Tag Archive: feminist theology


Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies the state of feminist biblical scholarship 11 May 2018 where are we now?

 

May the Source of All Life nourish us and bind us together,
May the Wisdom of the Holy One enlighten us and enable our sharing,
And may the Courage of Holy Fire inspire is as a network of love and freedom
today and always…

And we the people say: Amen

New Testament Keynotes – Chair: Kylie Crabbe


Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies the state of feminist biblical scholarship 11 May 2018 where are we now? Mark 7 greek NRSV literal

Clean and Unclean: Multiple Readings of Mark 7:24-30/31 – Dorothy Lee

 

1. MISSIONAL READING

  • Gentile mission
  • Priority of Israel
  • Postcolonialism
  • Inclusion

 

2. PEDAGOGICAL READING

  • who is teacher?
  • woman as teacher, Jesus as student
  • peirastic iroy
  • Jesus and woman as co-teachers

 

3. PARADIGMATIC READING

  • discipleship
  • spirituality
  • courage
  • women and outsiders
  • communtiy of faith
  • clean and unclean

 

4. CHRISTOLOGICAL READING

  • God and suppliant
  • Identity of Markan Jesus
  • subversive authority
  • shame and suffering
  • divine guardian and protector
  • Eucharist

 

CONCLUSION

These four ways of reading the text overlap and invite us to take the story seriously. especially in our thinking around inclusive table, diversity, cleansing and expanding borders.

‘The text is not out to get me.
There’s a radical inversion of power.
I’m not trying to rescue Jesus or the woman –
but see them through Mark’s eyes.
Dorothy Lee

 

 

Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies the state of feminist biblical scholarship 11 May 2018 where are we now? Adela Yarbro Collins

The Leadership of Women in Early Christianity – Adela Yarbro Collins

Referencing mention of females in literature and inscriptions it is evident women have held positions of leadership since the very earliest days of Christianity: House churches (leadership, hosting), Apostles (commissioned by risen Christ or local community), Episkopoi (head of house churches, financial and administrative organisers), Diakonoi (messengers, envoys, mouthpieces, delegates), Presbuteroi (elders, presenters and priests)…

‘Evidence is so rare…
but indicates there would have been more’

‘Women in the early church ministered in a variety of functions, including as apostles. The literature and inscriptions only serve as evidence of what they were trying to suppress. Female leadership was approved of and recognised by both male leaders and those communities whom they served’

‘It would be great to see the Catholic church restore women to the diaconate and then to priestliness… I don’t think I’ll see that in my lifetime but I’m willing to be surprised.’

– Adela Yarbro Collins

 

 

Three short papers – Chair: Stephen Burns


Desolate, devastated, redeemed, restored: Feminist visions of Daughter Zion reframed in Deutero-Isaiah and the conversation around domestic violence in Australia today – Angela Sawyer

Key passages: Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies the state of feminist biblical scholarship 11 May 2018 where are we now? zion domestic violence in Australia

  • Isaiah 49:14-26; 50:1-3; 51:17-52:6; and 54
  • Zion’s personification – what is her identity? her role?
  • Dealing with metaphors
  • Zion, violence and trauma theories

Responses:

  • raising the profile of a poetic character such as Zion
  • Zion’s voice and Zion’s silence
  • Cognitive approaches to metaphor theory, trauma theories and biblical studies
  • the benefit of this combination when reading with those in contexts of violence and trauma
  • Contextual Bible Study, creativity of expression – Zion’s metaphorical image can offer something to women experiencing domestic violence in Australia.

‘We need to reappraise texts of violence.
When we “make nice” these texts. We “make nice” the issues’
[domestic violence]

‘There is distorted and false teaching speaking to issues of family violence, male authority, divorce… we need biblical criticism not literalism to reinterpret, reframe or reject these passages.’

– Angela Sawyer

 

Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies the state of feminist biblical scholarship 11 May 2018 where are we now?

Are You Shaved? A Hermeneutic of Hair Removal – Caroline Alsen

“equality feminism”, “radical (justice) feminism”, “biblical feminism”…

‘The Bible might offer answers to questions
but it’s not a women’s liberation document’
– Caroline Alsen

 

  • engaging critique of asymmetric power structures
  • move from authority to function
  • awareness, not author-ity
  • key to power = key to feminist reading

Bible talks a lot about piercing, circumcision, purification rituals… and the idea that when you lose hair you lose strength. Enemies were shaved to feminise and shame them (2 Samuel 10:4) … also ritual liminality, social humility for priests, Israel elite male gaze.

For Egyptians and Assyrians shaving was normal – when Joseph decides to shave is it an imperative of Israelite survival? assimilation? participating in the colonising? being “civilised”?

Father (Jacob) and son (Joseph) alter their hair at moments of transition of power but at the same time are feminising their Israelite identity.

 

Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies the state of feminist biblical scholarship 11 May 2018 where are we now? Tamar Rachelle Gilmour

“But he would not listen to her”: Revisiting the story of Tamar in 2 Samuel 13 – Rachelle Gilmour

Does Absolom kill Amnon as revenge for the rape of Tamar or for his own ends?

The rape of Tamar is an act against David, challenging his position as King. Absolom kills Amnon for the threat to his father and protection of his inheritance and to assert his masculinity (strength). Absolom is presented as hero and avenger but is really serving his own ends.  Tamar is silenced and has no comforter.

Parallels between 2 Samuel 13 and the concubines of 2 Samuel 16 are broken by God intervention in the latter.  But God’s intervention comes too late for Tamar or the concubines. Is God listening to Tamar? In these passages whose voice do we hear? Who is voiceless? Who has a voice but is silenced?

‘Rape is more to do with men’s power over other men
than men’s power over women’
[if the husband or father were “strong” it wouldn’t happen]

‘It’s our role to critique society then and now’

– Rachelle Gilmour

Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies the state of feminist biblical scholarship 11 May 2018 where are we now?We sit in silence – holding space for brief moments to acknowledge all the complexity arising from these topics and texts…

 

Old Testament Keynotes – Chair: Katharine Massam


Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies the state of feminist biblical scholarship 11 May 2018 where are we now? Gerald West

Rape, Royal Power and Resistance in 2 Samuel: Intersecting gender and class in biblical text and South African context – Gerald West

African feminist women’s theologies ‘struggle’ to emerge fro within African ‘father’ theologies: African Theology, Ujamaa Theology, SOuth African Black Theology, South African Contextual Theology.

Culture, Economics and Race are the core systems of these African liberation theologies (it’s difficult to get gender in as a point of intersectionality).

African Feminist/Women’s Theology adds ‘Patriarchy’ as a core and intersecting system.

African women tracking intersections… between gender and economics (Makhosazana Nzimande and Musa Dube)

Letters Longing for Intersection

  • From Bathsheba to her grandfather Ahithophel
  • From Tamar to Ahithophel
  • From the Pilegeshim (wives of David) to Ahithophel
  • Graffiti on the wall of Jerusalem

David has taken,
Amnon has taken,
Absolom has taken,
Ahithophel was taken…
your daughters!
Vuka!

The narrative builds tension, waiting for Ahithophel to speak.

“What shall we do?”
“Rape your father’s wives.”

Locating Ahithophel socio-historically and narratively and looking at the advice he offers what can we understand of his motivations and intentions? There are intersecting injustices… are there intersecting resistances?

Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies the state of feminist biblical scholarship 11 May 2018 where are we now? Jione Havea

Terror of texts: Talanoa on three letters around Numbers 27:1-11 and 36:1-12 – Jione Havea

 

“If we save the planet and have a society of inequality,
we wouldn’t have saved much” – James H. Cone

Talanoa – story, telling, conversation

LETTER ONE

Somewhere at the meeting place of the Kulin nations:

Wurundjeri
Boonwurrung
Taungurong
Dja dua Wurrung
Wathurung

May 04, 2018
Just passed midnight

Dear Ana Loiloi…

A story is told of five named sisters: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah.

They raise 6 things and the Lord answers… 1.

Talanoa has the capacity to create history and truth.
Talanoa ridicules the private-public divide.

 

LETTER TWO

Dear Sela Kakala…

We hear your name and we remember you. I’m wandering and wondering tonight how your children lives will be different without you.

Where is the mother of these 5 sisters? Their mother is nowhere in their story.

  • do they share the same Mum?
  • would the story be different if she was alive?
  • are they making this claim for their rights at their mothers’ urging?

We give her a name.  That name is: Kulin.
We resist by reclaiming her, giving her a name, and putting her back into the story.

Talanoa is not about telling everything

  • talanoa is particular
  • talanoa is partial
  • talanoa holds back

 

LETTER THREE

Dear Diya Lakai…

If the sisters are married into mother Israelite tribe, then their inheritance will go with them.  Moses adjusts the rules so that the sisters must marry one of their own tribe, keeping the wealth within their tribe.

  1. See, judge, act for yourself and your company
  2. Resistance is good. Find company. Solidarity is empowering.
  3. Challenge the written [laws].  Don’t limit yourself to those causes which affect only humans.  See islands lost. Grieve. Try and save others.
  4. Beware of materiality.  Read Maya Angelou’s ‘Still I Rise
  5. Find more mother’s for Kulin’s daughters.
  6. Marry who you want when you grow up. See, judge, act for yourself. Live beyond the shadows of your father.

P.s. read your Bible carefully.

“I like letters – you can tear, hold, keep, read, share them…
but they can be a resistance too.”

– Monica Melanchthon

“Reading texts and doing bible study with marginalised
people brings their voice, that of ordinary women,
and brings them to the conference.
We need to run bible study that
ordinary people can access.”

– Gerald West

Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies the state of feminist biblical scholarship 11 May 2018 where are we now? candle and pine table pieces

poster australian collaborators in feminist theologies the state of feminist biblical scholarship

The title of the upcoming Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies network event poses this exact question and I wonder… less postgrads, less promotion, less published – where are the female-centric stories and who is telling them?

I want to get to hear about the Nuns (Adorers of the Blood of Christ, environmental protectors and activists) blocking the Standing Rock gas pipeline development. I want to hear more about Teresa Lee, Emily Wood, Leonnie Wickenden, and Abigail Benham-Bannon – Christian women getting arrested for Love Makes a Way for their belief in, and support of, the rights of asylum seekers arriving by sea. I want to hear more about Aunty Sharyn, an Indigenous Christian leader from Brisbane, called to a vocation rising out of her personal experience who has started up B’ira Women’s Ministry – a significant community ministry addressing domestic violence and sexual abuse in Indigenous communities. I want to hear more because I do not doubt that there is a strong biblical theology that underpins the choices of these women to put themselves in the way and turn out fear for their faith.

Bir’a is Wakka Wakka Language for ‘High Spirit’ and is all about when ‘Women meet Jesus’. Bir’a run yarning circles – providing a safe space to talk through grief, trauma, healing and relationships and do art therapy for when women can’t find, or just don’t have, the words to describe what has happened to them.

Hearing about this ministry I was put in mind of the women in Mark (5:21-43).  Jesus is walking along with his disciples and a leader of the Synagogue comes along asking for healing for his daughter who is unwell. Jesus agrees to come, yet along the way a bleeding woman who, against all purity codes, reaches out to touch a Jewish man in the desperation and hope of being healed. This woman reaches out for and takes what will heal her.  v.29 “Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.” but v.33-34 goes on to say  “the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth”.  He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”  She had already been healed of the physical symptoms (v.29), this second healing aims to address the mental stress of what the disease had cost: exclusion from temple which was a central part of life; if she had a husband perhaps he left – not being able to touch what she had touched or share intimacy; perhaps people worried they might catch the disease; or perhaps the priests tried various means and methods of cleansing or praying out demons… what isolation and exclusion had this woman known over these 12 years?  How long does it take to pour out this tale of grief, fear and loneliness?  Long enough for the Synagogue leaders daughter to die – does one persons healing come at the cost of another’s? No.  Jesus goes on to ‘wake’ her.

What part do women’s truth and storytelling have to play in our healing – personal, family, community, political…? We need times and spaces to hear truth, we need to be willing to tell our whole truth, we need to be willing to listen to others’.

Lydia Wylie-Kellerman reminds us “Telling stories is an act of resistance. It is part of discipleship. It is movement work. Stories are provocative and powerful while at the same time nourishing. They hold us. They remind us who we are. They help us know who we want to become.”

We need learn from the wisdom of women’s ways of knowing. We need to learn from the wisdom of women’s encounters with Spirit, Christ, God and what calls them to move. The powerful experiences, perspectives and stories of women have much to teach us and we need to pay attention. Thirty years on from Phyllis Trible’s pioneering Christian feminist perspective to biblical scholarship (Texts of terror, 1984), the upcoming conference pauses to reflect on the current state of feminist scholarship, mythological issues and texts that continue to terrorise.  Issues worth thinking about for all those students, researchers, ministers, faithful, knowing women contributing now, and emerging, to remind us who we are and who we want to become.

You are invited.


The State of Feminist Biblical Scholarship – Where are we now?

Friday 11 May, 2018
9.30am–5.00pm

Location:
Centre for Theology and Ministry
29 College Crescent, Parkville VIC 3052

Cost:
$40.00 waged / $20.00 unwaged
includes a catered lunch and snacks

Bookings:
www.trybooking.com/366028

20180113_141052

‘I would like to go, stupidly, towards the bodies that my anxiety has kept me from.’
– Guy Hocquenghem, ‘The Screwball Asses’

I will be content with nothing less that the total and complete destruct-
tion of my body. Now is not the time to be flippant, now is the time to be
sincere, and helpful, but I still say, ‘I like to sleep with people who could
break my ribs id they chose to’. It’s stupid because couldn’t anyone, phys-
ically? And wouldn’t they?

Smashed ceramic chips are like fingernails, kept clipped short
and ragged, scraping over your legs. No two chips are identical. Rough
snaggles, little knives. Obsessively clipped every day. I love forms that
take a long time to set. I love thinking about waiting for the grout to dry.
Thin cylinders, almost meeting in the corner of the room. At the same
time smooth, especially aesthetically, and rough, like a secret. I feel like
I’m visiting the clinic, and I’m into it.

I was clearing away the cups from tea and coffee after group.
There was a tea bag bound to a stirring stick, the string wound tightly
around. In sharing time he said, ‘If you can’t be a faggot, why be a man at
all?’ and honked, a nervous burst of laughter. When he was not speaking
I looked at him. His shoulders hung forward with many years of habit,
the same as mine. The things I love looking at are the things that are the
same as me, or spaces where I can see that I could be too; there but for
the grace of God go I. When he was speaking, I looked away. It’s just a
wrapper. A vessel.

I like to think about bending steel. To make something look like it
flutters but allow it to be still. Allow something so precious to evaporate
into the air. Less death wish, more stability. It’s good to have a role, you
whispered, handing me a tray of raw meat, not looking at me. ‘everybody
treats you like a boy until you say you are one’. The bruise becomes the
unmistakable centre of the long neck. The neck becomes negative and
the bruise positive. Like the neck exists only o support the bruise. Like
this vessel exists only to support what’s inside of it. To see your pulse in
light blue. To feel your heart beating in your skin. ‘These things we do,’
he says. ‘they never used to come naturally to me,’ Nothing even really
happens, but the interiority is so overpowering, so strong. The blood is
at the surface.

An excerpt from the stunning work of Spence Messih with Vincent Silk and many other artists are now on display as part of the UNFINISHED BUSINESS: Perspectives on art and feminism exhibition at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, 15 Dec 2018-25 March 2018. Free entry. Check it out!

 

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CL: First heard the term “intersectionality” after starting my blog Black Feminist Ranter which ticked several “oppression” boxes. It was a label applied to me to inform a sense of ‘place’. A description of where the intersections of oppression are overlapping. It’s in the feminist sphere that is being played out but dividing and othering instead of being done well. It’s not being used to subvert and challenge systems but by those wanting “ally credit”.

RH: How we use the word… it’s made equivalent to representation e.g. have a quota of female politicians but the systems don’t change. What about sweatshops? What about Western interventions in the Middle East? Supporting Hillary and the first potential female President is great but don’t say “She’s going to be great for all women” – be specific. Say “some of her policies are good” or “Hillary being President will be a good start” but not making sweeping statements like: “What’s good for women is good for all women”, that erases the experience of those her policies don’t benefit.

CL: Why did that election result get pegged on the non-white women? Hate that… everyone asking: Where are the African-American women? Stats show it’s white women that didn’t vote for Hillary.

RH: They had to ask – “Who will be worse?” All minority groups voted for Clinton.

CL: Similar here re Gillard. First Australian Prime Minister – a win for dissecting feminism but she was legislating in NT and making cuts to single mother benefits… I couldn’t fight on those issues because I had to defend on the left re gender.  We are being compromised in these situations.

RH:  Allies need to understand the dilemma and acknowledge it. Intersectional feminism should understand that dilemma but it doesn’t. It needs to acknowledge the reasons others might be unsure and have concerns. For example, media around the Wonder Woman film discussed the Zionist views of the lead actress and called for boycott.  I didn’t advocate for that. It’s only one woman’s opinion.    It should be ok that Arab women might not be able to jump on this empowerment train. Allies need to understand.  There’s a refusal to see.  e.g. “The Wonder Woman character existed long before this actress – the movie’s still worth celebrating!” I was called racist. Intersectionality was used against me… disappointing.  This placed not just Eastern feminism against Western feminism but feminism within the West.  Behind the scenes analysis of the politics what appears and doesn’t is far more interesting to me than the actual movie.

CL: My voice can be sought out to fill a diversity quota.  e.g. speaking on Aboriginal Beauty Pageants – didn’t see celebration of Aboriginal beauty as worth working for (dress, heels, make up…) told I’m denigrating my racial identity. White panellists get slut shaming… called fat… whore… but not racial commentary.

RH: I get racial and gendered criticism. “This Ruby Hamas bitch has both clit-envy and penis-envy” – manages to be offensive on Arabic, Muslim, terrorist, gender – so many layers! I shared it on my page to diffuse it. Not about me but anyone who shares these characteristics.

CL: Comments on how I look, highly gendered, but go back to words like “quadroon”.  I sometimes take the piss or shut it down… I’d like to be called a whore for once and not something that’s dissecting my race! I was on a panel of feminists once – I said something about “smashing systems” in my introductory statements and was sidelined for the rest of the panel – the white feminists talked amongst themselves.  Those that have to navigate gender + race + disability – they are more extreme/radical because they have more to overcome. It was a horrible experience. It was a basic entry-level discussion, why weren’t we part of that conversation? I was only asked for “special comments” re race in the closing questions.

RH:  Any event invitation I receive I’m asking , am I token or not? Do they value my voice and what I have to say? And then I say, whatever… they’re still giving me a platform.  I long for the day I’m asked to talk about politics, and my experience… not as a labelled pigeon-hole “Muslim” or “Aboriginal”.

CL: The person who is Trans and Aboriginal and woman and has a disability and from a low class background… we need to amplify her voice.  Smash at all those levels at once.

RH: If they are liberated, everyone is liberated. “identity politics” shouldn’t set us against but with. I’ve always tried to bring identity politics back to broader oppression.

CL: The show the Handmaids Tale – loved it at first, then I started to see the mainstream reaction.  Women enslaved, bred, imprisoned… with religion used as justification. That was one generation ago for me. Oh, white women are going to be treated like Aboriginal and African-American women. In the book the slaves are unequivocally white, coloured people are shipped off to die from radiation.  Some kudos to the author for sticking to what she knows but in the TV show, in this Fascist, Puritan,  authoritarian world… women of colour are also selected for breeding with wealthy white men and I should believe it?! This is white-washing racial dynamics. “This is just around the corner for us” This white response is not helpful compared to that of people of colour which says: welcome to our world – this has already happened and is happening.

RH: “Can you imagine if there’ll be a war?!” [re Trump/Korea] Yes. I have already lost half my family to that. I don’t need to imagine what that’s like.

CL:  When we are blended into white narrative, we’re not given our own.

RH: Given a female Dr. Who – that was a big deal.  An Arab actor was recently cast to play the leading role in Aladdin. An Arab not in a role as a terrorist or savage illiterate – those roles that have been used to perpetuate negative stereotypes.  Can’t just think about gender (woman as Dr. Who), that an Arab man is cast in the role of Aladdin is far more significant for me.  Is feminism the new weapon of whiteness? We hardly heard anything about that casting at all.

Question: How do you balance the need to be calm to be taken seriously vs. expressing righteous/legitimate anger?

CL: A bit of anger is good, use it to tear the system apart. I have no obligation to make racist, sexist, wealthy people feel safe.  e.g  Heritier Lumumba in doco Fair Game, laughed along with racist insults in the locker room to try and fit in… you never win that way.  We need to use our anger in legitimate and practical ways.

Question: What would your top-three recommended structural interventions be?

CL: I’m part of the union movement. Anything that draws attention to the structural issues.  Intersectional engagement is often superficial.  Highlighting – make sure other voices are heard e.g. An Aboriginal man will have different views than me, or a more conservative woman… there is not one homogenous view for women or for Aboriginal people.

RH: Acknowledge there is a problem.  Still at that level… can’t think of a list of structural changes yet when still trying to get people to acknowledge that there’s a problem. Need to be given power/influence – in media, politics… I guess I’m still trying to find that answer.  I don’t think we’re close to solving that.  Need to see more women from non-white backgrounds opinions valued… to talk in general terms.

Question: Do you have any advice for emerging voices?  How do you decide which point of view will be appropriate to speak from, how do you get past that/prevent silencing?

RH: I didn’t write about anything happening in the Arab/Muslim sphere for ages.  Mortified when something I wrote was appropriated by people who hate me.  I don’t wear a veil but cultural still encouraged to be quiet, modest… I learned to pick a time to broach it. Try to ever do it in a way that isolates Muslims, there’s sexism and racism across all cultures.  I cop a lot of backlash from my community but lovely messages from young Muslim women makes it worthwhile – scarcely – becomes ammunition for racists.  I had to learn that I can’t be responsible for how they use or mis-use my words.

CL: I was terrified to talk about violence against Aboriginal women.  That conversation is used to assimilate to whiteness and religion, a conversation owned by conservative Aboriginal people, for example if I write a piece protesting Dondale and Invasion Day turn around and say “why don’t you care about violence towards Aboriginal women?” Used to indicate that I don’t care.  Exhausting process to do but I counted the numbers over the past two years.  I need to defend space for my own voice. This argument is used to denigrate my other work.

 

 

 

I’m just doing me

woman in veil bathed in light

Joined with the eternal transcendent
Love forms one with our body.
The humble praxis of my body
saves a seat at the table for You.

I’m just doing me

In wilderness and desert we will make a home
and grow the land of promise where
milk and honey flow.

I’m just doing me

Words of my mouth naming and knowing
because there is one Word, one Body, one Liturgy
for our longing, our life, our love.

I’m just doing me

The Word is being made flesh now
being filled with Divine Breath now and
living that out. Standing here,
with the Other in their otherness,
solidarity affirms life – of others and myself –
thanks to You.

I’m just doing me

Sojourner Truth calls out:
“Ain’t I a Woman?”, “Ain’t I a Woman?”
and the women answer: “YES!”
I am the Other.

I’m just doing me

It doesn’t matter if you’re in the garden or
renovating that old house but that you have that
indoor/outdoor flow calling you to contribute your
best self, calling you to contribute, calling you too…
and you shrug, …whatever

I’m just doing me

Sometimes I wish my eyes hadn’t been opened
But my heart says ‘yes’ and my feet say ‘go’.
In veiled resistance I make you question what
You think you see, what you think you know about me.
My weapon my very invisibility.
I will not conform to your norms or your gaze.
Angels fell and still…

I’m just doing me

Faithful women stand and say:
I have not lost my voice today.

I’m just doing me

 

Talitha Fraser


A poet-in-residence reflection on some highlights from the Saturday workshop sessions at the “With All Due Respect” conference.

4 – 5 August 2017, the Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies curated a symposium to explore feminist theological perspectives on dialogue, disagreement and conflict, as well as the intersections of theology with ethnicity, race, and cultural “norms”. Welcoming international keynote speakers M. Shawn Copeland (Boston College, Boston), Ruth Duck and Cynthia Wilson (both Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Chicago). 

IMG_7998

Elizabeth Boase

Came up with the topic of this session/panel through an open process of listening… counter-cultural and subversive. How can our medium be our message?

Katherine Massam

“If you persist in your efforts to influence the official church, to become part of its decision-making, you will only break your heart and lose hope. What you must do is go around to the back and CREATE A GARDEN. Some day they will look out and see its beauty and marvel at its life.” – Anne Thurston

See the reality. Patriarchy is real. We can become socialised and complicit. Benefit ourselves from the patriarchal system. It is a personal (individual) and systemic (collective) task to change this. Need to create a new ecosystem that’s collaborative. The top-down systems are easier, faster, feel more efficient… than being collaborative, must choose not to want to replicate or reinforce existing structures.

God comes to us disguised as our lives. #mystics #incarnation.

We must reflect on our experience.  While this can be seen as “pooling our ignorance” or becoming “stuck”. Transformative education should see everyone in the room learning. Teachers and student.

Ref: Pedagogy of the Oppressed – Paulo Freire

Ref: “Aint I a Woman?” speech by Sojourner Truth

4 touchstones:

  • experience, shared
  • reflection, deepended
  • faith, expressed
  • insights, reinforced

Stand and stretch: Open posture = strength and confidence, closed posture = stress.

Tania Wittwer

As a member of committees or commissions work to have more female members.  Not merely top-down leadership but appeal and create opportunities for mediation and consensus decision-making. Create sub/small working groups as an opportunity to develop trust. Coach and support up and sideways. Whiteboard ALL the ideas, then ask: What’s worth fighting over? Headship/submission >> connection to domestic violence.

Deidre Palmer

As a young adult participated in life-giving community and unjust structures.

Ref: In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins – Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza

Ref: The Church and the Power of the Spirit – Jurgen Moltmann

Church as a liberation community. Non-hierarchal. Acknowledge. Affirm. Name power balances. Job titles reflect the role your play, NOT status.

Changes forged out of pain.Movement of the Holy Spirit, moves toward equality. Apart from and despite the church. Need to partner, be active learners and work with God to mend Creation. Justice is integral to the gospel.  The political is personal. We must raise up those whose voices have been silenced or diminished.

In the Uniting Church, the power is shaped by Councils – not individual but collective.  Rotating and reviewed leadership.  There has been a resistance to structures… making decisions as ‘synods’ and ‘assemblies’ instead of small groups, power-concentrated and speaking for others. There is a commitment to keep our foundations broad and have full participation. Individual voices and gifts are affirmed within the collective.

Look around and ask: where are the places and spaces where things are working well now? What makes them different? How do you resist? What does formation look like there?

In-table discussions: We extend the metaphor – first woman makes a garden (outside patriarchal systems), second woman dwells in the house trying to renovate it while it’s inhabited (working within patriarchal systems) third woman describes open-plan design with indoor/outdoor flow (something that combines both elements)… sometimes easier to know what your role is, to resist/advocate/speak-up when working within the patriarchal system.

 

Poem: I put my piece of truth – Talitha Fraser

 

People of Colour @ Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies – Seforosa Carroll

Yesterday there was a separate gathering for Aboriginal and those identifying as People of Colour.  Acknowledge the paradox of this: the need to have a gathering separate from this one (not participating) and being allowed to gather separately (so valued that this is resourced however is needed).

Last year was the inaugural gathering of this group and there were perhaps 3 POK here. This year that is more like 20. Want to acknowledge what has gone into that increase. While there is interest in our theologies and our feminist theologies – this is not the platform where we can discern what that is for us – we want other space.  We want to encourage and mentor POK women to do papers.  We think our creativity and cultural epistemology have something to contribute. We want to do our own work to grow, to develop our confidence and voice… down the track we hope to then be able to share that in this space. To come together and find comfort en masse.

We each have a uniqueness in God – that uniqueness celebrates and glorifies God. We don’t meet separately to ‘keep ourselves apart’ but to move from what is common to what we can say about our difference – in this way we can learn from each other and keep our identity – Adele Ventris

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Africana Womanist Theology: A Hermeneutic of Suspicion and Hope – Rev. Cynthia Wilson

The marginalised bring their hermeneutic to their marginalised space.

Born in New Orleans: black, woman, pastors kid, one of six children (only girl). Had to figure it out for myself.  This was in some ways insulated because my brothers and father were protective but I feared for the men’s lives daily in the bayou and cypress trees where black bodies swung.  I sang because I wanted to cry out for life for my brothers.  The dark cloud hanging overhead was overcome through song… Holy Ghost will not descend without a song.  African proverb: When you sing, you pray twice.

  1. Womanist Theology confronts the demons of race, womanhood, and political capital that ravage the lives and spaces of Black women. At the same time, it vigorously affirms their God-likeness.
  2. Womanist Theology acknowledges, affirms and critiques the attributes of their faith community, the church and beyond.
  3. Womanist Theology seeks to call into question forces that suppress Black women’s voices while investigating certain epistemological presuppositions.
  4. Womanist Theology interrogates the theology of Black males, replacing it with more inclusive, liberating reconstruction of knowledge and authority.
  5. Womanist Theology utilizes an anthropological and dialogical method utilizing the following sources: personal narratives, domestic violence, psychological trauma, womanist ethnography, and syncretistic religiosity, real life stories of poor/Africana women, and other women of colour throughout the world.
  6. Womanist Theology turns up the volume of voices that are illiterate, economically deprived, that hold the environment in high regard, and that are typically ignored by this 21st century capitalist world.
  7. Womanist Theology re-kindles AND validates Africana women ancestors through Ritual “Re”-membrance.

UBUNTU “I am because you are.”

SAWABONO “I see you.”

Personal pronouns don’t function he/she, me/you but are grounded in the universal “we”.

Eschatological hope, although sometimes I wish my eyes hadn’t been opened, “my heart says yes and my feet say Go!“…someday we will be the free people we were created to be.

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Veiled Resistance: The Cognitive Dissonance of Vision in Genesis 38 – Carolyn Alsen

Helpful if you read Psalm 38 for context

Wearing a veil is seen as touching on two issues gender domination/headship and ethnicity. Wearing a veil is carrying these dual layers and wearers are doubly ‘colonised’. Who is the ‘ideal reader’ that Genesis 38 is written for? …white, Israelite, male?

Tamar, through choosing her clothes, can identify as “foreign woman” or “Israelite woman” and as widowed or prostitute.  There are social and cultural norms about how she is seen and not seen according to what she is wearing. Reading through the passage: who sees and doesn’t see her? In this story Tamar employs the conforming veil as an act of resistance.

Woman using perceptions of the veil as a weapons is still happening now > suicide bombers in Nigeria.

To wear a veil meant you were upper-class and married. If you wore them when you weren’t these things > punishable offence.

The Bible mistranslates “temple officiates” as “temple prostitutes”

zonar (gendered) social position of women (or subordinated men) when they sell sex.

hatas’if, veil (non-gendered) take off, wrap up, cover, put on.

Is it to be punished for the wrong use? Or is it normative use?
Licit – accepted socially but not morally vs. deviant.

        Remove widows garments :: have meeting in veil :: put on widows garments again.
could get in trouble
(tribe)

what is seen and not seen?
‘gaze’ and ‘identity’

– what is going on between how others see Tamar and how she sees herself?

Law-keeping ?          Law-breaking?
Israelite?                    Canaanite?
Solidarity/priest       Othering “zonah” fetishcised

Unresolvable.  Ambiguity of identity contrasted with public visibility.

Hera and Judah have different opinions of Tamar – who’s right or who’s wrong? Is Tamar both?

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“Because of the Angels”: The Unveiling of Women and the Body Politic – Sally Douglas

Helpful if you read 1 Cor 11:1-10 for context

Paul gives three reasons why women should have their heads covered:

  • inferiority
  • cultural norms
  • “because of the angels”

“The angels” refers here to those evil angels fallen from the Heavenly Court who rape and wreak havoc. (Gal 1:8) Enochian angels fell from heaven for women “going to them”. The consequences of this rape ruined men, women and the earth… > gave birth to giants >responsible for evil in the world. Killed in the Flood but spirits stay on the earth. Rise up against women and children because they come from them >>climate change.

Veiling is a source of conflict.

Try saying it’s down to individual choice but that seems insufficient. Still perceived that it stops a woman’s flourishing and personhood. The “malevolent constructed male gaze” exists to the detriment of women AND men. As objects of male desire we can reduce the risk from male gaze by altering our dress/wearing veil.

Irony – genital mutilation – advocate in the east but it’s happening in the west.

Commodity either way.  A woman might well feel liberated by wearing a veil or genital mutilation, not arguing that, but dehumanising malevolent constructed male gaze needs to be named and called out. What might safe-guard women now?

If the gaze of Christ is given precedence. Not the white skin, blue eyed, blond, pretty Jesus but the One, Cosmic, Sophia… that nourishes. 2 Cor 3: Veiling and unveiling of Moses. Collective language, shared experience and ongoing.

13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3)

2 Cor 4: Mystical gaze of Jesus, we are gazed upon, encounter Divine, are changed.

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[a] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ…. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

The same lens through which we see God, each other and ourselves can give us freedom. In this gaze we can be liberated from the power of all other gazes. There is an invitation and provocation in that.
We are given a choice – not controlled or influenced by nor in resistance to. We are all beloved subjects of the Divine.

Exorcism is for victims.  Not much about evil spirits in the Old Testament but then in the New Testament – boom!

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Hillary, Shame and Psalm 71 – Michelle Eastwood

Hillary Rodham Clinton 1975 m. Bill Clinton, 1980 had daughter Chelsea, 1993 First Lady.
BA and Yale Law.  Awarded “Most Admired Woman” 20 times altogether and 14 years in a row.

Moses vs. Aaron and Miriam – cloud makes, only, Miriam leprous. Only woman is affected. Author trying to minimise her leadership.

Abortion reduces both maternal and infant mortality. Hillary grilled for her position. Evangelical Christian Right’s perception is that bible gender roles are under attack (by feminists for their own power and glory), values compromised, slippery slope to decline of the world as we know it.

Bill’s infidelity held against Hillary… didn’t handle it well, misogyny, sexism…

Helpful if you read Psalm 71 for context

Psalm 71 is a song of lament and a cry for justice.  Women are shamed a lot in the Bible.  In this passage shame is shifted to dealers. v7 I have been a portent (faithfulness) v18 grey hairs (Hillary still stands, a testament to those who have tried to shame her). The shame is not destroyed but displaced. Evangelical Christian Right their own undoing > Trump. In the gospels Jesus is shamed – a sense we become more godly through experiencing shame.

4 – 5 August 2017, the Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies curated a symposium to explore feminist theological perspectives on dialogue, disagreement and conflict, as well as the intersections of theology with ethnicity, race, and cultural “norms”. Welcoming international keynote speakers M. Shawn Copeland (Boston College, Boston), Ruth Duck and Cynthia Wilson (both Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Chicago). 

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Questions, Connections and Stories – Ruth Duck

Womb of life, and source of being, home of every restless heart,
in your arms the world’s awakened; you have loved us from the start.
We, you children, gather ’round you, at the table you prepare.
Sharing stories, tears and laughter, we are nurtured by your care.

(Chalice Hymnal, 1995 Ruth Duck)

Many women clergy are part time – is that our of necessity or by choice?

Invited to share our gifts with the church but not invited into leadership and planning.

Sugar-coated feminism unites people by choosing to ignore our differences. Are woman respecting one another in their diversity? How can we share a position on issues without marginalising one another?

Been re-writing hymns since 1974, need to be wary of use of language e.g. using light (good) and dark (bad) > this language reinforces racial stereotypes.  Need to be using accessible and expansive language.  Not just male or female but neither like living water, bread, vine….

Galatians:  27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Lead on, O cloud of Presence, the exodus is come,
in wilderness and desert our tribe shall make its home.
Our slavery left behind us, new hopes within us grow.
We seek the land of promise where milk and honey flow.

(The Faith We Sing Hymnal, Ruth Duck ref: Exod. 13:21-22)

 

“Being ordained and finding a job are two different things”
– Bryan Cones

“A woman in leadership is not necessarily a feminist in leadership”
– Stephen Burns

 

At the table of Christa – Nicola Slee

The women do not serve
but are served

The children are not silent
but chatter

The menfolk do not dominate
but co-operate

The animals are not shussed away
but are welcomed

At the table of Christa

There is no seat of honour
for all are honoured

There is no etiquette
except for the performance of grace

There is no dress code
except the garments of honesty

There is no fine cuisine
other than the bread of justice…. (cont.)

WELCOME TO HER TABLE

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“Why don’t you call him your husband?” Negotiating the Heteronorm – Bryan Cones

In a parallel reading of the Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant (same-sex civil union) and the Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage  in the Episcopal tradition we see differences in the rubrics (instructional notes), spoken words, and bible readings selected.

  • erasing gender from language also erases hierarchy
  • same-sex couple recognised as arriving as a couple/unit rather than starting the liturgy as individuals who are brought together but the rite e.g. compare: do you take this man/woman to be your husband/wife vs. I [name] take you [name]
  • taking or giving language? e.g. compare “do you take…” language vs. “I [name] give myself to you [name]”
  • Hetero weddings use Genesis or Mark reading; Covenant Blessing uses Ruth or Samuel.

What are some of the implications of the differences?

Wedding symbolising Christ with Church.  Return to Creation – brought together by God, made by God, seen as “good” by God. None of that in the Covenant Blessing but instead Trinity readings – work in the world and perfect communion.

Is this version equivalency or equality? Relationship not treated the same by theology or text.  Changes to the gendered language has impacted the liturgical theology.  Different, competing (?!) theological accounts.

Biblically “covenant” not helpful language as it has usually followed some punishment/ judgement (Hosea, Jeremiah, Ezekiel…).

A relationship is already present and active – church ritual recognises and affirms what’s already there.

Missed an opportunity to have one liturgy.  A liturgy should be written recognising all types of households and relationships and families that are currently being erased.

Like the Catholic approach of couple marrying themselves to each other but others witness… helpful to have resources to offer but not to impose them I think.

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‘You don’t understand me’: Serena Williams, Christology, and non-identity – Janice McRandal

Between tennis, race, her gender… we don’t see Serena in the fullness of her humanity. We hold her up to an ideal of personhood and she becomes a series of failures of conform.

Born 6 September 1981 in Compton, Serena has 23 Grand Slam titles and is one of the greatest sportsman of all time. She is seen as both hypersexual and hypermuscular.

People of colour are seen to have “natural ability” whereas white people are considered as being intelligent and working hard.

Serena disrupts narrative. A commentator calls her a “crusader” and she responds:

“Nah, I’m just doing me.”

Another interview ends…

“You don’t understand me.”

Theology is trying to understand (perhaps proscribe?) the personhood of Christ… but we need to let Jesus move not be locked in. Jesus can, and does, say: “You do not understand me.” e.g. WWJD bracelets lock in ‘rules’ about what that looks like with non-normative standards… this creates exclusion.  This is a commodification of Jesus. Which Jesus do you buy/sell? Once you make something a commodity you will want to measure it’s productivity and see a return on investment.

Disciple-driven sublimation          vs.          Christology of non-identity

Not a timeless call but relationality… Knowing here and now.  This gives us multiplicity instead of a single discourse. We need to de-economise theology from capitalism.

Unknowing is a dispossessing that remembers and forgets.

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Poem: Listen (I lost my voice again today) – Talitha Fraser

“Why the Body Matters: Feminism and Christian Faith” – Shawn Copeland

Theology is worrying about what God worries about – God worries about the world that is broken.

The terms body, feminist, and Christian have many diverse meanings and understandings.  Also, imperatives, involved in a period and a context. Symbols that point to what is visible and invisible. Gender, race, sexuality become concrete in the body. The body is us but there is more to you and more to me. SImilar but different. SPirit and body are not separate but one. We need embodiment and engagement and communion with other embodied selves.

There are physical and social layers of meaning to gender, sex and sexuality.  Meaning and worth are allocated externally to our bodies through sex, gender, sexuality. The transcendence of men is an ideology.  God makes the earth… Creature. ALL created matter very good. This is contextual theology.

Jesus had gender, sex, race… existed within the social morays of his time and transcends these. Feminism is not monolithic but pluralist. Where bodies matter… eucharist matters.

We need to live in a humble praxis of solidarity
with the bodies piled up.

Race

Statements such as “racism did not exist in the US before Obama” silences and makes invisible.

Having no race then can also therefore mean no identity > race matters SO much.  When race is considered an objective condition intelligence is seen as fixed and hereditary.  When one is equal to one’s race your identity becomes “fixed”. This tramples on personhood and experience. Racial formation (or deform-ation) is organised around a society of oppression.  Knowing race becomes crucial to “knowing” relationships – how to relate to and treat people. Are you black or brown? Chinese or Vietnamese? Once I can categorise your identity I will know how to treat and talk to you.

Sex and Gender

There is a disconnect between our body and our identity. Became medical.  Sex is biological and our gender is subject to socio-normative treatment/behaviour.  There are differences amongst women… what about class, race, sexual orientation…?  You can be dually discriminated.  Plurality of discourse can be disruptive.

Ref: Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity

Eucharist

Love forms one body with our body. Joined with the eternal transcendent. Solidarity is the incarnation of Christian love. Standing with the other in their otherness.

Owe the wealth and privilege we have to exploitation, massacre, death, slavery… we need to acknowledge the humanness of the other. Even if we suffer rejection or loss.

Solidarity must always affirm life.

Christianity

Stand beside/join with others. Because you are the body of Christ. It is your mystery that lies behind the altar. Our gendered, raced, sexed bodies are one in eucharist. Our ceremonies – we must give as as well as receive.

Be what you receive.

Incarnation means loving others.

political theology > systemic theology. What does it look like to do communion in Baltimore or Ferguson, Missouri (#blacklivesmatter). Not just “All that we have” but “ALL that we have” How can I express myself without my hands, my voice, my body…?! My body is not an illusion. Our body has to be part of our spirituality. It’s what sops us being all-spirit.  Ordinary and extraordinary that.  We are given and embodied example (enfleshed) of what that looks like lived out. [Christ].

Ref: Susan Griffin, Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her

Q+A

Latin ‘procure’ meant ‘care for’ NOT ‘acquire’

Multiculturalism – honour diversity and richness without “smushedness”. Individuality and interculturality – no domination/subjugation to make alike.

How? Engage, encounter, serious conversation, humility… not acquire or appropriate.  Can’t pick up the cultural mores but you can learn. The Word is being made flesh now.  It’s about being filled with divine breath and living that out.

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I had the privilege of meeting Mrs. ITWG… in musing on voice, centre and margins, what is heard and not heard I have permission to share with you what she shared with me.

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I like the word “collaborator” – it puts me in mind of a smarmily gleeful rubbing together of hands, maniaical laughter and petting long-haired white cats but, funnily enough, there was none of that taking place at the recent Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies Network Launch… this is a group of women and men who want to see something built up not taken over or taken apart.

I didn’t really take notes so much as quotable quotes – I’m tidying as I go so while this might not be exactly what people said it quite probably captures some of what they meant and we can’t let the truth get in the way of a good story…

 

Cath McKinney

“The most subversive thing you can do is enquire.
It recognises the otherness of other people.”

“It is subversive to take care of yourself –
there are lots of people who would love you to burn out (be quiet).”

“Patriarchy is limiting to both genders.
Everyone should be acknowledged and validated
for the contribution they have to offer”

 


 

Serene Jones

“80% of religious practitioners are women,
keeping things going for spiritual reasons…
Not exercising any political agency
but doing what we do with love and prayerfully”

“We think of Mamie Till whose 14 year old son was kidnapped and murdered in 1955. Till insisted on an open casket for her son, for 3 days people queued, more than 10,000 people – and the opportunity to witness became a turning point in disparity of justice for black people in America.  Only this morning we hear of this woman, Diamond Reynolds, whose husband is shot in front of her and her son – and she has recorded this on her phone… we can see the political ramifications of women choosing to act. [word-play of the poetry of Adrienne Rich] – ‘their power came from the same source as their wounds’. These women had no great power of their own – only persistence.”

 

“We need to acknowledge that we approach any issue
from a space of ‘implicated resistance’ – we are resisting against
but also implicit in the structures ourselves

“Sometimes I cry when I’m speaking.
Shutting down that part, shuts down others and my voice”

How you speak and live, when that’s poetic, communicates more.
How you carry your body… how energised you are…
all speaks more loudly than your content.”

 

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Trees planted by the river, drinking grace – bearing fruit in due course.

May the Source of All Life nourish us and bind us together,
May the Wisdom of the Holy One enlighten us and enable our sharing,
And may the Courage of Holy Fire inspire is as a network of love and freedom
today and always…

And we the people say: Amen

There was prayer, singing, dancing, dreaming, round table discussion, portrait pictures, sharing, storytelling, liturgy, affirmation, celebration and collaboration –
you can join in the journey on the Facebook page.

 

On Writing…

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Recently I had a look at the stats page of this blog and realised I had missed, if I had thought to consider it, a 5 year milestone of writing.  So and so number of posts, so and so number of visitors to the page over those 5 years – what do those numbers mean?  When I created this page in Feb 2011, it was September before I posted anything to it.  I felt like I had to know the answers to all these questions: who are your audience? why are you writing?

I suppose I still don’t really know the answers to those questions but I suppose I care less that I do not know.  I will confess I have been known to answer facetiously “I write because I get something out of it, if you get something out of it – it’s Gods fault”. Do what you want with that.

I think all I ever hold of anything are fragments.  One of the reasons I think I’ve found it hard to classify “what I’m writing” or “who for”, is that what I post here is so mixed – things I write, things other people write, stories, poems, quotes, photos… life.  These aren’t considered think pieces or articles, I don’t have any 5-point plans to answer any of your questions, I’m not here to teach you anything or be an expert about anything.

I write because…

I participated in a bible study session with my small group towards the end of last year… it’s small, and I’ve known some of them a long time but, despite this, as we’re introducing the topic for discussion I can sometimes get this hot flush through my body, a rising sense of discomfort, I’m not sure I agree with what you’re saying but I can’t articulate why.   In the interim, others weigh in: “I haven’t heard it put like that before…”, “I agree…”

What I have to express at this time is “I’m not sure I agree with that…” or “That isn’t how I would see it”.  The difficulty in expressing that, is that it begs the obvious follow up questions “How do you see it?” or “What do you think is happening in the passage instead?” I know I don’t have the answers for those questions yet.

What is the value in pointing out to someone you think there’s an alternative interpretation if you cannot articulate it? My silence is my mind working a mile a minute to process what I’m thinking but in the meantime the conversation moves on – there is further affirming of the original interpretation and as each layer/next question is applied to the text, they are read within the lens of this.

Now I am still working on what I think but there is increasing pressure – it was going to be awkward suggesting an alternative interpretation to one person (what if the ‘revelation’ of this study hangs on the basis of this suggested interpretation?) but now others have concurred and the conversation has moved on, jumping in now will actually be disruptive and, as others also agreed with the original interpretation, I feel as if need to ‘make a case’ solid or justifiable enough to de-rail the conversation.

I opt out of the chat, no new input until I can get my head around the initial idea. Session winds down and I take my journal and sit outside and scribble – it helps me to think about an idea to take it out and look at it.

I write to say the things unsaid and to know myself better.   We need to communicate in different ways, yes, and we need to listen in different ways and have different spaces to communicate in. I write to explore what all these might be and what I might be.

 

I write because…

Lydia Wylie-Kellerman wrote a beautiful sermon for Pentecost and also to honour her Dad’s 10 years of ministry at St Peter’s Episcopal Church in Detroit… asking what does it mean for us to be followers of a subversive Storyteller?  Some excerpts:

“Stories are about communication, about when to listen and when to speak, and understanding in our own language…”

“Storytelling spaces are disappearing.”

“Telling stories is an act of resistance. It is part of discipleship. It is movement work. Stories are provocative and powerful while at the same time nourishing. They hold us. They remind us who we are. They help us know who we want to become.”

With social media the world seems terribly small sometimes – just these past weeks my Facebook feed has been filled with the trial outcome of the rape of a woman at Stanford and now this terrible shooting at the gay bar Pulse in Orlando (on a Trans and Latino/Latinx night on Puerto Rican Heritage Day during Pride Month).  There would have been a time when such events were beyond the scope of knowing occurring far away but now, for days at a time, we are touched by layers of pain from such events.  I don’t personally know anyone impacted first hand by these events but I know many impacted by the ripples as each new headline flashes up like a neon sign advertising darkness.  “My FB feed has been filled”… I think of the native wisdom of the story of the two wolves  and wonder if I have not lost my appetite.  You see it’s not the stories of rescue, or redemption, or hope that seem to go ‘viral’ but the brokenness that seems to be replicated over and over again until it is part of the perpetuating harm itself.  Is there any way it could be different? What choices are we making about what stories, voices, news, good news, we are perpetuating?  What is in the ‘feed’ you are serving?

Jenny Peek at Yale Divinity School puts it like this: “I don’t want this fear to have the final word, because all too often fear is at the root of our hatred, disgust, and division. So instead I want to share a verse that continues to give me hope and direction even in times like this:

1 John 4:11-12 – Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is made complete in us.”

I write because I want to read stories that nourish me (and I try not to ask of others what I’m not willing to do myself). I want us to understand and to love one another.  The world is inexplicably wounded and inexhaustibly good… tell me about that… don’t leave out the inexhaustibly good part.

 

I write because…

Last month I was privileged to meet Aunty Sharyn an Indigenous Christian leader from Brisbane and hear her story.  A vocation rising out of her own personal experience, Aunty Sharyn has started up B’ira – a significant community ministry addressing domestic violence and sexual abuse in Indigenous communities. Bir’a Women’s Ministry (Bir’a is Wakka Wakka Language for ‘High Spirit’) is all about when ‘Women meet Jesus’. They run yarning circles – providing a safe space to talk through grief, trauma, healing and relationships and do art therapy for when we can’t find, or just don’t have, the words to describe what has happened to us. I was put in mind of the women in Mark (5:21-43).

Jesus is walking along with his disciples  and a leader of the Synagogue comes along asking for healing for his daughter who is unwell. Jesus agrees to come, yet along the way a bleeding woman who, against all purity codes, reaches out to touch a Jewish man in the desperation and hope of being healed. This woman reaches out for and takes what will heal her.  v.29 “Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.” but v.33-34 goes on to say  “the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth.  He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”  She had already been healed of the physical symptoms (v.29), this second healing (v.34) addresses the mental anguish of what the disease had cost. Exclusion from temple which was a central part of life, if she had a husband perhaps he left – not being able to touch what she had touched or share intimacy, to spend time with her would be to take on the limitations of impurity and ritual cleaning yourself, perhaps people worried they might catch the disease, perhaps the priests tried various means and methods of cleansing or praying out demons… what isolation and exclusion had this woman known over these 12 years?  How long does it take to pour out this tale of grief, fear and loneliness?  Long enough for the Synagogue leader’s daughter to die – does one person’s healing come at the cost of another’s? No.

I write because I want to encounter God, I want to be heard and healed and whole, and for others to have that too.  What part does truth telling have to play in our healing? {personal, family, community, political…?} We need times and spaces to hear the whole truth, we need to be willing to tell our truth, we need to be willing to listen.

You see.  All I have are fragments. Fragments of listening, voices – others and my own – word weaving or stitching together some patchwork of understanding from stories…

I don’t know that you can call this “feminist theology”.  This is only what theology has ever been – codified collective human experience – stories, poems, liturgy, literature, prophecy and cultural influences trying to understand the shape of something bigger and beyond ourselves.

It is not finished.