Ecclesia Reconsidered: Two Premodern Encounters with the Feminine Church
Abstract

Abstract:

This article turns to the vast and versatile premodern tradition of assigning femininity to the church in order to unsettle modern and patriarchal constructions of Ecclesia as "Mother Church" or "Bride of Christ." Through an analysis of the second-century text The Shepherd of Hermas and Catherine of Siena's fourteenth-century Dialogue, this examination of Ecclesia—the feminine figure of the church—first identifies the strategies for feminizing the church practiced by premodern ecclesiastical reformers. Walsh then argues that a historical understanding of Ecclesia can strengthen broader feminist critiques and insights about ecclesiastical governance and gendering the divine by giving them a potent symbolic form. While avoiding a reinscription of gender as a primary or universal site of difference, this article reclaims Ecclesia as a powerful symbol and an ally of such feminist theological concerns as economic justice and resistance to patriarchal models of teaching authority and sacramental leadership.


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