Lutheran Feminist Theologies a Topic Between Church, Academy

2/4/2009 12:00:00 AM

     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Lutheran feminist theologians have been
writing and working in Lutheran and non-Lutheran institutions
for a long time, according to Dr. Mary Streufert.  But feminist
theology is not a conversation topic that happens often between
church and academy despite decades of formal and informal work
in the field, she said.
     Streufert serves as director of the Justice for Women
program, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Church
in Society.  Justice for women is a strategic priority for the
denomination, and its purpose is to eradicate sexism in the
church and promote gender justice in society.
     Conversation about feminist theology "happens in some
seminaries, and it happens in some ELCA colleges and
universities.  Open dialogue between church and academy on
feminist theologies is pretty radical," Streufert said, adding
that there are a number of ELCA clergy and leaders who identify
as feminists.
     For the first time in its 21-year history, the ELCA hosted
a forum to explore Lutheran theology from the perspectives of
Asian, black, Latina and white women.  About 160 women and men
pastors, college and seminary students, professors, lay people
and others attended "Transformative Lutheran Theologies
Conference: Feminist, Womanist and Mujerista Perspectives" here
Jan. 23-25.
     "Women from different cultural and ethnic contexts breathe
new insight into Lutheran theology today," said Streufert.  The
conference was dedicated to presenting, discussing and
developing feminist, womanist and mujerista perspectives in
contemporary North American Lutheran thought, she said. A series
of papers was presented on four theological topics: ethics,
theological anthropology, Christology and theology of the
     "We've acknowledged that, from a feminist, womanist or
mujerista perspective, there are serious questions to wrestle
with in the theological tradition, whether Lutheran or, more
broadly, Christian," Streufert said.  "What might women
theologians contribute constructively about that for the sake
of the church?  What is life-giving from these perspectives
that can help transform the world for the sake of the gospel?"
     "This is the kind of event that I have been dying to do
in Canada," said Catherine Pate, program editor, Evangelical
Lutheran Women, Winnipeg, Manitoba. "To be a church on the
side of justice, then the church must name and unmask the
truth about its own culpability in oppression."
     The Rev. Elizabeth A. Musselman, associate pastor for
campus ministry, Augustana Lutheran Church of Hyde Park,
Chicago, said the talks inspired her.
     "I would talk to my college students about some of the
very concrete things we learned about white privilege and
economic injustice," Musselman said.
     Tim Feiertag, a student at Pacific Lutheran Theological
Seminary (PLTS), Berkeley, Calif., called the conference a
"powerful experience.  There was a sense of community among
people who are working to connect the reality of their lives
with our faith tradition.  I'm excited for the dialogue to
continue, especially among our congregations, as we continue
to grow in our understanding of who God is and who we are."
PLTS is one of eight ELCA seminaries.
     The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, said the
conference occurs "at a crossroad" in the church.  "We can
retreat in fear and isolation to the church we once were, or
we can move boldly to the church God wants us to become," he
     Hanson invited participants to think of the event not
only as an opportunity for inspiration, but to think
strategically how the church can "confront the scandalous
realities" of sexism, racism and other systems of oppression,
and live out its commitment to becoming an anti-racist,
anti-sexist church.
     The ELCA Churchwide Assembly -- the church's largest
legislative body -- will consider calling for a social
statement on justice for women Aug. 17-23 in Minneapolis.
Social statements provide theological and ethical frameworks
for discussion, discernment and decision-making, set policy
for the church, and guide the church's advocacy and work in
church and society.
- - -
     Information about the ELCA Justice for Women program
is at on the ELCA
Web site.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or
ELCA News Blog:


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