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.
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.