- Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza and Feminist The*logies/Studies in Religion
In her introduction to a special issue of the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion that celebrated the seventieth birthday of Mercy Amba Oduyoye, Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza affirms the importance of celebrating birthdays of leading feminists "not just as personal high points but as milestones of the feminist movement in religion, of which they are a part." Such celebrations, as Elisabeth put it, enable all of us, especially future generations of feminists, to "learn from their thought and struggle."1 By celebrating Elisabeth's seventieth birthday with the publication of this special issue, we also want to affirm and acknowledge one of the milestones of the feminist movement in religion that Elisabeth as a critical feminist theologian of liberation has accomplished, of which all the contributors of this volume are part. As she hoped for Oduyoye, so do we, former students of Elisabeth, also hope that Elisabeth will accept this small token of our gratitude and respect for her critical feminist theology of liberation work that is radical, challenging, and inspiring, and for her unwavering support and mentorship.2
This special issue of JFSR highlights Elisabeth's contributions to feminist studies in religion through various critical and constructive engagements with [End Page 1] her work. Elisabeth's groundbreaking contributions to the fields of Christian Testament and early Christian studies have been rightly appreciated, celebrated, honored, and engaged by a variety of scholars over the past three decades.3 However, even those familiar with her work in these areas are often unaware of her contributions to feminist studies in religion beyond these areas. With a few notable exceptions,4 feminist scholar-teachers and activists have not fully acknowledged or critically engaged Elisabeth's contributions to feminist studies in religion, in general, and feminist liberation theology, in particular, in spite of the scope and depth of her work that covers a full range of topics in feminist studies in religion.
In her numerous books, published articles, and presentations, Elisabeth has written not only on feminist biblical hermeneutics and feminist New Testament scholarship, but also on theology, feminist theory, hermeneutical theory, critical theory, ekklesia of wo/men as a radical democratic space, Christology, sophialogy, kyriarchy, inclusive G*d talk, interlocked structures of oppression, violence against wo/men, spirituality, American nationalism, theological education, pedagogy, ecclesiastical hierarchy and the malestream academy, and solidarity with wo/men in/from the global South.5 To offer an introduction to this issue that engages all of Elisabeth's four decades of work is a daunting task. Yet, it is our hope that this issue serves not only as a critical engagement with Elisabeth's work but also as due anticipation of more work that will follow her unwavering and passionate commitments to justice and liberation for all wo/ men with an inclusive vision of radical democracy. As many of us in the field of feminist studies in religion work for a better world through our critical feminist scholarship, teaching, and activism, we hope, as does Elisabeth, that we do not have to fight the same battles over and over again. Therefore, this special issue is significant as it highlights how contributors have drawn from, built on, continued, and expanded her work rather than trying to "reinvent the wheel" in feminist studies in religion.
Our collective endeavor to engage Elisabeth's work critically and constructively [End Page 2] seems especially crucial at this historical juncture. In 2008, we witnessed astounding collective power that seeks to change the way things currently are both in the U.S. domestic scene and the global context where wo/men daily experience devastation, destruction, lack of access to health care and education, and most of all, despair for a better world due to ongoing wars and poverty. Facing various challenges, feminist scholar-teachers and activists in the field of religion have struggled in multiple ways without losing a vision for creating radical democratic spaces where radical equality is realized. On the one hand, feminist scholar-teachers and activists have had to (and still do) wrestle on all fronts members of the Religious Right who have...