03 December 2009

American Nuns Under the Vatican Microscope

The Vatican is up to its old tricks, investigating US women religious. Its “divide and conquer” technique pits the nuns who conform to male clerical expectations against those who assert their own moral and spiritual agency. But at the heart of the matter is the power to be “publicly” Catholic, something the men have long reserved for themselves. Now that Catholic women, including nuns, are saying “this is what Catholic looks like,” there is trouble in Vatican City and a new day for Catholicism.

Read the full article by Mary E. Hunt in Religion Dispatches.

29 October 2009

Vatican's Come-Hither to Anglicans: A Theological Scandal

The Vatican’s new scheme to lure unhappy conservative Anglicans into the fold might have caught the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams off guard, but Catholics are not surprised by anything Rome does to shore up its market share. Conservative clergy, whose opposition to the ordination of women and LGBTQ people motivated them to split from the Anglican Communion, are now welcome to switch to Catholicism.

Read the full article by Mary E. Hunt in Religion Dispatches.

24 July 2009

Faithful and Fabulous: Dignity on the Road at Forty

Mary Hunt was featured as the keynote speaker at Dignity USA's 2009 Convention. Read her address here.

09 July 2009

Pink Menno calls for an inclusive and welcoming church

LGBTQ activism and inclusion in the church can look a host of different ways. For the Mennonite assembly gathered in Columbus, Ohio last week, the look was pink.
The "pink presence" at the Mennonite Church USA Convention was initiated by a campaign called Pink Menno, which began a few months ago in response to an open letter written to Mennonite Church USA by pastors calling for LGBTQ inclusion in the church. Pink Menno supporters wore pink as a way to be a visible presence of LGBTQ people, friends, family, and allies in the Mennonite Church. At an essential level, wearing pink was a way of reopening dialogue about how the church is called to be an inclusive and welcoming body.
Momentum for Pink Menno grew on the website,, prior to convention, and continued to spread as the week went on, culminating with a "sea of pink" in the center of the Columbus Nationwide Arena, where 4,000+ Mennonites gathered to sing at the traditional convention-wide hymn sing.

The mid-week prayer service and press conference drew a crowd of over 100 people, and the story was picked up by several local news services and the Associated Press. By 9:00pm that night over 150 sites had picked up the story, like the Washington Post.

Needless to say, a success like this coverage was thrilling. But simpler graces were just as thrilling -- the packed workshops and film screenings we led (in a hotel across the street since Pink Menno was banned from the convention center); the "pink demand" that rid us of all our shirts, bandanas, and bracelets and sent us to Goodwill to buy out their pink gear; the positive, welcoming spirit which the whole movement embodied. Opposing forces expected radical protest and disruptive disobedience; instead they got Pink Mennos singing hymns outside the worship hall, meeting for prayer, sharing communion, engaging in dialogue.

The Mennonite Church has a long way to go. There are many who don't want to go there. But Pink Menno's presence and movement at Columbus ensures that the Mennonite Church cannot ignore this issue any longer. Church leaders are now coming to us, asking us to help them deal with it. People are talking. Baby pink steps forward.

--Anna B. Roeschley

25 June 2009

Online Recordings from WATER's Creative Feminist Ministers Institute

WATER is abuzz with creative feminist ministry. Over the course of two days last week, we held a series of conversations via live interviews and conference calls, connecting feminist ministers and offering training and education they need to do their work more effectively.
In efforts to make these much-needed resources more widely accessible, and to broaden the scope of our conversation, we recorded the sessions for use online. We hope you will view/listen to them, connect from afar, and continue the conversations by posting comments to this blog. We invite you to donate to WATER as you use these resources.
Click on the links below to download. If the download does not begin automatically, right-click and choose "save target as" in order to start the download, which may take some time given the size of the video.

Liberation Beyond Borders: Dalit Feminist Hermeneutics and Four Gospel Women
A conversation with Surekha Nelavala and Mary Kate Birge, Download video here.

Challenges for Feminist Ministers
A conversation with Cindy Lapp and Mari Castellanos, Download video here.

Theological Education for Feminist Ministry
A conference call with Emilie Townes, Download audio recording here.

Feminist Ministry and Sexual Violence
A conference call with Marie Fortune, Download audio recording here.

This inaugural series was a success, and the exciting part is that it is just beginning! Stay tuned for future opportunities to connect, cooperate, and learn together on issues surrounding feminist ministry.
-- Anna B. Roeschley

16 June 2009

Keep it Catholic, Catholics

Keep it Catholic, Catholics: A Response to Michael Sean Winters' Attack on Frances Kissling in America

I debated in Catholic high school and Jesuit college. We practiced by taking positions other than our own so we would understand the ins and outs of our opponents’ ways of thinking. We were taught that gratuitous slams at the other side were never acceptable, and that they certainly were no substitute for reasoned arguments. We were coached to avoid ad hominem (in those days we did not imagine ad feminam) arguments at all costs since they insulted our worthy opponents and made clear that we were out of ideas to bolster our own positions. In the rough and tumble of real world debates, it is training that has stood me in good stead.

Imagine my surprise to read on the Jesuit magazine America’s blog a recent post by Michael Sean Winters in which he violated all the rules. His attack on Frances Kissling and her recent article in Salon began with a gratuitous slam.

(Read the rest of the article by Mary E. Hunt posted on Religion Dispatches.)

09 June 2009

Post to our blog and see FSR, Inc.

WATER’s blog is a place for your thoughts on topics of common interest to feminists in religion. Please feel free to jump into the conversation whenever you wish. We welcome you!

Another place to discuss feminist issues is which is sponsored by Feminist Studies in Religion, Inc. The two groups have collaborated on several projects over the years.

Your voice is important. Raise it here.

Mary E. Hunt

05 June 2009

Feminist Theology 101

Mary Hunt and Judith Plaskow discuss feminist views of God and women in the Bible, in an interview on Interfaith Voices radio,

27 May 2009

The Unsung Speech at Notre Dame, A Postmortem

President Barack Obama spoke persuasively at the 2009 University of Notre Dame commencement, pulling off a graceful if somewhat jocular address befitting the sports-school ambiance. The president cushioned his pro-choice position with a crowd-pleasing homage to Notre Dame’s legendary president, Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC, a.k.a “Father Ted.” He hitched his wagon to the star of the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, champion of the “seamless garment” approach that connects ending abortion with the eradication of poverty, war, and the death penalty (among other issues), despite the fact the most women’s clothes have plenty of seams.

Read the full article by Mary E. Hunt on Religion Dispatches.

15 May 2009

Article of Faith

See Mary Hunt's "Article of Faith: Here we go again — Catholic bishops overstep their bounds," written for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:

04 May 2009

Mother's Day 2009: What She Means to Me

Think of an amazing woman you know. How has she touched your life? What has she done to be healthy, empower others, seek justice, bring about change?

Share a story in her honor this Mother's Day. Tell us what she means to you by posting a comment below.

30 April 2009

Spring Lobby Days in DC

The Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) sponsored a congressional briefing this week on Religious Support for reducing Unintended Pregnancies and Sexually Transmitted Infections among Youth. WATER was among the co-sponsoring groups.

Speakers included Debra Haffner of the Institute who provided an overview of the issues and Bill Smith of SIECUS who explained the importance of passing REAL Sex Education, the Responsible Education About Life Act (S.611, H.R. 1551), which would provide the first federal money ($50 million) for sex education. The $1.5 billion (yes, billion) in federal and state money for abstinence-only programs of the previous administration failed utterly to teach young people how to be sexually responsible.

Ann Hanson of the United Church of Christ (UCC) informed the staffers and others present about the Our Whole Lives religious education curriculum that the UCC and Unitarian Universalists have developed with great results. Emily Goodstein of Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice brought the wise voice of young women to the table. Cedric Harmon of City of Refuge Church added pastoral insight from within communities hard hit by HIV/AIDS. Ignacio Castuera, the first National Chaplain of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, spoke of the need for sex education within Hispanic communities.

The message of the day was that progressive religious groups are foursquare behind federal funding for sex education and also perfectly wiling to let those whose religious views keep them from supporting it to opt out of programs for their own children. In a democratic society that seems like a fair and prudent way forward.

I walked across the Capitol lawn to Union Station on a gorgeous sunny day to return to the office. I ran into the protest by ADAPT, dozens of people in wheelchairs lined up across busy Capital Hill streets on both the House and Senate sides of the area. They seek passage of legislation to make more choices available to people who receive disability funding (Community Choice Act, S. 683, H.B.1670). They want to be able to live at home rather than have to go to nursing homes or other institutions. Almost 200 people were arrested and hundreds more scaled the steps of the Capitol, some leaving their chairs below, to dramatize their views (

At the same time, colleagues from the third annual Transgender Religious Leaders Summit, co-sponsored by the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in religion and Ministry (CLGS) and the National Center for Transgender Equality were lobbying their representatives for trans rights. I could not help but think what a new day it is in DC, how there is hope in the air that some of these basic justice issues will be solved in the near future. Ah, spring in a new era.

-- Mary E. Hunt

Feminist Studies in Religion Blog

Our colleagues at Feminist Studies in Religion have started a blog. which is intended to be a place of feminist dialogue across traditions, generations, nations, and perspectives. I have put a couple things on it and encourage WATER readers/bloggers to go there and join in the conversation.

-- Mary E. Hunt

02 April 2009

A Radical Act of Presence in the Face of Femicide

What do we do in the face of statistics that tell us one in two Congolese women have experienced sexual violence, reports that say that in the past ten years more than 200,000 Congolese women and girls have been raped, an average of forty women per day in the province of South Kivu alone? How do we respond to a situation where thousands of women’s and girls’ insides are being ripped apart because militias are systematically demolishing communities, where the planned methodological destruction of women’s reproductive capacities is being used as a tactic of war?

What are we to do in the face of femicide?

Last night, people in the WATER community responded in a radical act of presence. Our gathering was small, no more than fifteen of us, but we were present nonetheless. We came from around the Washington, DC area on a damp and drizzly night to say, through our gathering, that gathering matters; to say, through our coming together, that we know the horrific injustices done to women in the Congo and we are not silent.

Stories were read and heard, candles were lit, prayers were prayed. Our silence was sacred and our solidarity was shared. What stands out to me, though, is the reminder that presence is powerful. Solidarity is no small thing. In the face of something as hopeless and overwhelming as femicide, sometimes the act of gathering is all we can muster. Let us find hope in what is radical about such an act, not in what is lacking.

We are reminded that we do not gather alone. Our circle of solidarity at WATER is part of a broader campaign called the
Congo Sabbath Initiative, an effort to engage faith communities in educating people about sexual violence in the Congo. Services, teach-ins, programs similar to ours are being held across the country between January and April 2009. Money raised goes to build a greatly-needed center for survivors of rape and torture in Bukavu.

I hope that radical acts of presence will continue, small and simple may they be. May our solidarity speak loudly in efforts to end sexual violence in the Congo and around the world.

To learn more and get involved, visit the
V-day website.

--Anna B. Roeschley

30 March 2009

Pro-Life Tempest Over Obama’s Notre Dame Speech

The band is playing and it is all happening on the gridiron. Where is Knute Rockne when we need him? Right-wing Catholics and their blogging companions have their knickers in a knot over the fact that President Barack Obama is scheduled to be the May 2009 commencement speaker at the University of Notre Dame. Given the virulent responses led by the Cardinal Newman Society, perhaps the Four Horsemen will have to come back to escort the president to the dais.

(Read the full article by Mary E. Hunt at

10 March 2009

Excommunicating the Victims

While the family of a 9-year-old incest victim’s abortion is excommunicated, the perpetrator never even made it to the ecclesial radar screen. Let this case signal the end of any credible claim to authority of bishops and the dawn of a new era when local communities determine their own members. I daresay the world will be a safer, kinder place.

(Read full article by Mary E. Hunt on
Religion Dispatches.)

19 February 2009

New Administration, Old Initiative

Mary Hunt offers her critique of faith-based initiatives in an article by Sarah Posner this week on The American Prospect.

Liberation Theology is Alive and Well

Liberation theology is alive and well in Belem, Brazil. Where? Did you say Davos, Switzerland, where 2,500 economic movers and shakers recently concluded their annual meeting of World Economic Forum at a cost of a quarter million dollars apiece? (Pricey vacation in these troubled times.) No, I said Belem, Brazil, where the World Social Forum, the antidote to Davos, gathered over 100,000 social activists and academics for 1,500 workshops and presentations in late January.

Get out your map: Belem is in the north of Brazil... (read full article by Mary E. Hunt on Religion Dispatches).