Saturday, July 26, 2014


Hey, everybody, a great new book: Tempest-Tossed: The Spirit of Isabella Beecher Hooker by Susan Campbell, published this year by Wesleyan University Press.

Because I heard Susan speak in St. Louis, I can almost hear her speaking as I read Tempest-Tossed.  She jokes, embraces, and waxes eloquent at times.

I'm loving the book and Susan's voice and the historical person Isabella Beecher, who married John Hooker.  

It reminds me of The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates, which I read last summer. That book is historical fiction set in Princeton around 1903-4.  It's a Gothic romance, actually--lots of murders and scary houses but with a happy ending for the lovers. 

The time frame overlaps a little with the life of Isabella, born in 1822 and dying in 1907. 

Another similarity is the mixture of famous and nonfamous pre-modern characters, some of which feel modern.

Susan has chosen to stick to the facts, unlike Joyce, who romps through the historical people's lives with a free imagination.

But both authors have chosen a fascinating set of women and men to bring to our attention.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Change for Christian Women 1974-2014

Three big things happened in 1974 for Christian women:  Pictured here are some of the first women ordained in the Episcopal Church. First row, from left, Alison Palmer and Lee McGee. Middle row, Nancy Wittig, Alison Cheek and Merrill Bittner. Back row, Emily Hewitt, Carter Heyward and Marie Moorefield Fleischer. (Alison Palmer and Lee McGee were ordained in Washington in 1975.) The picture was taken at Episcopal Divinity School in May 2004 during a celebration of the life and courage of the Rt. Rev. Robert DeWitt.

  • 11 Episcopal women were ordained in Philadelphia outside the rules of the Church (irregularly).

  • The Leadership Conference of Women Religious in 1973-74 began "extensive programs related to transforming the perceptions of and about women. We have promoted the recognition of sexism as destructive of both women and men" --in the Roman Catholic Church.  

  • Evangelical women in Chicago formed an organization to promote women's rights among theologically conservative Protestant women.


In 2014 all three groups are marking 40 years of work for women's equality within Christian churches.


Laudate Dominum! (or Dominam--why refer to God as male?)

Praise the Lord!  (or Lady Wisdom--Sophia in Greek, Hochmah in Hebrew)

40 Years of Biblical Feminism

Evangelical & Ecumenical Women's Caucus--Christian Feminism Today celebrates 40 years since its founding in 1974.
Letha Dawson Scanzoni with (left to right) McKenzie Brown, Ashley Cason, Jennifer Newman, and Jacinda Thomas.

Here's a link to the press release on the Religious News Service website:

Here's a press release to print out and mail to a friend or pastor or church or seminary near you:

For more about EEWC-Christian Feminism Today, see:

Lost Woman Rabbi

Thank you to RNS for posting this commentary by A. James Rudin about the world's first woman rabbi, Regina Jonas (1902-1944).

Does the year of her death--1944--worry you?

Yes, she was murdered at Auschwitz after interment in Theresienstadt, another Nazi concentration camp.

Extreme circumstances made it permissible for a woman to serve as rabbi.  Jews were being rounded up and killed.  Rabbis were becoming scarce, and the work was dangerous.

Sounds like women's work--no one else is available to do it.

Her early death and hidden work obscured her name from history for many years.

Thank you also to Katharina von Kellenbach, the scholar who unearthed records in East Berlin regarding this rabbi's life.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Peace Demonstration for Gaza

There was no "business as usual" on Wilshire Boulevard near the Federal Building in West Los Angeles this afternoon.  
Women demonstrating for peace: "Keep calm and pray for Gaza."

Instead traffic was stopped and cars could not exit the 405 freeway as over a thousand people protested Israeli bombings of civilians in Gaza.  I was glad that many lives were interrupted; people had to think about Israel and Palestine.

Tell me why, tell me why,
Gaza children have to die.

Palestine will be free
From the river to the sea.

Gaza, Gaza, don't you cry.
No more children have to die.

Being there, listening to these chants, I was often moved to tears.  This event did not have a party atmosphere.

I marched in protest against the bombing of the four little boys playing on the Gaza beach last Wednesday.
The violence began with three Israeli teens killed in June.

Someone in an Israeli ship off the coast had noticed movement and fired the missiles.  That's not war; it's murder.

The little guys weren't supposed to be outside, but after nine days indoors, they had managed to slip out of the house.

There were many mothers and children at the rally, including some veiled women.  Some men wore Palestinian headgear.  

Double-decker red tour buses were among those caught in the traffic.  Tourists in the open-air top deck looked out at the demonstration.   They had expected to see just beaches, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, and maybe a few movie stars. 

"Welcome to LA," commented one woman.  

I'm grateful to be in a metropolitan area with lots of Israelis and Palestinians and others who care deeply about the war happening there these past ten days.  I want my life to pause over these deaths.

Then the marchers went to the Consulate General of Israel in LA, on Wilshire near Barrington.

Meanwhile in another part of Los Angeles, a family was mourning loss of their son, Max Steinberg, who had moved to Israel and joined the Army there.

All this waste of human life in Palestine and Israel, and then the downing of the airliner over the Ukraine on Thursday, is enough to turn anyone into a pacifist.

What can any one person do?  

I got some ideas today:
1) Contact my representatives in Congress and ask them to stop giving weapons and money to Israel.
2) Join an organization of women for peace, such as
3) Start identifying as a transnational feminist.
4) Attend more antiwar demonstrations.
5) Get more practice in speaking other languages.  Learn Arabic???
6) Do more international travel and stay in touch with friends around the world.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ukrainian Horror

This week's news couldn't get worse.

The world witnessed the bombing of four young boys on a Gaza beach on yesterday, and then today some ignorant Ukrainian rebels shot down a Malaysian passenger jet with 298 people aboard.

Six billion people on this planet are bombarded daily with news horrors like this.

We grieve with all the families and friends of those who fell from the sky.

We mourn the little boys on the Gaza beach, who didn't even get one day of headlines before their deaths were obscured by a larger tragedy.

We pray "Thy kingdom come"-- "May God's reign be completed, God's will be done on earth as it is in the heavens."

But horror and evil continue to abound.

Many of those on the downed jet were AIDS researchers headed for a conference in Australia, working to save lives and combat an epidemic.  Therein lies the only note of hope.

O let me ne'er forget
that though the wrong
is oft so strong
God is the ruler yet.

These words to the hymn of faith become harder and harder to sing.

Part of the problem is the patriarchal message of the hymn, "This Is My Father's World."

We worship a male god, and the ethic of vengeance goes largely unchallenged.

Thank you to the UN, which tries to halt warfare, and to Jann Aldrege-Clanton, who wrote new lyrics for that hymn and envisions a world without a male warrior god.

Mothers of Gaza

What a horrible summer it has been.  

Four little boys playing soccer on a beach in Gaza, killed.  This photo in Wednesday's New York Times.

Their mothers wailing:
At the Bakr family house on Wednesday afternoon, women wept and wailed. One cursed both Israel and Hamas. Another, Nasreen al-Bakr, noted quietly that Hamas had killed 10 of her family members in factional fighting.
Relatives identified the boys as Mohammad, 11 or 12, Ismail, 9, Zakariya, 10, and Ahed, 7 or 9, an only son with seven sisters. In the chaos of an extended family milling about in mourning, there was some confusion about the ages.

NYT reporter Anne Barnard describes how the kids were confined for nine days because of Israeli bombing of Gaza but late on Tuesday afternoon sneaked out to play on the beach where their family earned a living by fishing.

To Israel, it was just an accident.  A mistake of war.  Sometimes you hit Hamas militants, sometimes you hit kids.

Even from a distance of 8,000 miles, I'm drawn into the heart of this horror.  The scene plays on my television screen. 

As a mother, I grieve with these mothers in Gaza.

I grieved with the Orthodox women in Israel whose three sons were found murdered in the West Bank on June 30 after being missing since June 12.

I mourned Palestinian teen kidnapped from his home and killed in revenge on July 2. 

There's a daily toll in Gaza and Israel being kept by the New York Times.

Meanwhile, the thousands of women and children are apprehended on the US border and bused to various retention centers.  How can Congress refuse to act on President Obama's humanitarian relief plan?

Mahatma Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."

This summer's vengeance killings are scarring human life on this earth.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Nadine Gordimer 1923-2014

Congratulations to Nadine Gordimer on a life well lived.

What a hand to be dealt in life--being born a white person in South Africa, raised up in racism, speaking truth through her pen, and then being criticized late in life for possible vestiges of racism.

What a gift to the world.  The LA Times obituary notes that she quoted Franz Kafka in seeing literature as "an ax to break up the frozen sea within us."

Her short novel July's People is a great way to meet her, if you haven't read her work.

July is a black employee to a privileged white family, but when they have to flee social upheaval, the tables are turned and he is their key to survival.

I started but didn't complete any of her novels.  (The fault was probably mine, not hers.)

In 1991 I appreciated having another woman win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

I know the historical contours of your life because my mother and mother-in-law were born in 1919 and 1922, so close to your birth.  You grew up between world wars, and unlike them, you also grew up in a Jewish family.

Thank you, Nadine, for carving writing time from the ups and downs of life--two marriages, two kids--and recording the effects of racism and apartheid.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Press Release: EEWC-CFT Turns 40

We're in the prime of our life, no longer a newcomer on the feminist scene.

Christians who are also feminists have been around for hundreds of years, but in second-wave feminism they appeared in the 1960s.  Evangelical feminists formed an organization in 1974, the Evangelical & Ecumenical Women's Caucus.

See this press release about our 40th anniversary gathering in St. Louis:

McKenzie Brown, Ashley Cason, Jennifer Newman, and Jacinda Thomas with EEWC co-founder Letha Dawson Scanzoni (center)
For immediate release

Christian Feminism Today celebrates 40 years

In 1974, during a conference of Evangelicals for Social Action, a group of women formed a caucus to show that gender equality in church, home, and society is a justice issue.

Their approach became known as biblical feminism.  From that small group emerged the Evangelical & Ecumenical Women’s Caucus (EEWC), now more popularly known as EEWC-Christian Feminism Today.
The organization celebrated its 40th anniversary on June 26-29 in St. Louis at the Sheraton Westport Plaza Hotel with presentations by current and pioneering Christian feminists and social justice advocates.

Christian Feminism Today is EEWC’s online publication featuring articles, blogs, book reviews and other commentary at

In addition to continued advocacy for women's rights, the organization in 1986 adopted a resolution supporting civil rights for LGBT people within the church and community, making EEWC one of the first evangelical organizations to do so.

Pre-eminent among the pioneers was plenary speaker Letha Dawson Scanzoni, whose groundbreaking All We're Meant to Be: Biblical Feminism for Today was named by Christianity Today as one of the “top 50 books that have shaped evangelicals.”  She recounted her questioning of a 1963 Eternity magazine article on the proper place of Christian women and subsequent steps toward leadership in feminist awakening.

“Fundamentalism is like a sword that broke off in us,” reflected another speaker, Susan Campbell, quoting her brother and her memoir Dating Jesus: A Story of Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl.  After 25 years as a columnist and feature writer for the Hartford Courant, she now co-writes Hot Dogma: The Belief Blog with former AP religion writer Tom Breen.

Reviewing ideas still current in conservative evangelical popular culture regarding women’s nature and roles, Dr. Kendra Weddle Irons of Texas Wesleyan University and Dr. Melanie Springer Mock of George Fox University underscored the need to deconstruct those ideas.  Their forthcoming book will contribute to that effort.  

"Let Justice Roll On like a River!" was the recurrent theme at this year’s biennial gathering near the junction of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, echoing the prophet Amos: “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” 5:24 (NIV).

Student presenters McKenzie Brown, Ashley Cason, and Jacinda Thomas dazzled old-timers with feminist theory and historical research.  The first Nancy A. Hardesty Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Jennifer Newman, double majoring in politics and in philosophy at George Fox University with a minor in women’s studies.  

A rousing performance by The Troubadours of Divine Bliss filled Saturday evening.  This folk-bluegrass-gospel duo from Kentucky has released six albums and made headlines at festivals around the globe.

Four ordained women brought their talents to the Sunday morning worship service: the Reverends Jan Clark (North Carolina, Baptist), Leslie Harrison (New Jersey, African Methodist Episcopal), Shawna R. B. Atteberry (Illinois, Episcopal), and Jann Aldredge-Clanton (Texas, Baptist).  In addition to hymns with inclusive-language lyrics by Aldredge-Clanton, music was performed by Vickie Bragg of Oklahoma, The Troubadours of Divine Bliss, and Marg Herder of Indiana. 

Notable among the workshops was Susan Cottrell’s on "Being the Love of Christ: It’s Not That Complicated."  She addressed ways in which the church is called to respond to the LGBTQ community, one part of the larger calling to embrace all who are marginalized or oppressed.  Author of “Mom, I’m Gay” — Loving Your LGBTQ Child without Sacrificing Your Faith, Cottrell is a national speaker, teacher, counselor, and founder with her husband of FreedHearts Ministries.

Other speakers included:
·         Dr. Sharon Groves, Director of the Religion and Faith Program for the Human Rights Campaign, the largest civil rights organization in America working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
·         Dr. Mary E. Hunt, Roman Catholic feminist theologian, co-founder and co-director of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual (WATER).
Dr. Reta Halteman Finger of Messiah College led a workshop on how to counter the Bible’s legacy of violence against women.  She edited the quarterly journal Daughters of Sarah based in Chicago from 1976 to 1996.

Other workshop leaders were the Reverend Deb Vaughn on current grief therapies, Peg Conway on childbirth and empowering women through body theology, Esther Emery on finding our most authentic voice, and Dr. Paula Trimble-Familetti on giving voice to Bible women whose claim to fame was neither motherhood nor prostitution.

More information is available on the Christian Feminism Today website.

Please direct media inquiries to Marg Herder, Director of Public Information for EEWC-Christian Feminism Today.  She can be reached by emailing  or calling 317-414-8157.

EEWC-Christian Feminism Today
PO Box 78171
Indianapolis, IN  46278

A Child's Story

Reyna Grande knows how the migrant children on the border feel.

She was one of them, and she grew up to write two award-winning novels and a memoir in 2012 about her early life.

If you want to know why migrants don't just get jobs in Mexico or wherever they're from, read about her father going from city to city in Mexico seeking work in construction.

If you want to know why parents are desperate enough to send their children with a coyote, read her book.

If you wonder how children feel when they are left behind by one or both parents, read chapter one.

If you liked the classic 19th C. novel Jane Eyre, read the story of this 20th C. not-quite-orphan in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico.  The cruelty of adults to children in both books is incredible.

Another graphic account of poverty and cruelty faced before and after immigration is Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt.  His journey began in Ireland in the 1930s, Reyna's in Mexico in the 1980s.

If you've never talked with anyone who hiked across the Mexico-US border illegally, read chapter 20.  I was afraid to read on when her brother Carlos was separated from the group, which scattered when a helicopter with spotlight hovered overhead.

So many of those who become separated are later found dead from dehydration or other weather elements.

Buy this book for the person who represents you in the House of Representatives and in the US Senate.

Buy it for your friends.  This is an easy way to make a difference in the big debate this month over how to handle the migrant children turning up at our borders.  Available in either Spanish or English.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Abortion: A Painful Choice

"My abortion wasn't art" is the headline of Lisa Selin Davis's essay published today in the New York Times series called Private Lives.  It's honest and beautifully written.

The graphic by Bianca Bagnarelli is as moving as the essay.

Because she had done experimental feminist video in college, Lisa set off for her abortion with a video camera, planning to record the experience. 

"I could make art out of anything," she felt.

But the grim reality of the waiting room, signing forms, unexpected emotion, and physical pain took her by surprise.  

Fifteen years later she wrote this essay, commenting "I wish someone had alerted me to the harshness of the experience...."

Like me, she is still pro-choice.  She is married with two daughters now.

"I want my daughters to have the option of safe and legal abortion," she concludes.  "I just don't want them to have to use it."  

Friday, July 4, 2014

Hard Work To Do

It's not often that I feel grateful to live in Los Angeles (I prefer Colorado), but making friends with people of many cultures and hearing their stories is one of the benefits. 

Some of my friends from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico have shared with me the reasons they fled their homes at great risk and felt blessed by God to start new lives here--some with legal papers, some without. 

If I had not lived these years in the LA area, I could be one of those people blocking buses of children and mothers who were picked up in Texas after crossing the border and now need housing while they await hearings on whether they will be deported. 

Another place where I have learned a more biblical attitude toward immigrants is this website, which is affiliated with the National Association of Evangelicals, World Vision, World Relief, and others.

When God created heaven and earth, lines between countries were not part of God's work.  

These are human lines, and most of them have been fought over with battles causing great loss of life.  The US-Mexico border is no exception.

We cannot claim God's blessing on this wall we have created, especially when it separates rich from poor, opportunity from oppression, and safety from danger.  It is our government that defines "legal" and "illegal," often causing misery, family separation, and loss of life.

Yes, we stand to lose a little of our wealth and our safety by sharing with others who flee criminal gangs, drug wars, government killing, and simple poverty.

Yet we are called to "Do unto others as we would have them do unto us" (Matthew 7:12).  

Jesus didn't say it would be easy.  His words called for radical change, both in his day and in ours.

But the choice is ours: follow Jesus... or not.

Linda Allen states the choices in her song "Hard Work To Do":

3 Supremes vs. Wheaton

I'm an evangelical.  That is, I believe that Jesus of Nazareth brought good news to the world.  I can cite Bible verses to that effect (such as Luke 3:18 and 4:18).

But today I'm ashamed to be in the same camp with the evangelicals at Wheaton College in Illinois who won a Supreme Court injunction exempting the college from providing contraceptive coverage to its employees under the Affordable Care Act.

It wasn't good enough for them that they be allowed to sign a form for health insurers stating that they won't pay for coverage.  Because that signed form permits the insurers to provide coverage on their own--no funding involved--Wheaton told the Supreme Court that just signing the form was against the college's religious beliefs.

The men on the Court bought that argument.  The three women didn't and filed a stinging dissent.

Many of my friends are Wheaton grads.  One of them, who attended her 50-year class reunion, sent me this link today and called to express her disgust and determination never to identify herself with Wheaton ever again.

Now Wheaton and its co-appealers only have to "notify the government in writing" that they have religious objections to contraception.  That note is an unsigned statement, presumably, and sent to the government, not to insurers.  

But the government will in turn notify the insurers--same difference.  Or maybe it won't tell anyone, and female employees of Wheaton will not have contraceptive coverage.

Not to mention the students.  I don't know whether the ruling affects them.

Apparently Wheaton College as an employer can't trust its employees to do the right thing.  It has to make sure they don't use the Pill, or IUDs, or the morning-after pill, or anything except maybe condoms, diaphragms, and the calender method.

Yet if a female employee gets pregnant and needs maternity leave, I wonder what Wheaton's policies are.  Will her job still be there 3-6 months later?

This refusal to trust its employees' own decisions made in prayer and reflection reveals Wheaton College as essentially a controlling father, perhaps standing in for God the Father.  Wheaton is your God; you don't need to pray and seek Jesus's guidance on your own.

Never mind God the Mother--Wheaton is probably committed to viewing the Creator as male despite much biblical evidence that "God is a Spirit, and those who worship God must worship in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24).

I can only hope and pray that Wheaton's brazen determination to bring bad news to women causes both women and men students to find other schools and redirects financial donors to other fine Christian colleges such as Gordon College in Massachusetts and George Fox University in Oregon.