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Posts Tagged ‘women in the church’

Nadia Bolz-Weber writes of a faith that caught her completely off guard, a faith grounded in her lived experience. With her direct and refreshing voice, Pastor Nadia testifies that when you are a sober alcoholic, and you have felt your life saved by forces completely beyond your abilities to explain, resurrection begins to make sense. It becomes the most real thing in the world. Pastor Nadia’s memoir, Pastrix: The cranky, beautiful faith of a sinner and saint is honest, powerful, and brought tears to my eyes.

She writes about the church of her youth; encountering the profound limitations of churches; journeying through reckless behavior and toward sobriety; entering, with surprise, into seminary; founding a church where God’s mercy has a chance to shine through.

I have been reading the sermons and columns of Pastor Nadia for a while now, and I find her theology consistently inspiring. She preaches about Jesus transcending cultural boundaries, Jesus inviting everyone to the table, Jesus expecting all of us to forgive, Jesus calling for us to love everyone—especially when it is hard. If I lived in Denver, I feel certain I would make a home at Pastor Nadia’s church, House for All Sinners and Saints.

With eagerness I await Pastor Nadia’s forthcoming book, Accidental Saints: Finding God in all the wrong people, to be released September 2015.

Meanwhile, I shall try to remember this: “The kingdom of heaven, which Jesus talked about all the time, is, as he said, here. At hand. It’s now. Wherever you are. In ways you’d never expect.”

Disclaimer: This review is based on a copy of the book borrowed from my local public library. No fee was received.

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On days when you need a lift, a few words of encouragement can be a blessing. If you are seeking inspiration, you can turn to Mothers, Sisters, Daughters: Standing on their shoulders by Edwina Gateley and Sandra Mattucci. Gateley offers brief biographies of 22 inspiring women, followed by a poem about each woman’s life work and its reverberations in the world. Each selection is accompanied by a portrait rendered by Mattucci.

The women featured in the book were all chosen because they “brought some light into our world.” The women include the famous, the sainted, and the little known; lives of the 20th-21st century, the middle ages, and biblical times. It is powerful to see the story of U.S.-born Rachel Corrie, who died in 2003 while demonstrating her commitment to peace, alongside the story of Brigid of Kildare, 5th-century Irish religious leader. We read about Miriam, sister of Moses, and then Annalena Tonelli, who lived a life of radical poverty while bringing health services to the poor in Africa. Each woman’s story manifests deep faith and commitment, and carries a strength of purpose. The book can be read through cover to cover, or you can choose one biography at a time from any place in the book.

This volume would provide a helpful focus for a women’s retreat or study group. It gives a starting point for readers who want to learn about women’s contributions in many arenas of social justice and human rights work. Mothers, Sisters, Daughters would make a suitable gift for women who are interested in history, inspirational stories, or poetry. May these women continue to inspire and uplift future generations.

 

Disclosure: Orbis Books kindly provided a copy of this book for review purposes.

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I was drawn to read Holy Misogyny: Why the sex and gender conflicts in the early church still matter by April D. DeConick because I wanted to gain understanding of what had shaped the roles of women in the early church, and what had caused those roles to change. I wanted to deepen my understanding of the inequality that women have experienced in the church throughout the centuries.

I was rewarded, too, with rich footnotes about the church fathers who promoted the idea of women as sinful, and the female body as a source of sin and corruption. Some of the hardest parts of the book for me to read were sections outlining the ancient view of the female body as incomplete and inferior. To me, this is almost a blasphemous view, since females are equally created by God. Instead of the wholeness that women deserve equally with me, women have struggled to prove both their virtues and their capabilities.

From the earliest Christian communities there were individuals pursuing radical gender equality. Yet the church practices that became dominant upheld the inequality of the ancient world in which Christianity emerged. Misogynist interpretations of historical events and stories in scripture were treated by leaders as sacred, as the truth, when in reality they were biased interpretations to uphold power dynamics that favored males. Unfortunately, this biased view persists today in churches where women are denied full leadership, in governments led by individuals schooled in this vision of female inferiority, and in homes where men see themselves as superior to the females in their families.

How many Christian denominations are there today? Yet there is a tendency (by those who are not religious scholars) to perceive early Christians as a like-minded bunch on agreement in all doctrinal matters. However, doctrine and orthodoxy emerged slowly. Views were diverse, conflict and debate were common, and regional variations in practice were the norm. DeConick helps bring some of this diversity to light.

The section on Jesus and Gospel views of women and sexuality was particularly accessible and informative, and the discussion of Paul helps to place his influential writings in a socio-historical context. DeConick, professor of biblical studies at Rice University, has done a wonderful service for all readers interested in the history of women in the early church and provides helpful, if at times painful, analysis of why the fight for equality in the church is so challenging.

 

Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher, Continuum Books. No compensation was received for this review.

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