Thursday, January 2, 2014

the grand experiment of making feminist Christian church: the background

I'm going to start way back.  Way back like thousands of years way back and I'm going to start this look at 'the grand experiment' by talking about how theology expands and changes. Not just mine. Or yours. But Christian theology all together. (as well as the theologies of other traditions I would imagine but that doesn't add to this train of thought.)

2014 years of Christian theology did not spring into being ex nihilo  (out of nothing). It is build on thousands of years of Jewish theology and carries into it many assumptions and understandings from the Jewish perspective, which also is fluid and developed and develops over time. As the church expanded, growing up in different cultures with different understandings of the world and different ways of  thinking and talking about Godde, the conversation changed. Because Christians sought to convert others Christianity they had to be in dialogue with other theological and philosophical concepts - most notably Greek thought. 

Theology evolves.  (yes I am giving a very brief lecture here) It is not static.  A perspective might be ascendant because of cultural or political realities prompting theologians to ask different questions and challenge heretofore unchallenged assumptions.  Most often concepts or definitions once considered sacred cows are refined or even discarded.  All of that is to say that theological conversations happen over great periods of time, are informed by politics, science, history and social movements, and are always in process.

So what has all that got to do with the 'grand experiment of making feminist Christian church'? I think it is because I have always seen us as being in dialogue with the the theology conversations throughout history.  Liberation, feminist, black, progressive and process theologies are in conversation with post World War II western theologies who are in turn in conversation with the Enlightenment thought and so on and so forth ad infinitum.

The assumptions of contemporary Western theologians (Barth, Tillich, Niebuhr) and the older but still important voices in Christian conversations (Augustine and Thomas Aquinas)  are limited by their cultural biases. Objective universal reality was assumed to be first world, white and male. This is one of the  first premises newer theologies challenge. 

The universal human experience is not first world. It is not white. And it is not male.
This is where Circle of Grace enters contemporary theological conversation. We did not come into being believing passionately that we have all the answers and that our answers are all 'right'.  We came into being as a way of challenging long-held beliefs by the Church universal.  

This is where we began. Challenging the assumptions that Godde is male only. That women have perspectives of faith and spiritual experience that are important contributions to theological understandings. That people of color have important contributions to make to theological understandings. And people with disabilites. And poor people. And oppressed people. And people with different gender identifications. And queer people. And old people. And children.

We began with knowing that none of us has all the answers and each of us brings wisdom  from experiences we do not and cannot share.

This is where we began. How we tried to make church differently.  To listen differently. To exist differently. The grand experiment of making Christian feminist church began and continues in conversation with the church universal, the church historical and the church expressed in multiple denominations.

What were we thinking? 

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