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Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 21.2 (2005) 130-133

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The Secret of JFSR

The "Teaching for Change" conference was an outstanding event, one of the most interesting conferences I have ever attended, and—as many of the women attending put it—a historical moment. Superbly moderated by Mary Hunt and made inspiring by a variety of experts from all continents with very different contributions, these days obtained a special meaning in my life. What was the secret behind this conference?

Consciousness-raising, theoretical reflections, and application of theory to practice were cleverly linked with one another. This was a feminist meeting [End Page 130] similar to those held in the beginnings of the feminist movement, when we exchanged our individual experiences in order to achieve a theory that was relevant for practice. Conference participants did not deny that there have been differences in the past decades, but they handled matters constructively by pointing out uniting factors, searching for common strategies, and teaching concepts to overcome the difficulties. This conference affirmed and encouraged my feeling that what I do for feminist theology at my university in Germany belongs to a greater context and contributes to a changing and more just world.

Indeed, the journal's importance for me manifested itself in the "Teaching for Change" conference. Like the conference, the journal is a successful combination of feminist theory and practical reflection. I remember its first appearance, in 1985, while I was visiting Union Theological Seminary. I was delighted to discover a journal that finally paid attention to feminist concerns.

From the beginning, the journal displayed great breadth by calling itself feminist and characterizing itself as focused on religious studies. Thus, the journal combines currents that can be found in two journals in the German-speaking context. A feminist religious orientation is mainly found in the quarterly Schlangenbrut, first published in 1983. Theological and religious studies by women can be found in the annual Yearbook of the European Society of Women in Theological Research Jahrbuch der Europäischen Gesellschaft für theologische Forschung von Frauen Annuaire de l'Association Européenne des femmes pour la recherche théologique, which first appeared in 1993.

I greatly appreciate that the editors of JFSR have been concerned with keeping the interests of "barefoot theologians," as we call them in Germany, and of scholarly research together in one journal. This pairing keeps the ideas of those working on the ground connected with more theoretical concerns and keeps the theories of scholars rooted in experience and practical concerns. Is this pairing part of an Anglo-Saxon tradition that tries to remain within the feminist idea that the personal is political? Or is it easier for feminist theologians in the United States to keep these interests connected despite the differences between theory and practice?

From the very beginning, the journal has reflected a wide variety of experiences and contexts, including voices of Euro-American, African American, Asian American, Latina, and Native American backgrounds as well as writings from women in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa. At the same time, the writings reflect women with lesbian, heterosexual, or bisexual orientation, as well as texts from women of different religious backgrounds. This shows the variety of experiences of women in both American and non-American societies.

Since receiving a strong feminist conviction at Union Theological Seminary, in 1981–82, from teachers such as Beverly Harrison, Katie Cannon, and Dorothee Sölle, and from Joan Kelly at the City University of New York, I have [End Page 131] regarded the recognition and discussion of equality and difference between women of different backgrounds of race, class, religion, culture, and/or sexual orientation as important. Living and working in Germany, where the discussion of feminist religious concerns has just been beginning, I have found the journal to be a helpful way to stay in touch with the discussions in the United States—especially with the always fresh and inspiring scholarly research that has ranged from discussions of the Iraq War to same-sex marriages.

Of course, our situation in Europe...


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