21 December 2010
Mary E. Hunt
October 18, 2010
Religion and science lost a phenomenal man this season when Rustum Roy (1924-2010), an Indian born materials scientist, 33rd generation Brahmin and progressive Christian, passed away in State College, PA, where he worked for more than fifty years. He was phenomenal because he combined a world-class scientific mind with a deep commitment to liberal unto liberationist religion, and topped it off with an ever-deepening conviction about body, mind, and spirit connections. What he brought to the science-religion conversation, unlike so many scientists who are religiously conservative, was a mind as open, critical, and learned about religion as he was skeptical, rigorous, and data driven in science.
The easiest way to describe Rustum is to call him the Renaissance man that he was in every sense of the term. He was classically educated in India where he met Gandhi who came to his house for tea with Rustum’s father who was a high government official. He earned a U.S. PhD and returned briefly to India to work. But given that the pace of research was slow in his native land, Rustum returned to his alma mater, Penn State, to engage in basic scientific research.
He was trained as an earth scientist. He was among the first to see the need for interdisciplinary work among geologists, applied chemists, physicists, even engineers, to name just a few of the intersecting disciplines that make up Materials Science. What is now a well-established field was an idea that Rustum Roy pioneered. He invented and patented with the best of scientists, wrote more that 800 scientific papers, consulted for Bell Labs. In essence, he was a scientist’s scientist. But he also knew and loved the arts, adding a gallery to the Materials Research Lab at Penn State. Science policy became his forte as he helped to shape the way government and industry allocate resources for research and development, always weaving social values into the equation.
At the same time, Rustum helped create a small Christian base community, the Sycamore Community, in State College, PA. He preached regularly at the innovative Church of the Savior in Washington, DC, chaired the board of Kirkridge, a progressive conference center in Bangor, PA, and served on the board of the National Council of Churches. Somehow he found time for voluminous correspondence, dozens of phone calls a day, and a vital family life with his wife, children, and the extended Roy clan. Rustum worked tirelessly, often returning to the office after a family dinner to burn the midnight oil on one of several journals he helped to found, or simply to support a graduate student whose thesis needed some tending.
The man was amazing in his production and in his enthusiasm for new ideas. Of course, like many gentleman of a certain age, he could not have done it all without the many (mostly women) support staffers who made his plane arrangements for the hundreds of national and international meetings he attended, kept his appointments straight, and polished up his countless articles, books, chapters, and scientific papers. It was not unusual to get a late night phone call; Rustum had a new idea he just needed to share and assess with his fifteen closest colleagues who knew about the topic.
Believe it or not, the man was much more than all of this though I find the thought of it dizzying. He made the garden-variety workaholic look slothful. He never missed a chance to combine work and pleasure, often finding time during his Washington, DC visits to gather friends for a simple meal and stimulating conversation. He replicated that dynamic around the world.
More than a Renaissance man, Rustum Roy was a phenom. As Wikipedia would have it, a Phenom is at once a kind of electron microscope, a progressive rock group from Bangalore, India, a computer processor, and a television show. Yes, this is getting closer to the man I knew who left the Renaissance in his dust.
I met Rustum in 1984 when a mutual friend, Anne Stewart, a United Methodist minister, invited both of us to lecture at a conference she was coordinating on friendship, sexuality and the church. Rustum and his wife, Della, also a materials scientist, had published a book called Honest Sex in 1968, in which they had opened up the possibility of married people having additional intimate friends. Needless to say, they knew a lot more about the topic than I did and we became friends and colleagues instantly.
Rustum pioneered Science, Technology and Society as a field, starting an organization and a journal, as was his wont in new endeavors. He realized that by networking the right people and publishing the key articles (before and in the early days of the Internet!) the multiplier effect would take over. Religion, of course, was an integral part of society.
His interest in religion went back to his family of origin, Protestant Christians in India. When he arrived in the U.S. he had early connections to progressive Protestants. He eventually fell in with Jon Oliver Nelson and the merry band at Kirkridge who practiced the “Picket and Pray” spirituality with roots both in the Social Gospel and the rigorous spirituality of the Iona Community in Scotland. His religious professional friends included Bishop John A. T. Robinson of Honest to God fame, Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, and Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister, all innovators in their respective circles.
Rustum gave the prestigious Hibbert Lectures, nonsectarian treatments of theological issues, in 1979, later published in a book entitled Experimenting with Truth. He joined the Hibbert company of luminaries that now includes William James, Josiah Royce, Albert Schweitzer, James Luther Adams, and Karen Armstrong among others. He argued that the basic scientific work of our time was finished. There would be more applications, but the nuts and bolts were all there by the 1970’s. It was time, he urged, to see how the “end of science” could mean the beginning of something new.
Rustum was a scientific and religious contrarian. Just as he rejected the sacred cows of science, so too did he reject the popular neo-orthodoxy and liberalism in religion in favor of liberation theology, feminist theology, and other less well-accepted theological approaches. He worked hard to defeat the Superconducting Supercollider, a move the U.S. House made in 1992, effectively ending the gravy train for scientific research that Roy was honest enough to say was not necessary. In religion, he was an early supporter of rights for same-sex lovers.
What was ahead? The science-religion conversation that the John Templeton Foundation began funding in the late 1980’s out of what is now a $1.8 billion endowment was of little interest to Rustum. He preferred to emphasize science and religion in more organic ways. For example, he saw to it that science was part of the conversation in the revival of Parliament of the World’s Religions. He insisted that progressive religious voices be part of the dialogue with scientists. He was skeptical of the conservative framing of so much of the science-religion discussion that left engineering out of science and ethics out of religion. Rustum realized that such framing was the death knell of any useful collaboration.
Eventually he went in a different direction—even more applied—into the area of “whole person medicine.” This was somewhat surprising to me in light of his socially responsible faith—did I mention that he was on the board of the Calvert Group, the socially responsible investment firm well into his 80’s—which seemed a far cry from the seemingly fuzzy healing crowd. But I was wrong.
Rustum met and worked with Andrew Weil and Deepak Chopra on the intersection of the physical, mental, and spiritual components of healing. In his retirement years he taught in Arizona where a lot of this work goes on. He was a big supporter of the Qigong movement, a Chinese approach to healing and exercise. I should have known that he would bring his usual rigor and style to the work of healing.
True to form, he set up a non-profit, “Friends of Health” to bring the right people together http://www.wholepersonhealing.org/. The group’s first accomplishment, rather on the order of basic science, was to establish “whole person healing” as the preferred term, replacing “alternative medicine” and other lesser explanations for what is increasingly popular approach. Another move by the group was to explore the nature of liquid water to show, with the help of insights from materials science, that homeopathic medicine can’t be written off as scientifically untenable. This was the among last of his scientific forays http://www.rustumroy.com/Roy_Structure%20of%20Water.pdf but I predict it will have future ripples.
Just as he was decades ahead of the curve in science, I suspect that he was decades ahead of the curve in the whole person healing work. It does not matter. The world eventually catches up with Rustum Roy. But his life demonstrates that science and religion, far from being odd bedfellows, are really interesting conversation partners, especially among people who bring the same critical apparatus to both.
After Rustum Roy, whom I loved as a friend and respected as a colleague, I expect such rigor on both sides of the fence of the science-religion nexus. The fact that he could play both sides so well only ups the ante for a conversation that is as impoverished by his passing as it was enriched by his participation.
22 October 2010
20 October 2010
"Trans Gifts: A Conversation with Virginia Ramey Mollenkott"
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Virginia Ramey Mollenkott is professor emerita in English at William Paterson University of New Jersey. She is the author or co-author of 13 books, including several on women and religion. Perhaps the best known of her books, written with Letha Scanzoni, Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? A Positive Christian Response (HarperCollins Publishers, 1994) remains a classic in the field.
She is a longtime member of the Evangelical and Ecumenical Women’s Caucus and a leading Christian feminist voice on transgender issues.
Virginia’s focus in this WATER conversation will be on the specific gifts that trans people can offer to religious congregations and other groups. Virginia will share her extensive experience on the topic, which readers will find in her book Omnigender: A Trans-Religious Approach (Pilgrim Press, 2001). She will also reference her chapter “Trans-forming Feminist Christianity” in New Feminist Christianity: Many Voices, Many Views (edited by Mary E. Hunt and Diann L. Neu, SkyLight Paths, 2010). Order your copy of the book here.
Virginia is a stalwart proponent of women and LGBTQ people, a longtime friend and supporter of WATER. We are delighted to share her with a wider group of colleagues! Gather some friends for lunch and take this special opportunity to learn and speak with one of our pioneers.
How to Register
Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the words "register me" and you will receive dial-in information. Please register by November 8. We encourage you to make a donation to WATER. Thank you!
The Feminist Conversations in Religion are open to all. These hour-long live teleconferences highlight the latest issues addressed by WATER. In addition to the teleconferences, you can go to our website to listen to an audio version at your convenience.
18 October 2010
Mary E. Hunt of WATER contributed the following:
The last thing the governor's race in New York State needs is homophobic comments from anyone. While the Roman Catholic hierarchy will not step up to the plate on this one, let it be known that many Catholics consider homosexuality "an equally valid and successful opetion" for loving, committed, and generative relationship. Suggestions to the contrary reveal either ignorance of contemporary theological work, homo hatred, or both. Ample resources from Catholic social justice teachings prove that disrespect for human persons and their choices has no place in Catholic circles. The work of groups like Dignity, New Ways Ministry, Fortunate Families, Call to Action, and Women-Church Convergence is testimony to the fact that Catholicism can and should be inclusive, welcoming, and supportive of the variety of ways people choose to love, partner and generate families.Mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Foundation
From their website
The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the grassroots power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. We do this by training activists, equipping state and local organizations with the skills needed to organize broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all.
Stay Connected on Facebook with WATER and The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force!
01 August 2010
- Vickie Stangl, of the Great Plains chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, on the secular invocation offered at a recent Wichita City Council meeting.
- Kathy Miller, the President and Executive Director of the Texas Freedom Network, on new polling data related to the controversy over the new social studies standards approved by the Texas State Board of Education.
- Mary Hunt, co-founder of the Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual, on Argentina's decision to legalize same-gender marriage and her experience teaching at an ecumenical seminary in Buenos Aires in the 1980s.
Plus, Rev. Gaddy shares his thoughts on the disturbing anti-Muslim sentiment that is still plaguing our country.
Listen now at http://feeds.feedburner.com/stateofbelief.
28 July 2010
As part of our internships at WATER, Ikhlas, Elizabeth and I took a “field trip” to the United Church of Christ DC headquarters this summer, where we met with the Rev. Dr. Mari Castellanos, an esteemed member of the UCC church and social justice activist, who is policy advocate for domestic issues at the UCC.
Dr. Castellanos welcomed us warmly with a stream of information about the church: commercials, literature, inclusivity, focus on social justice, all of which impressed me with their broad welcome, clearly stated core beliefs and progressive outlook. “God is still speaking,” as the UCC unofficial motto goes.
A few days later, I saw UCC principles in action at the wedding of Sue, my godmother, and her partner Claire in Chicago. The ceremony was held at
The progressive interpretations of the Bible, combined with a welcoming community, illustrated to me the importance of women’s theology, ethics, and ritual. We lit candles on the altar, sang songs, and responded to the call to worship. The brides’ vows were even different from the usual I do’s and reflected their belief systems.
I was reminded of the unofficial UCC creed: never place a period where God has placed a comma; I was also reminded of the other UCC phrase: God is still speaking; indeed, everyone with a voice who wanted to contribute may speak in the UCC church.
27 July 2010
edited by Mary E. Hunt and Diann L. Neu
Feminism has brought many changes to Christian churches. From inclusive language and imagery about the Divine, to an increase in the number of women ministers, churches will never be the same. Yet, even now, there is a lack of substantive structural change in many churches and a certain complacency within denominations.
The contributors to this book are the thought leaders of the future who are shaping, and being shaped by, the emerging directions of feminist Christianity. They speak from across the spectrum, and from the many racial and ethnic groups that make up the Christian community. Taken together, their voices offer a starting point for building new models of church and society.
Issues covered include:
- Feminist Theological Visions
- Feminist Scriptural Insights
- Feminist Ethical Agendas
- Feminist Liturgical/Artistic Frontiers
- Feminist Ministerial Challenges
To order book click here.
I love the color green. I also love water, and WATER! I am a sociology major with women’s studies and religion minors at Goshen College (IN), entering my final year this fall. I have many, many ideas about what to do afterwards… and will take forever making a decision, as per my personality. Women’s choir is my absolute favorite activity in college, though doodling in class would be a close second. I’m from Harleysville, PA, and grew up in the Mennonite church. I also love photography, reading Barbara Kingsolver, and giraffes.
I am a rising first year at Smith College in picturesque Northampton, Massachusetts. I plan to study English, political science, religion and women's studies. During my time at WATER, I have not only engaged in critical feminist theology and social justice but perfected my cake-baking, coffee-making and table-setting skills.
I'm a senior at Wellesley College majoring in Religion with a focus on development and social justice. I'm from the Islamic tradition. Like Elizabeth, I'm scattering to formulate post grad plans, which I hope will involve some type of travel! When I'm not "working" on future plans I enjoy watching Mad Men, reading historical novels and walking around the city. As I'm from Atlanta, Ga, Summer is my favorite season of the year and my time at WATER has made it that much dearer to me.
22 July 2010
The WATER office has been busy, busy, busy this summer updating and revamping our social networks to keep YOU better connected. We hope you have found the posts to Mary E. Hunt's articles and other information on our blogs helpful and convenient.
WATER intern Elizabeth Speigle, Diann Neu and Zelinda Fouant have been working diligently for weeks on updating and reorganizing our website, www.hers.com/water, and creating our eNewsletter which you should have received yesterday.
These social networks help to keep you connected with WATER, but we also want to hear from you! So, indulge us and follow us on twitter @WATERvoices, become a fan of our fbook page http://www.facebook.com/WATERwomensalliance. It's up to you, choose your medium.
By Mary E. Hunt
Two women drinking coffee together in a Buenos Aires café during the dictatorship (1973-1983) could have been arrested merely for being together. Today they can marry. What a difference a few decades can make. Eva Peron was right in her address to her people from the balcony, as crooned memorably by Madonna in the movie Evita: “The truth is I never left you/All through my wild days/My mad existence/I kept my promise/don’t keep your distance…”
To continue reading article click here.
14 July 2010
Kenneth Howell, an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was not rehired for the Fall 2010 semester. He claims that his right to free speech was violated when he taught a course on Catholic theology that included the notion that same-sex relationships are in violation of natural law. He made no secret of the fact that he agreed with the institutional Catholic Church’s teaching and by all reports offered no other Catholic positions on the question.
Predictably, the institutional Church is unhappy, conservative media including the local Fox affiliate are all over the story, and Dr. Howell is being supported in his efforts at redress by the Alliance Defense Fund. The Fund was created in 1994 in response “to the urgent need for the legal defense and advocacy of religious freedom” by religious leaders including Bill Bright, Larry Burkett, and James Dobson, among others. “Their prime concern was the dramatic loss of religious freedom in America’s courts and the resulting challenges to people of faith to live and proclaim the Gospel.” It is a good guess that a court case is in the offing.
To continue reading article click here.
By MARY E. HUNT
While Protestant churches like the Presbyterian Church USA have their annual gatherings in the summer, the institutional Roman Catholic Church, with no such meetings to worry about, uses the season to issue documents from on high. According to published reports, the Vatican is soon to release new norms that govern matters of sexual abuse by clergy. (Ho hum—but wait, there’s more.) They are expected to include the ordination of women under the delicta graviora, the same category of grave sin that governs sexual abuse by priests. Cue the music of doom!
To continue reading article click here
12 July 2010
Here at the WATER office this summer we have continued our series of teleconferences, this time featuring speakers from our upcoming book, New Feminist Christianity: Many Voices, Many Views, edited by Mary Hunt and Dianne Neu, due to be released this July. So far, we have had teleconferences with prominent scholars Victoria Rue and Rosemary Radford Reuther. Listed below are brief summaries of the discussion topics and links to listen to the teleconference. There is also a reflection by Laura Downton, a recent graduate of Princeton Seminary, who came to visit the WATER office for the Rosemary teleconference. Please enjoy and feel free to continue the discussion on the blog or any thoughts you may want to share. We look forward to having you join us for our next teleconference on September 15, 2010 1 p.m. EDT with Professor Tracy West of Drew University.
WATER TELECONFERENCE WITH VICTORIA RUE
Thanks to Victoria Rue for a wonderful conversation on “This is My Body: Feminist Ministries at the Grassroots.” Victoria talked movingly and insightfully about her hospice work (“a chance to love”), her liturgical work as a Roman Catholic woman priest at the Sophia in Trinity Catholic Community in San Francisco and her theatre work as a writer and director where she weaves life journeys with justice concerns. Feel free to listen to the conversation, use it for teaching or discussion. It is on our Web site under the heading "Monthly Teleconference Series":www.hers.com/water.
Victoria has suggested the following resources:
• www.victoriarue.com; her Web site
• www.sophiaintrinity.com; the site for her ministry
• www.romancatholicwomenpriests.org; the site for the RCWP organization
Among her publications are:
• CancerBodies: Women Speaking the Unspeakable, Feminist Theatre Enacts Feminist Theology (Doctoral dissertation, Graduate Theological Union, 1993).
• Acting Religious: Theatre as Pedagogy in Religious Studies (Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 2005).
• Victoria Rue, "This is My Body” forthcoming in New Feminist Christianity: Many Voices, Many Views edited by Mary E. Hunt and Diann Neu. (Skylight Paths, 2010).
• She also recommends: Dorothee Soelle, The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress. 2001).
WATER TELECONFERENCE WITH ROSEMARY RADFORD REUTHER
Thanks to Rosemary Radford Ruether for leading our conference call. It was a wonderful chance to hear her sweeping overview of the field of feminist theology. Much of that part of her presentation can be read in her chapter entitled “Feminist Theology in Theological Education” in the forthcoming (this month) volume New Feminist Christianity: Many Voices, Many Views edited by Mary E. Hunt and Diann L. Neu, available through WATER.
Rosemary mentioned a number of resources. Two that she singled out are:
1. African Women, Religion and Health: Essays in Honor of Mercy Amba Ewudziwa Oduyoye, Isabel Apawo Phiri and Sarojini Nadar, editors, Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2006.
2. Taiwan’s Buddhist Nuns by Elise Ann DeVido, Albany, NY: SUNY Press, June, 2010.
Among Rosemary’s many publications is the invaluable three-volume Encyclopedia of Women in North America, Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2006. It is 1,464 pages and not inexpensive, but every institutional library should have it for a comprehensive look at and interpretation of the various topics covered.
Rosemary also spoke of her recent experiences in Taiwan. What a fascinating scene it is with Buddhist nuns growing in number and influence, feminist theologians teaching and organizing, students being exposed to feminist work in their regular studies. It is about time we organized some sharing trips so that lots of women, in addition to scholars, can find ways to exchange information and experiences. Three of our colleagues—Audrey Lockwood, Donna Quinn, and Ikhlas Saleem—raised variants on the question of how to involve/include young people and those who are not privileged educationally.
Another topic was whether male scholars (and, I would add, activists) “get it” when it comes to feminist theology. This is a hard question, but one that remains to be discussed as efforts to be inclusive as often met with resistance or simply being ignored.
We are grateful for Rosemary’s continued stalwart leadership.
REFLECTIONS FROM A FRIEND OF WATER
By Laura Markle Downton, M.Div
I was first introduced to the WATER network through Diann L. Neu's contribution to Dissident Daughters: Feminist Liturgies in Global Context (ed. Teresa Berger) entitled “Come, Sophia Spirit,” just before beginning my first year at Princeton Theological Seminary.
Hungry for a connection to women-church and for spiritual resources to accompany me on my feminist journey, WATER was a welcome discovery! Since that time, as a result of the information sharing on the WATER listserv, I have attended gatherings such as the “Women, Religion and Globalization” conference sponsored by the MacMillan Center at Yale University last fall, and received a scholarship to attend the “Women and Power: Connecting Across the Generations” conference hosted by the Omega Institute.
Recently I relocated to Silver Spring, MD and discovered that the WATER office is literally around the corner from my home. This has enabled me to be a part of the monthly WATER meditation and just this week, to join the WATER network in teleconference with Rosemary Radford Ruether. While discussing the future of feminist theology in theological education, Ruether swept us into the presence of the vibrant and liberating work of Buddhist and Christian feminists in Taiwan with whom she has more recently been working.
During the call, Mary Hunt pulled down a mountain of Ruether's books from the shelves of the WATER office library, creating a visual representation of Ruether's prolific contributions to the field of feminist theology. This visual reminder is one that will remain with me for its exposure of the absurdity of theological programs or discourses that treat womanist, feminist, or mujerista theologies as an intellectual afterthought rather than as a rich, complex field of scholarship.
As a result of WATER, these opportunities have expanded my imagination as I have encountered a chorus of voices of women from diverse locations, generations and traditions redefining power relationships to build a world of inclusion and wholeness. I am grateful to WATER for building these invaluable global bridges of connection that make a new world possible.
Resources for further information on the conferences can be found here and here.
Ikhlas Saleem, Elizabeth Speigle, and Nellie Beckett (Summer Interns, L-R) with stack of Rosemary's publications:
Catholics have sacramental understandings of marriage and ordination to which they are entitled. But the institutional church is not entitled to foist those on the rest of the population. On ordination they do not even try. On marriage I suspect they will fail.
Marriage is a many-splendored thing. There are myriad definitions of what is a dynamic and changing phenomenon. It is not hard to recall when women were considered inferior partners in marriage, when marriage between persons of differing racial groups was not allowed, indeed when rape was permitted in marriage. Social institutions change, but the need for community and the imperative of finding loving, just and generous ways of organizing ourselves as a society remain constant. Marriage is one among several ways to do that.
Read the full article by Mary E. Hunt in the National Catholic Reporter.
09 July 2010
As an intern for the summer with WATER, I had the amazing opportunity to attend two days of the three-day Women Deliver conference commencing on June 7-9th in Washington, DC. The conference featured several speakers, including former CNN chief international correspondent and anchor Christiane Amanpour, actress Ashley Judd, Arianna Huffington, Melinda Gates (who pledged 1.5 billion) and of course we musn’t forget the 3,200 participants, women and yes, a few men, that traveled from around the states and 146 countries to share their experiences and contribute to the MDG5. In addition to the participants, five UN heads participated: UNFPA, UNDP, UNICEF, WHO, and UNAIDS.
There were a multitude of workshops and panels devoted to maternal and newborn health, family planning, HIV and AIDS, development and empowerment, etc., but what was most intriguing is Women Deliver’s awareness that for these concerns to even be realized, it requires addressing the cultural and religious norms that exist for women living in various regions. Our own Mary Hunt presented at a panel on “cultural agents of change delivering for women.” The main purpose of the panel was to bring forth the perspective of different cultural agents of change, taking into account regional and gender balances, and how they deal with maternal mortality. Here, Mary discussed the need for us to begin deconstructing prevalent dominant patriarchal theology and gives shape to a society where women are continuously mistreated and left with few options to assume control of their own health. Other panels explored young women and their environments, delving into issues of their physical environmental conditions as well as economics and family and societal pressures. There was also a discussion on the negative response from the religious right, both in America and abroad, resulting from the post-1994 Cairo conference.
The Women Deliver 2010 Conference reminds us that women have delivered and are continuing to deliver solutions for girls and women around the world. Thus, the focus of the conference was not only developing ways in which to fix problems with women’s healthcare, but rather on sharing the contextual solutions that already exist, making sincere connections, overcoming the barriers and challengers to women’s health and determining sources of funding that can assist in promoting and advancing these solutions. Countless stories have shown us that when women are provided adequate resources and support, women deliver.