We’re privileged to have published a wide range of women from different walks of life across many disciplines. We highlight their work throughout the year, but we celebrate them with a little more fanfare with a selection of recent works this month.
Teri McDowell Ott
Good people of privilege are increasingly aware of racial injustice but unsure what to do about it and afraid to venture into challenging dialogues and spaces. Necessary Risks: Challenges Privileged People Need to Take encourages readers to value risk-taking as the path toward a more equitable and just world.
Building on skillful, memoir-like stories, Teri McDowell Ott explores ten risks—including learning, teaching, leading, following, going, and staying—with which she has wrestled in her work with diverse populations as the chaplain of a liberal arts college and as a volunteer in a men's state prison.
Ott then reflects on how these experiences, including mistakes in often tense settings, have forced her to confront and wrestle with the systems and structures that have privileged her as a white Christian woman. With humility, she relates how risk-taking has led to profound changes in herself and her community.
These necessary risks are also informed by Ott's study of authors, theologians, and scholars of color, such as Martin Luther King Jr., James Baldwin, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Gloria Anzaldúa, Ada María Isasi-Díaz, and Eddie Glaude Jr.
Demonstrating that in the face of injustice, white silence and inaction are not neutral, Necessary Risks leads readers to feel less fearful and more capable in diverse settings and ultimately to contribute to personal and communal learning and growth, change and transformation.
Grace Ji-Sun Kim
Invisibility persists throughout the Asian American story. On the one hand, xenophobia has long contributed to racism and discrimination toward Asian Americans. On the other hand, terms such as perpetual foreigner and honorific whites have been thrust upon Asian Americans, minimizing their plight with racism and erasing their experience as racial minorities. Even more indiscernible in America's racial landscape are Asian American women. The compounded effects of a patriarchal Asian culture and a marginalizing American culture are formidable, steadily removing the recognition of these women's lives, voices, and agency.
Invisibility is not only a racial and cultural issue, but also a profound spiritual issue. The Western church--and its theology--has historically obscured the concerns of Asian Americans. The Asian American church relegates women to domestic, supportive roles meant to uplift male leaders.
In Invisible, Grace Ji-Sun Kim examines encounters with racism, sexism, and xenophobia as she works toward ending Asian American women's invisibility. She deploys biblical, sociological, and theological narratives to empower the voices of Asian American women. And she shares the story of her heritage, her family history, her immigration, and her own experience as an Asian American woman. Speaking with the weight of her narrative, she proclaims that the histories, experiences, and voices of Asian American women must be rescued from obscurity. Speaking with the weight of a theologian, she powerfully paves the way for a theology of visibility that honors the voice and identity of these women. As Asian American women work toward a theology of visibility, they uplift the voiceless and empower the invisible, moving beyond experiences of oppression and toward claiming their space in the kin-dom of God.
Grace Ji-Sun Kim
Spirit Life centers on the Spirit as an avenue for better understanding God and reconciling with our faith. The Spirit is present in the Old Testament as ruach and in the New Testament as pneuma. When the field of theology was prominently German-led, theologians used the word geist to talk about the spirit. As an Asian-American theologian existing in the liminality between multiple cultural spheres, Kim finds it necessary to retrieve and disseminate Asian words and religious symbols into the mainstream discourse to revolutionize the accessibility and global understanding of God today. One important Asian concept is chi, translated as wind, breath, spirit, energy, much like ruach, pneuma, and geist. Chi is a fitting term for coming to know God as the Spirit as it effectively conveys God's presence in the world. As such, we can move toward a nondualistic theology that provides an abundant space for everyone, including the marginalized and the subordinated, paving a path toward liberation and radical demarginalization.
In the My Theology series, the world's leading Christian thinkers explain some of the principal tenets of their theological beliefs in concise, pocket-sized books.
In Pastoral Imagination: Bringing the Practice of Ministry to Life, Eileen R. Campbell-Reed informs and inspires the practice of ministry through slices of "on the ground" learning experienced by seminarians, pastors, activists, and chaplains and gathered from qualitative studies of ministry. Each of the fifty chapters explores a single concept through story, reflection, and provocative open-ended questions designed to spark conversation between ministers and mentors, among ministry peers, or for personal journal reflections. The book provides a framework for understanding ministry as an embodied, relational, integrative, and spiritual practice.
Pastoral Imagination is closely integrated with the author's Three Minute Ministry Mentor web resource, which introduces the topics in the book through brief video presentations. The book serves as a coaching guide and a ministry mentor in its own right by expanding on these topics through the author's reflections, observations, and questions. Addressing the importance of the practice of ministry, Campbell-Reed states: "Ministry itself, like most professions and complex practices, is dogged and driven by a rush to achieve. Yet to focus on achievement can be disastrous, especially if we skip over the steps for learning. To learn the practice of ministry—a multifaceted professional and spiritual practice--takes time and preparation, risk and responsibility, support and feedback."
The book can be used by individuals for personal growth; with groups in new-pastor retreats, CPE training programs, ministry peer groups, or supervision settings such as internship or field education; for devotional inspiration at staff meetings; and in seminary classrooms that prioritize teaching ministry as a practice.
Mpho Tutu van Furth
Forgiveness and Reparation, the Healing Journey is about reparations. We think of reparations as a remunerative act and as a punitive one. The colonial powers must pay back a significant percentage of what they stole from the colonized. To arrive at what would be a meaningful amount, we must tally up the cost of the human lives lost, the opportunities denied, the mineral wealth ravaged, and the ecosystems destroyed. How can we even begin to calculate the worth of even one of those categories? How can we rightly price even one human life? Furthermore, this approach assumes there is only one side in need of repair—the side of the subjects who were raped, ravaged, abused, misused, and had their lives and labor stolen. But reparations rightly engaged is part of a spiritual process of forgiveness and reconciliation. Reparations would be an element in a process of atonement and restorative justice that sees the need for acknowledgment of the damage done to the enslaved and colonized, healing and restoration of the lost humanity of the perpetrators, and repair of the violated relationships between the human and ecological victims and the human perpetrators.
Refugia Faith: Seeking Hidden Shelters, Ordinary Wonders, and the Healing of the Earth explores how Christian spirituality and practice must adapt to prepare for life on a climate-altered planet.
Refugia (reh-FU-jee-ah) is a biological term describing places of shelter where life endures in times of crisis, such as a volcanic eruption, fire, or stressed climate. Ideally, these refugia endure, expand, and connect so that new life emerges.
Debra Rienstra applies this concept to human culture and faith, asking, In this era of ecological devastation, how can Christians become people of refugia? How can we find and nurture these refugia, not only in the biomes of the earth, but in our human cultural systems and in our spiritual lives? How can we apply all our love and creativity to this task as never before?
Rienstra recounts her own process of reeducation—beginning not as a scientist or an outdoors enthusiast but by examining the wisdom of theologians and philosophers, farmers and nature writers, scientists and activists, and especially people on the margins.
By weaving nature writing, personal narrative, and theological reflection, Rienstra grapples honestly with her own fears and longings and points toward a way forward—a way to transform Christian spirituality and practice, become a healer on a damaged earth, and inspire others to do the same.
Refugia Faith speaks to people securely within the faith as well as to those on the edge, providing a suitable entry for those who sense that this era of upheaval requires a transformed faith but who don't quite know where to begin.
When Toni Morrison died in August 2019, she was widely remembered for her contributions to literature as an African American woman, an identity she wore proudly. Morrison was clear that she wrote from a Black, female perspective and for others who shared her identity. But just as much as she was an African American writer, Toni Morrison was a woman of faith.
Morrison filled her novels with biblical allusions, magic, folktales, and liberated women, largely because Christianity, African American folk magic, and powerful women defined her own life. She grew up with family members who could interpret dreams, predict the future, see ghosts, and go about their business. Her relatives, particularly her mother, were good storytellers, and her family's oral tradition included ghost stories and African American folktales. But her family was also Christian. As a child, Morrison converted to Catholicism and chose a baptismal name that truly became her own—Anthony, from St. Anthony of Padua—going from Chloe to Toni. Morrison embraced both Catholicism and the occult as a child and, later, as a writer. She was deeply religious, and her spirituality included the Bible, the paranormal, and the folktales she heard as a child.
J. Lenore Wright
Athena to Barbie explores the vexed nature of being a woman. It maps the four corners of impossible choice a female faces because of the female body—her body as spiritual space (Mary), as political space (Athena), as erotic space (Venus), and as materialist space (Barbie). The book tracks the difficulty women face in understanding themselves as someone who has, but is not only, a body. The question of identity is particularly fraught and complicated when it comes to women—because the ability to bear children is a double-edged sword. Across time (including right now), having a womb has shaped how women are viewed and treated in negative ways, and women's childbearing abilities have been used to stereotype, oppress, and constrain them. Pregnancy is powerful, but the possibility of pregnancy comes with impossible pressures and choices. This book takes on the task of reconciliation--how women can understand themselves in light of their bodies--through an intense dive into history, art, literature, theology, and, particularly, philosophy.
In this seminal work of biblical studies, renowned scholar Phyllis Trible focuses on four variations on the theme of terror in the Bible. By combining the discipline of literary criticism with the hermeneutics of feminism, she reinterprets the tragic stories of four women in ancient Israel: Hagar, Tamar, an unnamed concubine, and the daughter of Jephthah. In highlighting the silence, absence, and opposition of God, as well as human cruelty, Trible shows how these neglected stories—interpreted in memoriam—challenge both the misogyny of Scripture and its use in church, synagogue, and academy.
Susan J. Dunlap
Susan J. Dunlap offers the theological fruits of time spent working as a chaplain with people without homes. After depicting the local history of her small southern city, she describes the prayer service she co-leads in a homeless shelter. Clients offer words of faith and encouragement that take the form of prayer, sayings, testimony, song, and short sermons. Dunlap describes both these forms of expression and their theological content. She asserts that these forms and beliefs are a means of survival and resistance in a hostile world. The ways they serve these purposes are further demonstrated in life stories told as testimonies, incorporating scripture, sayings, oral tradition, and popular culture. Dunlap concludes that white supremacy and neoliberalism have produced the problem of homelessness in America and are forms of idolatry. The faith and practices shared at the shelter are spiritual and theological resources for people in the grip of and seeking freedom from this idolatry. Claiming that only God can free us from bondage to idolatry and that to draw close to the poor is to draw close to God, Dunlap calls for proximity to people living without homes who are practicing their faith amid poverty.
The Cross in the Midst of Creation: Following Jesus, Engaging the Powers, Transforming the World links Christian understandings of creation, atonement, and the biblical principalities and powers. Sharon Delgado asserts that the crucifixion is ongoing as institutional powers diminish human life and destroy creation, and that the resurrection is ongoing as faith overcomes despair and the Spirit equips people to rise in courage and follow Jesus into the heart of the struggle for a transformed world.
This book explores and critiques traditional doctrines and popular teachings about the cross and draws from various stories of Jesus and biblical metaphors to offer life-enhancing perspectives on this core symbol of Christian faith. It presents the cross as a symbol of God's presence throughout creation and undying love as revealed in Jesus; also explored are the path of discipleship, the moral bankruptcy of the dominating powers, engagement through nonviolent resistance, and above all, God's triumph over the powers, offering hope for the world.
It also challenges followers of Jesus to throw off despair and complacency, exposes disempowering and hate-filled teachings that claim to be Christian, and reclaims the gospel as a force for healing, empowerment, and both personal and social transformation.
By participating in the ongoing story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and experiencing the tangible presence of the Holy Spirit, we discover the creative power at the heart of this and every universe: the all-encompassing, infinite, eternal love of God.
Shaking the Gates of Hell: Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization breaks new ground by describing the global economy and its effects from the perspective of an integrated theology of "the earth as primary revelation" and the institutional powers of this world. It reaches the conclusion that hope lies in nonviolent resistance and ecological and social responsibility based on God's action in Jesus and in the triumph of God over the powers. This book describes today's interrelated social, economic, and ecological crises and makes the case that we face a living hell on earth if we do not address them. It provides an overview of the global economic system and offers a comprehensive theological analysis of the network of primary institutions that make up what Walter Wink calls the "Domination System." It points readers in the direction of hope based on following the way of Jesus, who lived in nonviolent resistance to the powers of his day. This new, revised edition continues the powerful story of the original, extending the analysis of the global economy from the 2008 collapse and recession to its alleged recovery. It addresses the Obama administration's policies on economics, trade, and the environment, and provides further reflections on American foreign and military policy in this so-called New American Century.
For decades, Sallie McFague lent her voice and her theological imagination to addressing and advocating for the most important issues of our time. In doing so, she influenced an entire generation and empowered countless people in their efforts to put religion in the service of meeting human needs in difficult times.
In this final book, finished in the year before her death in 2019, McFague summarizes the work of a lifetime with a clear call to live in "such a way that all might flourish." The way, she argues, is the "kenotic interpretation of Christianity: the odd arrangement whereby in order to gain your life, you must lose it. The way of the cross is total self-emptying so that one can receive life, real life, and then pass this life on."
A masterful and life-giving summing-up of a theology that makes a profound difference for us, our communities, and our planet.