The latest installment of “theologians that rock” features a small group of young women theologians.
Recently, stumbling upon an update by a Facebook friend from the days when the graduate student club “Future American Theologians” was still active, I came across a collaborative blog that I feel is definitely worth a “shout out.” The blog, WIT: Women in Theology is the collective internet publication of several women graduate students in theology programs at the University of Notre Dame, Boston College and Marquette University. They explain in their blog description that the motivation to form this joint effort stems from the absence of substantive women’s voices in theology online. “The original concept was developed in response to the realization that feminist issues in religion constitute something of a void on the Internet. We hope to contribute to filling this void.”
This is something that I have become keenly aware of in recent years. While there are increasing numbers of women studying for ministry degrees and serving the people of God in a variety of wonderful capacities (thanks to Vatican II), there remains a noticeable vacuum of female theological perspective “from above.” This is something I noticed first-hand while working on my M.A. in systematic theology. Thanks to several brilliant feminist theologians under whom I studied as an undergrad (people like Susan Abraham at Harvard University and Erin Runions at Pomona College) I was often times more sensitive to themes related to feminist, womanist, mujerista, postcolonial and other contextual theologies than several of my professors and even many of the self-described “feminist theologians” among my female peers. Even recently, while writing this blog, I have been hard-pressed to find voices of women theologians given equal footing online and elsewhere.
This is in large part why Julia, Elizabeth, Bridget, Megan, Erin, Katie and Beth are this week’s “theologians that rock.” Their collective voice provides a much-needed source of theological reflection, which, as they themselves explain is the most striking feature of their project. “Our feminist and theological commitments vary, and we hope that our collaboration here will create a space for our individual voices to emerge.”
The women of WIT are also to be commended for their stellar “rules of engagement” outlined for their blog. More web-based fora for theological and religious conversation should follow this example of establishing ground rules for healthy discourse.
At WIT, we believe that robust theological reflection is characterized by collaboration and dialogue. We’re committed to creating a safe space for discussions that are open, challenging and respectful.
Disagreement is a necessary and fruitful part of this process. It is most productive when all parties agree to assume good faith. People who post on this blog, and people who comment on it, do so in order to seek greater understanding and contribute positively to Christian feminist reflection. Each party will assume that any response to her work has this positive goal in mind, even if it takes the form of a negative critique. In order to preserve the possibility of this assumption, any negative critiques should be directed to particular claims and, where possible, cite directly from the text in question. No ad hominem arguments will be accepted.
The authors of this blog are particularly aware of and sensitive to a tendency to critique theologians as inadequately Christian and/or Catholic. We reject this way of speaking as it obscures the substance of any argument and breaks Christian charity. No comments will be made that accuse any member of not holding to the faith which they themselves claim. The ambiguity of the phrase “good faith” is helpful here. In this second way also, assume good faith.
According to the first posting, this blog was inspired by a conversation between the graduate students at ND and J. Kameron Carter who visited from Duke University to give a lecture. It is still a new effort on the part of these seven women and a project certainly worth watching. The handful of posts, the first of what I hope will be many, many more, are very good. Some are rather lengthy (a temptation that this man in theology can relate to — theologians like to use lots of words), but they are all substantive and insightful.
Support these voices of women in theology and encourage others to do likewise. Within the theological community we need to support one another and this next generation of women theologians will (are) shaping the academic discourse today. Check their blog out!