Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Rise of Radical Feminism in Mainline Churches: A History #2

In the early movement [of feminism] the cultural feminists were philosophically essentialist, that is, gender was an essential part of who they were as humans. Indeed, the foundation of their feminism was women’s nature. Such a concept was in contrast to enlightenment feminists, such as Susan B. Anthony, whose good foundation was human dignity.

Many of the cultural feminists became very religious, but their religious views were alternatives to Christianity. While some Christian women seeking some of the same rights as the cultural feminists, also shared one of their foundational concepts, that is, women’s nature is different from men’s nature, their biblical understanding prevented them from coming to the same kinds of conclusions held by the cultural feminists.

Because their foundation was the authority of Scripture and the Lordship of Jesus Christ their activism was not centered in women’s experience but in what they believed was God given revelation. For instance, Katherine Bushnell, in her book, God’s Word to Women, wrote of her claim that women were called by God for ministry, “Our argument assumes that the Bible is all that it claims for itself. It is (1) Inspired, 2 Tim. 3:16; (2) Infallible, Isa. 40:8, and (3) Inviolable, John 10:35.”3 Unlike cultural feminists they sought to glorify God rather than empower the self. This divide has moved into the post-modern mainline church organizations.

Contemporary feminism began with the same kind of distinctions as early feminism, with, of course, very modern ideas, but still with a growing divide between cultural feminism and Christianity. The cultural feminists can now be called, in many cases, radical feminists. At the same time, today, in many of the mainline churches the women’s organizations are filled, at the governing level, by those who in the past were seen as cultural feminists. Their religious views are now referred to as Christian feminism but it is not the same kind of Christianity that those early women seeking the right to preach held.

Early nineteenth century Christian women seeking the right to minister the word and sacraments to others held views similar to twenty-first century Reform or Evangelical women today. Among other rights they desired to teach and preach. Yet, none of their views about equality changed their views about the essentials of Christianity. For nineteenth century women in ministry, such as Louisa Woosley or Catherine Booth, the deity of Christ, the Trinity, understood as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the atonement were foundational beliefs. And they based their views on what they considered to be the authority of Scripture.

Today the divide among women in mainline churches is so great those who are in leadership and who are mainly related to early cultural feminists are in the process of destroying the traditions of faith that has existed among Christian women for two-thousand years. Women who hold to the essential tenets of the faith are ignored, unwelcome, unheralded and even maligned by cultural or radical feminists in their own churches. Often progressive writers and editors rather than write or publish articles about the good news of Jesus Christ write and publish only about the women who so hungered to proclaim the good news that they fought for that right.

How did cultural feminism come to be called Christian feminism and why does its theology and ritual so often integrate pagan motifs, words, ideas and ritual? Why are most mainline women leaders and theologians so bent on disregarding the essentials of the faith? To understand this it is necessary to go back to the history of early cultural feminism. It is also necessary to look at the women’s spirituality movement in the United States during the midpoint and latter half of the twentieth century and how that movement affected not only the Wiccan groups coming to the United States from Brittan but also women’s organizations in the mainline churches.

I will in the next section focus on early cultural feminist’s concepts and phobias and how they relate to those who are in leadership in the Church today.

3 Katherine C. Bushnell, God’s Word to Women: One Hundred Bible Studies on Woman’s Place in the Divine Economy, reprint of 1921 edition, (pub. unknown) Lesson 1.

Foot notes begin numbering from the prior posting.


Sherry L. Kirton said...

Thanks. This is helping me to understand. Now I'd like to quote M. Estabrook, "Dead men have no rights.". As in, "I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me." I do as YHWH commands. If I never receive ordination through man, I am content for I have it through Him.
Can't wait for your next post.

Viola Larson said...

Hi Sherry,
You do have leadership, and you could be ordained as an elder or deacon. Is that a possiblity that you have thought about? Or are you already?

The next posting well be very interesting-well at least to me it well be: )

Sherry L. Kirton said...

While I have never been nominated for either, I have worked on nominating committees, and have had my hands full as lay-youth minister, Growth Hour Teacher, webservant, worship team member, and Children's Church and mid-week services worship leader. I love where I have been called and serve, "to do the will of my Father is my food." with the way things are going I do not see ordination in the pastoral sense as ever coming in the PC-USA for me.

I've served in American Baptist Churches of the West, (was a member after marrying Keith and the assist. youth minister there) assisted an AOG startup where Keith was the Assoc. Pastor (before our wedding) and the asst. Youth minister and "Minister of Media and the Arts" at a non-denominational church that came out of the ABCW church in Pinole/El Sobrante.

My para-church ministry is well but mostly online for now as Peace Pres. keeps me hopping. But I will travel to help teach Christian organizations how to use art effectively in outreach in the free workshop: Artistic Outreach Weekend Workshop.

Not sure I'd have time to serve as an Elder nor Deacon without putting away what God has placed in my hands. ;B

It's just that the actual polity testing requirements, and the now lack of Biblical faithfulness seem to be setting up a wall for me that I have no desire to pull down.

Viola Larson said...

Sherry, you do more than enough for the Church. You are a very faithful servant.