28 February 2014

March 9 Discussion with Jamie Manson

J-Manson-8x10-287x300WATER invites you for a discussion on

"Resisting 'Lesbian'
Embracing 'Queer:'
What is the New Generation
Telling Us?"

Led by Jamie L. Manson
Sunday, March 9, 2014
at 11:30AM EST
Jamie L. Manson is a nationally known speaker, retreat leader, and media commentator on issues related to LGBT Catholics, young adult Catholics, and the future of the church. She received her Master of Divinity degree from Yale Divinity School where she studied Catholic theology and sexual ethics.Her weekly column, "Grace on the Margins," appears in the National Catholic Reporter (NCR). Her writing has won numerous awards, most recently second place for Commentary of the Year (2012) from the Religion Newswriters Association (RNA).She has served two Manhattan churches in the roles of director of faith formation and as director of social justice ministries working with New York City’s homeless and poor populations.

Please reply to with the words “Catholic Lesbian Discussion” to receive the phone-in information and a short piece by Jamie on the topic. Then dial in from 11:30 AM until 12:30 PM on Sunday the 9th for what is sure to be a thoughtful conversation.
While other WATER conversations are open to a wider audience, this one is intended for women who are interested in same-sex love from a Catholic lesbian/queer perspective. Please spread the word.
The next conversation with Bernadette Brooten on "Sexual Violence At Home: In Our Families, At Our Colleges, Between Lesbians" will be on Sunday, May 11, 2014 at 11:30 AM EST. 

25 February 2014

WATER Statement on Arizona

WATER Statement on Arizona
Proposed Law in Arizona--"Not in the Name of Our God"
By Mary E. Hunt
            Religious justification for the proposed law in Arizona simply does not exist. Rather, the issue rests on confusion, however willful, between the constitutionally protected freedom to practice religion and laws that forbid discrimination in the market place. The proposed throwback to centuries ago when persons were excluded because of distinguishing factors has no place in 21st century American life. Religious support for a law based on anti-LGBTIQ sentiments is intrumentalizing bigotry in the name of God. Before the courts have a chance to weigh in, let people of faith say, “Not in the name of our God.”

21 February 2014



An hour-long teleconference with
Grace Biskie, Gina Messina-Dysert, Tara Woodard-Lehman, Katey Zeh
February 5, 2014, 1 pm - 2 pm EST

WATER thanks Katey, Gina, Tara and Grace for sharing their chapters and their ideas with us. Following are notes that are meant to accompany the audio version of the event.

Katey Zeh, “A Pregnant Silence,” pp. 186-190
Katey spoke as an advocate for international maternal health. She is part of United Methodist efforts to share resources around the world. United Methodists have supported contraception as a good around the world, but now have to revisit the question of its morality in the U.S. thanks to conservative political efforts against the Affordable Care Act. She questions why some people in the U.S. don’t seem to care about maternal mortality. It is a challenge to get church communities to talk positively about contraception.
Katey made the point that churches fail to prepare people to be moral sexual beings. They tell them what not to do and when not to do it, but they skip over the complex moral decision-making that goes into having a family including family planning, adoption, etc.

Gina Messina-Dysert, “No Women Need Apply,” pp. 93-97
Gina looked at the question of women’s ordination in the Roman Catholic Church. She claimed it was not just a Catholic issue but also a human issue of gender-based discrimination. She spoke of the power of the Vatican in the global community, and the need to acknowledge missing voices at table. She pointed to Karen Torjesen’s book, When Women Were Priests: Women's Leadership in the Early Church and the Scandal of Their Subordination in the Rise of Christianity (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1995), and Rosemary Radford Ruether’s Catholic Does Not Equal the Vatican (New York, NY: New Press, 2008). She also suggested several organizations that work on these issues including the Women’s Ordination Conference, which produced the YouTube version of “Ordain a Lady” video by Kate Conmy. Another such group is the Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement (see RCWP and ARCWP)
Gina said that women’s ordination is a taboo subject in some Catholic circles. Some women have been punished (for example, with problems getting, keeping, or being promoted in jobs). She noted that another important movement in Catholic circles is that which she called the “Discipleship of Equals” approach using Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza’s phrase, which does not push for ordination so much as the development of base communities in which the priesthood of all believers is taken seriously. Her view is that ordination is a stepping-stone to equality for Catholic women.
Gina reported on the 2012 dialogue between Mormon and Catholic women on ordination. This helped to launch the “Ordain Women” group for Mormons.
In summary, Gina said that while she is not called to ordination, she sees women’s ordination as crucial to end discrimination. She also admitted that there is a long way to go before real changes take place in Catholicism.

Tara Woodard-Lehman, “Broken in Body, Slain in the Spirit,” pp. 74-79
            Tara described some of her own brokenness of body, physical pain and limits.  She said it reminded her of Jesus words, “This is my body, broken for you.” to which she wanted to reply, “Hey, right back at you, Jesus, broken for you.” As a woman, she did not want to expose her vulnerabilities
because women are often called the weaker sex, the weaker vessel.  Moreover, she spoke of how our culture emphasized the language of strength over weakness, capability over disability, thus devaluing the power of vulnerability. Referencing the shadow side of the language of “empowerment,” it easy to slip into myths of self-sufficiency and perfectionism. There is a lot of pressure in Ivy League schools to be perfect and have it together such that many women feel isolated. It is as if speaking of bodily pain is breaking some unspoken feminist code.
Popular culture has a health/fitness focus. Church culture adds faith healing to the mix. After a
spontaneous lung collapse, Tara began to think anew of the Holy Spirit as she integrated the disparate threads of faith. Now she retells the story of what healing means for her and how the Holy Spirit is connected to her body.

Grace Biskie, “A Woman Undone,” pp. 191-198
Grace shared her narrative about being in a hard marriage, being in Christian ministry, studying in divinity school, and feeling tempted to have an affair. She described her efforts to make choices in that situation and how her community helped her. She discussed how she negotiated the situation with her husband, how she dealt with suicidal thoughts, and the idea of leaving her husband and children.
Now that the crisis has passed she is still not back in her degree program, but her position and leadership in her own community have been helpful. She felt that if there had been other women in ministry around her they would have been a source of support for her. By telling her story, she is breaking a taboo about issues that are considered shameful in many communities.

{Editor’s Note—Most of the writers of this book have not met one another. A conference seems in order!  These forty essays by women under forty make a good jumping off place for discussion. MEH}

Gina remarked on the importance of the project and the need to continue conversation. Blogging and other forms of social media are useful. She also spoke of self-esteem issues for so many Christian women.
            Katey mentioned the isolation that one can feel when speaking about reproductive justice. The project helped to alleviate some of that. Speaking out on women’s health and reproductive rights is dangerous in faith communities. Some are drawing back on these issues. One needs a larger community for support when it is tough going within one’s local community.

Calls from participants followed:

1. One caller asked Gina about Roman Catholic structural barriers to women’s ordination. The Presbyterian Church could ordain women in 1950 because there was a structure to do it. Does the Roman Catholic Church have a mechanism to allow women to be ordained?
Gina replied that the tradition focused on why women cannot be ordained and the institution has held on to it fiercely. She mentioned the Roman Catholic Women Priests group whose ordinations she feels should be acknowledged as valid. In fact, there is no structure for lay participation to pressure the clerics-only Vatican in this regard.

2. Another caller loved listening to all of the discussion, the careful wisdom, and the voices flowing into each other. Tara’s remarks helped the caller, who is healing as rape survivor by an Episcopal priest, to move along in her own healing. After 30 years of silence thinking it was her own fault she is now dealing with it differently.
Tara thanked the caller for the courage to name her own abuse. Tara was just back from a retreat with 16 student leaders. She spoke of women apologizing for their own experiences of physical/sexual assault and their fears to name it. She resists the language of strength, but likes the language of courage/guts to start working things out.

3. A first time caller asked Katey if she worked with Planned Parenthood because of the
branding overlap of the term “family planning.”
Katey said that it was used by the U.S. Agency on International Development as well. It means more than just avoiding pregnancy and includes healthy timing/spacing of children. Empowering women to time and to space pregnancies in ways that are healthy is a better phrase than contraception to get people on board.

4. Another caller spoke of the sexuality/spirituality connection, which does not work until women can claim sexuality as a positive good. So much Erotophobia underlies rape culture. The question is whether there is a way in which giving over power to God/the Divine One gives up one’s own power?
Tara said she struggles a lot with this. She recommended Gender & Grace: Love, Work & Parenting in a Changing World by Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen as a resource (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1990). She described her childhood formation in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition (that emphasizes human agency) and then her move to the Presbyterian-Reformed tradition (that emphasizes divine agency.) She described being in the “arms of God who is much larger than I am.” She distinguished power as vulnerability and weakness liberated from the self. She resists employing masculine language about God.

Grace added that it is not too much of an issue for her because she thinks we have choices to make, that God allows people choices.

WATER thanks these speakers and callers for a fascinating hour. Our next teleconference will be
“Conscience and Calling: Ethical Reflections on Catholic Women’s Church Vocations” with
Anne E. Patrick on Wednesday, March 5, 2014 from 1 pm – 2 pm EST. There is more information and details on how to register on WATER’s website.

18 February 2014

In Memory of Her—Kaye Ashe

AsheKaye-bWATER joins family and friends in mourning the death of Sr. Kaye Ashe, a beloved Sinsinawa Dominican. We join in loving praise of her good life, her contributions to the world, and her unrelenting demands for justice in church and society.

Kaye earned a Ph.D. in Modern European History and French at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland.  From 1969 to 1986,she taught and administered various programs at Dominican University (Rosary College); from 1986-1994 she served as Prioress of her Congregation. She later moved to Berkeley CA, teaching at St. Mary’s College of California from 1996 to 2006. She was also a founding board member of Mary’s Pence.

Kaye lectured widely on women’s history, spirituality, and leadership. She contributed magazine articles and chapters in books dedicated to women’s issues, and authored Today’s Women, Tomorrow’s Church, 1983  (awarded the Thomas More Medal for “an outstanding work of non-fiction”), and the Feminization of the Church?, 1997.

Mary E. Hunt met Kaye through Joan O’Shea and Delores Brooks in the early 1970s in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was impressed with their commitment to continuing education, as well as their strength of character as they engaged in church change. Kaye regaled friends with stories of riding motor scooters around Switzerland with her friend Mary Daly. Early role models such as Kaye leave indelible marks.

Diann Neu worked with Kaye through the Women-Church Convergence. She was a strong feminist and a person who had a clear-eyed view of the Church. Her presence in the W-CC was always welcome.

WATER Intern Cathy Jaskey, who is a Dominican University alum and Sinsinawa associate, is so grateful for Kaye in whom she has found great wisdom and inspiration. The poem below hangs on Cathy's wall and is a daily reminder to find nourishment in community. Kaye has been a great companion and will live on in communities of conviction pushing us forward in the search.

Kaye was a marvelous woman. We are relieved that her suffering is over. But the world seems a little draftier without her love to warm the corners where marginalized people are consigned and the most effective ministry takes place. May her spirit continue to inspire us, and the many whose lives she touched.
Kaye Ashe Quote2

13 February 2014

February Ritual: A Valentine for YOU!

beach-sand-water-heartFebruary Ritual: A Valentine for YOU!
By Diann L. Neu
 This Valentine’s Day we send you loving gratitude for your generosity to the WATER community.
    February opens our hearts to love ― loving self, loving others, loving Earth, and loving justice.
Love Yourself
"Love opens the doors into everything, as far as I can see, including and perhaps most of all, the door into one's own secret, and often terrible and frightening, real self.”
― May Sarton, Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing (1965)
Love Others
“I venture to say that for women friends love is an orientation toward the world as if my friend and I were more united than separated, more at one among the many than separate and alone.”
― Mary E. Hunt, Fierce Tenderness (1991)
Love Earth   
“Love, I find, is like singing.”
― Zora Neale Hurston, I Love Myself when I Am Laughing… and Then Again when I Am Looking Mean and Impressive: A Zora Neale Hurston Reader (1942)
Love Justice
"Giving kids clothes and food is one thing but it's much more important to teach them that other people besides themselves are important, and that the best thing they can do with their lives is to use them in the service of other people."
― Dolores Huerta, A Dolores Huerta Reader (2008)
Radiate Love
May love be within you.
May love be around you.
May love be beside you.
May love fill your days and your nights.
May you walk lovingly with Earth’s creatures.
May love bring justice and peace to all.
Amen.  Blessed Be.  Let It Be So.
Act with Love
• Kiss your own hand to symbolize that you like yourself. Then blow a kiss to send love to the children of the world.
• Do something special for yourself. Enjoy!
• Cook dinner for a friend or several. Relax!
• Hug a child. Pet your pet.
• Take a person who is older than you for a walk. Do a puzzle.
• Volunteer at a food pantry or soup kitchen. Make a difference.
• Sign a petition. Make your voice heard.
• Make an impact in an instant. Donate to a charity.
Happy Valentine’s Day!

birds heart (1)

© Diann L. Neu, co-director of WATER,,

11 February 2014

March 5 Teleconference with Anne E. Patrick

Anne E PatrickWATER's Feminist Conversations in Religion Series Presents
"Conscience and Calling: Ethical Reflections
on Catholic Women's Church Vocations"
An hour-long teleconference with
Anne E. Patrick
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
1 pm - 2 pm EST
      Anne E. Patrick, SNJM, is William H. Laird Professor of Religion and the Liberal Arts, emerita, at Carleton College (Northfield, Minnesota), where during 1980-2009 she taught courses in Christian ethics, Catholicism, feminist and liberation theologies, and religion and literature.
She has held visiting professorships at St. John’s University (New York) and the University of Tulsa, and has also taught at the University of Chicago Divinity School, and earlier at the Holy Names sisters’ academies in Tampa, Albany, and Silver Spring, Maryland. She is a member of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, a past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, and a founding vice-president of the International Network of Societies for Catholic Theology.
She has been a director of the Society of Christian Ethics, an editor for the Religious Book Club, and a columnist for Liturgy. Her writings on religious, ethical, and literary topics include Liberating Conscience: Feminist Explorations in Catholic Moral Theology (Continuum, 1996); Women, Conscience, and the Creative Process (Paulist, 2011); and most recently, Conscience and Calling: Ethical Reflections on Catholic Women’s Church Vocations (Bloomsbury, 2013). In June 2013 she received the John Courtney Murray Award for “outstanding and distinguished achievement in Theology” from the Catholic Theological Society of America.
Suggested Reading:Chapter 1 of Conscience and Calling: Ethical Reflections on Catholic Women's Church Vocations (Bloomsbury, 2013), pp. 27-49.
Email "Register Me Teleconference" to by Tuesday, March 4, 2014 in order to receive dial-in information.

WATER Applauds Radical Grace

Erin Saiz Hanna of the Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC), Mary E. Hunt and Diann Neu of WATER enjoyed a rough cut of “Radical Grace” at the Athena Film Festival at Barnard College in NYC. It is a good look at Sisters Jean Hughes, Chris Schenk, and Simone Campbell who are three of thousands of Catholic women getting on with justice work despite the Vatican’s continued recalcitrance. Kudos to the filmmakers for their creativity.
Watch a trailer and learn how to help “kickstart” their production with a donation here:
Radical Grace-001

March 3 WATER Meditation/Contemplative Prayer

Wili Waterfall
Contemplative Prayer at WATER and by Telephone
"Water...the Beauty, the Power, the Strength of It"With Sr. Hope Bauerlin
Monday, March 3, 20147:30 PM (EST)
Our next gathering for Contemplative Prayer at WATER will be with Sr. Hope Bauerlin on "Water...the Beauty, the Power, the Strength of It"on Monday, March 3, 2014, at 7:30 PM (EST).
WATER offers a regular contemplative prayer opportunity each month. This is a communal meditation, a time of silence and reflection followed by a short discussion.
RSVP by sending an email with the words “Register Me Contemplative” to or call 301.589.2509 so that we can expect you. If you wish to join by phone, please indicate that so we can send you the phone-in number.
The office will be open at 7 PM (EST) for tea and conversation. Silence will commence promptly at 7:30 PM, so please be here by then. We will finish and be on our way by 8:30 PM.
Parking is free in the garage behind the office after 7 PM. The front door of the building has a phone entry system; find “WATER” and dial the office to be buzzed in. Or, dial 0310 and that should work.
All are welcome. Some of us have been involved in the Engaging Impasse process ( ), which combines meditation with community dialogue. No experience required! Just come with a contemplative spirit. Your presence will enrich us all. Donations are always welcome.

10 February 2014

Meet the Rev. Coralie Ling of Melbourne, Australia

    The Rev. Coralie Ling is a longtime friend and colleague of WATER. She was the first woman ordained in the Uniting Church in Australia. As a Visiting Scholar and Minister, Coralie graces the office annually for a week, usually en route to the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, to catch up on the latest feminist issues in religion. Her wisdom and laughter most recently brightened the WATER office when she visited in November of 2013 before participating in the Feminist Liberation Theologian’s Network at the AAR meeting in Baltimore. Her special interests are in inter-religious work as well as feminist studies in religion.
     Upon returning to her home in Melbourne, Australia, Coralie prepared a ritual with the community of Sophia’s Spring, an eco-feminist group of the Uniting Church which includes Gwen Benjamin, another beloved WATER friend. This “Midsumma” celebration is part of a LGBTIQ festival of arts and music held every January in Melbourne. It was a colorful event that even included an amazing rainbow cake.
     We are grateful for Coralie’s ministry and friendship over the years. She keeps us connected to feminists in religion in Australia. We await her return in 2014.

06 February 2014

In Memory of Her—Peggy Cleveland

Peggy Cleveland copy 2WATER joins friends and family in mourning the death of Peggy Cleveland, former co-director of the Center for Women and Religion at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. She died at the age of 87 in Charlotte, NC.

Mary Margaret “Peggy” Harris Cleveland embraced the Congo where she ministered and taught. She had a lifelong commitment to racial justice having been brought up in the segregated south. With Tom Cleveland, she developed “The Bridge,” an international ministry project in Washington, DC. She was tireless in her struggle for women’s well being, and deeply committed to the struggle for LGBT equality in church and society.

Peggy was a catalyst for community on the land she shared with friends in Mendocino County in California where she taught in the local community college. In later years, Peggy moved back to North Carolina where she was raised.  She directed the Cabarrus Cooperative Christian Ministry from 1992 until her retirement in 1996.

Peggy had a special gift for encouraging younger women to fulfill their potential. Many of those grateful women are now in ministry, education, church and community leadership. We at WATER do our work with gratitude for her friendship and for her example of integrity and struggle.

An obituary can be found at under Mary Margaret Harris Cleveland.  A memorial service will be held at the Sharon Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC, on Sunday, February 9, 2014, 2 PM. Condolences may be sent to the family c/o Alex Rankin, 3795 Rankin Road, Concord, NC  28027.

May Peggy’s life and work be a beacon of light.