Divine, making equal connections between male and female, black and white, Jewish and Christian traditions, thus providing a foundation for communities based on partnership instead of domination. Sophia, the Greek word for Wisdom, is a biblical female divine image that opens new possibilities for justice, liberation, and new life. New Testament writers link Christ to Wisdom, a feminine symbol of God in the Hebrew Scriptures. Wisdom (Hokmah in Hebrew) symbolizes creative, redemptive, and healing power. In their efforts to describe this same power in Christ, the apostle Paul and other New Testament writers draw from the picture of Wisdom. The apostle Paul refers to Christ as the “power of God and the Wisdom (Sophia) of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24), and states that Christ “became for us Wisdom (Sophia) from God” (1 Corinthians 1:30). The book of Proverbs describes Wisdom as the “way,” the “life,” and the “path” (4:11,22,26).  The Gospel of John refers to Christ as “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Bringing this biblical connection of Christ and Sophia to our worship can inspire partnerships that contribute to peace and justice in our world. Christ-Sophia inspires continual new birth.  Christ-Sophia empowers us to make the vision of the new creation a reality. Celebrate the birth of Christ-Sophia!

Devi Vaani sings “Our Mother Within Us” (to a familiar carol tune). This is another one of the songs on the Christmas album “Sing of Peace.”

Our Mother within us so holy and blessed,
You nurture our spirits with comfort and rest.
O give us your wisdom and strength for each day,
and fill us with love for all people we pray.
 
Our Mother within us, so many your names,
revealing our power, you help us to claim
our voices of courage to speak against wrong,
and joy overflowing to sing a new song.
 
O Mother within us, forever abide,
with blessings unfolding and arms open wide;
You give us new visions of life full and fair;
Your angels surround us with tenderest care.
 

Words  © Jann Aldredge-Clanton, from Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians (Eakin Press, 2006).

Although many churches limit God to male names and images, Scripture does not limit God to maleness. The Bible gives a multiplicity of divine names and images, including female divine names and images. Maternal divine names and imagery occur throughout the Bible. The prophet Isaiah pictures Deity as a comforting Mother: “As a Mother comforts Her children, so I will comfort you” (Isaiah 66:13). Biblical maternal images also include a “Nursing Woman” (Isaiah 49:15), “Mother Eagle” (Deuteronomy 32:11-12), and “Mother Hen” (Matthew 23:37).

“Our Mother Within Us” also refers to the biblical call to sing to a “new song” (Psalm 96:1; 144:9). This new song, “Our Mother Within Us,” comes with the hope and prayer that singing new songs that include female names and images of the Divine will contribute to a new story of love, peace, and justice in the world.

 

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