More Mother Eagle Songs

Eagle, nest with youngmany eagles

The biblical image of God as a Mother Eagle resonated with so many of my readers that I decided to write this follow-up to my blog with the “Mother Eagle, Teach Us to Fly” video and to include two more of my Mother Eagle songs:

35 Stir Us Out of Our Safe Nest Mother Eagle copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stir us out of our safe nest;
Mother Eagle, come nearby.
Hold us close to your warm breast,
while we learn to risk and fly.
Lift us up with you, we pray;
help us see a bright new day.

Take us up on your strong wings;
Mother Eagle, give us flight;
borne aloft our spirits sing,
as we soar into your light.
Lift us up with you, we pray;
help us see a bright new day.

Mother Eagle, send us out,
freely flying on our own.
Claiming all our gifts we shout,
glad to be at last full grown.
Soaring now with you, we say,
“Look, there dawns the bright new day.”

As with Eagle’s wings we fly,
leaving each confining place.
For fresh air and forms, we cry,
as we move out into space.
Soaring now with you, we say,
“Look, there dawns the bright new day.”

Words © 1996 Jann Aldredge-Clanton, from Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians (Eakin Press, 2006)

32. Come, Mother Eagle, Show the Way copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Come, Mother Eagle, show the way
to streams of kindness flowing;
we long to live in peaceful lands,
where love is ever growing.

Come, Mother Eagle, stir us now
to leave confining places,
to rise to welcome everyone,
all genders, forms, and races.

Come, Mother Eagle, give us flight
to glorious revelations;
illumine ways to change our world,
to join in new creation.

Come, Mother Eagle, lift us all
to soar with you in daring,
to co-create a world of peace,
of beauty, joy, and sharing.

Words © 2014 Jann Aldredge-Clanton, from Earth Transformed with Music! Inclusive Songs for Worship (Eakin Press, 2015).

Here are some responses I received from my previous blog with the “Mother Eagle, Teach Us to Fly” video:

“What a beautiful image of our God.”
“Thank you for reminding us of Mother Eagle who encourages us to fly.”
“I felt so uplifted by this.”
“This is my ‘chill and pray’ music when I need to reboot between hospice patients.”
“This message arrived right on time for me.”

All We're Meant to BeIn my blog I wrote about how All We’re Meant to Be, by Letha Dawson Scanzoni and Nancy A. Hardesty, transformed my life and vocation. So I was delighted to receive these comments from Letha:

“The message the song conveys is powerful – and so needed in these times. The emphasis on the Mother’s care and protection comes through loud and clear, but it doesn’t stop there. It emphasizes the goals of the Mother Eagle—to see her children grow strong and free to be all they were meant to be. To learn to believe they (and we) can fly and then to actually do so! To spread our wings with confidence and strength when so many forces would try to tether us to the ground and keep us from soaring.”

Letha goes on to mention an article, “Women’s Lib: Friend or Foe?,” published in The Alliance Witness in 1970, the year Nancy and she were in the early stages of writing the first edition of All We’re Meant to Be. The article presented “Women’s Lib” as “foe,” demeaning the women’s movement and arguing that “Scriptures declare unequivocally that the sexes are not equal.” Letha comments that “teachings like that were, of course, a main reason” they were writing All We’re Meant to Be. “Watching your video was such an antidote to reading those restrictive views again—views that have clipped the wings of so many girls and women and caused them to think they had no right to pray the prayer of your song. As we know, many boys and men have also been harmed by the notion that they were ordained to dominance, which all too often is being displayed in today’s political climate in a form some behavioral scientists are calling a dangerous ‘toxic masculinity.’”

All We’re Meant to Be demonstrates that Scriptures unequivocally teach gender equality. Letha and Nancy had great courage in flying out of the traditional nest to write this book. Mother Eagle helped them soar “far above the clouds” of opposition to bring this liberating Good News.

DivineFeminineAnother book that has had a significant influence on my theology and ministry is The Divine Feminine: The Biblical Imagery of God as Female, by Virginia Ramey Mollenkott. Virginia mines Scripture to elucidate Female Divine names and images, such as Midwife, Dame Wisdom, Bakerwoman, Mother Hen, and Mother Eagle. This book inspired me as I began to expand my language for Deity, to follow my calling to write on the importance of inclusive language and to create songs that include biblical Female Divine names and images.

In her chapter “God as Mother Eagle,” Virginia quotes Deuteronomy 32:11-12: “As an eagle stirs up her nest, flutters over her young, spreads abroad her wings, takes them, bears them on her wings; so God alone did lead Jacob”; and Job 39:27: “Does the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high?” She comments: “Deuteronomy 32 and Job 39 depict the mother eagle teaching her eaglets to fly and to hunt their own food. . . . the mother eagle takes the eaglets on her wings, swoops downward suddenly to force them into solo flight, then stays close to swoop under them again whenever they grow too weary to continue on their own. What a picture of a loving God, caring nurturantly for us when we are weak, yet always aiming at the goal of our maturity and internalized strength rather than at morbid dependency upon a force external to ourselves!” Virginia writes that Mother Eagle “images the nature of God in relationship to her children”; Mother Eagle pictures the Divine as “actively trying to create equals by empowering the eaglets to take care of themselves.”

How fitting it is then that Virginia Ramey Mollenkott received the first Mother Eagle Award, jointly presented by Christian Feminism Today and The Gay Christian Network. Here is a description of the award and Virginia’s acceptance speech. I hope you’ll listen to her whole speech in which she tells her inspiring story and gives compelling reasons for including Female Divine names and images in our churches. She concludes with this challenge and blessing: “Work with me and with the Cosmic Mother Eagle in the creating of social justice by stirring up our nest, fluttering over our young, and spreading abroad our wings! And may the magnificent Mother Eagle bless us everyone.”

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“Mother Eagle, Teach Us to Fly” Video

Mother Eagle, teach us to fly;
now it’s time to try our own wings.
Show us how to reach to the sky;
take us where our spirits will sing.

Mother Eagle, lift us up high;
with your help we never will fear.
New adventures we want to try;
give us faith and stay ever near.

Mother Eagle, teach us to fly!
Mother Eagle, lift us up high!
Help us to try what we’ve never tried before!
Mother Eagle, watch us do more!

Mother Eagle, watch us do more;
see us stretch to all we can be.
Far above the clouds we can soar.
Look! We’re flying happy and free!

Look! We’re flying happy and free!
Look! We’re flying free!

Music: Larry E. Schultz

Words: Jann Aldredge-Clanton

Visual Artists:

David Clanton, “Blaze of Glory” & photos of Imagine God! music camps
Pam Allen: drawings of Biblical Divine Images & Mother Eagle and Young

Recorded and Produced by: The Lodge, Indianapolis, IN

From Imagine God! A Children’s Musical Exploring and Expressing Images of God
(Choristers Guild, 2004).

Eagle, nest with youngAmong the powerful Female Divine images in the Bible is Mother Eagle. Deuteronomy 32:11-12 depicts Deity as a Mother Eagle who stirs up Her nest to get the eaglets out on their own. This is a beautiful picture of a loving Creator, caring and nurturing us as we grow, and always aiming at the goal of our becoming all She created us to be.

“See us stretch to all we can be,” a line in my Mother Eagle song (above), has important personal meaning for me. Growing up, I got messages from my church and culture that women weren’t meant to be that much. This patriarchal culture put strict limits on possibilities for women. The ideal for women was to focus on domestic life. If we ventured out from the home, we could be secretaries, nurses, or teachers. If we wanted a role in religion, we could be missionaries, but certainly not pastors.

51vbHAaHTKL._AC_US218_It never occurred to me to question these messages about what women could and could not do at home or in church and society, until I read All We’re Meant to Be: A Biblical Approach to Women’s Liberation, by Letha Dawson Scanzoni and Nancy A. Hardesty (now in 3rd edition). In this book I discovered more than enough biblical support for gender equality in the home, in church leadership, and in all areas of life. In addition, this book introduced me to the “radical” idea that God might be more than male. Although Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique had come out more than 10 years earlier, I’d never heard of the book or raised any questions about women’s traditional roles. The call to gender justice could reach me only through the Bible and interpretations of it.

My mind and spirit began to stretch so that I could imagine new vocational possibilities. I was than receptive when the Spirit called me to pastoral ministry, that soon included social justice activism and writing on gender equality.

The beautiful biblical picture of God as Mother Eagle continues to empower me, and I offer it to you for inspiration and renewed hope. God is like a mother eagle that teaches her young eagles to fly and to hunt their own food. When the little eagles are old enough to leave the nest, their mother shakes the nest and flutters her wings over them. Then she takes them on her wings to teach them to fly. When she thinks they are ready, she swoops down to let them fly on their own. But she stays close enough to swoop back under them and help them when they become too weary and weak to continue flying on their own.

Mother Eagle has helped me to stretch to all I can be in ways beyond what I could have imagined. She helps me to try new adventures in my creative writing and social justice activism. I’m in awe of all She has helped us accomplish through Equity for Women in the Church, New Wineskins Community, and Christian Feminism Today, and inspired by visions of new possibilities as we soar together with Her. But as most social justice advocates will acknowledge, this work is long and hard, and we don’t always see the changes we long for. Sometimes we become too weak and weary to continue. Mother Eagle comes to help, taking us up again on Her strong wings until we’re ready to soar again.

May Mother Eagle help us all to continue stretching to all we can be. May She help us reach to the sky as we fly happy and free!

MOther Eagle, teachigImagine145freedom7

 

 

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“Listen, Wisdom Is Calling” Video

Listen! Listen!
Listen, Listen!

Listen, listen, Wisdom is calling,
teaching us Her fairness and peace.
Guiding us to love one another,
She will help all violence to cease.

Listen! Listen!
Listen, listen!
Follow, follow, follow, follow!

Follow, follow, Wisdom is leading,
showing us Her pathway to right.
Let us go together with Wisdom;
She will lead to kindness and light.

Listen! Listen!
Listen, listen!
Follow, follow, follow, follow!
Rise up! Rise up!

Rise up, rise up, Wisdom is coming,
bringing gifts more precious than gold.
She will shower us with Her blessings;
with Her grace our talents unfold.

Listen! Listen!
Listen, listen!
Follow, follow, follow, follow!
Rise up! Rise up!

Music: Larry E. Schultz
Words: Jann Aldredge-Clanton
Visual Artists:
Elizabeth Zedaran, “Flow”
Mary Plaster, “Sophia, Divine Wisdom”
David Clanton, “Tree of Life” & photo of dancing children
Angela Yarber, “Sophia”
Mirta Toledo, “Saint Sophia”
Alice Heimsoth, photo inside Ebenezer/herchurch Lutheran, San Francisco
Recorded and Produced by: The Lodge, Indianapolis, IN
From Imagine God! A Children’s Musical Exploring and Expressing Images of God
(Choristers Guild, 2004).

"Sophia" by Mirta Toledo

“Sophia” by Mirta Toledo

Our world is in deep need of the healing that Divine Wisdom can bring. Many years ago commentator Bill Moyers wrote, “The news is not good these days. What we need is what the ancient Israelites called Hokmah (“Wisdom”), the capacity to see, to feel and then to act as if the future depended on us.” The news is even worse now. And the future of our world does depend on us. Wisdom calls us to join Her in actions that bring peace and justice.

The Bible records Wisdom’s saying, “From everlasting I was firmly set, from the beginning, before earth came into being” (Proverbs 8:23). Wisdom has been here from the beginning, but She has too often been stifled, demeaned, or ignored. For centuries She has also been in the Bible, but She has too often been excluded from worship. Wisdom is Hokmah in the Hebrew Scriptures and Sophia in the Greek New Testament.

In all my years growing up in church I never heard God referred to as “She,” even though the Bible presents Wisdom as a prominent female personification of God and refers to Wisdom as “She.” Most churches still exclude Wisdom and other biblical female references to Deity. But those who include Her and follow Her are deeply blessed. “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. Prize Her highly, and She will exalt you; She will honor you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a fair garland; She will bestow on you a beautiful crown” (Proverbs 3:13,15,17-18).

New Testament writers link Wisdom (Sophia) to Christ. 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 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).

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, classism, 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 exclusively male 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.

"Sophia, Divine Wisdom," by Mary Plaster

“Sophia, Divine Wisdom,” by Mary Plaster

Wisdom, a female divine image, can help to overcome injustice and to create a world of shared power. Including female divine images gives sacred value to women and girls who for centuries have suffered from abuse, oppression, exclusion, discrimination. In the U.S. alone, every 15 seconds a woman is battered. One in three women experiences some kind of abuse. Seventy percent of the poor are women. Only 20% of members of the current U.S. Congress are women. By balancing female and male names for Deity, we give strong support to the equal value of women and men. When God is seen as female, then women and girls are seen in Her image and thus respected and valued. Including female divine names and images in our worship lays a foundation for change that contributes to equality and justice.

Listen! Wisdom is calling. For so long She has been calling us to justice and peace. “Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares She raises Her voice. At the busiest corner She cries out; at the entrance of the city gates She speaks: ‘How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? Give heed to my reproof; I will pour out my thoughts to you; I will make my words known to you’” (Proverbs 1:20-23).

In a world of divisions and brokenness, hatred and violence, Wisdom can bring peace, love, and wholeness. Let us name Her and celebrate Her in our worship. Let us listen to Her voice! Let us follow Her pathways to peace! Let us rise up with Her to bless the world!

 

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Trouble the Water: A Christian Resource for the Work of Racial Justice

Trouble the Water

What responsibility do churches have for the work of racial justice? What are the challenges of this work? How do we dismantle white privilege and white supremacy? How do we build coalitions to address the intersection of racism, sexism, heterosexism, and other injustices? How do we create communities of equality, justice-love, and peace? These are among the questions addressed in Trouble the Water, edited by Michael-Ray Mathews, Marie Clare P. Onwubuariri, and Cody J. Sanders.

For many years I’ve been exploring these questions and collaborating with others on intersectional justice work. Recently Grace Ji-Sun Kim and I co-edited Intercultural Ministry: Hope for a Changing World. In this book we address some of the same questions as those addressed in Trouble the Water, but with a different focus: the creation of intercultural churches and other ministries for the work of racial justice and equality. Trouble the Water provides resources for this work for individuals and churches, both monocultural and multicultural. I welcome this outstanding new book that has stirred my thinking and strengthened my spirit for the work of racial justice.

In the Introduction to Trouble the Water, the editors write: “At a time in our country and in our world when expressions of interpersonal prejudice and structural racism are validated and even valorized, this is a resource whose time has come.” They note the book’s publication several months after our “national election that threatens the well-being of all who live their lives at the intersections of oppression because of race, gender, class, sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration status, religion, health and ability, and a host of other markers of human difference.” Trouble the Water centers racial justice while connecting it to other justice concerns. I appreciate this intersectional approach to justice work.

Birthed and nurtured in the Racial Justice and Multiculturalism Community in the Alliance of Baptists, Trouble the Water includes chapters by 23 diverse authors engaged in racial justice work from an intersectional approach. One of the editors, Marie Clare P. Onwubuariri, has also been involved with the Equity for Women in the Church Community, which I co-chair, and I have been connected with the Racial Justice and Multculturalism Community. We have found our missions intersecting as both communities work for racial and gender justice.

The title Trouble the Water comes from the Negro spiritual “Wade in the Water.” When the book was in the planning stages, the editors invited a diverse group of church leaders to gather with them to talk about content that would be important for this resource. After each person spoke, others responded through notes posted on a board while the whole group sang the refrain of “Wade in the Water”: “Wade in the water, wade in the water children, wade in the water, God’s gonna trouble the water.” The editors comment that these lyrics reminded them that “God has heard and will continue to hear the cries of the oppressed and will ‘trouble the waters’ as an act toward the release and freedom of God’s beloved.” Also, to “trouble the waters” became their motivation for staying engaged in the work of this book project.

Trouble the Water provides the necessary theological foundations for the work of racial justice, gives readers tools for engaging in this work, and includes inspiring stories from churches doing this justice work. Ideal for laypeople and clergy to use in church study groups, retreats, workshops, conferences, academic classes, and personal exploration, this book also includes helpful questions for reflection at the end of chapters.

There is a wealth of wisdom, inspiration, and challenge in Trouble the Water. I’ll give highlights from some of the chapters.

In a chapter titled “Resistance We Can Imagine: Cultivating Ecclesial Imaginations for Racial Justice and Healing in Public Life,” Michael-Ray Mathews states that the “work of racial justice in congregations must be understood as an ecclesial practice with public impact.” He tells the compelling story of his joining other clergy and organizers in visiting Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of the uprising following the shooting death of Michael Brown. On one occasion he stood with hundreds of clergy from all over the country in the pouring rain outside the Ferguson Police Department calling for repentance and experiencing repentance and renewal. “We were being baptized into a movement for justice,” he writes. “We began to sing, ‘Wade in the water, wade in the water, children, wade in the water, God’s gonna trouble the water.’” Ray challenges us all to “trouble the waters: to disrupt and confront injustice, and to resist and tear down dehumanizing structures so that we can create new systems that honor our God-given dignity.”

Marie Clare P. Onwubuariri, in a chapter titled “An Intersectional Approach to the Work of Justice: Beyond the Default Categories of Identity,” invites us to go beyond the “binary (Black-White) and sometimes ternary (Black-White-Brown) racial conversations in the United States” to include people “who resonate more readily with ‘hybridity’ versus standard racial identities.” I appreciate her expansive view of intersectionality, including diverse racial identities along with diversity in ethnicity, gender, age, class, sexual orientation, and physical ability. Onwubuariri writes about the necessity of “coalitions” and “collaborative efforts” to address justice concerns on personal, interpersonal, institutional, and cultural levels. In keeping with her inclusion of a wide range of people, she offers a variety of approaches to racial justice work so that each of us can find a way that fits our gifts and training. She draws from Reyes-Chow’s book But I Don’t See You As Asian: Curating Conversations About Race to identify four different approaches for people to use in advancing racial justice: “relationships, academia, activism, and the arts.”

In his chapter “Being Brown When Black Lives Matter,” Miguel A. De La Torre also encourages inclusive racial justice work. While taking care not to diminish the Black Lives Matter movement, as whites have done by insisting that all lives matter, he calls us beyond the black/white dichotomy in our racial justice work. This dichotomy “ignores the largest U.S. minority group, who are also the deadly targets of law enforcement and who, thanks to our immigration laws, now represent the largest ethnic/racial group in federal prisons.” He tells the tragic story of Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, who was beaten to death by more than a dozen Border Patrol agents but, unlike Eric Garner and Michael Brown, remains unknown to most Americans because there is little media coverage of the brutal killings of undocumented immigrants. De La Torre challenges communities of color to build coalitions to confront the prevailing social structures protecting white privilege.

In their chapters Malu Fairley and Melissa W. Bartholomew include powerful stories of their experiences as African Americans in majority white churches. In a sermon to her church, Fairly shared her personal emotional response to the not guilty verdict of George Zimmerman for the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin. She expressed her rage, sorrow, and fears for her own son: “I reminded them that to love him included his being African-American. Being color-blind or not seeing his ethnicity was a denial of the fullness of his personhood. His blackness mattered. I shared my fear that as he grew older our society would see him as inherently dangerous, and a problem.” She demonstrates how this “authentic, provocative sharing, connecting,” can lead to mutual transformation in our “racial/economic/social justice work.” Bartholomew writes about the trauma she experienced when she saw a hateful racial slur written on her church’s Black Lives Matter sign. “Ironically, I was going there to meet with my pastor, Rev. Cody Sanders, to discuss his invitation to contribute to this racial justice resource for congregations.” She acknowledges “the challenge of being one of two—or the only African American—in meetings or forums” connected to her church’s racial justice ministry: “I can no longer pretend that the work of racial justice is the same for people of color as it is for white people. Racism impacts each ethnic and cultural group differently. Our roles in the work are different, and so are our needs.” She realizes her need to reconnect to the Black Church for the work of healing her racial trauma wounds while continuing her racial justice activism within her white church community.

Trouble the Water includes important chapters on work for white people on the path to racial justice. Soon after I was ordained in 1985, before the terms “white privilege” and “intersectionality” were commonly used, I recognized on some level the connection between racism and sexism. I later came to understand that racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, and all injustices are connected. As an ordained Baptist clergywoman, I have experienced my share of sexism, but I have come to understand also my privilege as white, straight, and middle-class. Reading the chapters by Jennifer Harvey and Tammerie Day deepened my understanding and illuminated my racial justice work as a white person. Harvey comments that “white guilt” is a healthy response for people committed to equality who understand we benefit from inequity and that “the antidote to being immobilized by white guilt is action.” But she cautions that “white work” should be in support of racial justice work “in which people of color’s experiences and leadership are centered.” Day explores spiritual practices to help white people in our anti-racist work, beginning with repentance: “When we allow the Holy Spirit to have her way with us in our remorseful confession and lament, we open ourselves to possibilities for repentance.” We stop racist practices such as “racist humor, ignoring whiteness, inattention to privilege, white religious imagery, white bonding, white fragility and ‘we’ve always done it this way.’” Another spiritual practice is working for transformation “by finding the work communities of color are already doing, and joining them in it.”

Another excellent chapter is Isabel Docampo’s “The Role of Immersion in the Work of Racial Justice.” From a postcolonial view of missions as sustained, mutual relationship with local church leaders, she encourages congregations to engage in immersion/mission trips within our own cities and overseas to help us “understand how trade, foreign policies, hegemony, and institutionalized racism and sexism are taking root both in our cities and abroad, and how they are interconnected.” To travel with integrity and intentionality, we need “self-awareness, authentic faith, and ongoing reflection,” writes Docampo. “We are created in the womb of the Divine and are bound together irrevocably. Our path to the Divine is to journey together as sisters and brothers bound by love. For this reason, Jesus commissions us to ’Go!’ beyond our borders and boundaries to reach out to one another. Mission and immersion trips that work toward authentic encounters break open oppressive, institutionalized racist and gendered structures and discover how the Divine’s power of love continues to resurrect amidst modern-day crucifixions.”

LeDayne McLeese Polaski and Kadia Edwards propose Conflict Transformation (CT) for our work of racial justice. For their insightful chapter they draw from their work with Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America (BPFNA) in leading CT training. They view conflict as an “inherent part of human life that unlocks an immense amount of energy.” Conflict Transformation “releases positive power and channels that tremendous energy toward lasting, constructive change.” They acknowledge that the work of transformation is immense because the “disease of racism” goes “far back into our history” and “far down into our souls.” In moving forward, we must create safe spaces for people to share stories that evoke fear, anger, agony, and conflict. Polaski and Edwards emphasize self-care as crucial for this long and hard work and the importance of training to facilitate CT. They include a note that BPFNA offers this CT training to churches and other groups.

In her chapter Deborah DeMars Conrad, a pastor in Flint, Michigan, makes the important connection between racial justice and environmental justice. The infrastructure problem that caused poisoned water in Flint hasn’t been fixed after more than two years, and an EPA official indicated it’s not a priority. Flint is sixty percent black, 40 percent poor, and more than 25 percent unemployed. Conrad writes: “You cannot understand this manufactured emergency without talking about racism, about economic inequality and disempowerment, corporate pillaging and a thousand acres of industrial brownfield poisoning the river, plus the community-depleting effects of mass incarceration and the underlying presumption that people of color are not credible sources of information about the realities of their own lives.” She continues to connect racial and environmental justice: “Environment justice means tending to the wholeness of creation. Racial justice is also about wholeness—the right of historically exploited and oppressed people to be made whole.”

Christine Y. Wiley and Dennis W. Wiley illustrate what Martin Luther King called the “beloved community” in their inspiring story of Covenant Baptist UCC in Washington DC. Covenant has modeled an intersectional approach to justice for many years. In 1969 this previously all-white church called a black pastor and opened its doors to black people, and in 1985, hired a woman minister. In 2004, Christine and Dennis became co-equal pastors “with equal authority, responsibility, and compensation,” and the church voted to become open and affirming to the LGBT community. They write: “A long time ago some white Southern Baptist laypersons started a legacy of inclusion, justice, equality, and liberation, and we look forward to what God will do as She continues to build this beloved community.” They challenge churches to model the beloved community “within its walls” so that it will also become reality “outside its walls.”

Trouble the Water is a must-read for individuals and congregations who want to work toward racial justice, while attending to intersecting oppressions, so that we all have freedom to flourish in the divine image.

Editors

michael-ray-mathews-3-mstcx8oqubkpuijdg1b4ranexk1u1syrhho70vcm4s-mstlgh7mpu5qq29ceca5bcdgk6wzs01gxja7wbetxoMichael-Ray Mathews is an ordained American Baptist minister and leading pastor in the multifaith movement for justice. He brings nearly 30 years of ministry leadership experience as a senior pastor, grassroots leader, psalmist, and community organizer to his work as the Director of Clergy Organizing for PICO (People Improving Communities through Organizing) National Network in Oakland, California. Since 2014, Rev. Mathews’ leadership has centered on the Theology of Resistance. Developed in the aftermath of the killing of unarmed teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Theology of Resistance is a prophetic, multifaith discourse intended to ignite conversations and spark faith leaders to fight injustice and dehumanization and cultivate Beloved Community. He serves as co-convener of the Racial Justice and Multiculturalism Community within the Alliance of Baptists. [Twitter: @mrmathews]

MarieOMarie Clare P. Onwubuariri is an ordained American Baptist minister serving as Regional Executive Minister (REM) of the American Baptist Churches of Wisconsin. She holds the distinct honor of being the first female and first person of color in this position in the state and the first Asian-American female REM in the denomination. In her pastoral, administrative, and educational ministries, Rev. Onwubuariri strives to embody an approach that integrates cultural self-knowing, and interpersonal and organizational practices that affirm the value of and ensure equity for all people. She ventures to develop the expressions of her intersectional soul through the  media of poetry, photography, and piano and incorporates these into the breadth of her ministry passions. She has been involved with the Alliance of Baptists since 2008, particularly in the work of Equity for Women in the Church and the Racial Justice and Multiculturalism Communities. [Twitter: @MarieCPO]

CodySanders.jpbCody J. Sanders, PhD, is pastor of Old Cambridge Baptist Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, serves as American Baptist Chaplain at Harvard University, and teaches on the adjunct faculty in pastoral care at Andover Newton Theological School. He is author of Queer Lessons for Churches on the Straight and Narrow: What All Christians Can Learn from LGBTQ Lives, co-author of Microaggressions in Ministry: Confronting the Hidden Violence of Everyday Church, and author of A Brief Guide to Ministry with LGBTQIA Youth. Rev. Sanders has served as co-convener of the Racial Justice and Multiculturalism Community since its inception within the Alliance of Baptists. [Twitter: @QueerBaptistRev]

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“Revisiting Re-Imagining,” by Dr. Sherry Jordon

reImaginingIn September of 1993 I first heard about Re-Imagining. A member of our Dallas Clergywomen’s group talked with excitement about her plans to attend the first Re-Imagining Conference scheduled for that November in Minneapolis. I liked the name “Re-Imagining” and the purpose of the conference—to explore theology from women’s experience. But I didn’t have the time or the money to go that year. I eagerly followed news reports from this groundbreaking conference. More than 2,000 people from 49 states and 27 countries, representing 40 Christian denominations, participated in rituals that included female divine images. The celebration of Sophia especially resonated with my study of the connection between Christ and Sophia.

The Sophia rituals sparked the most media attention and the greatest fury of conservative denominational leaders. Several administrators in mainline denominations lost their jobs because of their participation in the conference. Although I hadn’t attended the conference, I lost a book contract with a denominational press because of my book’s focus on Sophia. Not long after, In Search of the Christ-Sophia was published by Twenty-Third Publications (revised and updated edition, Eakin Press, 2004).

I determined to go to the second Re-Imagining Conference. There I had the joy of experiencing rituals led by feminist theologian and liturgist Miriam Therese Winter, and presentations by Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock and other feminist theologians I admire.

Dr. Sherry Jordon wrote an article for Christian Feminism Today (CFT) about the history and the revival of the Re-Imagining Community. Thank you to CFT and Dr. Jordon for permission to post this article here:

In November 1993, more than 2,000 Christians from around the globe gathered in Minneapolis to celebrate the World Council of Churches “Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women.” The gathering was simply titled “Re-Imagining.”

What might “solidarity with women” mean for churches?  What questions needed to be raised, and what ideas and practices invited re-examination? Those attending the Minneapolis gathering— clergy, laity, theologians, academics—were unafraid to use their imaginations in exploring such matters creatively. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to call the Re-Imagining Conference a watershed event in the history of Christian feminism. Along with so many others who attended the event, I found the experience nothing less than transformative.

Since that 1993 conference, three things have happened. First, the conference was followed by charges of heresy against many of the participants and organizers. Second, the Re-Imagining Community formed in response. And third, after having been inactive for a time, Re-Imagining has recently returned!

Re-visiting the 1993 Event

The 1993 Re-Imagining Gathering featured Feminist, Womanist, Mujerista, and Asian Feminist theologians from around the globe, including Mary Hunt, Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, Delores Williams, Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, Hyun Kyung Chung, Kwok Pui Lan, Beverly Harrison, and Elizabeth Bettenhausen.  These speakers re-imagined God, Jesus, Church, Sexuality, Language, and Ethics from a variety of feminist perspectives. We sat at round tables to discuss their inspiring presentations, we drew on the paper tablecloths, we sang, we danced, we laughed and cried. We worshiped as feminists, sharing rituals grounded in women’s experiences and using feminine language for God. These rituals included a milk and honey ritual that celebrated the goodness of women’s bodies and a song that affirmed the wisdom of women as created in the image of God:

Bless Sophia
Dream the Vision,
Share the Wisdom,
Dwelling Deep Within

Most of us left the conference encouraged, challenged, and inspired.

The Backlash

The backlash was swift and powerful. Concerns were angrily raised about many aspects of the gathering, with special ire directed toward the centrality of Sophia, the use of feminine language and imagery for God, the milk and honey ritual, and the positive acceptance of homosexuality, including the participation of lesbians in attendance.

The conference had received some denominational support and funding, especially from the United Methodist and Presbyterian (PCUSA) Churches. Conservative groups within those denominations, allied with the Institute for Religion and Democracy, charged participants in the Re-Imagining conference with heresy, demanded that they resign from church positions, and threatened to withhold funds from the denominations that supported the conference.

Unintended Consequences

This backlash had two unintended consequences: it made Christian feminism part of the national conversation, and it led to the formation of the Re-Imagining Community. During the ten years it was in existence, this community sponsored six more conferences, published a quarterly journal and several books, taught classes on feminist theology at churches, and organized small groups to discuss feminist theology. The Re-Imagining Community dissolved in 2003, however, because it could no longer sustain itself as a grassroots, volunteer organization.

Alive and Active Once Again—Preserving History

Almost twenty-five years later, the Re-Imagining Community has re-incorporated. Its intention is both to preserve its history and to continue to “re-imagine” Christianity.

Women’s history has often been lost or distorted, and the backlash against Re-Imagining in 1993 threatened to do that yet again. In order to preserve the stories of those involved, I conducted sixty-five oral interviews with founding members of the Re-Imagining Community, leading feminist theologians who presented at the conferences, people who were on the national staff of the women’s units in the Presbyterian (USA) and United Methodist churches, and authors who have written books related to Christian feminism and/or Re-Imagining. These interviews are filled with laughter and tears, stories of accusations of heresy as well as accounts of support and community. They will be added to the Re-Imagining collections found in several archives (including Duke University, Union Theological Seminary, the Minnesota Historical Society, and United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities) and will inspire future generations with their examples of courage and wisdom. Duke is in the process of making these interviews accessible via their website. I will be presenting my research based on these interviews at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion in a paper titled “Re-Imagining Re-visited: Conference, Controversy, and Community.”

Alive and Active Once Again—Continuing to Re-Imagine

The Re-Imagining Community is not only trying to preserve its history, however, but to continue “re-imagining” in this time of backlash against women, people of color, immigrants, and persons of various sexual orientations and gender identities. It is planning several events in 2018 for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the 1993 Conference. Information about these events will be posted on The Re-Imagining Community website and Facebook page when the details are finalized. In the meantime, please visit them for digital versions of the speakers and rituals from past conferences as well as links to resources and other organizations (including Christian Feminism Today).

Our Organizations Have Much in Common

I had the pleasure of attending the 2016 Christian Feminism Today Gathering and I was very impressed by the warm welcome my sister and I received, the thought-provoking speakers, and the inclusive worship. Christian Feminism Today’s inclusion of younger scholars, its web resources, and its strong sense of community are remarkable. The Re-Imagining Community shares and celebrates Christian Feminism Today’s commitment to feminist theology, expansive images for God, social justice, and the equality and inclusion of all people in church and society.

The Re-Imagining Community defines itself as: “an ecumenical, radical, Christian movement. Together we pursue creative and relevant ways of understanding Womanist, Feminist, Mujerista, and Asian Feminist theologies, opening space for dialogue with the church, diverse religious communities, and the world. We are impassioned to participate in Re-Imagining by our love and search for God, justice, and a challenging, empowering, and inclusive church.”

I hope that our two communities will find ways to encourage and support one another in the years ahead. I am deeply grateful for all that you have done and continue to do.

Sherry Jordon, “Revisiting Re-Imagining,” originally published in Christian Feminism Today. Reposted with permission.

 

Dr. Sherry Jordon

Dr. Sherry Jordon

Dr. Sherry Jordon currently serves as Associate Professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota. She specializes in historical theology, particularly the Reformation period, and Women’s Studies. Dr. Jordon served on the Coordinating Council of the Re-Imagining Community from 1998-2003, spoke at the 2003 Re-Imagining Gathering, and wrote an essay on feminist theology for Bless Sophia: Worship, Liturgy, and Ritual of the Re-Imagining Community. She holds a Ph.D in Theology from Yale.

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