Re-imagining the Ritual of Communion by Xochitl Alvizo

I remember the words so clearly: “I know what it’s like to have my body broken, I know what it’s like to have my blood spilt. I won’t celebrate anyone else’s broken body or spilt blood, and I don’t want anyone doing that on my behalf.” Sitting in the pew next to me, my friend spoke her truth in a soft and tentative, but somehow still firm, voice. She then slumped in her seat and folded up her legs, hugging them against her body. While everyone else got up to take communion, I stayed in place beside her.

There was a period of time in my life when I was not willing to participate in communion. My friend’s words stayed with me, transforming the communion table from one of hospitality to one of violence. “Celebrating” communion didn’t feel celebratory anymore. I chose not to take communion for several years. I let my friend’s words guide and deepen my reflection on the practice of communion—especially in light of the trauma suffered by all too many bodies.

Continue reading “Re-imagining the Ritual of Communion by Xochitl Alvizo”

From the Archives:“Vaginas are Everywhere!”: The Power of the Female Reproductive System by John Erickson

Moderator’s note: This marvelous FAR site has been running for 10 years and has had more than 3,600 posts in that time. There are so many treasures that have been posted in this decade that they tend to get lost in the archives. We are beginning this column so that we can all revisit some of these gems. Today’s blogpost was originally posted June 19, 2012. You can visit it to see the original comments here.

I have a beautiful picture of vagina hanging on my wall.  However, for the longest time it was in the back of my closet, with a plastic bag covering it.  I wasn’t ashamed of it but my ex-boyfriend, like most gay men, refused to have it on the wall where he could see it.  He is now long gone; the vagina is now out and proud.

I bid on the picture one fall during a showing of the Vagina Monologues at Claremont School of Theology.  One of my best friends was in the show and I had always loved its powerful message.  I walked out of the theatre, waiting for my friend, and there it was: the picture of the vagina.  I found myself caught up in its beauty.  Its gaze had mesmerized me.  The outlying layers of red, the contours of its shape, they all began to mold into a figure before my eyes.  While I have never thought of myself as a religious person, I realized that at that moment I was no longer looking the old photo but rather I was staring at the outline of the Virgin Mary.  At that moment, I realized that I had to have the picture.

Continue reading “From the Archives:“Vaginas are Everywhere!”: The Power of the Female Reproductive System by John Erickson”

Splitting (Grey) Hairs by Karen Leslie Hernandez

We’ve all seen it on Social Media – the hair. Wild hair. Unkempt hair. Grey hair. #Quarantinehairdontcare. Covid19 has changed it all up. No more regular hair appointments and in turn, hair around the world is out of control.

I’ve been fighting my grey hair for a long time. For about 15 years, in fact. I wish I could stick a rolling eye emoji right there, because, how ridiculous is it that I have put, what some say, cancer causing agents on my scalp for 15 years now. The reality is, I am in ministry. As a public facing person, a public theologian, and job(s) where I am continually standing up in front of, many times, men from several different faith and cultural traditions from around the world, I feel that I need to look good. Does that mean grey hair doesn’t look good? I guess it depends on who you ask. Yet, as I am certain we all are, I am always asking myself – Who sets the standards on if a woman looks good or not? Who says grey hair means “old?” If you said, “Men say that!” of course, you are right. But, the reality is, women descend upon each other all the time too. Whether we like to admit it or not, we compete with each other, especially when it comes to how we look. Continue reading “Splitting (Grey) Hairs by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

It’s Time for Nuns on the Bus to take to the Road Again: Getting Beyond Being “Pro-Birth” to Protecting all at the Margins by Dawn Webster

Author and daughter, Dr. Sheela Jane Menon, Assistant Professor at Dickinson College, PA

The country desperately needs to see the Nuns on the Bus on the road again. I just watched Radical Grace, nearly three years after my daughter and son-in-law gave it to me as a Christmas gift. My tardiness made me feel guilty, but despite the passage of time, the film still feels very timely.  Three years after the cancer that is 45 entered the White House; three years after the corruption and cruelty he unleashed has metastasized into key branches of government; three years after Catholics  have witnessed the heart of the Gospels ripped out the way children have been ripped from the arms of their parents at the southern border, this documentary about how a few nuns risked their place in the church to fight for justice tells me we need the leadership of the nuns more than ever.

Catholic voters from the heartland gave 45 the keys to the White House.—60 percent of them voted for him. Many justified voting for a man with Donald Trump’s appalling sexual, business, and racist history by pointing to his supposedly “pro-life” stance. Continue reading “It’s Time for Nuns on the Bus to take to the Road Again: Getting Beyond Being “Pro-Birth” to Protecting all at the Margins by Dawn Webster”

The Philadelphia Eleven: A Documentary by Margo Guernsey

Storytelling is as old as humanity. We tell ourselves stories – about who we are as individuals, about our families, and about our people – to understand who we are. A lot of narratives are told by a dominant segment of society at the expense of others. I am drawn to stories that flip the script. What stories about real people help us envision a world where all human beings can fulfill our God-given potential?

I practice listening deeply to stories. What is this person really saying about him or herself? What is the essence of what we learn from these events? It is never as simple as it seems. It can take time to find the soul of a story. Continue reading “The Philadelphia Eleven: A Documentary by Margo Guernsey”

Exercising Women’s Religious Voice and Authority – Why is this Still an Issue? by Elise M. Edwards

elise-edwardsOver the past few days, I’ve been spending time at a church in Alexandria, Virginia conducting oral history interviews.  I’m doing research for a project about the arts and the church that has me diving deep into the church’s congregants’ and leaders’ experiences. Yesterday’s conversations offered insight about many theological topics that interest me, but what was particularly encouraging was what I witnessed concerning women in ministry.  That’s not what I was looking for, but it is what I needed to see.

Before beginning these interviews, I had already been thinking about the ways women’s authority and voice are often challenged.  This past weekend, I attended a regional religion conference where I assumed a leadership position and my voice was sought out for advice and insight.  I had great conversations with other women in academia about wellness and success while I was there.  Attending the conference provoked fond memories of a similar conference many years ago, when I connected with many colleagues in this FAR community and we discussed the theme of “Women and Authority.” Those were positive experiences.  But I had an unpleasant encounter, too, when I was on the receiving end of a male colleague’s condescending remarks.  I was also made aware of a disturbing incident in which a woman of color was publicly disrespected while speaking at a university event and subsequently trolled.  Those experiences triggered anger and deep sadness. To be honest, I also felt a sense of resignation and defeat.  Patriarchy is just so persistent.

Continue reading “Exercising Women’s Religious Voice and Authority – Why is this Still an Issue? by Elise M. Edwards”

What I Believe (Post-2016) by John Erickson

Ever since the election of You-Know-Who, I have been doing a lot of creative writing.

Ever since the election of You-Know-Who, I have been doing a lot of creative writing. Unlike academic publications, policy reports, or my dissertation, creative writing, much like my mentor Dr. Marie Cartier has written about, provided me with a needed escape from a world that seems to grow darker with each passing day.  In college, I served as Poetry Editor for the Wisconsin Review, the oldest literary journal in Wisconsin. Continue reading “What I Believe (Post-2016) by John Erickson”

The Spirit and Jarena Lee: Inspiration to Break Boundaries by Elise M. Edwards

elise-edwardsI am so frustrated that we are still fighting to affirm women’s place in leadership.  I’ve been thinking about this struggle in the context of church ministries (especially preaching) and social activism, seeing a stark contrast between the way institutional churches and universities promote and subvert women’s authority and the ways movements like Black Lives Matter do.

Particularly, I’ve been struck by the ways that more radical movements employ language and practices that are based in spirit more than hierarchical authority.  I have found a theme emphasizing equality in humanity’s access to spirit in both historical and contemporary movements and writings about religious experience.  I’m certainly not the first one to notice or discuss how appeals to Spirit have empowered those excluded from dominant systems of power to challenge constrictive social structures, but I would like to share how this dynamic has become more visible to me so that, together, we might find encouragement, inspiration, and food for thought.

Continue reading “The Spirit and Jarena Lee: Inspiration to Break Boundaries by Elise M. Edwards”

My Turn: A Femifesto by Marcia Mount Shoop

It’s coming up on a year now that pretty much everything changed in my family’s life. My over twenty years of married life, up until last year around this time, our lives had been built around my husband’s job. John’s work as a coach in the NFL and Division I collegiate football had moved us all over the country—coast to coast and in between.

MMS Headshot 2015This time last year our move was for me to take a job. No more football. And a move not for football meant massive shifts in the daily life of our family.

I cannot count the number of times since I took this new job that people have said to me, “Finally, it’s your turn!” Continue reading “My Turn: A Femifesto by Marcia Mount Shoop”

Remembering Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’s Life and Legacy: Champion of Universal, and Non-Human Rights November 12, 1648/51 – April 17, 1695 by Theresa A. Yugar

She studies, and disputes, and teaches,
and thus she serves her Faith;
for how could God, who gave her reason, want her ignorant?

—Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Villancico, or, “Carol”, in celebration of St. Catherine of Alexandria (1692)

05.Yugar 1The reason for this blog, and for writing it on this day, is to celebrate and remember the life and legacy of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.

In 1994, I was exposed, by chance, to the life and writings of 17th century Novohispana feminist Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. I am the product of twelve years of Catholic education, eight years of which were in an all-women setting. Again, by chance, I learned about Sor Juana in a liberation theology class while studying feminist theology at Harvard Divinity School. In this class, I learned about Sor Juana’s bold advocacy of the right of women to be educated. This spurred me to learn more about this Catholic Latina theologian whom I would later discover was the last great author of El Siglo de Oro (Spain’s Golden Age), recognized in her era as an esteemed poet, mathematician, astronomer, and more. This was the beginning of my life-long passion to reclaim the legacy of Sor Juana and her-story within the Christian, non-Christian Western tradition, and in Spanish and Mexican history. Continue reading “Remembering Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’s Life and Legacy: Champion of Universal, and Non-Human Rights November 12, 1648/51 – April 17, 1695 by Theresa A. Yugar”

Power & Restraint: A Feminist Perspective on Mormon Sisterhood: A sculpture series by Page Turner, presented by David Volodzko

David VolodzkoHistory offers few instances of women helping create scripture. Hinduism’s sacred Rigveda may have been partly composed by women, and scholars believe the biblical Book of Ruth was possibly written by a woman, but the evidence for each is wanting. And while Muhammad’s widow was entrusted with the manuscript that would become the Quran, its scribe was a man named Zayd ibn Thabit. The only clear exception to this is the Book of Mormon, which Joseph Smith partially dictated to his wife Emma. The central role of Mormon women in the church was therefore fixed from the start.

In 1842 Joseph Smith organized the church sisters into a philanthropic organization known as the Relief Society. Among other things, the Relief Society sent women to medical school and opened cooperative stores. Operating independently from local bishops, it afforded Mormon women unprecedented independence. In fact the early Mormon Church was a feminist pathfinder. The first Mormon pioneers arrived in Salt Lake City in 1846, and by 1870 Utah Territory became the second place in the Union (after Wyoming) to give women the right to vote—nearly fifty years before the Nineteenth Amendment. But Mormons wanted freedom for all women, and that same year the Relief Society held a meeting in which the renowned poet Eliza Snow entrusted Bathsheba Smith with a mission to travel “all through the South” preaching “retrenchment [restriction of government spending] … and women’s rights.” Continue reading “Power & Restraint: A Feminist Perspective on Mormon Sisterhood: A sculpture series by Page Turner, presented by David Volodzko”

Wonder Bread by Natalie Weaver

Natalie Weaver editedIt is a difficult thing to wake up and realize you are living a life you do not recognize. This happens for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes, it happens dramatically as in the case of death, job loss, personal trauma, or illness. Other times it is a slow and insidious transition from what you knew to what you have become, as you find yourself looking at your workplace and recognizing no one or wondering who these people are in your home. Sometimes it is as simple as getting a haircut or a pair of contact lenses, when suddenly you see some wrinkle or skin mark you didn’t know had been forming while you slept. I find this experience shockingly regular now, and while I am no longer surprised that it happens, I am consistently surprised at what I discover.

For example, my son is now an altar server in the Roman Catholic Church. This has occurred concurrently with my very unexpected involvement in an annulment case, which has revealed an outrageous lack of pastoral sensitivity on the part of the Church. Witnessing the hurt this process causes, I could run from the Church. But then there is my son in the choir and serving at Mass, trying to understand this world that I both introduce him to and also roundly critique. I was chatting with a colleague at lunch over such matters and noticed her quieting after a time, eyes cast off into the distance. After a long pause, she murmured, “How did I get here again?” Continue reading “Wonder Bread by Natalie Weaver”

Moving Away from Normative Maternal Roles in the Catholic Church by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

FreyhaufEarlier this week, social media was all abuzz about the Pope’s investigation into restoring women to the diaconate. In the complete transcript of the Pope’s comments,  the traditional notion of women’s maternal role in the church is mentioned in relation to the Church.  Certainly this is nothing new.  Here the Pope describes important “maternal” work such as working with the marginalized, catechesis, and caring for the sick – once again, nothing new.

However, in the next sentence, a very subtle shift is seen when it comes to normative gender roles:

…. there are men who do the same [work as consecrated women], and it is good…..and this is important.

What does this mean – a change in language?  a laying of groundwork? or nothing at all?


It is no secret that cultural constructs of women as maternal and how a mother is defined as or even does has radically changed in today’s society; but, the Church continues to remain steadfast in normative roles between the priesthood and the “motherhood” of the Church (and therefore “motherhood” in general).

Continue reading “Moving Away from Normative Maternal Roles in the Catholic Church by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

Seasons in Church and Life in the Company of Women by Elise M. Edwards

TElise Edwardshis week, the Christian season of Lent began. Ugh. Lent can be so somber and serious and gloomy. Last year, I didn’t want to place myself in that frame of mind. I was experiencing grief and self-doubt and loneliness, and felt that an extended period of reflection about self-denial, Christ’s suffering, and the sinful condition of humanity might pull me into an unhealthy depression. Also, I questioned why I should seek silence and solitude when I was already experiencing too much of it. I felt isolated.

This year is different for me. Once again, I’m entering the season with a grieving heart. I’m mourning the death of my cousin. But I do not feel isolated. I am not self-doubting. This January, I spent four continuous days with mentors and peers in academia who poured love and wisdom and inspiration into me. The women in our group sought each other out and had honest and authentic conversations about the successes and struggles in our lives. We affirmed self-care. We affirmed milestone birthdays. We affirmed our bodies, despite the physical limitations we sometimes feel. We affirmed the tough decisions some had made, the transformations some were pursuing, and the exciting opportunities that had developed for others since we last met over the summer.

It was a powerful experience, but there was pain, too. We confronted fear, rejection, anxiety, exhaustion, and frustration. I felt blessed—divinely gifted—to have an opportunity to speak honestly with my sisters in the spirit about the people and issues on our hearts: challenges with students, systemic racism and sexism, menopause, children, research questions, financial decisions, romance, and health.

I was on an emotional high from the power that comes from being truly known and loved and I was reveling in the power of that love. Continue reading “Seasons in Church and Life in the Company of Women by Elise M. Edwards”

Has the Vatican Discovered that Women Should Be Running the World? by Carol P. Christ

So it is a [female] generativity that .. is … giving life to social, cultural and economic structures that are inspired by values, ideas, principles and practices oriented to the common good …

carol p. christ photo michael bakasThe above statement from the Pontifical Council’s document on “Women’s Cultures: Equality and Diffference” is a response to Pope Francis’s call for a discussion of “feminine genius” and its role in the Church. If in fact women are  “oriented to the common good,” then this is the best reason I can think of to elect a woman pope. And if a women are in fact hard-wired to think about the good of all, wouldn’t a woman pope’s first act be to dissolve the hierarchy that elected her? Is this why the Vatican is so afraid of the power of women?

From February 4-7, 2015 the Pontifical Council on Culture made up of 32 voting members (29 male clerics and 3 laymen) with the advice of non-voting Consultors (28 men and 7 women), discussed the role and place of women in the church and the world in relation to the preliminary document said to have been prepared by a group of unnamed women cherry-picked by the Vatican. Continue reading “Has the Vatican Discovered that Women Should Be Running the World? by Carol P. Christ”

Faith Doesn’t Need Walls: A Conversation with Kate Kelly by Kate Stoltzfus

Kate.Stoltzfus-1When Kate Kelly faced excommunication from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in June 2014, much of the world took notice. The D.C.-based human rights lawyer garnered wide-spread attention for founding Ordain Women, a movement to push for advocacy of female ordination in her Mormon faith. A ripple of press from The New York Times to The Huffington Post chronicled Kelly’s waves of activism and its subsequent consequences: excommunication in absentia on June 23 by her former church leaders in Virginia.

While the press has since died down, the momentum remains. Church leaders denied Kelly’s first appeal against the charge in October 2014, but Kelly remained hopeful of her plan to appeal a second time to the church’s First Presidency when she spoke to WATER (Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual) a month later. Continue reading “Faith Doesn’t Need Walls: A Conversation with Kate Kelly by Kate Stoltzfus”

The Nuns Jumped Over the Wall by Dawn Morais Webster

Dawn Morais Webster, the Pope off to his summer palace, Castel Gandolfo. He tells the world he will now become just a “humble pilgrim.”

One of the most prized dishes in Chinese cuisine is called “The Monk Jumped Over the Wall.” The name comes from the folk belief that the monk was unable to resist the aroma of this delicious dish and jumped the wall in search of it.

Reading Jo Piazza’s If Nuns Ruled The World: Ten Sisters on a Mission, it is clear that these nuns, and others like them, have been drawn by people’s needs, to jump the walls of patriarchy and prejudice.

And there’s no putting them back behind those walls.

Just ask media maven, Sr. Maureen Fiedler: “After all, Jesus was a feminist, and we claim to follow him.”

One nun, though, has accepted being put behind bars for literally breaking through the fences around the nuclear facility in Oak Ridge,Tennessee. Sr. Megan Rice is unfazed by clerical disapproval.

“I don’t believe in excommunication,” she says, “because I don’t see the institutional Church as the real Church.” Continue reading “The Nuns Jumped Over the Wall by Dawn Morais Webster”

Woman – The Essential Other by Natalie Weaver

Natalie Weaver editedI am writing from Oxford, England, where I am privileged to be staying this summer while attending an institute on the theme of “Otherness” in medieval Judaism.  Our readings have focused on a variety of topics, including: the development of Christian anti-Jewish polemics; the development of Jewish anti-Christian polemics; the development of medieval Christian visual representations of Jews; and the European medieval expulsions of Jews.  The well-planned program, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, has been illuminating for all – speakers and participants alike, I think.  It has also been, at least for me, an occasion of intellectual sadness.  It is not that I am surprised by how ugly polemics, pictures, and history can be.  It is that I feel myself coming to a deeper appreciation of the dangerous power dynamics in religion, driven by political and economic aims, that strike me as the underlying cause of practical conflict, yet cloaked as principally theological tensions.

If it were not manifestly obvious that procurement and retention of resources, goods, and position drive personal/familial commitments and tribalistic frameworks for meaning and ultimacy, one of the clues – at least for me – has been the repetition of charges and accusations across polemical perspectives.  And, what is more, one unmistakable commonality in the charges and indictments seems to be the accusation of effeminacy.  This accusation need not be directly stated, such as, “Your people think like women,” or the like.  It comes across in the overlap, speaking specifically concerning Christian writings, between discussions of women and discussions of Jews.  The phenomenon, though, is not unilaterally Christian.  Continue reading “Woman – The Essential Other by Natalie Weaver”

Movement Within the Catholic Church – Time for Receptive Ecumenism? by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Michele Stopera When I originally learned about the concept of receptive ecumenism and the movement to more fully reach across lines of faith traditions as a means of ecclesiastical growth, my first reaction was to ask the question – what about women in the pews?  

Dr. Paul Murray from Durham University conceived of the idea of receptive ecumenism, which had three international conferences of church leaders and theologians working together in a way that looks to learn from each other. The focus is not that our religion is better than yours, rather what can we learn from your faith tradition that could enrich ours without compromising our tradition. With this final conference and after years of lectures, meetings, and publications, Dr. Murray sent this concept out into the world to see if it had legs – and it really does. Pope Francis embraced this concept, so has the Anglican Church. The movement is also thriving in Australia to the point that eighteen delegates were present at June’s meeting in Fairfield, Connecticut. For my part, I raised the question whether or not the Catholic Church was postured to engage fully in this dialogue. Essentially, it boils down to this, how can we have an inter-faith dialogue when we are unwilling, as a church, to have an intra-faith dialogue that includes all voices. The teachings of the Second Vatican Council laid the groundwork for ecumenical dialogue to occur at a multilateral levels. The council mandated us to look inward as well. Continue reading “Movement Within the Catholic Church – Time for Receptive Ecumenism? by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

The Case for a Woman Pope: Mary Magdalene by Frank Shapiro

Frank shapiro picThere’s a lot of hullabaloo these days about belief in God, atheism, separation of religion and state. However, like it or not, Western civilization is a Christian one.

Ever since the Roman Empire officially became Christian in the 4th century Christianity has formed an integral part of the Greco-Roman culture, forging the West’s crystallization.

And within this religious-political-cultural matrix, women have been striving for equality of power in virtually every field. Most of the time men had the upper hand.

Yet in Christianity’s early maturation period an egalitarian approach to the gender issue was the accepted norm. Following a good start in gender power sharing in the Early Christian Church, this enlightened approach gradually changed for the worse. In the early 6th century women found themselves stigmatized and demoted from almost all the major roles in church service and liturgy.

So what went wrong? Continue reading “The Case for a Woman Pope: Mary Magdalene by Frank Shapiro”

Anne Hutchinson, Sor Juana, and Kate Kelly: Reflections on Equality and Excommunication by Erin Seaward-Hiatt

Erin-Close-Up-BW On June 11, 2014 the New York Times made waves in the world of Mormondom with their breaking news that two members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) are facing excommunication on the grounds of apostasy. Active Church members Kate Kelly and John P. Dehlin both received letters from their local church officials in early June summoning them to participate in scheduled Church hearings to discuss their so-called heretical public activism. By many accounts, this appears to be Dehlin’s first notice of formal disciplinary action for his faith-mending work with Mormon Stories, but Kelly has been under official fire from the LDS Church since late May for her efforts in founding and operating Ordain Women (OW)—a pro-women’s ordination group of active believers—more than a year prior. The excommunication threats came on the heels of a church-wide trend that preaches acceptance and diversity among members and beyond, but sends a mixed message to those who, like Kate Kelly, find themselves asking sincere questions only to be either silenced or rejected by their Church and cut off from communal worship of their God.

Ever since the New York Times story broke, the web has seen a swarm of responses in the form of news, interviews, blog posts, and social media discussion; watching everything unfold has been a fascinating study in feminist thought. Kelly herself responded publicly to her disciplinary letter here, saying that she had been transparent about Ordain Women with her bishop from the group’s inception and that not once had she been called in to discuss her work. The formal letter came only after Kelly had moved across the country, and the disciplinary hearing is scheduled to occur with or without her on June 22, 2014. On June 23, Kelly received the word that the trial had resulted in her excommunication.

As I’ve read through the slew of ideas and arguments surrounding what amounts to Kate Kelly’s spiritual fate, I can’t help but notice a strong underlying theme of patriarchy at work in squelching what Kelly believes are sincere questions about the lives of Mormon women. Commentators have tried hard—in classic anti-feminist fashion—to discredit Kelly’s work with Ordain Women, making certain that readers see her as a disingenuous religious deviant worthy of silencing. Throughout the spill of voices about Kelly’s Church standing the underlying point seems to be that as a Latter-day Saint she has no right to contest her Church’s doctrine or its patriarchy, that she is imagining inequality into the Church, that the Church’s discipline will be for her own spiritual good, and even that her group, Ordain Women, is lying in its claims about inequality. Continue reading “Anne Hutchinson, Sor Juana, and Kate Kelly: Reflections on Equality and Excommunication by Erin Seaward-Hiatt”

Confession by Darlena Cunha

Darlena family portraitGood afternoon, Fr. John. I’m here for confession. No, I’d like the curtain back, please. I want you to see my face. I really need to talk to you, get my bearings. But this confession will not be solely about my sins, for, unfortunately, I am not sure I will ever change my ways.

Does that exclude me? Is Catholicism a club? Should my twin daughters, five years old, be subjected to scorn and pity that their mother is a sinner? That they were born in sin? They don’t look like sin, to me. They are light, and love, and happiness. They have shaped me, taught me, brought me into the woman I was meant to be. Is it wrong of me to want to do the same for them? Is it better to turn me out and lose two potentially pure beings who will make their own choices in their religion and could be devout Catholics, or put up with me in the hopes that my children will be more worthy?

I’m here because I like you, you know. I like Catholicism. It’s in my blood, my heritage, my family. And where I’m from, everyone belongs.

I was baptized, received communion, was confirmed, attended youth group. I went to an all-girls Catholic college my freshman year. Full-ride because I’m fairly smart, and I work hard. That’s where I lost Him, you see. I don’t know how, or why, but one early fall day when the leaves were crisp and bright but not yet falling, I looked up at the chapel on campus, and He was gone. Or He seemed gone. Continue reading “Confession by Darlena Cunha”

Christian Sex Ain’t So Vanilla by Andreea Nica

Andreea Nica, pentecostalismMy recent literary digests have included memoirs and nonfiction audiobooks on sex, relationships, and non-monogamy. A recent listen, Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage by feminist activist Jenny Block, provides insight into the paradigmatic features of open marriage drawing on the personal experiences of a bisexual woman. Currently, I’m musing over my latest read: The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures written by psychotherapist Dossie Easton and author and sex educator Janet W. Hardy. Through my literary adventures, I can’t help but reflect on my own sexual conditioning and upbringing in the Pentecostal church.

The authors of these feminist-friendly, sex-positive books and social movements did not exist in the church I grew up in, and I feel quite saddened by this. While my sexual conditioning in the church was far from liberating, these reads have helped me realize that the religious community wasn’t as mundane as I thought. My early sex education which was conservative consisted of the anatomical and biological basics (Arizona education system, need I say more?) and early conditioning of sex morals and ethics in the church. The latter was more influential to my perception of sex, gender, and relationships. Of course the media and my peers constructed my views of sexual culture and gender norms, but the church had the greatest impact during my childhood and adolescence. Continue reading “Christian Sex Ain’t So Vanilla by Andreea Nica”

Transforming the Church from Within or Without? by Xochitl Alvizo

“Power belongs to those who stay to write the report!” stated Jeanne Audrey Powers during her presentation at the Religion and the Feminist Movement conference at Harvard Divinity School back in 2002. Though the statement sounds a little funny, it does raise a good question about how one participates in creating change. Where does the power for change and transformation lie? Is it in the writing of reports; is it from within institutions; from without? This question seems to be of particular relevance to those of us who have feminist visions and commitments and also remain involved in Christian churches – churches of a tradition with deeply embedded patriarchal habits and practices.

Recently, this concern was raised in a class for which I am a TA. We were talking about the fact that some feminist theologians develop feminist systematic theologies; by definition a cohesive theological system done from a feminist perspective. In part, the motivation is to reclaim the systematic way of doing theology and have it stand alongside other widely recognized theologies – but do so in a feminist way. Additionally, the traditional systematic format gives it validity and may serve to temper the prevailing habit of teaching feminist theologies as so-called ‘contextual’ theologies (as if other theologies are not also contextual, but that’s a topic for another post). A critique of this development, of course, is that by writing systematic theologies feminists are simply reinforcing patriarchal forms and patterns of academentia instead of expanding and creating new ones. Continue reading “Transforming the Church from Within or Without? by Xochitl Alvizo”

Religion: Trapped in Love Through Shame by Andreea Nica

Andreea Nica, pentecostalismI was first introduced to shame in the church. Shame paradoxically drew me closer to God, prevented me from committing sins, and helped me repress certain natural urges. The church I grew up in indoctrinated its congregation to believe that shame would transform us into true and wholehearted believers – that as carnal beings, we needed to feel both guilt and shame in order to be saved and transformed into spiritual entities.

One question that permeated my mind growing up, but I’d never dare to publicly ask:

Why would Jesus die for me when I never asked Him to? Continue reading “Religion: Trapped in Love Through Shame by Andreea Nica”

Why I Don’t Believe in Female Pastors by Andreea Nica

Andreea Nica, pentecostalismIt may come as a surprise to those who identify as both feminists and religious practitioners that I don’t believe women should be pastors of any dominant religious congregation. This includes most religions which, I assert, are rooted in and structured by the tenets of patriarchy. Does that mean I think women should be congregants of a patriarchal-originated religious system? You guessed it – no. While this may seem like a radical notion to some, it took me quite some time to come to terms with my own conflict in being both feminist and a believer.

My transition from the Pentecostal sect was a long, intricate process that involved life-altering decisions. The notion of leaving the church was driven by my immersion in women’s studies during my undergraduate degree. There were many difficult questions I simply didn’t have an answer for, as the church didn’t provide me with them.

One of them being: Can women instruct an entire congregation of believers?

For those who are female pastors, I’m sure you’ve heard this one a million times, but somehow it never fades from religious and secular discourse. Whether it’s the Islamic, Jewish, Christian, or Mormon faith, women have had to constantly fight for their right to preach religious doctrine. In the beginning of my transition, I was on the side of: Preach it ladies! Continue reading “Why I Don’t Believe in Female Pastors by Andreea Nica”

Women for a Franciscan World by Dawn Morais Webster

Dawn Morais Webster, the Pope off to his summer palace, Castel Gandolfo. He tells the world he will now become just a “humble pilgrim.”Women: Architects and Engineers of a Franciscan World

This New Year’s Eve I find myself attending Mass at St. Austin’s Church in Austin, Texas. A long way from Hawaii and en route to Argentina which gave us Pope Francis. This Mass is also a celebration of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.

This crossing of many currents is perhaps as eloquent a statement as any on where women have traditionally found themselves in the church—up on a pedestal or totally in service to others. Both exalted and silenced. Tradition has not served women in the church as well as women have themselves served the church and the community through many ministries. The male leaders of the church have been happy to raise their eyes heavenward and sing the praises of Mary and the many female saints while consigning the women around them to positions of pure service, if not servitude. Continue reading “Women for a Franciscan World by Dawn Morais Webster”

5 Interesting Facts about Religion and Modern Society by Kile Jones


Following up on an older (and my most popular) post, 5 Interesting Facts about Women and Religion, I am going to draw your attention to 5 other telling facts.

1: Women clergy are blowing up in the Anglican Church!

In U.K. Church Statistics, 2005-2015, Dr. Peter Brierly shows that out of 9,615 Anglican ministers, 1,928 are women.  This is a radical spike since 2005.  That is 20.05% of all Anglican ministers.  This is about double compared to lead pastoral roles in U.S. Protestant Churches (see here).  The year of 2010 showed the first time women outnumbered men in Anglican ordination, and it continues to rise up to the present day.  And although they are growing as ministers, they are still blocked from becoming Bishops.  The vote for allowing female bishops at a General Synod in 2012 failed to get the 2/3 support BY 6 VOTES! Continue reading “5 Interesting Facts about Religion and Modern Society by Kile Jones”

Can Secular Immigrant Assimilation Promote Equality? Pt. 2

Andreea Nica, pentecostalismI often wonder how my life would have been different if I had undergone a secular immigrant assimilation process. My former faith within Pentecostalism not only shaped my identity, but augmented my ability to assimilate into the American culture. Subsequently, this led me to explore how nonreligious narratives help immigrants better acculturate to western society. Despite my interests originating in personal exploration, emergent studies within religion and sociology show that there are many factors that come into play when considering social and cultural assimilation.

Following up on my most recent post, Liberations of Immigrant Women in Western Religious Conversion, I will draw on a comparative analysis to consider secular immigrant assimilation processes. Women’s experiences during their migration process contribute to their cultural and social identity formation. Many studies point to the established idea that religion is a key variable in influencing immigrant assimilation, particularly among the Latino community. “Faith plays an important role in their lives: 74 percent of Latinos say religion provides a ‘great deal’ or ‘quite a bit’ of guidance for them” (Philanthropy Roundtable). Continue reading “Can Secular Immigrant Assimilation Promote Equality? Pt. 2”

Theopoesis and the Interior Divine by Natalie Weaver

Natalie Weaver

Last week I traveled to Leuven, Belgium for the 9th Leuven Encounters in Systematic Theology conference.  I have been to this conference before, and I find that my perspective is generously enlarged by hearing voices that emerge from contexts and concerns that differ from my own in the USA.   This year, the conference theme was “Mediating Mysteries: Understanding Liturgies.”  The keynote speakers offered inspiring investigations into what “full, active, and conscious” participation of people in the Catholic liturgy means today (for, such were the goals for liturgy articulated at the Second Vatican Council).  Some provided critical evaluation of the newly revived Roman missal.  One speaker offered a searing critique of the distinction between true mystery and fabricated mystique in the Mass.  The breakout sessions were exceptionally well designed.  Here I noticed a common thread of people searching beyond the formal magisterial liturgies and studying the value of those mediated mysteries that are celebrated and communicated in culture, literature, and art. Continue reading “Theopoesis and the Interior Divine by Natalie Weaver”

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