Feminist Liberation Theologians’ Network 2019 Meeting Report
By Mary E. Hunt
January 28, 2020
The Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual (WATER) convened the 23rd working meeting of Feminist Liberation Theologians’ Network at the American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting in San Diego, CA on Friday, November 22, 2019. Mary E. Hunt presided at the session focused on Worldwide Climate Change: Feminist Liberation Theological Perspectives.
The topic sprang from the last two sessions on Resistance, Resilience, and Creativity (2017), and Economics: Global and Local Intertwined (2018), reports and videos of which can be found at http://www.
More than fifty-five colleagues from ten countries joined in the discussion following brief but always fascinating introductions of each one. Input from Australian scholar and editor Anne Elvey, Honorary Research Associate, University of Divinity and Adjunct Research Fellow, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia as well as from Brazilian/ American scholar Wanda Deifelt, professor at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa led the way. Coming from countries where fires and land misuse are rampant lent depth and context to the ensuing conversation. It is clear that climate change is a significant factor in justice-seeking efforts worldwide with special impact on the lives of people who are economically poor and marginalized, especially women and children.
Anne Elvey drew on her duel genres of poetry and analysis, her expertise both in scripture and politics, to offer “Some Reflections on Climate Change from an Australian Context.” She situated Australia in the global climate change phenomenon in terms of continued coal mining, racist border/immigration policies, and the government’s efforts to divide and conquer indigenous communities over business matters. “A new wave of genocide” is how the climate-related issues are playing out for indigenous people.
Dr. Elvey explained that Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza’s analysis of kyriarchy is a useful tool for dealing with concrete life situations. A Kurdish journalist described “The Kyriarchal System” as how asylum seekers and refugees are kept imprisoned. Dr. Elvey concluded, “…in Australia there can be no climate justice without a shift toward foregrounding the epistemologies, experience and sovereignty of Indigenous people..” With fires engulfing Oz at year’s end, this was a timely and insightful contribution to our conversation.
Our second presenter was Brazilian/American theologian Professor Wanda Deifelt from Luther College. Her training, both as a Lutheran pastor and as a theologian with global reach in the ecumenical world, allowed her to look broadly at the matters at hand with particular focus on the Brazilian situation. She raised several salient points for our consideration in her paper, “How Colonialism and Neocolonialism Resulted in Climate Change.”
Wanda described the origins of colonialism and the central role of religion in shaping it. She distinguished ‘coloniality’ as the way in which many eventually imbibe colonialism and appropriate it in their own approaches. She showed how this dynamic plays out in Brasil in the current political situation. She contrasted it with sustainability which is development that works in the present, with an eye toward the future.
Dr. Deifelt introduced the Quechua term “buen vivir” to describe how cultural, social, economic, and other concerns work together for the good of society and Earth. Clearly theologies that reinforce top down dualisms are not adequate, setting the stage for feminist and other liberation theologies to be useful. She concluded with a focus on intersectionality as the way forward for mutual empowerment. With the Amazon, sometimes called “the lungs of the universe,” under siege in Brasil, this was a timely reminder of what matters for the whole world.
Participants and WATER thank both Anne and Wanda for their excellent input.
This report and video from the sessions are available at: http://www.waterwomensalliance.org/feminist-liberation-theologians-network/.
We moved on to small group discussion with a focus on what resources of feminist liberation theologies are useful for activism and teaching, as well as how climate change is reshaping our common work. The advantage of being in a group of people from around the world for such a conversation cannot be overstated.
Among the issues raised by the small groups were:
1.The importance of listening to real people’s stories with a priority on the experiences of marginalized women
2. Analysis of intersectionality and kyriarchy; critical reading of texts
3. The arts as a vehicle for change
4. Prophecy as valued input
5. The need for movement chaplains, not with denominational focus but providing general support for those displaced and those engaged in activism
6. Relational skills to build networks
7. Liturgy resources—hymns, texts—that can be used with a wide variety of people for spiritual support and inspiration
The session concluded with hearty thanks and eagerness to reconvene in Boston at the 2020 AAR/SBL Annual Meeting on Friday, November, 20, 2020, 4-6 PM. In consultation with our Women’s Caucus colleagues (see below), the theme will be “Feminist Liberation Theologies on the Ground: Acting When We are in extremis”. All are welcome. Please tell your students and colleagues, especially international ones, to mark their calendars now so they can plan travel accordingly.
Please consider volunteering to make a short presentation and/or suggest other scholar/activists whose work you think we need to include. Thank you. Feel free to contact me at email@example.com for these and other related matters. Thank you!
1. Jill Annitto, Editorial Manager of Atla (https://www.atla.com/) which works with libraries and colleagues in the field to connect people and resources, attended the meeting. She is interested in connecting with FLTN folks who are working on and/or know of anthologies of interest. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
2. Rosemary Radford Ruether, a longtime collaborator with this group and a prolific, influential pioneer feminist scholar, is living with the aftermath of a serious stroke. While she cannot speak and her mobility is limited, she seems to be in good spirits. Her daughter, Rebecca Ruether, indicated that financial help to procure additional physical therapy for Rosemary would be very welcome. Rebecca can be contacted and checks can be sent to her at: 1516 Esplanade #304, Redondo Beach, CA 90277.
4. Suggested reading on climate change: Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, Vol. 33, No. 2, Fall 2017, Roundtable: Climate Change Is a Feminist Issue, pp. 139-175.
FLTN continued its fruitful collaboration with the Women’s Caucus on Saturday, November 17, 2019 from 9-11:30 AM.
The Caucus, as has been its practice in recent years, focused a session on the same theme as FLTN. Four presenters gave papers:
1. Abby Mohaupt, Drew University and Jennifer Owens-Jofré, Seminary of the Southwest, “Theological Education in the Mobile Classroom: Working Toward Justice for Migrants and Climate Change Justice along the Border”
2. Rosalind Hinton, Tulane University, “Women Rising in Saint James Parish, Louisiana and Cancer Alley”
3. Julia Enxing, University of Dresden, “Ecological Literacy should be the foundation for religious education” (Heather Eaton): Re-visioning Teaching Systematic Theology”
Mary E. Hunt offered a short report of the FLTN meeting and a response to each of the papers followed by conversation among participants.
Following is the Call for Papers from our Women’s Caucus colleagues for the 2020 AAR/SBL. For questions/submissions please contact them directly c/o Elaine Nogueira-Godsey email@example.com.
Women’s Caucus and Feminist Liberation Theologians Network Session: “Re-engaging Praxis: A Call for Action”
In light of the AAR/SBL 2020 proposed theme, “more inward-looking and self-reflective,” the AAR/ SBL Women’s Caucus, in collaboration with the Feminist Liberation Theologians’ Network (FLTN), invites papers responding to questions about centering the voices of those most affected by oppression and those on the ground attempting to stem the tide. As we witness various communities engaging in fascism, totalitarianism, and global environmental catastrophes, the question arises: “What might the feminist study of religion look like if these contexts are seriously engaged as knowledge-producing, and not merely as objects of research?” We invite research that explores the practical resources Feminist Liberation Theologies offer to combat the growing global backlash. What needs to be reimagined or reclaimed to advance a feminist global trend of shared responsibility, to make the personal political once again, and to develop models of successful political leadership?
FLTN, along with the Women’s Caucus co-sponsored a video presentation of Victoria Rue’s new play “Maryam: A Woman of Bethlehem” performed in Arabic with English subtitles. Dr. Rue, theatre director, author, playwright, priest based in Berkeley, California wrote and directed the play as part of her Fulbright research in the Fall of 2018. Elizabeth Ursic, Professor at Mesa Community College, responded. The moving play and subsequent discussion launched this work in the U.S. and to a global audience. FLTN wishes Victoria well on this, recommends it for community use, and thanks her for bringing it to the AAR.
Please feel free and encouraged to use the Feminist Liberation Theologians’ Google group to share information and ideas. If you are not receiving this group’s information and wish to, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
All good wishes and thanks to everyone who participated, to our speakers and presenters, and to our Women’s Caucus colleagues. Please let me know (email@example.com) if you would like further information.
May 2020 be a banner year for justice with peace,
Mary E. Hunt, Co-director, WATER