Highlights of the 2014 EEWC-Christian Feminism Today conference in St. Louis -- 40th anniversary of our founding in 1974
· Tied for Most Hilarious Speaker were Susan Campbell and Letha Dawson Scanzoni. Susan regaled us with tales of her early life in small-town fundamentalism here in Missouri. (See her book Dating Jesus and her blog, HotDogma with Tom Breen). Letha described seeing the proper place of Christian women outlined in Eternity magazine in 1963 and thinking she should write a letter to the editor. The letter became too long, so she decided to write an article and then to invite a complete stranger (Nancy Hardesty) to write a book with her on women’s issues in the church. After tracing the outcome of that book (All We’re Meant To Be), The Total Woman, Fascinating Womanhood, and others, she brought down the house by holding up her 1975 centerfold in The Wittenburg Door. Both Susan and Letha conveyed depth and pathos as well as humor. Susan (quoting her brother Dan): “Fundamentalism is like a sword that broke off in us.”
· Troubadours of Divine Bliss added to the comic-tragic depiction of the good old gospel days with their Kentucky bluegrass-gospel-jazz songs introduced by personal histories with a surprise ending.
· In the Most Surprising category, there were two groups: a passel of dazzling young biblical feminists and the many other new-to-EEWC-CFT women. Out of an attendance of maybe 75 or so, about half were new and gave an exciting energy to this gathering. Marg Herder brought in many of them by making contacts at other conferences, and Letha and others had contacted and invited more first-timers.
o Deb Vaughn, who gave a workshop on grieving and healing
o Peg Conway, whose workshop was on birthing and bringing theology to that experience
o Paula Trimble-Familetti, who wrote Prostitutes, Virgins, and Mothers: Questioning Teachings about Biblical Women.
o Susan Cottrell, who wrote “Mom, I’m Gay” and introduced us to her healing ministry with LGBTQ kids and their parents (husband Robert also with us).
o Criselda Marquez, blogger and photographer.
· “The Young ‘Uns” included three student or recent-graduate speakers—Jacinda Thomas, Ashley Cason, and McKenzie Brown; our first Nancy Hardesty Memorial Scholarship recipient, Jennifer Newman; workshop leader Esther Emery, and a few others who found us by using Google and Wikipedia. Getting acquainted with them and feeling their energy for biblical feminism was a pleasure.
· Conference or just a gathering of friends? There were major invited speakers—Mary E. Hunt from WATER, Sharon Groves (former managing editor of Feminist Studies and current director of the Religion & Faith program of the Human Rights Campaign), as well as Susan Campbell, Susan Cottrell, Esther Emery… It went way beyond the level of old friends getting together.
· Kendra Weddle Irons and Melanie Springer Mock dealt shock and awe by presenting their research on oppressive teachings in fundamentalism today and the ongoing need for healing of the need to set up binary oppositions based on fear. PowerPoint, photos—very powerful presentation and a book in progress.
· Christ-Sophia on everyone’s lips, shouts of “Ashay!”—how can I convey the powerful inclusive language we experienced together? Jan Clark and Janice Pope led us through the hymns of Jann Aldredge-Clanton both in a workshop and in plenary singing. Footnote: A-men became A-She in 2012, and this year (thanks to Leslie Harrison) it further changed to A-shay, a word that expresses “Right on!” or strong affirmation in Yoruba:
· Lots of shouting and laughter came out of Reta Halteman Finger’s workshop on violence against women in the Bible. I can’t explain that—I was in the next room listening to Susan Cottrell on affirming and non-affirming churches.
· Yoga first thing in the morning instead of some more-traditional devotions? EEWC-CFT goes where evangelicals fear to tread, led by Lisa DeWeese.
· Imminent financial collapse reared its ugly head (as so often in the past) during the treasurer’s report at the business meeting. EEWC-CFT did not have enough income to match expenses in 2013, and we are several thousand in the hole at this point In 2014. Donate now and try to make a monthly pledge.
· As I write, the Council is meeting to address these budget problems and to plan for the future. As our group ages, many of us have less income and are not as able to give as in the past. Membership remains at around 170 with an interesting twist: we lost about 35 members who did not renew this year (perhaps some were gift memberships?), but we gained 35 new members through outreach efforts.
· Are chapters and annual memberships out of date in the internet age? How can we fund our important work of educating and community-building? Blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking, Instagraming, and other day-to-day forms of communication are gaining in importance, at least for the younger generation (web natives).
· Along with celebrating the last 40 years, there was frequent talk of “the next 40.” The need to reach isolated, oppressed women is still there. Make sure you stay in touch and make plans now to be at our next gathering in two years, wherever that may be.
· Stay in touch via the website and many blogs. Many of the speakers and workshop leaders keep blogs or have articles on the EEWC-CFT website, www.eewc.com
· Thanks to Marg Herder and the others who made this conference possible. They pulled it off with only a year in which to plan (after the group got cold feet about plans to meet in Tucson AZ). The heartland, Mississippi location made it possible for many to travel without too much expense and effort (except for the ten West Coast folk who managed to be there). It was also nice to have Karen Hostetter with us from Pueblo CO and Esther Emery from Idaho.