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”

Painting Jarena Lee By Angela Yarber

When we gender the pulpit in the direction of justice, we ordain her spirit with gratitude for the many miles she walked and the countless sermons she preached.

This month I celebrate the release of my second book, The Gendered Pulpit: Sex, Body, and Desire in Preaching and WorshipAs I celebrate the privilege I have as queer feminist to stand behind the pulpit each Sunday—to gender the space in the direction of justice—I must also recall the myriad holy women who have gone before me.  I think of many of my Holy Women Icons with a folk feminist twist: Virginia Woolf , the Shulamite, Mary Daly, Baby Suggs, Pachamama and Gaia, Frida Kahlo, Salome, Guadalupe and Mary, Fatima, Sojourner Truth, Saraswati, and so many others.  And this month I think specifically of my sister preachers, those who raised their voices in bold proclamations when the road was long and unimaginably difficult.  I think of preachers like Jarena Lee.

Jarena leeLee spent thirty years as an itinerant preacher and was the first black woman to be licensed to preach through the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church.  Despite the fact that the AME issued a definitive ruling that women were not permitted to preach in 1852, Lee spent the bulk of her adult life preaching.  Jarena Lee’s struggle to preach is a familiar story in nineteenth-century American Protestantism, even though the Second Awakening ushered in a period of intense religious revival; with camp meetings around every corner, there was an unprecedented opportunity for women to preach.  Like Jarena Lee, though, they weren’t paid, ordained, or protected. Continue reading “Painting Jarena Lee By Angela Yarber”

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