Christian feminism is a school of Christian theology which seeks to advance and understand the equality of men and women morally, socially, spiritually, and in leadership from a Christian perspective. Christian feminists argue that contributions by women, and an acknowledgment of women's value, are necessary for a complete understanding of Christianity. Christian feminists believe that God does not discriminate on the basis of biologically-determined characteristics such as sex and race, but created all humans to exist in harmony and equality, reguardless of race or gender. Christian feminists generally advocate for anti-essentialism as a part of their belief system, acknowledging that gender identities do not mandate a certain set of personality traits. Their major issues include the ordination of women, biblical equality in marriage, recognition of equal spiritual and moral abilities, reproductive rights, integration of gender neutral pronouns within readings of the Bible, and the search for a feminine or gender-transcendent divine. Christian feminists often draw on the teachings of other religions and ideologies in addition to biblical evidence, and other Christian based texts throughout history that advocate for women's rights.
Some Christian feminists believe that the principle of egalitarianism was present in the teachings of Jesus and the early Christian movements, but this is a highly contested view by many feminist scholars who believe that Christianity itself relies heavily on gender roles. These interpretations of Christian origins have been criticized by secular feminists for "anachronistically projecting contemporary ideals back into the first century." In the Middle Ages Julian of Norwich and Hildegard of Bingen explored the idea of a divine power with both masculine and feminine characteristics. Feminist works from the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries addressed objections to women learning, teaching and preaching in a religious context. One such proto-feminist was Anne Hutchinson who was cast out of the Puritan colony of Massachusetts for teaching on the dignity and rights of women.
The first wave of feminism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries included an increased interest in the place of women in religion. Women who were campaigning for their rights began to question their inferiority both within the church and in other spheres, which had previously been justified by church teachings. Some Christian feminists of this period were Marie Maugeret, Katharine Bushnell, Catherine Booth, Frances Willard, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
During the 1960s and the 1970s many evangelical women were influenced by the civil rights movement. Christian Feminists began writing and publishing articles that addressed reproductive rights as well as inequality in marriage and in the religious hierarchy. In response to these articles, groups such as the EWC or Evangelical Women's Caucus, and the ESA or Evangelicals for Societal Action were formed in order to create a social movement in the church towards equality, which was motivated by the Christian Feminist ideal that God created all people as equals.
The division of Protestant belief systems into different sects allowed for women to acquire far more leadership positions in the church, as certain sects then had the freedom to advocated for female leadership. In both mainline and liberal branches of Protestant Christianity, women are ordained as clergy. Even some theologically conservative denominations, such as The Church of the Nazarene and Assemblies of God, ordain women as pastors. However, the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Southern Baptist Convention (the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.), as well as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), and many churches in the American Evangelical movement prohibit women from entering clerical positions. Some Christian feminists believe that as women have greater opportunity to receive theological training, they will have greater influence on how scriptures are interpreted by those that deny women the right to become ministers.
Many of the Christian ideals concerning gender stem from interpretations of the Bible. Christian feminists have often argued that the Bible is problematic, not because of the text itself, but because of the Christian scholars who have interpreted the scripture throughout time. An example of these inconsistencies can be found in the creation story of Adam and Eve; some Evangelicals believe that Adam and Eve were created at the same time, while others believe that Eve was made from the rib of Adam. There is also wide debate within many Christian sects over the fault of Eve concerning the consumption of the forbidden fruit, and the entrance of sin into the world. Historically, a great deal of blame has been placed on Eve, but many Christian Feminists have worked to reframe the story, and shift the blame equally between both parties, as both partook of the fruit. The story of Adam and Eve is just one example of a text which Christian feminists believe is patriarchal in nature due to its interpretation. Some Christian Feminists made the decision to abandon direct scriptural use in their fight for equality, while others relied on verses that opposed patriarchal ideals, pointing out the inconsistencies within the Bible. The following passages act as examples of these inconsistencies.
Conservative religious groups are often at philosophical odds with many feminist and liberal religious groups over abortion and the use of birth control. Scholars like sociologist Flann Campbell have argued that conservative religious denominations tend to restrict male and female sexuality by prohibiting or limiting birth control use, and condemning abortion as sinful murder. Some Christian feminists (like Teresa Forcades) contend that a woman's "right to control her pregnancy is bounded by considerations of her own well-being" and that restricted access to birth control and abortion disrespect her God-given free will.
A number of socially progressive mainline Protestant denominations as well as certain Jewish organizations and the group Catholics for a Free Choice have formed the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. The RCRC often works as a liberal feminist organization and in conjunction with other American feminist groups to oppose conservative religious denominations which, from their perspective, seek to suppress the natural reproductive rights of women.
In general, many Christian Feminist scholars hope to work towards a society in which female sexuality is not condemned by the church, but acknowledged as a natural part of the human existence. During the Reformation, recognized theologians such as Martin Luther and John Calvin stressed the importance of chastity and marriage, leading to further repression of female sexuality within the Christian tradition. Many Christian Feminists have stated that men in powerful religious positions have often used the scriptures, and teachings from theologians such as Clavin and Luther to both dominate and repress women sexually, a problem which Christian Feminists believe needs to be solved immediately.
Some Christian feminists believe that gender equality within the church cannot be achieved without rethinking the portrayal and understanding of God as a masculine being. The theological concept of Sophia, usually seen as replacing or synonymous with the Holy Spirit in the Trinity, is often used to fulfill this desire for symbols which reflect women's religious experiences. How Sophia is configured is not static, but usually filled with emotions and individual expression. For some Christian feminists, the Sophia concept is found in a search for women who reflect contemporary feminist ideals in both the Old and New Testament. Some figures used for this purpose include the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, Eve, and Esther. Others see God as entirely gender-transcendent, or focus on the feminine aspects of God and Jesus. A female depiction of the Christ figure, known as Christa, recently arose in an attempt to allow for the power of the Christ figure to be applied to both the masculine and the feminine. Some Christian feminists use and promote gender-neutral or feminine language and imagery to describe God or Christ. Christian Feminists also call for a gender neutral reading of the Bible, as male pronouns are heavily used as compared to female pronouns throughout the text. The United Church of Christ describes its New Century Hymnal, published in 1995, as "the only hymnal released by a Christian church that honors in equal measure both male and female images of God."
Andrew Kooman is an author and playwright from Red Deer, Alberta, Canada.Anne Eggebroten
Anne Eggebroten (born 1948) is an American author and feminist scholar. She is known for her book Abortion: My Choice, God's Grace. She was also a founding member of the Christian feminist organization Evangelical and Ecumenical Women's Caucus. She received a doctorate in medieval studies from UC Berkeley. She currently teaches at California State University, Northridge and contributes regularly to Women's enews and Christian Feminism Today. She has three daughters.
Eggebroten was strongly critical of a 2009 case in Brazil where the disgraced archbishop of Olinda and Recife pronounced an excommunication for an abortion after a case of incest.Anne Hollinghurst
Anne Elizabeth Hollinghurst (born 4 March 1964) is a Church of England bishop and former youth worker. Since September 2015, she has been the Bishop of Aston, a suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Birmingham. From 2010 to 2015, she was Vicar of St Peter's Church, St Albans.Betty Bone Schiess
Betty Bone Schiess (April 2, 1923 – October 20, 2017) was an American Episcopal priest. She was one of the first female Episcopal priests in the United States, and a member of the Philadelphia Eleven: leaders of the movement to allow the ordination of women in the American Episcopal Church.Bonnie Raitt
Bonnie Lynn Raitt (born November 8, 1949) is an American blues singer, guitarist, songwriter, and activist.
During the 1970s, Raitt released a series of roots-influenced albums that incorporated elements of blues, rock, folk and country. In 1989, after several years of critical acclaim but little commercial success, she had a major hit with the album Nick of Time. The following two albums, Luck of the Draw (1991) and Longing in Their Hearts (1994), were also multimillion sellers, generating several hit singles, including "Something to Talk About", "Love Sneakin' Up on You", and the ballad "I Can't Make You Love Me" (with Bruce Hornsby on piano).
Raitt has received 10 Grammy Awards. She is listed as number 50 in Rolling Stone's list of the "100 Greatest Singers of All Time" and number 89 on the magazine's list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". Australian Country Music Artist Graeme Connors has said, "Bonnie Raitt does something with a lyric no one else can do; she bends it and twists it right into your heart."Cat Smith
Catherine Jane Smith (born 16 June 1985) is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Lancaster and Fleetwood since 2015. In September 2015 she was appointed to the Official Opposition frontbench as a Shadow Minister for Women, serving under Kate Green. In June 2016 she was appointed to the Shadow Cabinet, with a new portfolio for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs.Christian egalitarianism
Christian egalitarianism (derived from the French word égal, meaning equal or level), also known as biblical equality, is egalitarianism based in Christianity. In theological spheres, egalitarianism generally means equality in authority and responsibilities between genders, in contrast to complementarianism. This entails women being able to exercise spiritual authority as clergy. Christian egalitarians argue that verses cited to justify certain restrictions on women have been misunderstood, and support "mutual submission" of all people to each other in relationships and human institutions as a form of respect without necessarily requiring a hierarchy in authority.Edith Archibald
Edith Jessie Archibald (5 April 1854 – 11 May 1936) was a Canadian suffragist and writer who led the Maritime Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and the National Council of Women of Canada and the Local Council of Women of Halifax. For her many forms of social activism, she was referred to as the "Lady of Grace" by King George V, and she was designated a Person of National Historic Significance by the Government of Canada in 1997.Elaine Pagels
Elaine Pagels, née Hiesey (born February 13, 1943), is an American religious historian. She is the Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University. Pagels has conducted extensive research into Early Christianity and Gnosticism.
Her best-selling book The Gnostic Gospels (1979) examines the divisions in the early Christian church, and the way that women have been viewed throughout Jewish history and Christian history. Modern Library named it as one of the 100 best books of the twentieth century.Evangelical and Ecumenical Women's Caucus
The Evangelical and Ecumenical Women's Caucus (EEWC) is a group of evangelical Christian feminists founded in 1974. It was originally named the Evangelical Women's Caucus (EWC) because it began as a caucus within Evangelicals for Social Action, which had issued the "Chicago Declaration". Its mission is to "support, educate, and celebrate Christian feminists from many traditions." It favored passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, encourages the ordination of women, and has called for gender-inclusive language in all communications. The word ecumenical was added to the organization's name in 1990 in order "to reflect the increasingly inclusive nature and the many traditions of [the organization's] membership".In 1986 EWC passed a resolution by a two-to-one margin stating:
Whereas homosexual people are children of God, and because of the biblical mandate of Jesus Christ that we are all created equal in God's sight, and in recognition of the presence of the lesbian minority in EWCI [Evangelical Women's Caucus International], EWCI takes a firm stand in favor of civil rights protection for homosexual persons.
This resolution led Catherine Kroeger and other more conservative members to form Christians for Biblical Equality.Letha Dawson Scanzoni
Letha Dawson Scanzoni (born 1935 in Pittsburgh, PA ) is an independent scholar, writer, and freelance editor. She has authored or coauthored nine books, the most well-known of which are All We're Meant to Be and Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? Scanzoni specializes in the intersection between religion and social issues.
From 1994 until her retirement in December, 2013, she served as editor of both the print and website editions of Christian Feminism Today (formerly EEWC Update), the publication of the Evangelical and Ecumenical Women's Caucus.Louise Slaughter
Dorothy Louise McIntosh Slaughter (August 14, 1929 – March 16, 2018) was an American politician who served as a United States Representative from New York from 1987 until her death in 2018.
Slaughter was born in Lynch, Kentucky. She studied microbiology and public health at the University of Kentucky, obtaining a Bachelor's degree and a Master's degree. After moving to New York and becoming involved in politics as a member of the Democratic Party, she was elected to a seat in the New York State Assembly in 1982 and to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1986. Slaughter's district was based in Rochester and included most of surrounding Monroe County; it was numbered as the 30th District from 1987 to 1993, the 28th District from 1993 to 2013, and the 25th district from 2013 to 2018.
Slaughter served as Chairwoman of the House Rules Committee from 2007 until 2011 and as ranking minority member of the Committee from 2005 to 2007, and from 2011 until her death. Slaughter was the lead House sponsor of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which became law in 2008. Along with Senator Joe Biden she co-sponsored the Violence Against Women Act. At the time of her death, Slaughter was the oldest sitting member of Congress and the last sitting member to have been born in the 1920s.Maude Royden
Agnes Maude Royden, CH (23 November 1876 – 30 July 1956), later known as Maude Royden-Shaw, was a preacher and suffragist.Mormon feminism
Mormon feminism is a feminist religious social movement concerned with the role of women within Mormonism. Mormon feminists advocate for a more significant recognition of Heavenly Mother, the ordination of women, gender equality, and social justice grounded in Mormon theology and history. Mormon feminism advocates for more representation and presence of women as well as more leadership roles for women within the hierarchical structure of the church. It also promotes fostering healthy cultural attitudes concerning women and girls. The modern form of the movement has roots that go back to the founding of Mormonism, including the largely independent operation of the female Relief Society, blessings by women in early church history, and the women's suffrage movement in the western United States.New feminism
New feminism is a form of Christian feminism that not only emphasizes the integral complementarity of men and women, rather than the superiority of men over women or women over men, but also advocates for respecting persons from conception to natural death.New feminism, as a form of difference feminism, supports the idea that men and women have different strengths, perspectives, and roles, while advocating for the equal worth and dignity of both sexes. Among its basic concepts are that biological differences are significant and do not compromise sexual equality. New Feminism holds that women should be valued in their role as child bearers, that women are individuals with equal worth as men; and that in social, economic and legal senses they should be equal, while accepting the natural differences between the sexes.Nina Karin Monsen
Nina Karin Monsen (born 29 May 1943 in Bergen) is a Norwegian moral philosopher and author. She has written several books, both non-fiction and fiction, and has been active in Norwegian public debate since the early 1970s.Pamela Sue Anderson
Pamela Sue Anderson (April 16, 1955 – March 12, 2017) was an American philosopher who specialized in philosophy of religion, feminist philosophy and continental philosophy.
In 2007 she was an Official Fellow, Tutor in Philosophy and Christian Ethics, Dean, and Women's Advisor of Regent's Park College in the University of Oxford. Her former students include feminist philosopher Hanneke Canters.Born in Hennepin County, Minnesota, Anderson was educated at Yale University and Mansfield College, Oxford and was formerly Reader in Philosophy at the University of Sunderland. Pamela taught at University of Oxford, where she was working on In Dialogue with Michèle Le Doeuff, translated works of Le Doeuff.In 2009, she received an honorary degree from the University of Lund in Sweden.She died six weeks before her 62nd birthday, after a two-year battle with cancer.On 17 March 2018 Regent's Park College unveiled a portrait commissioned of Anderson, in recognition of both her academic contributions and her pastoral commitment to the college.The Magdalene Sisters
The Magdalene Sisters is a 2002 Irish-British drama film written and directed by Peter Mullan, about three teenage girls who were sent to Magdalene Asylums (also known as 'Magdalene Laundries') homes for women who were labelled as "fallen" by their families or society. The homes were maintained by individual religious orders in the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland.
Peter Mullan has remarked that the film was initially made because victims of Magdalene Asylums had received no closure in the form of recognition, compensation or apology, and many remained lifelong devout Catholics. Former Magdalene inmate Mary-Jo McDonagh told Mullan that the reality of the Magdalene Asylums was much worse than depicted in the film.Though set in Ireland, it was shot entirely on location in Dumfries and Galloway, South-West Scotland.Virginia Ramey Mollenkott
Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, best known for her "God of the Breasts" interpretation of El Shaddai, spent her 44-year professional career teaching college level English literature and language, but developed specializations in feminist theology and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender theology during the second half of that career.