Dr. Kendra Weddle, associate professor and chair of Religion and Humanities at Texas Wesleyan University, is a prolific writer on the connections between her Christian faith and her feminist convictions. In addition to her scholarly publications, Kendra co-authors with Dr. Melanie Springer Mock a blog, “Ain’t I a Woman: De/Constructing Christian Images and has written blogs with Melanie and Letha Dawson Scanzoni on EEWC-CFT’s FemFaith.
FemFaith is an intergenerational conversation among these three Christian feminists. The name of the blog, “FemFaith,” comes from their desire to be “feminists, faithfully” and to show how their Christian faith and their feminism connect, draw upon, and foster growth in both areas. In the picture above, Kendra is on the left, Letha (center), and Melanie (right). Here is an excerpt from a FemFaith post by Kendra entitled “The Advent of Giving Birth.”
Advent is not just the season of waiting, but of preparation, of expectation, of looking forward to what is yet to be birthed. To be ready we must be diligent, working to ensure our hearts and homes are in order. Our anticipation is equal parts expectation and culling out the unnecessary to clutter.
And while I have never experienced the actual event of birthing (to be honest, it used to frighten me so much that even if I did decide to have children, I probably would have adopted), I’m pretty sure the universal occurrence shared by all who give birth is pain. Excruciating, jaw-dropping, yell-out-loud pain.This is really a fundamental law of some kind, I’m pretty sure. You want to create something new. Great: expect it to hurt! Part of my Advent preparation this year included participating in a community gathering to welcome Christ-Sophia in our midst, a small group led by Rev. Jann Aldredge-Clanton. While there I was reminded of the ground-breaking work that must be accomplished not only for feminine images of the divine to be welcomed and celebrated in our worshipping communities but also for the true equality of all persons to be realized in our culture, the oft-overlooked goal of the feminist movement. And as Jann has pointed out so clearly on her blog and in her books, these two realities are intricately connected. As we sang familiar Christmas songs with new lyrics and read liturgy calling attention to the process and pain of giving birth, I remembered Letha’s article (see Letha Dawson Scanzoni’s “What Kind of Man Would Want to Marry a Feminist?”) where evidence that liberation has yet to be achieved feels like a tender wound, not all that different from the pain I feel each Sunday when patriarchy continues its reign in celebrated masculine images prominently on display in church after church. We are living in a time of considerable backlash. In the face of rapid change where assumed gender roles no longer hold sway in a way they once did, where the “traditional” family of a wife and husband with two children is now seen not only as a fantasy today but also one of earlier times, where women are seeking careers and meaningful lives in ways no longer centered solely on familial contexts, it is no surprise to hear the objections to such new ways of living. And, no doubt, these objections have been loud and clear and, surprisingly, effective. I mean, who would have guessed 2012 would witness so much legislation designed to reverse women’s reproductive rights and decisions? Who would have thought that Roe v. Wade would be in such a tenuous position, its viability perhaps dependent upon the next justice appointed to the Supreme Court. While Suzanne Venker’s comments and others are simply last gasp attempts to reverse a culture that in reality is moving away from the June Cleaver era, these voices—loud and persuasive as they are to some—need to be addressed and I’m glad many have done so as Letha points out. At the same time, we must not forget, freedom is costly and requires us to be vigilant in cultivating a place for it. As we claimed in our New Wineskins Community, giving birth to Christ-Sophia takes diligence; this is also true for true liberation for all people, not just women. How do we cultivate this liberation? By “giving equal value to girls and boys of all races in our educational institutions….” By “sharing power in our workplace communities….” By “sharing our material possessions.” By “nurturing and respecting the earth and all created beings….”
By “practicing mutuality in our personal relationships….”
By “liberating ourselves and others from oppressive systems….”
By “sharing power in our religious communities….”
By “giving sacred value to female and male images in our worship experiences.”
(adapted from the liturgy written for New Wineskins by Jann Aldredge-Clanton)
(See the full article by Kendra and the articles by Letha and Melanie. For more of Dr. Kendra Weddle’s story, see my earlier blogpost.)
New Wineskins Community invites you to join us.11:00 a.m., 1st Sunday of each month Richland College, Yegua Building, Room 102 12800 Abrams Road, Dallas, Texas If you live too far to come to our gatherings, we invite you to create a New Wineskins Community (or some kind of inclusive worship community) where you live.
Significance of the Community’s Name
The name “New Wineskins,” coming from the metaphor in Matthew 9:17, describes our search for new language and symbols to proclaim the good news of liberation and shalom. Our rituals name and image the Divine as female and male and more to support the equality and value of all. New Wineskins Community welcomes people of all faiths, races, sexual orientations, ages. We celebrate diversity and actively encourage the discovery and exercise of everyone’s gifts.
Mission Statement of New Wineskins
New Wineskins Community explores new ways of seeing divinity so that the spiritual gifts of everyone are equally valued and nurtured. New Wineskins Community offers rituals especially focused on the Divine Feminine to change culture from devaluation to empowerment of the feminine. The rituals also symbolize shared power and responsibility to change culture from one up/one down and win/lose to mutual relationships. The mission of New Wineskins is to expand experience of Divine Mystery and to contribute to healing, peace, and justice in our world.
Words and Visual Symbols Matter
Because worship in most faith communities has excluded or only marginally included female names and images of Deity, New Wineskins Community seeks to provide balance by focusing especially on the Divine Feminine. Language and visual images we use for the Divine matter.
• Words and visual symbols have great power in that they constitute our world and beliefs. Societies construct their views of reality in language and symbols
• The language and symbols we use for the Divine reflect and shape our deepest values.
• If all our names and images for the Divine are male and white, then we are giving greatest value to white males and devaluing all others.
• This devaluation lays the foundation for worldwide violence against women and girls and the foundation for racially motivated violence and violence against LGBTQ persons and others in devalued groups.
• People who are not given sacred value are excluded, marginalized, and discriminated against in the workplace and in faith communities.
• New Wineskins’ rituals name and image the Divine as female and male and more and as racially diverse, providing a foundation of justice and freedom for all creation to become all we’re created to be in the divine image.
To learn more about New Wineskins Community, see: https://www.jannaldredgeclanton.com/wineskins.php