Changing Church: Dr. Kendra Weddle, “Ain’t I a Woman: De/Constructing Christian Images”

Dr. Kendra Weddle

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, she has blogged on FemFaith and co-authors with Dr. Melanie Springer Mock another blog, “Ain’t I a Woman: De/Constructing Christian Images.

On this blog, Kendra and Melanie state their purpose: “At the Ain’t I a Woman Blog, we intend to examine the many ways Christian culture lets women know exactly who they should be, deconstructing those messages that we find troubling—and, in the process, constructing a different message: one that allows Christian women to be all that God intended.”

Here is an excerpt from a recent blog article, “Worshipping Him,” by Kendra:

In Texas the most important part of fall is the weather because you simply can’t beat it, if, like me, you relish the warm sun. Fall weather enables me to work on my patio: to sit outside with my computer on my lap.
It isn’t just me who is appreciative of the fall weather, though. I’ve noticed how much the plants in my backyard are grateful for the change in our temperatures. Having barely survived the summer, my poor potted plants are all but dead. They’ve been beat up by the unrelenting Texas heat and even though they’ve been diligently watered, they are tired and wilted and barely able to produce a bloom here or there. If all goes well in another week or two they will rebound from the harsh elements, returning once again to their abundant potential.
I’ve recently realized how much I resonate with their struggle. I’ve been enduring the long death-dealing environment of the church. Despite being almost choked to the point of no return, there are occasional glimpses of life, a moment here or there of hope.
One such moment was a few weeks when I attended a worship gathering called New Wineskins. Led by Rev. Jann Aldredge-Clanton, an ordained Baptist minister, Aldredge-Clanton is a rare advocate for truly inclusive worship. She writes the New Wineskins liturgy and hymns. Furthermore, she invites this community into conversations about justice and compassion, a truly participatory time of worship and connection.
And even as moments with New Wineskins are life-giving for me and the others who regularly gather, the experience provides a stark contrast to other churches—a contrast of inclusion vs. exclusion.
One of the church’s most basic tasks is to create a worshipping community who will embrace the call of Jesus. And yet, in this most critical expression of who the church is, there is blindness to wholeness that extends far beyond the context of weekly worship experiences.
Why does the church refuse to be counter-cultural here and why do women go along with their own exclusion? When women hear sermon after sermon based upon male experiences, why do they continue to listen? When churches sing songs and recite liturgy punctuated with male pronouns for God and people, why do women refuse to speak up about being left out?
Interestingly, this past week in my course on spirituality we’ve been considering the divine feminine. As part of our conversation all of the students said in one way or another: God is neither male nor female, or perhaps encompasses all genders—female, male, and in-betweens—but is certainly not exclusively male. And yet, each student routinely uses exclusive masculine language for God.
So, when I asked them why they use masculine language if they do not believe God to be male, they all answered essentially in unison: “we’ve been conditioned to do this.” Convention reigns supreme, apparently.
We are not doomed, though, to live our lives this way, allowing society and church to keep us silent and invisible. It is our choice to be heard; it is our choice to be included; it is our choice to flourish. But we may need to find more nourishing fountains as long as churches perpetuate patriarchy. And, if we are willing to look, we may find New Wineskins, indeed!

(See the full article.)

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


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