Christian feminism
Christian feminism is an aspect of feminist theology
Feminist theology
Feminist theology is a movement found in several religions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, and New Thought, to reconsider the traditions, practices, scriptures, and theologies of those religions from a feminist perspective...

 which seeks to advance and understand the equality of men and women morally, socially, spiritually, and in leadership from a Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 perspective. Christian feminists argue that contributions by women in that direction are necessary for a complete understanding of Christianity. Christian feminists believe that God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 does not discriminate on the basis of biologically-determined characteristics such as sex and race. Their major issues include the ordination of women
Ordination of women
Ordination in general religious usage is the process by which a person is consecrated . The ordination of women is a regular practice among some major religious groups, as it was of several religions of antiquity...

, male dominance in Christian marriage
Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found...

, recognition of equal spiritual and moral abilities, reproductive rights, and the search for a feminine or gender-transcendent divine. Christian feminists often draw on the teachings of other religions and ideologies in addition to biblical evidence.

The term Christian egalitarianism
Christian Egalitarianism
Christian Egalitarianism , also known as biblical equality, is a Christian form of the moral doctrine of Egalitarianism. It holds that all human persons are created equally in God's sight—equal in fundamental worth and moral status...

 is often preferred by those advocating gender equality and equity among Christians who do not wish to associate themselves with the feminist movement.


Some Christian feminists believe that the principle of egalitarianism was present in the teachings of Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 and the early Christian movements, but this is a highly contested view. These interpretations of Christian origins have been criticized for "anachronistically projecting contemporary ideals back into the first century." In the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 Julian of Norwich
Julian of Norwich
Julian of Norwich is regarded as one of the most important English mystics. She is venerated in the Anglican and Lutheran churches, but has never been canonized, or officially beatified, by the Catholic Church, probably because so little is known of her life aside from her writings, including the...

 and Hildegard of Bingen
Hildegard of Bingen
Blessed Hildegard of Bingen , also known as Saint Hildegard, and Sibyl of the Rhine, was a German writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, Benedictine abbess, visionary, and polymath. Elected a magistra by her fellow nuns in 1136, she founded the monasteries of Rupertsberg in 1150 and...

 explored the idea of a divine power with both masculine and feminine aspects. Feminist works from the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries addressed objections to women learning, teaching and preaching in a religious context. One such proto-feminist was Anne Hutchinson
Anne Hutchinson
Anne Hutchinson was one of the most prominent women in colonial America, noted for her strong religious convictions, and for her stand against the staunch religious orthodoxy of 17th century Massachusetts...

 who was cast out of the Puritan
The Puritans were a significant grouping of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England...

 colony of Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

 for teaching on the dignity and rights of women.

The first wave
First-wave feminism
First-wave feminism refers to a period of feminist activity during the 19th and early twentieth century in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. It focused on de jure inequalities, primarily on gaining women's suffrage .The term first-wave was coined retroactively in the 1970s...

 of feminism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries included an increased interest in the place of women in religion. Women who were campaigning for their rights began to question their inferiority both within the church and in other spheres justified by church teachings. Some Christian feminists of this time period were Katharine Bushnell
Katharine Bushnell
Katharine Bushnell was a Christian writer, physician, medical missionary to China, and Bible scholar skilled in both Hebrew and Greek, and social activist. Of particular interest to her was the status of women in the Bible, believing it had been mistranslated and misinterpreted...

, Catherine Booth
Catherine Booth
Catherine Booth was the wife of the founder of The Salvation Army, William Booth. Because of her influence in the formation of The Salvation Army she was known as the 'Army Mother'....

, Frances Willard
Frances Willard (suffragist)
Frances Elizabeth Caroline Willard was an American educator, temperance reformer, and women's suffragist. Her influence was instrumental in the passage of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution...

, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was an American social activist, abolitionist, and leading figure of the early woman's movement...


Women in church leadership

In both mainline and liberal branches of Protestant Christianity
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

, women are ordained as clergy
Clergy is the generic term used to describe the formal religious leadership within a given religion. A clergyman, churchman or cleric is a member of the clergy, especially one who is a priest, preacher, pastor, or other religious professional....

. Even some theologically conservative denominations, such as Assemblies of God
Assemblies of God
The Assemblies of God , officially the World Assemblies of God Fellowship, is a group of over 140 autonomous but loosely-associated national groupings of churches which together form the world's largest Pentecostal denomination...

, ordain women as pastors. However, the Roman Catholic
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 church, the Southern Baptist Convention
Southern Baptist Convention
The Southern Baptist Convention is a United States-based Christian denomination. It is the world's largest Baptist denomination and the largest Protestant body in the United States, with over 16 million members...

 (the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.), The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and most churches in the American Evangelical
Evangelicalism is a Protestant Christian movement which began in Great Britain in the 1730s and gained popularity in the United States during the series of Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th century.Its key commitments are:...

 movement prohibit women from entering clerical positions. Some Christian feminists believe that as women have greater opportunity to receive theological training, they will have greater influence on how scriptures are interpreted by those that deny women the right to become ministers.

The argument against the ordination of women is based partly on specific interpretations of New Testament letters attributed to the Apostle Paul
Paul of Tarsus
Paul the Apostle , also known as Saul of Tarsus, is described in the Christian New Testament as one of the most influential early Christian missionaries, with the writings ascribed to him by the church forming a considerable portion of the New Testament...

. Specifically, he writes that women should be silent in church and obedient to men: "...if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in church"' and "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence". This passage is the subject of a scholarly book by Richard and Catherine Kroeger entitled I Suffer Not a Woman: Rethinking 1 Timothy 2:11-15. See article 1 Timothy 2:12.

Women as spiritually deficient

Understanding whether women are spiritually deficient to men partly hinges on whether women are equipped spiritually with discernment to teach. The following passages also relate to whether women are inherently spiritually discerning as men:
. "There is neither…male nor female for all are one in Christ Jesus."
  • Deborah of the Old Testament
    Old Testament
    The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

     was a prophetess and "judge of Israel". The word translated "help" or "helper" is the same Hebrew word, "ēzer," which the Old Testament uses more than 17 times to describe the kind of help that God brings to His people in times of need; e.g., "Thou art my help (ēzer} and my deliverer," and "My help (ēzer) comes from the Lord." Never once in all these references is the word used to indicate subordination or servitude to another human being.. "To the woman he (God) said, 'I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.

Reproduction, sexuality and religion

Conservative religious groups are often at philosophical odds with many feminist and liberal religious groups over abortion
Abortion is defined as the termination of pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus or embryo prior to viability. An abortion can occur spontaneously, in which case it is usually called a miscarriage, or it can be purposely induced...

 and the use of birth control
Birth control
Birth control is an umbrella term for several techniques and methods used to prevent fertilization or to interrupt pregnancy at various stages. Birth control techniques and methods include contraception , contragestion and abortion...

. Scholars like sociologist Flann Campbell have argued that conservative religious denominations tend to restrict male
Male refers to the biological sex of an organism, or part of an organism, which produces small mobile gametes, called spermatozoa. Each spermatozoon can fuse with a larger female gamete or ovum, in the process of fertilization...

 and female
Female is the sex of an organism, or a part of an organism, which produces non-mobile ova .- Defining characteristics :The ova are defined as the larger gametes in a heterogamous reproduction system, while the smaller, usually motile gamete, the spermatozoon, is produced by the male...

 sexuality by prohibiting or limiting birth control use, and condemning abortion as sin
In religion, sin is the violation or deviation of an eternal divine law or standard. The term sin may also refer to the state of having committed such a violation. Christians believe the moral code of conduct is decreed by God In religion, sin (also called peccancy) is the violation or deviation...

ful murder
Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

. Some Christian feminists contend that a woman's "right to control her pregnancy
Pregnancy refers to the fertilization and development of one or more offspring, known as a fetus or embryo, in a woman's uterus. In a pregnancy, there can be multiple gestations, as in the case of twins or triplets...

 is bounded by considerations of her own well-being" and that restricted access to birth control and abortion disrespect her God-given free will
Choice consists of the mental process of judging the merits of multiple options and selecting one of them. While a choice can be made between imagined options , often a choice is made between real options, and followed by the corresponding action...


A number of socially progressive
Christian left
The Christian left is a term originating in the United States, used to describe a spectrum of left-wing Christian political and social movements which largely embraces social justice....

 mainline Protestant denominations as well as certain Jewish organizations and the group Catholics for a Free Choice have formed the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice was founded in 1973 by clergy and lay leaders from mainline denominations and faith traditions to provide interfaith support for the new constitutional right to privacy in decisions about abortion...

. The RCRC often works as a liberal feminist organization and in conjunction with other American feminist groups to oppose conservative religious denominations which, from their perspective, seek to suppress the natural reproductive rights of women.

Feminine or Gender-transcendent God

Christian feminists believe that gender equality within the church cannot be achieved without rethinking the portrayal and understanding of God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 as a masculine
Masculinity is possessing qualities or characteristics considered typical of or appropriate to a man. The term can be used to describe any human, animal or object that has the quality of being masculine...

 being. The theological concept of Sophia, usually seen as replacing the Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...

 in the Trinity
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity defines God as three divine persons : the Father, the Son , and the Holy Spirit. The three persons are distinct yet coexist in unity, and are co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial . Put another way, the three persons of the Trinity are of one being...

, is often used to fulfill this desire for symbols which reflect women's religious experiences. How Sophia is configured is not static, but usually filled with emotions and individual expression. For some Christian feminists, the Sophia concept is found in a search for women who reflect contemporary feminist ideals in both the Old and New Testament. Some figures co-opted for this purpose include the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene was one of Jesus' most celebrated disciples, and the most important woman disciple in the movement of Jesus. Jesus cleansed her of "seven demons", conventionally interpreted as referring to complex illnesses...

, Eve
Eve (Bible)
Eve was, according to the creation of Abrahamic religions, the first woman created by God...

, and Esther
Esther , born Hadassah, is the eponymous heroine of the Biblical Book of Esther.According to the Bible, she was a Jewish queen of the Persian king Ahasuerus...

. Others see God as entirely gender-transcendent or focus on the feminine aspects of God and Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

See also

  • Christian egalitarianism
    Christian Egalitarianism
    Christian Egalitarianism , also known as biblical equality, is a Christian form of the moral doctrine of Egalitarianism. It holds that all human persons are created equally in God's sight—equal in fundamental worth and moral status...

  • Christian views about women
    Christian views about women
    Gender roles in Christianity vary considerably today as they have during the last two millennia. This is especially true with regards to marriage and ministry.Christianity traditionally has given men the position of authority in marriage, society and government...

  • Christian views of marriage
    Christian views of marriage
    Christian views on marriage typically regard it as instituted and ordained by God for the lifelong relationship between one man as husband and one woman as wife, and is to be "held in honour among all...."...

  • Evangelical and Ecumenical Women's Caucus
    Evangelical and Ecumenical Women's Caucus
    The Evangelical and Ecumenical Women’s Caucus is a group of Christian feminists organized in 1973. It was originally named the "Evangelical Women's Caucus" because it began as a caucus within Evangelicals for Social Action, which had issued the "Chicago Declaration." Its mission is to "support,...

  • Complementarian
    Complementarianism is a theological view held by some in Christianity and other world religions, such as Islam, that men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage, family life, religious leadership, and elsewhere. The word ‘'complementary’' and its cognates...

  • Christianity and abortion
    Christianity and abortion
    The intersection of Christianity and abortion has a long and complex history though there is no mention of abortion in the Christian Bible. While some writers say that early Christians held different beliefs at different times about abortion, others say that, in spite of the silence of the New...

  • HerChurch
    Herchurch is another name used for the Ebenezer Lutheran Church in San Francisco. Ebenezer herchurch is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America , the Evangelical and Ecumenical Women's Caucus and the San Francisco Council of Lutheran Churches.Stacy Boorn, the minister for herchurch,...

Further reading

  • Rosemary Radford Ruether
    Rosemary Radford Ruether
    Rosemary Radford Ruether is an American feminist scholar and theologian.-Biography:Ruether was born in 1936 in Georgetown, Texas, to a Roman Catholic mother and Episcopal father. She has reportedly described her upbringing as free-thinking and humanistic as opposed to oppressive...

    , Feminist Theologies: Legacy and Prospect (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2007)
  • Patricia M. Berliner, Ph.D., Touching Your Lifethread and Revaluing the Feminine Cloverdale Books (2007) ISBN 978-1-929569-20-5
  • Mimi Haddad, Ph.D., "Egalitarian Pioneers: Betty Friedan or Catherine Booth?" Priscilla Papers, Vol. 20, No. 4 (Autumn 2006)
  • Eryl W. Davies, The Dissenting Reader: Feminist Approaches to the Hebrew Bible (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2003)
  • Pamela Sue Anderson
    Pamela Sue Anderson
    Pamela Sue Anderson is a philosopher who specialises in philosophy of religion, feminist philosophy and continental philosophy. In 2007 she was Official Fellow, Tutor in Philosophy and Christian Ethics, Dean, and Women's Advisor of Regent's Park College in the University of Oxford...

    , A feminist philosophy of religion: the rationality and myths of religious belief (Oxford; Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 1998)
  • Pamela Sue Anderson
    Pamela Sue Anderson
    Pamela Sue Anderson is a philosopher who specialises in philosophy of religion, feminist philosophy and continental philosophy. In 2007 she was Official Fellow, Tutor in Philosophy and Christian Ethics, Dean, and Women's Advisor of Regent's Park College in the University of Oxford...

     and Beverley Clack, eds., Feminist philosophy of religion: critical readings (London: Routledge, 2004)
  • Letty M. Russell, Church in the Round (Westminster John Knox Press, 1993)
  • John Temple Bristow, What Paul Really Said About Women: An Apostle's Liberating Views on Equality in Marriage, Leadership and Love (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988)
  • Patricia Wilson-Kastner, Faith, Feminism, and the Christ (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983).

Journals =

External links

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