The Feminist Liberation Theologians’ Network (FLTN) gathers at the American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meetings to discuss topics of common interest. Founded in 1995 and sponsored by the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER), the group has met at least annually since then. In recent years, the group has deconstructed its own title, taking on in turn, “feminist,” “liberation,” and “theology,” to understand how the concepts have changed and what new content might inform their use.
At the 2012 meeting in Chicago, Illinois, more than fifty colleagues from a dozen countries gathered under the leadership of Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza and myself to look critically at how members live out their feminist liberation theological commitments in their daily lives. Before small-group discussion and a lively plenary session, four colleagues provided personal examples, which are captured in this Living It Out section:
Rebecca Alpert, Professor of Religion at Temple University, offers a thoughtful assessment of Jewish feminist justice work, discussing her responsibility as a rabbi to foster public discourse about the deeply fraught situation in Israel/Palestine and the embrace of nonviolent efforts to overcome the seemingly intractable struggles.
Rita Nakashima Brock, codirector of the Soul Repair Center at Brite Divinity School, describes her involvement in the Occupy Wall Street Movement, especially its work to Occupy/Decolonize Oakland, California. As a minister, Rita joined other people of faith in nonviolent witness that resulted in their arrests. She was part of the strong presence of women of color in Oakland who insisted on economic justice for workers.
Peggy Schmeiser, director of Government Relations at the University of Saskatchewan, is a religious scholar who brings her feminist liberation commitments to government service, engaging in both scholarly work and administration. Informed by the work of feminist writer Alison Stuart regarding how [End Page 163] women’s lack of religious freedom plays out in larger social and legal settings, she encourages people “to investigate the perceived sacredness and irrefutability of religious belief and practice, particularly when they give rise to or implicitly support the potential violation of recognized human rights” (173).
Zilka Spahić-Šiljak, research associate at Harvard Divinity School for 2012–13, is a professor at the University of Sarajevo, where she specializes in religion, human rights, and peace building. Her essay offers the little-known history of feminist liberation theology there as it emerged from war and struggle in the former Yugoslavia, a response to the need for “religious answers and comfort for the shame and guilt female survivors of sexual trauma felt” (184). She reports that the scholarly apparatus of feminist work in religion and the writings of many well-known colleagues came into play as useful resources for making sense of women’s lives. It is a “grassroots approach” in doing and practicing feminist theology and then learning how to name it.
The academic and practical work of feminist scholars provide indispensable tools in responding to people’s immediate needs, especially those of women and children. While the diverse presentations and discussion printed here illuminate many overlapping themes, including the importance of focus on the arts and ritual as feminist liberation resources, all focus on using feminist theological resources for concrete social change aimed at human rights and peace. Making connections to larger social and political movements is important to the success of feminist liberation theology, with cross-generational sharing key to keeping this work going and growing. JFSR readers are welcome at future FLTN meetings.
Mary E. Hunt is a Catholic feminist theologian. She is co-founder and co-director of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER) in Silver Spring, Maryland, where she writes, organizes, and teaches. She is coeditor, with Diann L. Neu, of New Feminist Christianity: Many Voices, Many Views. And she blogs regularly for the FIR blog: http://www.fsrinc.org/blog. [firstname.lastname@example.org]