Photo Gallery Ottawa Conference

Women's Ordination Worldwide (WOW)
Second International Conference
Breaking Silence, Breaking Bread: Christ Calls Women to Lead
Ottawa, Canada
July 22 - 24, 2005

Programme Outline

Women's Ordination Worldwide (WOW)
Second International Conference
Breaking Silence, Breaking Bread: Christ Calls Women to Lead
Ottawa, Canada
July 22 - 24, 2005

WOW Ottawa 2005

Programme Outline

Friday, July 22

Registration and check in at Carleton University from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

3:00 pm     Witness Wagon reception on Parliament Hill, Ottawa

4:00 pm     Reception at Carleton

6:00 pm     Opening with introductions and welcome by Canadian hosts and special guest Marion Dewar followed by liturgy

7:00 pm     Keynote Speaker 1 - Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza

8:00 pm     Discussion

8:30 pm     Good night, for those so inclined

Saturday, July 23

8:00 am     Registration

8:00 am     Morning liturgy for early risers

9:00 am     Workshops 1

10:30 am    Break

11:00 am     Keynote Speaker 2 Rosemary Radford Ruether 

Noon          Discussion

12:30 pm    Lunch

2:00 pm     Workshops 2

3:30 pm      Break

4:00 pm     Panel discussion - Mary Hunt, Theresia Hinga, Myra Poole 

7:00 pm     Dinner and programme

9:30 pm     Night liturgy/Vespers, for those so inclined

9:50 pm     Good night, for those so inclined

Sunday, July 23

8:00 am     Registration

8:30 am     WOW business meeting: "From Dublin to Ottawa"

10:30 am    Break and check-out

11:00 am     International group meetings including Women Called to Ordained Ministry

Noon          Closing liturgy

1:00 pm      Farewell lunch

2:15 pm      Goodbye

2:30 pm     Tour of Ottawa - optional

Pre-Conference Event: Witness Wagon Tour - Prophetic Witness in Action

Women's Ordination Worldwide (WOW)
Second International Conference
Breaking Silence, Breaking Bread: Christ Calls Women to Lead
Ottawa, Canada
July 22 - 24, 2005


Witness Wagon Tour - Prophetic Witness in Action

In prophetic witness for women world-wide who hear a call to ordination in their Catholic faith tradition, women and men from around the globe will visit religious centers and memorial sites that honor women as prophetic leaders

More than a tour, the Witness Wagon will celebrate the Call of Women to Priestly Ministry as we proclaim the new 'good news' across the Northeast of the U.S., from the American national capital to the Canadian national capital. Along the way we will meet with WOC regional groups to share ideas. On this historic tour - the first of its kind ever offered - we will visit sites relating to the history of women's rights - especially as these God-given rights relate to women's religious hopes and spiritual ideals in the development of America and its culture.

  1. Thursday - Friday, July 14-15. Join us for the Two-Day Pre-Tour in DC-area, including witnessing before the U.S. bishops.
  2. Saturday July 16 - Friday July 22, 2005 - Full-length tour
  3. Tuesday July 19 - Friday July 22, 2005 - Short tour
  4. After the WOW2005 conference, the Tour returns July 24 and 25

The Full-length Tour begins in Washington, DC, then on to Baltimore and historic Maryland, the birthplace of Catholic America. The WOW/USA caravan crosses Amish country toPhiladelphia - the birthplace of religious liberty in a Quaker setting. In New York City, see where the social justice movement began, including the Dorothy Day and Mother Seton houses . . . and meet the press.

The full length tour then joins the Short Tour as it starts in Boston, the home of witch trials and women mystics, Mary Daly and the Harvard University chapel. At Seneca Falls, NY, stand where the Women's Rights Movement in America began and participate as guests of honor in an anniversary day festival! In Rochester, NY - greeting by the Spiritus Christi faith community, see the original home of Susan B. Anthony AND meet foremothers of the Women's Ordination movement (WOC) in America. In Canada's capital, Ottawa, WOW greeters will meet us at the shrine to Canada's "Famous Five" women's suffrage activists.

Women in Action: Re-Visioning Church Leadership
Monday, July 25, 2005

Women put words into action!

WOW participants are invited to a training session on becoming effective leaders in their spiritual communities. This hands-on course will include topics such as discerning one's call to leadership, re-imagining women's leadership, and understanding empowerment as a service to the community. This training will be geared towards a wide audience - activists, parish ministers, and ordained women will all learn practical skills while sharing their experiences as leaders. Participants will have an opportunity to discuss, in small groups, issues such as: starting a house church, leadership for ordained women, and choosing women leaders. The United States-based Women's Ordination Conference is organizing this training as part of their year-long 30th Anniversary Celebration.


There will be a two-hour tour of Ottawa, costing between $7.50 and $15.00 CAD or between $6.00 and $12.00 USD, depending on how many sign up. An eight-hour trip to Montreal and back is proposed for Monday, July 25 should there be sufficient interest. Cost will be approximately $35.00 CAD or $28.00 USD, not including lunch.

Press Release: Why Is the Church So Afraid Of Us?

JULY 14, 2005 

CONTACT: Women's Ordination Worldwide
Marie Bouclin, 705-524-5418,
Virginia Lafond, 613-728-6908,
Joanna Manning, 416-599-1244,

Women Reject Attempts to Silence Discussion on Ordination
Why is the church so afraid of us?

OTTAWA - July 14 - Local committee organizers of the WOW conference are saddened by the negative remarks of Archbishop Marcel Gervais and other local clergy denouncing the upcoming WOW Conference to be held at Carleton University, July 22-24 and forbidding Catholics to talk about women’s ordination.

“The hierarchy’s attempt to shut down any discussion on women priests is a reaction that does not manifest confidence in their arguments,” says Marie Bouclin, spokesperson for WOW. “It’s too bad they don’t take this as an opportunity to celebrate the great contribution of women in all the churches. The Catholic priesthood,” she adds, “would have so much to gain from women’s leadership and experience.”

A recent article in the Ottawa Citizen contained a statement from a member of the clergy to the effect that because men can’t have babies then women can’t be Fathers in the Church. “To build the theology of priesthood around this level of argument is quite pathetic,” says Virginia Lafond of the WOW hosting committee. “We would love to have the clergy come to the conference, listen to our highly qualified speakers, and celebrate our unity as women and men, equal members of the one Body of Christ.”

Several women priests from other denominations will participate in the WOW conference. 420 men and women from several continents have registered so far.



Witness Wagon Tour: Janice Sevre-Duszynkska

Women's Ordination Worldwide (WOW)
Second International Conference
Breaking Silence, Breaking Bread: Christ Calls Women to Lead
Ottawa, Canada
July 22 - 24, 2005

Witness Wagon Follows the Vision
by Janice Sevre-Duszynska

Break the bread and lift the cup;
Now God's joy is lifted up;
Fire within, we can begin
Celebrating glory in a woman's story.

Following the vision we will move forward.
Following the vision we won't look back
Following the vision we will move forward
Our resolve will never slack, never, never slack.

 Janice Sevre-Duszynkska

Janice Sevre-Duszynkska

In my mind's eye, I can see and hear us singing with fire in our voices this "Song for women's ordination" led by its inspiring English composer, June Boyce-Tillman. I am remembering our journey along the East Coast making our way up to Ottawa for the 2nd Women's Ordination Worldwide (WOW) Conference and the first Womenpriests' ordinations on the St. Lawrence. Like Medieval pilgrims, for nine days aboard the "Witness Wagon," we followed the story of American women's struggle for religious equality.

We also lived out our very own, transformative story.

Each evening, we pilgrims from the U.S. and abroad would retreat into our hotel to break bread and lift the cup in Spirited and diverse liturgies.

During the day, on the "Witness Wagon" bus tour we would recall and name and sometimes even touch the places of our foremothers' stories. Our presence becomes both a witness and a celebration to those who have gone before us and, yes, also to those who walk with us today.  Something else happens... something that had little to do with past history, but so much to do with our presence together, now, in these moments of remembering past struggles. As the miles progress, some of our conversations deepen and we laugh and cry together. In our sharing, our hearts open wider and the vision moves forward.

WOC board member Judy Johnson thought up this pilgrimage idea and put it into action. Along the way, travelers from far and wide joined us. At least 18 pilgrims were chauffeured tirelessly from airports by Judy and her husband George. Their granddaughter, Crystal 10, also traveled with us. Kenneth was our patient bus driver who enjoyed listening to jazz. From South Africa to San Diego, from Russia to Canada to Oregon, we all came together. And this is how we began:
July 14th -- After airport pick-ups at Dulles, National, and Baltimore airports, we --the first of the pilgrims -- arrived at the Trinity College dorms in Washington, D.C., got settled in, found a nearby deli, and did some sightseeing and shopping in the District. On campus we discovered a grotto to Mary decorated with flowers.
July 15th --  Bridget Mary Meehan (co-coordinator of Women-Church Convergence, host of the television program "God-Talk, and an administrator of Global Ministries) drove us to the headquarters of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops not far from the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. June brought along a drum, tambourine, and other noisemakers from London for us to use. As she led us in song, the bishops' security force herded us from the premises and onto the public sidewalks. Cheryl Bristol from Michigan, and I wore our albs and everyone donned their purple stoles. (We used the same liturgy that I had prepared for our our vigil in Chicago outside the Holy Name Cathedral as the U.S. bishops were praying inside.) Just as lepers had to ring bells during the Middle Ages, we women who have been excluded from full participation in our Church, took turns ringing our bells as we called out for the bishops to hear us. 

That afternoon we headed for the National Museum of Women in the Arts which was exhibiting Amalia Amaki's "Boxes, Buttons and the Blues and Women In Blues and Jazz." We were delighted to see the film which captured the stories and performances of female blues and jazz legends. The third floor exhibit, "The Library at Wadi ben Dagh," displayed a creative spoof on male literary figures and their portrayal of reality as the only one.
After a much needed downpour to cool off the day, we headed for WATER (Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual), where we were graciously welcomed by Diann L. Neu and Mary E. Hunt and their daughter Min Hunt-Neu. Over tea and cookies, we shared feminist ideas and a phone conversation with Mary Daly.
July 16th -- We traveled to St. Mary's City, Maryland's first capital, established in 1634 by Catholic Governor Leonard Calvert for religious and political tolerance. Our first stop was the Freedom of Conscience Monument erected in 1934 to honor the 1649 Act Concerning Religion which demonstrated to a Protestant regime in England that the Catholic Calverts were not creating a colony under control of the Pope in Rome.

During the historic tour in the Information Center we learned the story of Margaret Brent. In January of 1648, she demanded not one but two votes in the Maryland Assembly -- one vote for herself because she owned land and could have a vote if she were a man and the other because she did the work of an attorney. Gov. Calvert denied her request. 
Later, with a picturesque setting of sailboats and St. Mary's River on the West, we strolled through the 17h century village emerging from the archaeological excavations, explored the Protestant Episcopal Church and cemetery, the reconstructed State House, the Gift Store, and then headed down the bluff to board the replica of the "Dove" moored there. Not far away, we stopped to lunch at Spinnaker's Waterfront Restaurant where we enjoyed crabcakes, seafood salad, and oysters while  Rosemary Gravenor of South Africa feasted on the the calamari. On the way to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Peter Six of San Diego showed us his book of photos and taught us a thing or two about cameras.  When we arrived, we were ready for a late dinner. Some went swimming first.
July 17th -- On Sunday morning, an Amish Farm that was active until 1955 became our next lesson and adventure, before we were back on the road to Philadelphia. There we met with our SEPA/WOC members of Sisterly Love, Eileen DiFranco, Alice Miller, Regina Bannon and Judy Heffernan. 
July 18th -- With time free, we visited Independence Hall, Liberty Bell, the Quaker House before the Witness Wagon took off for New York City --and a rescue mission. From a distance we viewed the State of Liberty before we rescued Jackie Ferriter, from England, outside her hostel in Lower Manhattan. Then for a few solemn moments, we paused at Ground Zero and Battery Park, imagining the horrors of 9/11.

That evening we arrived in Framingham, Massachusetts where we settled in with an appetite for supper. Sue Williamson, from England, continued her perpetual search for fish and chips. Dina Cormick of South Africa, Jane Via from California, and I trekked around the hotel under the full moon and occasionally howled. 
July 19th -- In the morning: Cambridge and Harvard University Chapel, (used for many purposes, especially as a gathering place for protests.) Austin Winkley, an English architect (and one of our three male pilgrims, all husbands) had designed several Cambridge buildings near Harvard in the early 60s. We passed the MIT campus, the Charles River, Boston University and the lovely gardens where Myra Poole (also from England told us about a nearby "avant garde church" she often frequented. Then on to the inviting Boston Commons. Next to the Capitol we saw the statue of Quaker Mary Dyer who was hanged in Boston in 1660 for bearing witness to her faith.

Then Kenneth, our bus driver, turned the bus toward Gloucester, the oldest seaport in the U.S. It reminded me of Italy. As we stepped off the bus we were welcomed by Marsie Silvestro of Massachusetts Women-Church and members of the 36-year-old Gloucester Fishermen's Wives Association. At their statue of a Mother and Child dedicated to the fishermen's families, they introduced us to the stories of the brave women who remained behind while their husbands/fathers went off to sea —many never to return. The Fishermen's Wives treated us to an elegant delicioso Sicilian feast of stuffed eggplant, lasagna, salad, and mineral water at The Trattoria and Pizzeria.  President, Angela Sanfilippo, told of how she and others have prayed litanies for the safety of their husbands and fathers during so many raging storms -- and how they had marched on Congress to change the Maritime Laws to safeguard their husbands and the ocean's fish.  
Jeanne Gallo of Gloucester asked if I'd put some information up on the Memory Wall OF WOW 2005 at Carlton University in Ottawa about Sr. Marie Augusta Neal, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur. Jeanne wrote in my journal so that I wouldn't forget. Sr. Augusta was a sociologist who did a Sisters' Study in the 60s and who spoke at the first WOC Conference in 1975. She gave the idea to the U.S. bishops for the Detroit Call to Action Conference in 1976. Writing about Women's Liberation long before it became "common" to do so, this foremother influenced many to work for social justice. (I did not forget to put this notice on the wall.)     
As we were eating tiramisu, our foremother bishops Gisela Forester and Patricia Fresen arrived and we welcomed them. We learned that Judith Sargent Murray (1751-1820) worked for women's rights and she was a feminist, visionary and community activist. Several local women spoke on their experiences working for justice and peace issues, including GFWA board member Jeanne; Rosaria Salerno, City Clerk of Boston and former City Councilor; and Nichol Richon Schoel who works for Help for Abused Women and their Children (HAWC). Episcopal priest and author, Rev. Lyn Brakeman, shared her journey toward priesthood.

In closing, longtime WOC feminist composer Marsie Silvestro, who lives in Gloucester's Rocky Neck Artists' Colony, the oldest in the U.S., led us in her well-known and moving "Bless You My Sister," where we joined hands and some of us cried for joy. Afterwards, we talked and networked with one another. I didn't want to leave this loving and picturesque community.
It was time, however, to travel to a place known for its dark chapter in our history: Salem. We stayed for about an hour or so. Many, including our two pre-teens, Crystal and Alyssia Monroe of Oregon (daughter of Mary-Lynne), saw the spots where several "witches" had been hung exactly 326 years earlier, to the day. Others went to the museum. Cheryl had her photo taken in front of the warlock.  A popular gift item was the t-shirt "Not all witches live in Salem."
July 20th --After the longest trek of the tour -- from the witches' hanging trees of Salem, passed Harriet Tubman's home in Auburn, to the Women's Rights site in Seneca Falls  -- we emerged as if from a time warp: In hardly more than two hundred miles we had fled through more than two hundred years of American history to find ourselves again, on an anniversary date, in a new space, a new time, entering not into another woman's nightmare, but into the embrace of a thousand women's dreams coming together.

We arrived in Seneca Falls on the anniversary of the first Women's Rights Convention 157 years earlier. The time warp left standing in the ruins of the Wesleyan Chapel, shoulder to shoulder with the spirits of Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Susan B Anthony -- in the very spot where 300 American women had first come together, to hang together, to share their new vision of women's civic and religious equality with men -- to celebrate their divine destiny.

...A few blocks away was the home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton who not only helped call the Convention of 1848, but also worked for women's right to vote and wrote The Woman's Bible. Here was the “Independence Hall” of Christian women's freedom.  

July 21st -- The next morning, our final day in the U.S., we watched the movie, "Dreams of Equality" about the first convention at the Women's Rights National Historical Park. We walked again among the statues of Wesleyan Chapel as if greeting old friends. And we caressed the waterfall-wall engraved with their Declaration of Sentiments: 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights...The history of mankind is the history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of a direct tyranny over her...

and, the part now engraved on my memory: 

...he allows her in Church as well as State, but a subordinate position, claiming Apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry...He has usurped the prerogative of Jehovah himself, claiming it is his right to assign to her a sphere of action, when that belongs to her conscience and her God.

After lunch our Witness Wagon took us to Rochester, to tour Susan B. Anthony's home. At this time, Bishop Christina Mayr Lumetzburger and her husband Michael arrived along with her mother, sister, and niece. Many of us bought items in the gift shop labeled with Anthony's oft quoted words "Failure is impossible"...  We were now ready to partake in a delightful afternoon tea and pastries put together by Deni Mack and Denise Donato of Spiritus Christi Church.

For the first time in several decades, three of the foremothers of WOC --  Gratia L'Esperence, RSM, Rosalie Muschal-Reinhardt, and Joan Sobala, SSJ, the very women who first envsioned (with Deni Mack and Marsie Silvestro) the first Women's Ordination Conference -- spoke to us. They told us about witnessing years ago to the bishops and at ordinations. I listened with open ears aware of the struggle and hope that went before me. That evening we were invited to supper at Spiritus Christi where Mary Rammerman and Jim Callan spoke and we presented Judy with a gift. At Spiritus Christi we all participated in a memorable Mass celebrated by Mary Rammerman, Denise Donato, Jim Callan and Christina Mayr Lumetzburger.

That evening, back in our hotel, we put together our final liturgy.

July 22nd -- We left early on July 22nd, the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, for the last leg of our journey. On the bus, Lala Winkley, of England, led us in our final liturgy. 

After stopping for lunch in the Canadian resort town of Brockville, along the St. Lawrence, we drove into Ottawa.  On Parliament Hill at the Shrine for the Famous Five, we were greeted by the press team for WOW 2005, the Canadian women leaders and the press. We became the first salvo in the opening of the Women's Ordination Worldwide Conference 2005...singing...

Following the vision we will move forward.
Following the vision we won't look back .

But why, you may ask, did the "Witness Wagon" happen at all? 

As The Ottawa Citizen noted (July 17th): "With colorful determination and a flair for the theatrical, the Witness Wagon is rolling toward Ottawa...The Witness Wagon is filled with women who think such outrageous, subversive thoughts as, 'Hmm. What is wrong, exactly, with women being priests?'"  

And, I might add, the Witness Wagon "happened," as WOW 2005 did, and as the ordinations on the St. Lawrence did, June Boyce-Tillman taught us all...Because we women are following the vision...

And our resolve will never slack, never, slack.

Said Sojourner Truth: "Life is a hard battle anyway, and if we laugh and sing a little as we fight the good fight of freedom, it makes it all go easier.”

Resolution: Urgent Call to Vatican to Listen to Women

Women's Ordination Worldwide (WOW)
Second International Conference
Breaking Silence, Breaking Bread: Christ Calls Women to Lead
Ottawa, Canada
July 22 - 24, 2005


With a Sense of Urgency We Call Upon the Holy See to Listen to Women and Affirm our Baptismal Vocation

The following is a resolution passed by WOW at its International Conference in Ottawa, Canada, in 2005

We, women and men from twenty countries around the globe, have gathered for the Second International Ecumenical Conference of Women's Ordination Worldwide (WOW). We have discussed primarily the leadership of women in ministry within the Roman Catholic Church. We have explored the notion of priesthood, understood as a plurality of ministries, serving communities of the faithful.

With a sense of urgency, we call upon the Holy See to listen to women and acknowledge and affirm our baptismal vocation. We believe this is necessary for the credibility and the very survival of the Roman Catholic Church.

We welcome the diversity within the ordination movement and honour those women who have already sought ordination as priests.

We reiterate our call for the reinstatement of the permanent deaconate for women.

We call upon the whole People of God - including the Holy See, and all bishops and priests - to recognize the validity of women's vocations to ordination.

July 24, 2005
Ottawa, Ontario


Keynote: Mary Hunt: Different Voices/Different Choices

Women's Ordination Worldwide (WOW)
Second International Conference
Breaking Silence, Breaking Bread: Christ Calls Women to Lead
Ottawa, Canada
July 22 - 24, 2005

Keynote Address - Mary E. Hunt
Different Voices/Different Choices: Feminist Perspectives on Ministry - A Contribution from the United States
July 23, 2005


 Mary E. Hunt, Ph.D.

Mary E. Hunt, Ph.D.

Bonjour, good afternoon, Guten Tag, buenos tardes. My warm thanks to the organizers of this historic conference, and especially to our Canadian sisters, for gracious hospitality.

Coming from the Washington, D.C., area, I am especially happy to be in Ottawa, where I can see the impact of another kind of government. Thank you, Canada, for showing those of us who live to your south what it means to be a responsible citizen of North America. We often look north with envy and with hope.

I will address our theme, "Different Voices, Different Choices: Feminist Perspectives on Ministry," from a distinctly U.S. starting point, mindful of my limits even though I live as a conscientious objector to the hegemonic policies of my country. I am mindful, too, of the global context in which we live, so I look forward to hearing my colleagues' views. I hope that the gestalt will give us each a fuller appreciation for the big picture that is feminist ministry in a "discipleship of equals." 1

Indebted to and following Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza's insightful keynote and Rosemary Radford Ruether's creative contribution, I believe that not only are we church, "a kindom of priests," well beyond the bankrupt kyriarchy, but that actualizing our various ministries in an egalitarian model is an urgent priority in an increasingly unjust world. My focus is on the justice connection.

I will spell out my view in three moments: first, claiming that the context in which we live out our ministries has changed from one that prohibited women's ministry to one which fairly demands it; second, suggesting that the most adequate way of thinking about feminist ministry is by analogy to women-church since "women" seem to get lost in the shuffle otherwise; and third, offering criteria we might employ as we strategize how our ministries can overlap to do justice and build up our communities.

(1) From prohibition against to need for women's ministry

When the unthinkable discussions of women's ordination began post Vatican II in the 1970s in the U.S., following the lead of St. Joan's Alliance, the clearest analogue was the so-called "valid but illicit" ordinations of Episcopal women priests in Philadelphia in July 1974. We presumed that Catholic women would one day be ordained as well. Thirty years later, at least four factors have changed our thinking on ordination.

a) The U.S. religious scene was then predominantly Christian and Jewish with ecumenical relations between/among Christians a high priority. Now the U.S., according to Harvard Pluralism Project director Diana Eck, is among the most religiously diverse countries in the world, with more Muslims than Presbyterians.2 Women are increasingly becoming the majority of ministers in many religious groups including Reform Judaism. Coupled with the rise of the Religious Right and other forms of fundamentalism, the religious landscape is now highly politicized and commercialized. It is within this context that we evaluate our strategies, learn from and collaborate with the many feminist rabbis and ministers, from women who function as imams, as well as those in pagan ministry. How far we have come from the now seemingly tame Philadelphia ordinations. Our religious imaginations spark with new models of ministry and new role models in ministry.

b) The U.S. Roman Catholic kyriarchal church has changed profoundly as well. It is impossible to overstate the impact of the priest pedophilia and episcopal cover-up scandals as they have eroded the institution's last shred of moral authority and cost more than a billion of the community's hard-earned dollars. The sheer number of victims/survivors, as if one were not sufficient evidence of a system in need of overhaul, and the unconscionable collaboration by many bishops has left the U.S. church in ruins. To pay the claims, many dioceses are closing local parishes over the objections of the parishioners who pay for them. This "solution" is yet another manifestation of the top-down problem, authoritarian action without accountability to the community that was part of the cause of the original crimes.

A feminist reading of the situation sheds new light. I do so thanks to a report by Barbara Mahar of Massachusetts Women-Church: "Recently I stopped in at St. Albert's in Weymouth {editor's note: one of the churches closed by the kyriarchy but kept open by the people until the kyriarchy relented}. It was the middle of a week day afternoon. I was greeted warmly at the door by a man and a woman. Several people were in the church-praying, reading, sitting silently. The church was in perfect condition…In a word-welcoming…I sat and took it all in for a while, then read the bulletin…full from front to back with activities, meetings, outreach programs, prayer service schedules…a list of suggestions from parishioners, Legal Counsel, beginners painting and knitting classes…And not a priest in sight! Holy Communion is being distributed. And not a priest in sight…The whole scene brought a smile to my face and relief to my heavy heart. And not a priest in sight…." 3Barbara's comments, though she read the situation slightly differently than I did, made me realize that to think constructively about feminist ministry we are well advised not to replace male priests with women, but to reconfigure the whole model of church, confident that the many ministerial gifts of the community will be sufficient to its pastoral needs. Feminist ministry is a response to the call of Vatican II for increased lay participation.

c) Another major change since the early 1970s is the increasingly conservative kyriarchal institutional church represented by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger under both species, as it were. In his first papacy, as I have come to think of it, he was the theological heavy hand as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He established a tripartite approach to most issues: claiming that there is but one truth, grounding arguments in natural law, and then insisting that his views become public policy. This is clear in the Vatican position on abortion where fetal life trumps a woman's life; where such matters are considered part of natural law, not a woman's right and responsibility to handle her own reproductive choices; and where governments worldwide are lobbied to codify anti-abortion views according to Roman dictate. Likewise on same-sex marriage: heterosexual marriage is trumpeted as part of the divine plan; any other sexual activity defies natural law; countries should therefore outlaw same-sex marriage. Tell that to Canada which has legalized same-sex marriage, Joseph.

Now under the other species, as it were, he is Pope Benedict XVI, with the massive media-driven power of the papacy as backup. He has expressed a theo-political preference for a smaller, more homogenously conservative, some might say leaner/meaner, church. He has shown a willingness to sacrifice the catholicity of the church. In this papacy, I predict that women's ordination will either remain in the "don't talk about it" zone, or be "settled definitively" one more time for the road. The "best case" scenario, which would please those who want to get ordained, for reasons that I consider mistaken, would be the creation of deaconesses. With all due respect to those who wish to be deaconess, in my view, this would amount to a ladies' auxiliary around the edges of the clergy with women once again doing the unpaid housework of the hierarchy.

The most likely outcome is the continuation of the present system with neither married Catholic men nor women admitted to the clerical ranks any time soon, while Anglicans and others who oppose the ordination of women in their denominations (for example, the Anglicans in England who are now faced with the real possibility of women bishops) are welcomed with open arms. The misogynistic handwriting is on the Vatican's wall.

Women who once desired ordination into the kyriarchal system with the best intentions of changing it from inside can see in light of the current situation that such good intentions are woefully inadequate to transform an increasingly recalcitrant institution. Nonetheless, cooptation is still, in my view, the most serious danger. One day (may it be soon) when the house of cards comes tumbling down even the present pope will see the wisdom in recognizing women's ministry on kyriarchal terms, and ordaining women, and/or regularizing the ordinations of those already ordained, in order to preserve the kyriarchal system of power. We must do better than that, or all of our efforts in the past four decades will have been for naught.

d) The urgency I feel about deepening the practice of feminist ministry now in a discipleship of equals, the reason I continue to think about this issue when so many seemingly more pressing ones are on my screen, is because I understand how the various forms of kyriarchal oppression are connected. Let me be specific from a U.S. context. The immoral war in Iraq; the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the name of national security; globalization that results in increased poverty; the destruction of the environment as a sacrifice to unbridled capitalism; the racist, sexist, heterosexist, colonialist attitudes; and the death-dealing lack of sharing of health, education, and other common resources are all part of the same worldview that baptizes and confirms privilege for some and oppression for others. Disgracefully, many U.S. citizens do not register the impact of tens of thousands of Iraqis who have died, thinking somehow that the thousand plus U.S. dead are more important simply because they are Americans.

In this worldview, clergy, from pope to parish priest, are logically and divinely Other than the lower status laity. This hierarchical dualism, this habit of thinking in twos such that one is always better than the other, is deeply ingrained in us. Feminist theorist Catherine MacKinnon described it as the inability to see difference without discrimination.4 I respectfully suggest that what is at stake in our choice of models of feminist ministry is no less than how we wish to posture vis-à-vis these global issues, because at root the permission to think of another person, another animal, even the earth itself as Other and of lesser value is intimately connected to one's religious view.

I see feminist ministry as the lynchpin in our theo-political situation. If we build even the hint of hierarchy into our community we capitulate to forces that would love our blessing. Imagine instead if feminist ministries became synonymous with interreligious international social justice. We are not far from it since the majority of women I know who have been interested in the question of ordination at one time or another are actively involved in justice work, whether as lawyers, teachers, government officials, social workers, professors, pastoral ministers, musicians, eco-farmers, writers, or the like. Thirty years ago women could not be ordained. Today we cannot not minister.

2) Women, "women-church," and ministry

Given this religiously pluralistic setting, the sorry state of American Catholicism, the increasingly conservative Vatican, and especially the global need to develop new ways of living cooperatively-not hierarchically-on this earth, I consider the need for feminist ministries crucial. However, I am dubious that ordination is the most useful rubric for our thinking for two reasons:

First, no matter how we parse it, ordination as such, and especially in the Catholic tradition, conveys rank order. Encouraging, recognizing, and blessing feminist ministries does not. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "Order is used to signify not only the particular rank or general status of the clergy, but also the outward action by which they are raised to that status, and thus stands for ordination. It also indicates what differentiates laity from clergy or the various ranks of the clergy, and thus means spiritual power." 5

Feminist efforts to talk about ordination in a discipleship of equals face the serious problem of squaring this circle. While I appreciate that ordination should not mean hierarchy, I think we finesse the question at our peril. I prefer to put our collective weight behind the matter of feminist ministry in the many forms feminists (women and men) put our talents to use doing justice and building our communities. That way we are in no danger of falling into the kyriarchal trap of orders. At the same time, those whose talents and training take them in the direction of what has traditionally been the work of ordained ministers can still exercise their gifts without fear of contradiction, cooptation, or scandal.

Second, even in some of our best efforts in the U.S., we have let ordination drive the train while women seem to be left in the station. Whether Women's Ordination Conference or Women's Ordination Worldwide, or any other coupling of words that substitutes for feminist ministry in a discipleship of equals, it is my observation that what attracts the most attention is "ordination." There is a certain logic to this since it is our intention to lift up the unjust, theologically incorrect teaching that prohibits women from being licitly ordained. There is power in resistance. There is justice in naming wrong by its name. Inclusion must always triumph over exclusion. But it is still a defensive - not offensive - move to ask for ordination, a reaction - not a construction.

I worry that in the current climate even our best efforts to confront kyriarchal powers result in reinscribing the importance of ordination and, however inadvertently, elevating those who are ordained. By doing so, we pass over the power of women worldwide who are engaged in various efforts to create a just world. From my participation in WOC's 1975 conference in Detroit, through the WOW gathering in Ottawa, the most important experience of our movement for me has always been living as a feminist community united in sacrament and solidarity, a discipleship of equals struggling, however imperfectly, to be church.

Just as "women-church" gives new meaning to the word "church" by including women and others who have been marginalized, so, too, does "feminist ministry" instead of women's ordination change the default assumption that ordination is primary, that kyriarchy sets the agenda.6 It puts the emphasis instead on women's and, yes, feminist men's many forms of committed service. It leaves behind once and for all the hierarchical trappings we saw on display during the papal transition.

One of our success problems as a movement is that we have a variety of perspectives on ordination - what it means, whether to do it illicitly, how to understand it in a wider theo - political context. We have varying views on professionalism in ministry including whether some people should be paid for what they do and, if so, who and why. We are thinking through the training necessary for new models of ministry, as well as who supervises and approves such programs. We have not yet grappled with matters of liability and malpractice. Given this complexity, there is something comforting about relying on the tried and now known to be untrue system of bishops or the equivalent who will make such decisions or using the old model of religious congregations to assess fitness and belonging. But I caution against all of this as a dangerous lack of imagination, and/or a dubious passing over of the new context in which we find ourselves. I suggest we look for ways to coordinate and amplify our ministries so as to be more efficient in doing justice against very efficient forces to the contrary and to build up our communities as places where love and hope dwell. The question is how, for which I will conclude with several concrete suggestions.

(3) Criteria for enhancing ministries and building up communities

When the balcony doors opened at St. Peter's after the sham conclave "Habemos papam" was intoned, and out came his nibs dressed to kill, down to the red shoes that had been out of papal vogue for years, I realized that the problem was not simply that Cardinal Ratzinger had been elected pope. I am not sure I would have been happy if Jesus had been elected for the simple reason that the process was so utterly flawed: bereft of any input from women, lay people, or children; undemocratic and elitist. The papacy is meant to be a symbol of unity, not a person with authority.

I realized that about the only thing that could have rescued the sorry Vatican scene from what I predict will be history's harsh judgment would have been if the doors had opened and an African woman, HIV positive, with her baby in her arms had come out onto the balcony proclaiming the love of Wisdom-Sophia for all of creation, the imperative of Wisdom-Sophia that justice be done. What a symbol of unity she would have been! Our tears of joy at such a miracle would have cleansed the world as we went about actualizing the ministry of a catholic church worthy of its name. Instead, we got Cardinal Ratzinger.

I mourned the failure of religious imagination and vowed then not to postpone what we envision. I urge us to live the vision of radical equality now, however imperfectly, rather than participate in what oppresses. I urge us to listen with special attention to what young women are saying about the world and the church they want. To that end, I propose four criteria we can consider as we develop new models of feminist ministry in a discipleship of equals:

First, our ministry must be feminist in the deepest sense of that word. The full personhood of women, the very survival of millions of women and their dependent children is in the balance. We have feminist resources aplenty to guide not a liberal, corporate approach to ministry, but one which weaves the experiences and talents of willing workers with the pressing needs of the day. Feminism, far from outmoded, is a deep well of successful struggles against racism, sexism, colonialism, heterosexism, and the like that can help set priorities and implement strategies that work.

Second, the implications of our choices must be evaluated in global terms, not simply in terms of local options. While all ministry like all politics is local, choices we make, styles of ministry we embrace have implications beyond any given shores. Training programs, ministerial preparation, even ministry will vary, of course. But especially those of us who live in so-called developed countries must resist the tendency to imperialize our styles and criteria, and thus perpetuate colonial Christianity in feminist dress. This is a tricky balance given the unequal distribution of resources, but it is no excuse for setting up a parallel system that excludes and diminishes the contributions of the world's majority.

Third, feminist ministry is not denominationally specific, but interreligiously connected. That is why excessive concern about Roman Catholic ordination is, in my view, misplaced. It is an important issue of principle, of course, but in the present context it can function as a distraction from the collaborative work we need to be about to do justice. Indeed there are already many Catholic women ordained as Episcopalian and Lutheran priests who are no less Catholic for it, just as there are women ministering in countless communities who have not needed a papal pat on the head for their work to flourish.

Fourth, feminist ministry is justice-seeking activity. Grounded in the pain of exclusion, we began our movement for ordination as a matter of justice. Along the way, as our feminist ministry deepened we have joined our forces with those who seek to eradicate poverty, to provide health care, to eliminate HIV/AIDS, to stop war, to live simply in communities and families that do justice.

These criteria for ministry, that it be feminist, global, interreligiously connected, and justice-seeking, offer a common starting point for hearing different voices and evaluating different choices as we carry out our various feminist ministries in a discipleship of equals. I have every confidence that Sophia in her Wisdom will bless our efforts to live them out with integrity. Then, just as we break bread and share wine "in memory of her," our daughters and their friends will take up their ministries in memory of us.


1. Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza coined this term. For a good explanation, see In Memory of Her: A Feminist Reconstruction of Christian Origins, New York: Crossroad, 1983, especially Part II, and Discipleship of Equals: A Critical Feminist Ekklesia-logy of Liberation, New York: Crossroad, 1993.

2. Diana Eck, A New Religious America: How A "Christian Country" Has Become the World's Most Religiously Diverse Nation, San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001.

3. Barbara Mahar, e-mail to, February 4, 2005.

4. Catharine MacKinnon, "Difference and Dominance: On Sex Discrimination," in The Moral Foundation of Civil Rights, Ed. Robert K. Fullinwinder and Claudia Mills, Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield, 1986.

5. From the Catholic Encyclopedia, 2004, "Order is used to signify not only the particular rank or general status of the clergy, but also the outward action by which they are raised to that status, and thus stands for ordination. It also indicates what differentiates laity from clergy or the various ranks of the clergy, and thus means spiritual power. The Sacrament of Order is the sacrament by which grace and spiritual power for the discharge of ecclesiastical offices are conferred." (, July 20, 2005).

6. The women-church movement is based on the idea of the ekklesia of wo/men articulated by Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza. See her Wisdom's Ways: Introducing Feminist Biblical Interpretation, Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2001. .

About Mary Hunt

Mary E. Hunt, Ph.D., is a feminist theologian who is co-founder and co-director of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER) in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA. A Catholic active in the women-church movement, she lectures and writes on theology and ethics with particular attention to social justice concerns.

 Mary E. Hunt, Ph.D.

Mary E. Hunt, Ph.D.

Dr. Hunt received the Ph.D. from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. She also received the Masters in Divinity degree from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley and the Masters in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School. Her undergraduate degree in Theology and Philosophy is from Marquette University. She completed Clinical Pastoral Education and is fluent in Spanish. She spent several years teaching and working on women’s issues and human rights in Argentina as a participant in the Frontier Internship in Mission Program. She continues that work through WATER’s project, “Women Crossing Worlds,” an ongoing exchange with Latin American women.

Dr. Hunt was Adjunct Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies at Georgetown University for five years. She has lectured and taught at numerous institutions. For the 2000-2001 academic year she was at Harvard Divinity School as a Research Fellow at the Center for the Study of Values in Public Life. She has taught in summer programs at Iliff School of Theology, Pacific School of Religion, and Lancaster Theological Seminary.

She is a co-editor of New Feminist Christianity: Many Voices, Many Views (SkyLight Paths Publishing, 2010). She is also the editor of A Guide for Women in Religion: Making Your Way from A to Z (Palgrave, 2004) and co-editor, with Patricia Beattie Jung and Radhika Balakrishnan, of Good Sex: Feminist Perspectives from the World’s Religions (Rutgers University Press, 2001). She is the author of Fierce Tenderness: A Feminist Theology of Friendship (Crossroad Publishing Company, 1991), which was awarded the Crossroad Women’s Studies Prize. She edited From Woman-Pain to Woman-Vision: Writings in Feminist Theology (Fortress Press, 1989) by Anne McGrew Bennett.

Among her many publications are articles in the Journal of Feminist Studies in ReligionConciliumConscience,, and Mandragora. She has published chapters in books such as Feminist Theologies: Legacy and Prospect (ed. Rosemary Radford Ruether), Heterosexism in Contemporary World Religion: Problem and Prospect (ed. Marvin M. Ellison and Judith Plaskow), God Forbid (ed. Kathleen Sands), Sexuality and the Sacred (ed. James Nelson and Sandra Longfellow), Feminist Theological Ethics (ed. Lois Daly), Sexual Diversity and Catholicism (ed. Patricia Beattie Jung), and Women’s Voices and Visions of the Church: Reflections from North America (ed. Letty M. Russell, Aruna Gnanadason, and J. Shannon Clarkson), as well as entries in the Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America (ed. Rosemary Skinner Keller and Rosemary Radford Ruether).

Mary is a member of the Society for Christian Ethics and the American Academy of Religion where she co-chaired the Women and Religion Section. She is an advisor to the Women’s Ordination Conference. She is a member of the Editorial Board of I.B. Taurus.

She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with her partner, Diann L. Neu, and their daughter, Catherine Fei Min Hunt-Neu.

Mary E. Hunt’s Archives at the Sophia Smith Collection

Keynote: Rosemary Radford Ruether: The Church as Liberation Community from Patriarchy

Women's Ordination Worldwide (WOW)
Second International Conference
Breaking Silence, Breaking Bread: Christ Calls Women to Lead
Ottawa, Canada
July 22 - 24, 2005

The Church as Liberation Community from Patriarchy: The Praxis of Ministry as Discipleship of Equals
Keynote Address by Rosemary Radford Ruether
July 23, 2005



 Rosemary Radford Ruether

Rosemary Radford Ruether

My topic today is the understanding of Church as a community of liberation from patriarchy and the praxis of ministry for such a community of liberation. First I want to say something about the ecclesiology of understanding church as a community of liberation from patriarchy, and then something of how the praxis of ministry should be understood in the context of such an understanding of church.

The Christian church from the beginning was understood as a community of liberation from slavery and oppression, drawing on the ancient theme of Israel as an exodus community from slavery in Egypt and a journey to enter into the Promised land. Baptism was at first embraced as the sacrament of conversion and transformation through which one entered this community of liberation that overcame all social hierarchies of ethnicity, class and gender, a baptism into the Christ-nature in whom there is no more Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male or female. But this vision of a community of discipleship of equals was quickly spiritualized and the concrete reference to changing social hierarchies denied.

Soon the patriarchal voice was reinstated in the household codes: Wives obey your husbands, children your parents, slaves your masters, a reiterated demand for obedience of subjects to their lords in New Testament texts that itself witnesses to the fact that many Christians understood baptism and entry into the church as really overcoming these relationships of domination socially, as well as spiritually.

This vision of the church as a community of liberation in which all members share ministry somewhat equally has been continually recovered in Christian history, in medieval Beguine communities, in Quaker meetings and Methodist class meetings. Most recently the development of Base Christian communities as the ecclesial expression of Latin American liberation theology has rediscovered this understanding of church. Although the critique of patriarchy has been implicit in these reclamation of small face-to-face communitarian understandings of church, this has seldom been made explicit. Thus women-church or feminist forms of Base Christian community represents a major new step of understanding patriarchy as the central expression of the powers and principalities of sinful distortion of human existence on the planet and understanding church as a community of liberation from patriarchy

This means that patriarchy is rejected as an expression of God's will and the order of creation desired by God. Patriarchy is named as a historically constructed system by which ruling class males have established themselves in a position of domination over women and over dependent classes in the family and society, slaves, children, inferiorized racial or ethnic groups. Ruling-class males have built social structures and ideologies of cultural justification of these social structures to monopolize cultural, economic and political power in society. Others, women, slaves, inferiorized racial groups, were forbidden access to this power and confined to auxiliary status as physical laborers in production and reproduction, while ruling class males own, command and enjoy the lion's share of the fruits of this labor.

Rejection of patriarchy as the order of creation for society also obviously means rejecting it as the appropriate order for the church. If the church in its essential nature is a community of liberation from patriarchy then it should most particularly witness to an alternative pattern of relationship between its members based on a discipleship of equals and mutual empowerment. It can witness to an alternative relationship of humans to each other and to the rest of creation in the larger society only if it itself witnesses to such alternative relations in its own basic processes of life, and ministry in its sacraments, educational work, administration and mission to society. A church which claims to be the sacrament of liberation for society while itself embodying the worse patterns of oppression internally compounds sinful distortion with hypocrisy and is simply unbelievable.

Constructing a church of liberation from patriarchy requires dismantling clericalism. This means we have to understand the utter incompatibility of clericalism with a liberative understanding of church and ministry. Clericalism is the separation of ministry from mutual empowerment in community and its distortion into hierarchically ordered castes of clergy over laity. The clergy then monopolize sacramental action, education and teaching, administration and leadership in mission, turning the laity into passive dependents who are to receive these services from the clergy and carry out their orders, but not participate in shaping, defining and embodying these activities themselves. Ministry becomes the special preserve of the ordained, rather than based in the community and articulated within and by it.

In the official Catholic clerical myth of origins, the ordained episcopacy is declared to have been established by Christ, representative of God, who founded a hierarchy to pass down his divine power through a line of succession. Bishops then dispense this power to priests in ordination and priests in turn dispense forgiveness and access to the grace of divine life to the laity, if the laity submits to the rules laid down by the hierarchy. In this way the entire structure, sacramental and educational life of the church is distorted into a power tool of the clergy over the laity, not to mention the upper levels of the clergy over the lower levels, Bishops over priests, in the Roman Catholic system, Pope over Bishops.

Clericalism is built on and reduplicates patriarchy. The basic symbol and mode of the clerical relation on each level of hierarchy in relation to the ones below it is that of the all-knowing and all-powerful husband over a passive, dependent wife, combined with the all-powerful and all-knowing father over the dependent, undeveloped child. This means that instead of the father-husband cleric helping the child-wife to develop and become an equal adult, the basic mode of ministry is to re-enforce dependency, ignorance and under-development. Obviously this is the same pattern of relationship in all patriarchally constructed systems of relationship, whether it be the doctor who disempowers the patients and keeps them in the dark about care for their own bodies or the colonialist who shapes the colonized into exploitative under-development or the slave-master who tries to turn the slave into a passive tool of labor.

I will briefly detail how patriarchy disempowers the people sacramentally, educationally and politically. In the sacramental life all the symbols of the life of the community, as life grounded in the divine and experienced communally, are alienated from the people and made into magic tools possessed by the clergy through ordination from "above." For example, baptism should manifest the overcoming of alienating and oppressive modes of human relationship, and the reunion with one's authentic potential for life as one's gift in creation by God, entering into a community which confirms and nurtures such redemptive capacities of our human natures. But clericalism turns baptism into a rite by which one rejects one's natural life, derived from one's parents at birth, and undergoes a rebirth seen as overcoming and transcending the sinful and mortal life one received at birth due to the sinful sexual intercourse of one's parents. The theological key of such an alienation of sacramental life is the quasi Manichaean Augustinianism that divorces grace from nature, redemption from creation. Once grace is defined as something transcendent to nature that negates nature as evil, it is then able to be reified as a power possessed by hierarchically-ordered representatives of an institution that alone mediates this supernatural power.

Likewise the Eucharist should be a symbol of our participation in authentic life that is our true nature, our nurture and growth in such life. Yet it has become the sacramental symbol most radically alienated from the people and transformed into a clerical power tool. The Eucharist, above all, is the sacrament most rigidly guarded as a clerical power tool and defined as an act that no lay person can perform. Excommunication, or denial of the Eucharist, is the prime tool by which one punishes those who resist clerical control. Ordination is the hierarchially transmitted power to "confect" the Eucharist. Thus the simple act of blessing and distributing food and drink as a symbol of giving and nurturing life is turned into a power tool to control access to God and redeeming relation to God.

The disempowerment of the people educationally is a second aspect of clericalism. The clergy monopolize theological education, removing it to a place inaccessible to the people. Theological education is developed in a language unknown to the people, either a fossilized foreign language, such as Latin, which traditionally both laity and even nuns were not taught, or else a learned jargon that most people can't understand. The people are thus made to feel helpless and dependent on the clergy for interpretation of scripture and the ability to analyze theological symbols and ideas. This was compounded for many centuries by withholding the reading of the scriptures themselves from laypeople. Although Protestantism represented a reappropriation of Bible reading by the laity, it also soon developed esoteric ways of exegesis of the Bible which the lay people felt incompetent to rival and so must be dependent on preachers to understand. Thus we see a common pattern in church renewal movements by which initially laicizing and egalitarian movements are reclericalized as the movement becomes institutionalized.

Liberation theology and Base Communities in Latin American significantly based itself centrally on a reappropriation of accessible popular Bible reading by the laity. There has also been a great movement of lay people into theological education in an ecumenical context, meaning that many Catholic lay people now have a more modern and sophisticated knowledge of theology, church, history and the Bible than most traditionally educated priests and bishops. This is a very threatening situation for clericalism, and it is not surprising to see bishops and the Vatican trying to forbid laity and especially women from teaching in Catholic seminaries, particularly teaching priests, or even attending Catholic seminaries.

Clericalism in the internal politics of the church is a third area of clerical control over the people. In the most hierarchical church, Roman Catholicism, the laity traditionally has no role in church administration. The laity could not participate in calling much, less ordaining their own pastors. They were not elected to church councils at a diocesan level, much less national or international level. They can't help write or vote on laws regulating the church or governing it. The Second Vatican council tried to change the stratified pattern of church government for a more collegial relation of Pope with bishops, to be extended in collegiality of bishops with priests, priests with laity.

But the Vatican quickly rejected real power sharing with the bishops, and the bishops with their priests. Partly due to extreme shortage of clergy, there has been some progress on lay ministry in parishes and the participation of laity in church councils. But here the pastor holds the final decisions juridically and can ignore the advice of the laity and dismiss the church council at will. Thus the whole system remains despotic, despite a voluntary softening by some priests who wish or need to be more collaborative with the people. But because there is no final accountability to the people, this remains a benevolent despotism at best, not true democracy.

If we understand clericalism as the expropriation of ministry, of sacramental life, theological education and church administration from the people, then feminist base Christian communities or a ministry of the discipleship of equals is engaged in the revolutionary process of reappropriating to the people what has been falsely expropriated from us. We are reclaiming sacramental life as the expression of our own entry into and mutual empowerment in redemptive life, the renewal of authentic human life freed from alienating power. Theological education and teaching are understood as our own reflections on the meaning of reclaiming our authentic life from such distortion. Ministry is the active praxis of our authentic life and the building of redemptive communities as the bases from which to challenge systems and ideologies of oppression and injustice.

We should understand baptism as the proclamation of our entrance into a process of metanoia or turning around by which we see through the ideologies that justify oppressive systems and get in touch with our true potential for life. Eucharist is the ongoing nurture in such life in community. The dismantling of clerical concepts of ministry and church organization does not mean an anarchism that rejects any leadership roles and skills, but rather that the community itself decides what expressions of liturgy, learning and service it wishes to engage in in order to express its redemptive life. It then becomes fairly easy to delegate various tasks to people who have the skills and readiness to undertake these tasks. In other words, there is a ministry of function, rather than clerical caste, rooted in a discipleship of equals.

A ministry of function rather than clerical caste can allow a true plurality of ministerial needs of the community to be defined and responded to. It can draw on the skills and gifts of a variety of people in the community to meet these needs and thus activate their gifts in ministry. Redemptive church communities need a variety of enablers. Lumping all ministry into an ordained caste means that many of the community's needs go unmet, since no one person possesses all these skills and gifts. A creative church community needs, 1) liturgical creators, poets, artists, choreographers, dramatists and preachers, 2) teachers who know the history of religious ideologies and their relationship to various social systems and can help the community reflect on and reconstruct its inherited symbols, 3) administrators skilled in organizing and developing the material resources of the community, 4) community organizers that can critically analyze the structures of social oppression and organize the community for social change, 5) spiritual counselors who have deep wisdom in the inner life and can be guides to others in the journey.

Thus one should ideally think of a team of ministers engaged in these various aspects of community building and celebrating what was traditionally called "the edification of the church." I suspect there will generally be a need for someone to be the coordinator of these many processes and who oversees them all, as long a that person remains a truly a primus inter pares rather than a hierarch.

All this raises the question of whether ministry should be seen as a full-time paid job, much less as a career. Perhaps it should always be combined with other jobs, although it is appropriate for part time pay to be attached to such roles on an equal time basis. But most of all, such leadership roles should not been seen as creating a permanent caste set aside for life, but rather functional roles which should always see themselves as engaged in reproducing themselves, educating others so they can also fulfill these roles for the community.

Thus participating with someone who is skilled in doing liturgy in creating liturgy should be a process of becoming educated to create liturgy oneself. Helping in community organizing with a skilled community organizer should produce people who can take the lead in community organizing. Being in spiritual counseling should produce people that should become spiritual counselors. Instead of an education for permanent dependency, education should empower and make the educated into a peer of the educator.

Ideally a Christian church should be able to offer sustenance in these many aspects of redemptive life, but of course this is seldom the case. Some Christian feminist liberative communities can only manage to be liturgical communities perhaps once a month or every two weeks for people who continue to go to other churches or not. Some groups come together primarily for study. Others are primarily service groups who come together around some particular social project, such as a soup kitchen or a shelter for the homeless. Many people seek out the meeting of their many needs through different groups. The religious aspects of their hope remains implicit in much of their activities, perhaps being expressed only partially in one of these contexts. Seldom are we privileged to express the many aspects of growth in liberative life in one community. Some indeed may prefer to spread these functions around in several places, rather than be locked into one group that may become too sectarian.

In the following section of this talk I will mention a few different communities and projects with which I have had some contact in recent years that seem to express for me my communities of liberative life.

Perhaps the primary expression of liberation community for me now and for the rest of my life is Pilgrim Place, a retirement community which I and my husband joined three years ago. This community of three hundred and fifty people is ecumenical, including Catholics and people from many different Protestant traditions. Everyone has come from a background in church service, education or ministry, around the world as well as in the United States. Strongly committed to justice and peace, a group conducts a silent witness against war every Friday afternoon near the freeway.

Women's peace and justice groups constantly offer lectures and discussion on different social issues, as well as opportunities for involvement. Many volunteer to help deprived groups, homeless, poor or marginalized. There is a developed ecological consciousness in the community. A group concerned with this is constantly finding new steps for better sustainability. Recently grass was pulled up around the main buildings to be replanted in drought resistant California native plants. There are two community gardens, as well as over a hundred fruit trees, scattered throughout the campus from which a weekly farmers market is offered to the community, as well as anyone else who comes. The proceeds go to a fund for those in the community in need of help with medical expenses. This fund also helps equalize the expenses of residence for those with less economic assets.

Although there is no official denominational identity, there is a non-coercive liturgical life offered to who ever wishes to come. Every Thursday there is a vespers which takes many different forms and is led by different people who volunteer to do so. More recently there was a decision to make the community a eucharistic community. So twice a month on a Tuesday an ecumenical Eucharistic liturgy devised by the group is offered, led by different members. There is also a Women-church group that offers a feminist Eucharistic service once a month. This project has a constituency that draws from the larger Los Angeles community, but its coordination has been taken up by a resident, more than half of those who attend come from our community.

There is also recreation of all sorts. People organize to go off to museums, plays, concerts or simply for excursions. Swimming, exercise machines, yoga and Tai chi classes are available. Most of all this community of people ranging from 60 to over 100 years of age are helping one another through what the Latin Americans call la tercer edad, the third age of life. A nursing facility cares for the sick and dying, and many take turns as chaplains. When someone is dying others gather around to guide them through a process as they wish to go through it. Almost everyone is present for funerals, most of which were planned in part by the dying person themselves. These punctuate the life of the community every few weeks, an obvious expression of such a group of people of this stage of life, even though the community is remarkably good at keeping people healthy and creative well into that third age.

Another community that has been essential to my life in the last forty years had been the schools of Theological education where I have taught, Garrett theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois for 27 years and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California for the last six. These schools have been for me far more than jobs. They have been communities of colleagues where I share many aspects of my life, including a covenanted community for mutual support and liturgy which was a part of our life at Garrett for twenty years. Interestingly some seven members of that group are now resident at Pilgrim Place. Several faculty members from the GTU are also planning to come to Pilgrim Place. So many of these former colleagues have chosen to grow old together.

For me my students have been as much a part of my community as my faculty colleagues. I have always looked at my students who are preparing for ministry or teaching as friends who are in the process of becoming peers and colleagues. I am happy to see many of my former students in ministry or in teaching positions. For me the ministry of theological education is very much a ministry of teaching into equality as a fellow teacher-scholar.

One extension of my community of theological education was the collaboration of several of the Theological Schools in the Chicago area, Lutheran, Unitarian, Methodist, with the Center for Alternative Technology which together created the Interreligious Sustainability Project of Greater Chicago. This group spent two years discussing the design for an urban ecology project that would draw on the religious congregations, not just Christian, but Jewish, Muslim, Ba'hai and any others that wish to join. Such religious congregations were seen as key bases for neighborhood organizing for ecological sustainability. A large type pamphlet was produced that showed the pattern of pollution throughout the greater Chicago area and the correlation with patterns of race, poverty and concentration of population. A variety of ideas and community organizations for alternative ways of living in the city as a total bioregion were proposed.

Then the second stage of community organizing through the congregations, neighborhood by neighborhood, was started. A group of congregations in a neighborhood would agree to participate. Groups in each congregation would study the pamphlet together. Then they would decide on some activity, such as a community organic garden, the creation of a butterfly garden or ecological clean up and planting of a river or lake shore and the like. Neighborhood activities were always undertaken with a sense of relating these to the whole greater Chicago bioregion. For me this is a model project of how religious congregations can work together for more livable cities. I am proud to have been a part of it.

For me another important community of reference is Catholics for a Free Choice and its Latin American sister groups, Catolicas por el derecho de Decidir. I have been a member of the board for this network for almost thirty years and our board meetings are truly a reunion of good friends. We often combine such gathering with other activities, conferences of our Latin American colleagues, either in Washington or traveling to a Latin American venue, and sometimes marches in Washington with both the US government and the Vatican Embassy as points of protest. We have traveled together to UN conferences in Cairo, Egypt and Beijing, China. We have assembled for the defense of the results of such UN meetings at the New York assembly of the UN itself, as right wing groups especially the Vatican, seek to undermine its results. We take ethics seriously; one of our functions is to develop clear ethical guidelines to help Catholic laity defend an alternative, more just, sexual ethics. Two magazines, Conscience in English and Conciencia in Spanish are outlets for this work of communication. We also laugh a lot as we seek to promote a healthier church.

Another important network for me has been Call to Action. It began in Chicago when the U.S. Catholic Bishops organized the Call to Action meeting at the time of the American Centennial in 1976. Cardinal Cody declined to organize a delegation, and so Chicago Catholics organized on their own to go to the conference. The gathering quickly exceeded the Bishops' desires, and they shut it down. But since the Chicago group was not under the bishop's control, they continued and have grown into a national group, with a huge yearly meeting, as well as regional meetings in a number of areas of the US. For many Catholics CTA is a life line to a continuing vision of an alternative more liberative vision of the church.

I have spoken at national CTA meetings almost every year for over 25 years and look forward to it as a way of networking with a community of progressive U.S. Catholics, one that increasingly draws on the progressive Catholic community world wide. There is also the Women Church network and the Women's Ordination Conference that are a part of this network of the progressive Catholic community with which I stay in touch since our first meetings in the mid-1970's.

Another important network for me is the Conspirando community of Latin America. Conspirando is a journal of feminist theology and ecofeminism published by a mostly Catholic feminist group of Latin Americans from Santiago, Chile. It is now in its eleventh year of publication. It brings together a network of writers, artists, liturgists and therapists across Latin America who have also assembled for such activities as the Shared Garden conferences held twice a year. They have also embarked on many creative research projects, such as the organization of a series of teams in eleven teams in different Latin American countries that researched the legends and liturgical practices in Mariological festivals that preserve prehispanic goddesses or female divinities. Each team sought not only to assess how these sites preserve earlier female centered religiosity, but how these practices might help in the development of a feminist spirituality for Latin American women today. The result is the book, Virgenes y Diosas en American latina: La resignification de lo sagrado, Virgins and Goddesses in Latin America: The resignification of the Sacred, published in 2004, and which my Spanish reading group read in Berkeley, California in the Spring of 2005.

Another worldwide feminist theological network of great importance to me is the Women's Commission of the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians. This group brings together Christian feminist theologians from Latin America, Africa and Asia, seeking to develop their reflections in their own contexts through networks, publications and journals, as well as joint projects. For example, the African group, which had named themselves, the "Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians" has developed a project around theological reflections on AIDS in Africa which is also seeking to change the fear of AIDS and helping Africans to take hold of this terrible pandemic which is devastating their societies.

Although as a North American I am not a member of this commission, I have been privileged to be in dialogue with its development since its beginning in Geneva, Switzerland since 1982. I have spoken for some of groups in such places as India, Korea, Brazil, Mexico and Costa Rica. I regularly teach a course on Third World Feminist Theology to keep up with the work of these women and to make it known in North America.

These then are a part of my church community of liberation, both local, national and world wide. These networks are what keep me alive and continually restore my faith that, in the words of the slogan of the World Social Forum that meets yearly in Porto Alegre, Brazil, "Another world is possible." We don't have to acquiesce to oppressive and violent relationship as the unchangeable order of things either for the church, for American society or the global world. Against all odds, we can continue to stand up for an alternative more life-giving, more redemptive way of being in relation to one another as people of God/ess, as people of love and justice, as people who remember the vision of our brother Jesus who preached good news to the poor, the liberation of the captives, the setting at liberty of those who are oppressed.

About Rosemary Radford Ruether

 Rosemary Radford Ruether

Rosemary Radford Ruether

Rosemary Ruether, Georgia Harkness Professor of Theology at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston 1976-2000 and Carpenter Professor of Feminist Theology, Pacific School of Theology, 2000-, has been a prolific writer whose analysis of religious faith includes a critique of racism, patriarchy, the domination of nature, and hierarchy.  She has been a pioneer Christian feminist theologian, and among the most widely read feminist theologians in North America. Her book, Sexism and God-Talk, is a classic in the field of feminist theology,  and is a systematic feminist treatment of the Christian symbols to date. To categorize her as a feminist theologian, however, is to risk neglecting the broad scope of her interests. With wide-ranging scholarship and a penchant for finding the hidden connections among seemingly disparate fields, Ruether has written and edited many books and hundreds of articles and reviews. She is at home in such diverse fields as patristics, the historical and theological roots of anti-Semitism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the history of women in American religion, liberation theology, the mythology of the Ancient Near East, and ecology. 

Keynote: Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza: We Are a Church - A Kingdom of Priests

Women's Ordination Worldwide (WOW)
Second International Conference
Breaking Silence, Breaking Bread: Christ Calls Women to Lead
Ottawa, Canada
July 22 - 24, 2005

We are Church - A Kindom of Priests (1)
Keynote Address - Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza
July 22, 2005

Spanish Version

Wisdom has built Her house, 
She has set up Her seven pillars 
She also has set Her table. 
She has sent out Her wo/men ministers 
to call from the highest places in the town 
"Come eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.
Leave immaturity, and live, And walk in the way of Wisdom.

Proverbs 9:1-3.5-6

  Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza

Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza

We have gathered this weekend because we have heard the call of Divine Wisdom and have been sent out as her wo/men ministers to proclaim her invitation. We have come together here to celebrate our common struggles for a just church and to renew our vision for a world free of oppression. We have assembled as the ekklesia of wo/men in the discipleship of equals. We have come from near and far to be church - a kindom of priests - to use a term coined by mujerista theologian Ada Maria Isasi Diaz 2. We have assembled here to celebrate our baptismal call and to share with each other our lived and variegated gifts as ministers of Divine Wisdom - Spirit . We have assembled here to proclaim: Wo/men are the image of G*d and the representatives of Christ - Sophia. We are Her ministers as pastors, priests, hospital chaplains, campus ministers, theologians, bishops, teachers, liturgists, canon lawyers, presidents, directors, professors, dancers, counselors, as celebrants of the table of Divine Wisdom.3  We are in the words of the First Epistle of Peter:

a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that we may proclaim the mighty acts of Wisdom-Sophia who has called us out of darkness into G*d's marvelous light.
(paraphrase of 1 Peter 2:9-10 NRSV)

These words not only have been the Magna Carta of the Protestant Reformation but also the guiding star of Vatican II. They affirm the radical equality and priestly dignity of the people of G*d, of all those called, anointed and gifted in baptism to proclaim the wonderful deeds of Divine Wisdom-Sophia around the world.

The recognition of wo/men as full ekklesial citizens with all rights and duties is central to this vision of a kindom of priests, a radical democratic church. It demands a new theological articulation and self-understanding of ministry and church. It insists with Post-Vatican II theology that "ministry as a gift of the Spirit is more fundamental and comprehensive than order."4 It requires a feminist articulation of Catholic identity not as sameness but as rich diversity and variegated giftedness in the power of Divine Spirit-Wisdom. By the f-word feminism I mean a theoretical perspective and world-wide radical democratic movement that is inspired by the conviction that wo/men are people, i.e. fully entitled and responsible citizens in society and religion.

However, this feminist vision of a radical democratic catholic church which is inspired by Vatican II seems at this point in time an illusion. It seems to function as "pie in the sky," which keeps progressive people in a church that is run more like the Roman empire than the ekklesia of Christ. The male clergy and hierarchy of the Roman church seems morally bankrupt, as the scandals and cover-ups of sexual abuse by priests and bishops or the Vatican's prohibition of condoms in the AIDS crisis have amply documented. The U.S hierarchy, for instance, lost its last shred of religious-moral credibility in the most recent election when bishops made candidates' position against wo/men's reproductive rights the key issue of Catholic identity while not caring for those on death row or the millions of children who are born daily into dehumanizing poverty and starvation or who are killed by American bombs and occupation.

It is no wonder that I am often asked: Why do you as a feminist stay in this church? Why do you still call yourself a Catholic theologian? These questions are serious challenges but in my view they are wrong-headed because they presuppose that the hierarchy is the church rather than that we the people of G*d are the church whom the hierarchy is called to serve. To move out of the church rather than to continue the struggle within it would mean giving up our birth-right and abandoning our people who are Catholic wo/men. (By the way, I use wo/men as inclusive of men and invite men in the audience to learn like wo/men to think twice and to ask whether they are meant when I speak of wo/men. I recommend this as a good spiritual exercise for the next 100 years or more.)

We have assembled here as church - as a kindom of priests - because we still have a dream. Barbara Harris, the first African American Episcopalian wo/man bishop wrote an article at the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the ordination of Episcopal wo/men to the priesthood which was entitled: "Celebrating a Dream yet to Come True." What is this dream that still needs to be realized? Is this the dream that we wo/men in the Roman Catholic church finally will be able to call ourselves Reverend, to wear the clerical collar, to don clerical vestments and to receive the clerical privilege of saying mass and being paid for it? Is it the dream to receive the "indelible" mark of ordained hierarchical priesthood that makes us essentially different from the so-called laity who are turned, through the ordination of a few, into permanent second class citizens not only in the church but also in heaven? Is it the dream of getting a piece of the clerical pie through ordination?

Or is it the dream to realize a different ministry and church, the dream to transform as ministers of Divine Wisdom the hierarchal Roman church into the discipleship of equals? True, this dream is u-topian, it is without a place in the Roman hierarchy, but it is not "pie in the sky." Rather, this dream has been partially realized throughout the centuries in ever new Reform movements. In the past 30 years or so it has become lived reality in and through the Catholic feminist movement whenever and wherever wo/men have claimed our call to ekklesial ministry and like Divine Wisdom have prepared the table and broken bread in the discipleship of equals.

Three such grace filled moments of "new priestly" ministry stand out in my memory .

At the second Ordination Conference in 1978 I was going to issue a call for "partial" identification with church and a spiritual hunger strike protesting the "male- celebrant- only" eucharist, a call which was considered as too radical by some of the Conference organizers.. The evening before my speech, I discovered a small notice inviting participants to come to a hotel room to celebrate a liturgy that was scheduled at the same time as the official liturgy with a male presider. I went with trepidation to the hotel room where the bilingual liturgy was to take place expecting only a very few to have the courage to celebrate such a feminist breaking of bread. If not feminist such a liturgy, I feared, could turn out to be a painfully fumbled event. My fears quickly dissipated when I saw the crowd of wo/men present to break bread and to claim their priestly power. Celebrating such a radical democratic liturgy was one of the most moving sacramental experiences I have had. Before my eyes and ears my theological theories and convictions had "become flesh."

The second event took place at the first International Wo/men-Church Conference in 1983 in Chicago. For me, one of the most memorable experiences of the conference was the liturgy of blessing that was celebrated to express the intrinsic link between the Wo/men-Church gathering and the scheduled Dialogue of Catholic bishops with representatives of 13 Catholic Women's Organizations in Washington. As one of the theologians invited to speak to the bishops, together with Sr. Theresa Kane I was commissioned and blessed by the assembly that is the ekklesia, to speak in the name of wo/men-church, a ritual that carried all overtones of ordination. One of the wo/men in the audience spontaneously acknowledged this interpretation by giving me a stole woven in Guatemala. Its multicolored symbolism, in addition to Marsie Silvestro's blessing song - "So, go gently, my sister, let courage be your song"- have encouraged and accompanied me well beyond these two events of great ecclesial significance.

The third experience of the work of Divine Wisdom among us happened at the 20th Anniversary Conference of WOC in 1995 which envisioned a "Discipleship of Equals - Breaking Bread - Doing Justice." Diann Neu, the liturgical coordinator of the Conference, proclaimed at the "Laying on of Hands" celebration

Spirit of life and of power
time and again throughout history
you call forth your ministers from the community
and send them to do works of justice:
to feed hungry souls,
to give drink to thirsty ones,
to free captives.
Come Ruach, Sophia-Wisdom, Fulfiller of Promises
Bless us your feminist ministers,
To do your works of justice

After this invocation Diann invited the gathered ekklesia to raise their hands if they wanted to be called forth and be blessed by the community for their particular feminist ministry.5 The rich variety of feminist ministries became visibly embodied when hundreds of hands were raised in response. Following her example let us try to recreate this Spirit-empowered moment as the crucial empowering performance of wo/men's "ordination" to church leadership. To do so, I invite you to stand up or give another sign, when I mention the area of ministry to which you are called:

Feminist ministers rise and stand upright -as you are able - if you want a laying on of hands :6

I call the ministers of political and feminist grassroots-organizing
I call the ministers of feminist healing all that is violated, broken and weak
I call the ministers of feminist education: teaching, mentoring, writing feminist theologies 
I call the ministers of the arts: dance, music, performance, visual arts
I call the ministers creating feminist liturgies, preaching, praying, singing, dancing , 
celebrating Eucharist, the table of Divine Wisdom 
I call the ministers of feminist faith-sharing and struggles against violence
I call the ministers of self-affirmation and spiritual strengthening
I call the ministers of caring for the earth and all of creation
I call the ministers dedicated to enable sharing between wo/men of different churches, religions, races, cultures, sexes and nations 
I call the ministers building up the community of equals in parishes, and all areas of church and society
I call the ministers of reconciliation and the overcoming of prejudice
I call the ministers fostering recognition of the Divine Image in everyone 
I call all ministers whose work is crucial for realizing the discipleship of equals.

After having asked for a laying on of hands, ordination by the Holy Spirit-Wisdom, please stretch out your hands in blessing and invoke with me the power of Divine Wisdom upon this assembly of ministers: Please repeat after me

Holy Spirit, Divine Wisdom
bless your ministers who are standing upright as full religious citizens
to do your works of justice and love 
struggling for the ekklesia of wo/men, 
a kindom of priests and a discipleship of equals.
[Please be seated]

I have asked you to make bodily present the manifold priestly ministries in our midst with which Holy Wisdom has gifted the ekklesia because I fear that the wo/men's ordination movement is in danger of forgetting our pioneering struggles for rich and variegated priestly ministries as gifts of Divine Wisdom-Spirit to the ekklesia.7 The Women's Ordination Movement risks becoming an anti-movement, fixated on wo/men's exclusion from the "sacred power of domination," rather than an alternative movement which celebrates the rich array of creative ekklesial ministries that wo/men already are performing. By seeking ordination at any price, we are in danger of constructing an anti-hierarchy of wo/men which is still a hierarchy. By co-opting the rites, vestments, selection practices, titles of the hierarchy we risk to re-inscribe them.8

Rose Wu's article entitled "From the Ordination of Women to the Priesthood of all Believers," is a wake up call not only for Protestant ordained wo/men but also for us. Speaking at the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the ordination of Episcopal Wo/men she concludes her reflections which I will quote in full:

In 1990, two years after I graduated from Seminary, I was invited to be the assistant chaplain of Chung Chi College [of the Chinese University of Hong Kong], the first time they had accepted a lay woman to take this post. However I was supposed to seek ordination in the near future if I wanted to remain in this position. Two years later I decided to leave this post because I did not think that seeking ordination is my calling and a reflection of my will. I support women's ordination based on the principle of equality. However, I am not convinced that by ordaining women the Church will become more inclusive and participatory. To me the exclusion of wo/men to the priesthood is only one indication of its oppressive nature. To renew the Church and exorcise it from all forms of oppression, we must tackle the root cause of all these problems. To me, it is a choice between whether we want a community that shares power or whether we want power to be held by only a few.9

Like Rose Wu I fear that the struggle for wo/men's ordination has been modeled in analogy to the liberal women's rights movement that did not seek to change society but only to move wo/men into positions of male power which excluded us from its ranks. Therefore, we like clergy wo/men in other churches are in danger of strengthening the present hierarchical structures by struggling to move into them. If we do not reject ordination into clergy privilege and sacred structures of domination, WOW could re-enforce the second class citizenship of the majority of church wo/men, the so-called laity.

If we want to avoid this danger, we have to continue to integrate the struggle for ordination into the variegated feminist struggles around the world. We have to articulate and practice a different vision of church and ministry in the context of wo/men's struggles for food, self-determination, and bodily integrity. Like Rose Wu I am convinced that only the struggle for "a community that shares power" in the discipleship of equals will overcome the second class citizenship of wo/men. Hence, we must take care that WOW remains an integral part of the struggle against a kyriarchal clerical tradition, the struggle against sacred structures of domination that on principle have excluded wo/men from ekklesial authority and increasingly speak again the language of silencing, control and violence. This struggle for feminist catholicity and a radical democratic church and ministry is the struggle for freedom of thought, intellectual independence and personal integrity, for the free and uncensored speech of citizens, for the life-giving power of Divine Spirit-Wisdom; it is the struggle for church as ekklesia, as the congress of the people of G*d, as a fully decision making assembly, as the ekklesia of wo/men.

The expression "ekklesia of wo/men" must not be misunderstood as meaning a church of wo/men that is exclusive of men. Rather, the notion of the "ekklesia of wo/men" is a contradiction in terms. Qualifying "ekklesia" with "wo/men," seeks to lift into consciousness that church, society, and religion are still governed by elite powerful men who have excluded wo/men and other servant-peoples for centuries. "Ekklesia of wo/men" seeks to communicate a vision that connects struggles for a more democratic and just church with global, societal and political democratic movements for justice, freedom, and equality. These movements have emerged again and again throughout the centuries because of the disparity between the professed vision of radical democratic equality and the actual reality of domination and subordination in society and church. This is because neither the Protestant reformation nor the French or the American democratic revolutions fought for wo/men to become fully empowered decision-making citizens in church and society.

Although the Greek word ekklesia is usually translated as "church," the English word "church," derives not from the Greek term "ekklesia" but from the Greek word "kyriake," i.e., belonging to the kyrios (Lord), who in Roman imperial times was the elite propertied lord, slavemaster, father, and head of household; He exercised the power of control and punishment as well as the power of life and death over his subordinates. Hence, the word "church" has two contradictory meanings: One derives from the kyriarchal model of household and state in antiquity, which was governed by the lord/master/father of the house, to whom freeborn wo/men, freeborn dependents, clients, and workers as well as slave wo/men and men were subordinated. The other meaning derives from the classical institution of democracy that in theory promised freedom and equality to all its citizens but in practice granted them only to elite, propertied, educated male heads of household. The translation process, which has transformed "ekklesia/congress" into "kyriake/ church," indicates a historical development that has privileged the hierarchal/ monarchical form of church. This "church" is characterized by hierarchy, a Greek word that means literally translated "sacred domination" (hieros and archein).10

I n contrast to today's Roman Catholic church, the early church viewed all its members as called and elected, gifted with the manifold talents of the Spirit. The Christian Testament writings do not know of a fixed and exclusive catalogue of ministry . Instead a great number of ekklesial leadership functions are mentioned.11 Theologically and practically the distinction between the sexes is insignificant in such a multiform exercise of ministry. The apostolic and prophetic ministry has always been exercised in the church by wo/men. A close connection seems to exist between a Spirit ekklesiology and wo/men's equal participation in the church.

However, as liberation historians have pointed out, the church as a Spirit filled community of equals was gradually Romanized and Christianity became an imperial religion.12 The state promoted ecclesiastical interests, church ministries became part of the imperial bureaucratic offices, the clergy became a privileged class, and the church adopted Roman imperial structures and measures.13 Like the Roman emperor, the pope is called pater patrum and pontifex maximus. Like that of the Roman empire, the constitution of the church is a combination of monarchic and aristocratic government with a veneer of democracy in the election of the pope. Like the Roman empire, the Roman hierarchy has become an expansionist universal religious power that has exploited the resources and culture of the "subjugated provinces" i.e. the local churches. Like that of Roman imperialism, the hierarchy's universal mission has in the past used force, supported colonialism, and promulgated Euro-centrism, and still goes on to eliminate or appropriate the cultural and religious resources of its "subordinates." Military and mission, the gun and the bible, the sword and the cross went, and still go often, hand in hand.

Because it remains caught up in these very same Roman imperial structures, the Vatican insists that the church can be represented by elite men only, draws its boundaries of identity in and through the exclusion of wo/men from the sacred, either through the non-ordination of wo/men or through celibacy. Its ethos is control and obedience, positivist legalism and authoritarian exclusion. The Roman church is divided into a two-class system, that of the ordained and that of the laity, connoting not only second class citizenship for those who are not clergy men but also metaphysical difference. Hence, the Vatican has continued to insist that the church is not a democratic community. Whereas in the 19th century papal discourses defended monarchy as the governmental form willed by G*d not only for the church but also for society, in the 20th century papal pronouncements have advocated wo/men's rights and democratic freedoms in society but insisted that these do not apply within the church.14However, moral authority cannot be claimed for something that one does not practice. To claim that radical democratic and evangelical values such as equality, justice, and freedom do not need to be practiced in the Roman Catholic church but only by society engenders the Roman imperial discourses of control, violence and domination.

The Hierarchy's discourses of "orthodox truth" are also highly gendered. They are full of references to the clergy as "sons and fathers," to the church as "mother and she," and to the people of G*d as "men of faith." Rome has categorically refused to change exclusive androcentric language and has overturned the recommendations of several bishops' conferences for the adoption of non-gendered liturgical language. Hence, androcentric language which linguistically excludes wo/men is no longer conventional but deliberate. It maintains the status quo and limits our imagination. Moreover, the use of the feminine for the church serves to symbolically exclude and obliterate real wo/men, since Christ and the church can be represented by men only. It reinforces the colonial discourses of domination in which the feminine serves to signify the subordination and exploitation not only of wo/men but of all those who are non-persons: slaves, heathen savages, homosexuals and impoverished peoples, all of whom are seen and treated as "feminine" other.

The socio-political context of globalization and its attendant exploitation in which the debate on the non-ordination or the reproductive rights of wo/men, the freedom of theologians, or the Vatican's claim to exclusive universality take place, has engendered a resurgence of the religious Right. Global cultural and religious fundamentalisms claim the power of naming and of defining the true nature and essence of religion.15 Right-wing well-financed think tanks are supported by reactionary political and financial institutions that seek to defend kyriarchal capitalism.16

Hence, the interconnection between religious antidemocratic arguments and the debates over wo/men's 17"proper place" and "right role" is not accidental or of merely intra-theological significance. For, in the past decade or so, right-wing movements around the globe have insisted on the figuration of emancipated wo/men either as signifiers of Western decadence and of modern atheistic secularism, or they have presented masculine power as the expression of divine power.18

In this context of struggle, the Roman rhetoric of magisterium and its absolute truth- claims seems to function as just one more instance of a fundamentalist anti-democratic movement. By insisting on a positivist doctrinal reading of Scripture and tradition, the Vatican version of fundamentalist theology seeks to "fix" the rich pluriform diverse expressions of Christian scriptures, traditions, theologies, ministries and communities. They do so, in order to consolidate the variegated texts, ambiguous metaphors, and diversified practices of Scripture and Tradition into a definite, single discourse of truth, the depositum fidei, that claims infallibility for its historically conditioned articulations, rather than leave room for a rich diversity of expressions of Christian faith. The doctrine of the non-ordination of wo/men is part and parcel of this rhetoric of domination. Since the allegedly infallible teaching on the "non-ordination" of wo/men has no biblical or theological grounds to stand on, it has to resort to violence, censure and exclusion.

Karl Rahner argued that the most important event of the Second Vatican Council was the manifestation of the world-church where for the first time bishops of Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Pacific Rim democratically acted together with the pope as equals when articulating and deciding the theology of the Council.19 Rahner rightly criticized the Eurocentrism of Roman Catholicism, but he overlooked its andro-kyriocentrism i.e. elite male centeredness. The council's representation of World-Catholicism was totally male, since wo/men were not among the bishops of the emerging world-church.

The absence of wo/men from the ranks of bishops is not just an historical accident but the result of systemic discrimination and legal exclusion. It is due to the structural sin of sexism and its theological rationalizations, and it has prevented the world-church from achieving full feminist catholicity. Today, the lack of wo/men's voices is even more obvious because other Christian churches have welcomed wo/men as official ministers, priests and bishops and thereby practice the feminist catholicity which is lacking in the Roman Catholic church.

This feminist meaning of catholicity still comes to the fore in the dictionary definition of the term. The Shorter Oxford Dictionary defines catholicity as "the quality of having sympathies with or being all-embracing; broad-mindedness, tolerance." The term is derived from the Greek word katholikos (kath holou) that means "general," "broad" or "universal." It is the equivalent of global (kath holon t_s g_s) or ecumenical (oikumen_). Hence, the characteristics of radical democratic feminist catholicity can be defined

  1. both as inclusiveness and openness to all peoples, cultures and religions and as opposition to sectarianism and religious individualism;
  2. as openness to truth and values wherever they are encountered;
  3. as ability to bridge divisions, generations and historical chasms,
  4. as the recognition that Divine Spirit-Wisdom creates solidarity in diversity. 21

Such feminist catholicity fosters social-religious plurality and global connectedness linking radically different local churches and variegated cultures. As a radical democratic spirituality it envisions an all-embracing inclusive church in which all are truly equal but not the same; an ekklesial culture where differences are respected and people are truly free, where social-religious responsibility rather than individualistic self-absorption prevails; a society and church which is truly just and in which status and power inequalities, especially the vast gulf between the rich and the poor are recognized for what they are . Such a radical democratic feminist vision calls for a society and church in which G*d's justice and peace is already partially realized today but will become full reality in the future.

This kind of catholicity is deeply embedded in Scripture and tradition, and has inspired the vision of the church articulated at the Second Vatican Council. Since the Council, two different discourses on Catholicity have been operative in Roman Catholic self-understandings. One is the Roman imperial discourse of control and censure with its claims to absolute truth and its demands for absolute submission of the intellect to Roman papal and curial decrees; the other is the ekklesial discourse of feminist catholicity, which is inclusive and appeals to the pluriform gifts of the Holy Spirit.

These two discourses on catholic identity are fundamentally different and in conflict with each other, a conflict that seems on the whole to affect the clergy more than the people of G*d. Sociological surveys have shown that ordinary Catholics usually do not pay much attention to the edicts coming from Rome because these do not speak to the problems facing them. Only those who still claim active Roman Catholic citizenship, groups such as Wo/men-Church, Wir sind Kirche, the Voice of the Faithful, or the Wo/men's Ordination movements seek to stand up to the present onslaught of ecclesiastical clericalism, and we do so for the sake of the feminist catholicity of the church. We hold the Roman hierarchy accountable on grounds of our theological birthright to be church, a discipleship of equals, a kindom of priests.

If Catholicism is to contribute to the fashioning of a radical democratic catholic-global ethos, then our struggles for the feminist catholicity of the church must remain conscious of their global location and develop spiritual practices and forms of ministry and community that can contribute to justice and well-being for all. We must insist on our intellectual and spiritual freedom to articulate ekklesial i.e. radical democratic paradigms of how to live in diversity, tolerance and respect for those who are not like us.

Such an understanding of feminist catholicity is positioned in the theological discourse of Divine Spirit-Wisdom; it envisions church as a reciprocal community of support, a dynamic alliance of equals. It is the catholicity of grace flourishing in the all-embracing sphere of the Spirit in which we live and move. Such feminist Catholicity is foreshadowed in the image of Pentecost where people from different regions and cultures understand the gospel of the Spirit in their own languages, an image that invites us in the power of the Spirit to struggle for the fullness of feminist ministry in the ekklesia of wo/men.

Hence, the struggle for wo/men's ordination must be seen as part of the struggles of the subordinated others for full citizenship and civil rights, radical equality and justice. The struggles for a radical democratic church must remain the defining context of the struggle for ordination so that the ordination of wo/men does not mean ordination into the Roman Catholic hierarchy or sacred structures of domination but will be the public acknowledgment of radical democratic-ministeral leadership. The struggles for the ekklesia of wo/men or the discipleship of equals are not just struggles against the Vatican's Roman form of hierarchical Catholicism. They are struggles for a feminist, radical democratic form of catholicity that is lived and practiced as a global alternative to exploitation and dehumanization. It is our task to keep these struggles engenderd by Vatican II alive for future generations of wo/men for whom Vatican II becomes more and more an event of the distant past.

In the context of these emancipatory struggles, critical theories and feminist theologies have been developed which show how a diversified and pluriform catholicity of church and theology is to be imagined and articulated. They signify the multiple forms in which the ekklesia of wo/men is lived today and presage the catholic diversity of the ekklesia of the future. Just as wo/men are not the same and do not have an essence in common that makes us different from men, so Catholic Christians are not the same and do not have an essence in common that makes us different from other religionists. There are as many differences between wo/men and within wo/men, between Catholics and within Catholicism as there are between men and wo/men or Catholics and other Christians. Catholics are not just determined by gender and doctrine, but also by race, class, ethnicity, culture, age, sexual preference, and diverse spiritualities. Identity is not stable, but changes over the course of time.

The struggles for a radical democratic church have as their goal the fullness of feminist catholicity. They assert that the religious experiences and questions of wo/men are central to church and theology. The church's full catholicity is only possible if and when all wo/men without exception have the opportunity to participate in the decision making process and power of church. The recognition of wo/men as full ekklesial citizens with all rights, privileges and duties demands a new self-understanding of theology and church. It requires the articulation of catholic identity not as sameness but as diversity and rich giftedness in the power of Divine Spirit-Wisdom. At the heart of the struggle for wo/men's ordination, I argue, must remain the struggle for a radical democratic church and feminist catholicity, for wo/men's ekklesial authority, full citizenship and creative leadership. Feminist priestly ministry, I suggest, is therefore best understood as a radical democratic praxis and vision.

Yet some might object, that such a radical feminist democratic ekklesial vision is not able to change the hierarchical structures of Roman Catholicism because it refuses to become part of the "sacred structures of domination" in order to change them. This argument does not account for the death-dealing powers of "sacred domination" when it identifies hierarchical i.e. sacred structures of domination with church and catholicity. As many Christian reform movements throughout the centuries have recognized: there are no biblical-theological grounds for such church structures of "sacred domination." They are the remnants of a Roman imperial church and clerical bureaucracy that need to be abolished, not changed. As theologian Hans Küng pointed out almost 40 years ago: The 2nd Vatican Council made important theological corrections to the Roman Constantinian understanding of church as hierarchy, an understanding that had come out of the Council of Trent.21 With Vatican II, church teaching on ecclesiastical offices was corrected on 4 important points:

  1. Where Trent uses the word hierarchy when speaking of ecclesiastical office, the Constitution on the Church prefers the expression "ecclesiastical ministry"(ministerium ecclesiasticum
  2. Whereas Trent uses "divina ordinatio" with reference to the 3fold office of bishop, priest and deacon, Vatican II understands ecclesial ministry as divinely instituted (divinitus institutum
  3. According to Trent the ecclesiastical hierarchy consists (constat) of bishops, priests and deacons, according to Vatican II ecclesial ministry is exercised in these different ministries, and possibly in many others.
  4. Vatican II does not make any statement on the metaphysical essence and indelible character of these ecclesiastical offices but gives a pastoral-the*logical description of them.

These corrections of the Tridentine interpretation of church offices makes possible democratic changes in church structure. "Service," Jesus' definition of ekklesial leadership, will cease to be a cliché, only with the abolishment of the Roman imperial monarchic instutionalization of office as "sacred male domination".

So, you might ask, how can we change the Roman imperial offices into ekklesial ministries in the discipleship of equals? I have only one possible solution to this conundrum. I suggest, as I have done before, that we organize to take over the only democratic office in the Roman Catholic church: the college of Cardinals.

When in 2000 I was invited to write an article on "Feminism and the Papacy in the Third Millennium," delineating the issues and problems which the newly elected successor of John Paul II would have to face, I imagined that the next leader of the Catholic church would be a feminist. As such s/he would call herself Miriam IV and claim to be the successor of both Peter and Mary of Magdala. Since we celebrate today the feast of Mary of Magdala, the apostle to the apostles, let us engage in such an exercise of u-topian imagination which sees the present and past from the perspective of the future:

"At the beginning of the 21st century, still facing the threat of religious violence against those advocating the ordination of wo/men to the full office of priestly ministry as bishops,22many Catholic feminists who were called to ministry in the discipleship of equals continued to act on this call, celebrating the Eucharist, serving the poor, teaching the young, blessing the hopeless, and building up the community. They did this not in order to reform the hierarchy up but in order to serve the Catholic people. If they just wanted to be ordained at any price and to join the ranks of the clergy, there were plenty of Christian churches that would have welcomed them.

Taking the Holy Fathers Pope Paul VI and John Paul II at their word when the pontiffs said that they did not have the authority of Scripture or Tradition to ordain wo/men as priests, feminist theologians began to ask: in the 1980s "what about cardinals?" Let's obey the papal decree, we suggested years ago, and declare a moratorium on demands for ordination as deaconesses or priestesses. Instead, let us get ready for the next conclave and prepare for appointment as cardinals so that feminist cardinals can participate in electing the next successor not only of Peter but also of Mary Magdalene! If s/he can't symbolize Christ as his Vicar, we were confident that s/he would very convincingly represent Divine Wisdom in all Her splendor.

Tongue in cheek, I wrote that if that were to happen I would love to serve the church as head of the CDF [the acronym for the Latin Congregatio Doctorum Feministarum!] in order to abolish once and for all the technologies of the Inquisition, although I had no desire to become the successor of Cardinal Ratzinger. If Commonweal is correct that Pope John Paul II once called himself a "papa feminista," I pointed out, his successor must be a feminist! So I wrote in 1998. However, being of little faith, I did not imagine that this could actually happen. Nor did I pray to Holy Wisdom that it should happen.

But, to my great surprise, moved by Wisdom-Sophia, Women's Ordination Worldwide gave up their campaign for deaconesses or priests and organized a campaign for the appointment of wo/men as cardinals. The office of cardinal, we argued, was instituted to provide court-counselors for the pope. No ordination is required either by Scripture or Tradition for this office, since there is no evidence that the institution of cardinalship goes back either to Jesus or to the apostles. True, this office has a long malestream tradition but this tradition is of the male hierarchy's making. Equity, however would demand, we argued, that, as long as all bishops must remain masculinists, i.e. subscribing to the misogynist notion that only men can represent the Divine, all cardinals should be feminists, i.e. subscribing to the radical notion that wo/men are the image of G*d and the representative of Christ-Sophia.

Although some men in the Vatican pointed out that it was church practice since medieval times to require that cardinals must be priests, they could no longer ideologically legitimize their prejudice with reference to Christ and the apostles and gave finally in. The election and appointment of wo/men as cardinals finally eradicated the misogynist virus that has afflicted the Roman Catholic Church for centuries and has led to its paralysis and dysfunction today. Cardinalship for wo/men opened up the only democratic space in the church. As Cardinals, feminist wo/men were able to determine the election of the new Vicar of Christ, and thereby the future of the church. And so Miram the IV, the successor of Mary of Magdala and Peter was elected to become the Vicar of Christ. As prima inter pares, i.e. first among equals in the ekklesia of wo/men she followed the commandment of Jesus in Mk 10: 42 - 45 and abolished the Roman imperial structure of 'sacred domination'."

I wish us all this weekend Divine Wisdom's grace of such transformative imagination, for as Toni Morrison so forcefully states in her novel, Beloved:

She did not tell them to clean up their lives or to go and sin no more. She did not tell them they were the blessed of the earth, its inheriting meek or its glory bound pure. She told them that the only grace they could have was the grace they could imagine. That if they could not see it, they would not have it. 23

The only grace we can have is the grace we can imagine.


1. I want to thank my students Molly Gower, Kathrina Garcia Eveloff, Nicole Sotelo and Dr. Mary Hunt for carefully reading a draft of this paper. The enthusiasm and commitment of these young feminists bodes well for the future of the ekklesia of wo/men . I am especially grateful to the organizers of this conference, particularly Marie Bouclin for all the work they have done in preparing this historic event and for inviting me, although they knew that I insist on feminist ministry and the transformation of ordination in the discipleship of equals, the ekklesia of wo/men.

2. Ada María Isasi-Díaz, Mujerista Theology: A Theology For The Twenty-First Century (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1996).

3. For a journalist's account of the variegated ministries of Catholic wo/men see Angela Bonavoglia, Good Catholic Girls. How Women Are Leading the Fight to Change the Church (New York: Regan Books, 2005).

4. David N. Power, "Order," in Francis Schüssler Fiorenza and John Galvin, eds., Systematic Theology. Roman Catholic Perspectives. Vol II (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991) 291-304.300. See also the literature in Bernhard Cooke, Ministry to Word and Sacraments: History and Theology (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976); Edward Schillebeeckx, The Church with a Human Face: A New and Expanded Theology of Ministry (New York: Crossroad, 1985).

5. Diann L. Neu, unpublished liturgy, WATER,

6. "Ordination" has different shades of meaning: The Greek speaking churches emphasized the "laying on of hands" as the invocation of the Spirit to bless the candidate for ministry, whereas Latin speaking churches stressed "ordinatio" i.e. incorporation into an hierarchical order. Cf. W.H. Frere, "Early Ordination Services, " Journal of Theological Studies 16 (1915) 323-69; Pierre-Marie Gy, "Ancient Ordination Prayers," in Wiebe Vos and Geoffrey Wainwright, eds., Ordination Rites (Rotterdam: Liturgical Ecumenical Center, 1980), 70-93

8. Many of those preparing to be ordained "contra legem" have assured me that they will exercise their ministry not in hierarchical ways. While I deeply admire their personal courage, such individual intentions overlook wo/men's structural incorporation into the sacred hierarchy of deacon, priest, bishop which they reenact among wo/men. If we consider "ordination" as a "personal calling" we are in danger of reviving a pre-Vatican II the*logy of priesthood in which the Eucharist and sacraments become part of the personal piety and magic power of the ordained rather than the celebration of the church as the people of G*d in the power of the Spirit.

9. Rose Wu, A Dissenting Church, (Hong Kong : Hong Kong Christian Institute and Hong Kong Women Christian Council, 2003), pp.100-109.108f.

10. In his book Salz der Erde (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, 1996), p. 203f Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger has argued that the correct translation of hierarchy is not "sacred domination" but "Sacred Origin" since the Greek word arch_ can have both meanings. However, this second meaning of hierarchy as the power of origin is difficult to maintain since the present pyramidal structure of the ordained can not claim to be instituted by Jesus that is to go back to the original source. Hence, he recognizes the great temptation to change discipleship into domination but insists that the tradition of the "continuity of sacred origins" is guaranteed through the sacrament of ordination. This argument is then used to justify the non-ordination of wo/men. However, such an emphasis on kyriarchal continuity that consists in the exclusion of wo/men from ordination, is in danger of denying that Christian wo/men are in continuity with the "sacred origin," Jesus Christ. By denying that wo/men can not act "in persona Christi," this argument is not an argument against the ordination of wo/men but an argument against our being Christian.

11. In Salz der Erde (ibid., 124f) , Ratzinger claims that I first participated vehemently in the struggle for wo/men's ordination but that I now recognize that this was a wrong goal because ordination is not a solution but means sub-ordination in hierarchical structures. This is obviously a total misreading of my work. I have always insisted (with WOC) that as long as wo/men are excluded from church offices we have to protest against this discrimination and call the whole church to conversion from the structural sin of sexism. At the same time( with WOC) I have always stressed that we are working for a "new " feminist woman , a renewed church, and new priestly ministries: Not cultic priesthood and hierarchical power over but the lived and practiced "gifts" of the Spirit are decisive for such "new" priestly ministries and offices in the church. All members of the Christian community are called to exercise their spiritual gifts for the "up-building" of the community. Since the gifts of the Spirit are not restricted to a certain group within the church, all members of the people of G*d, by virtue of their baptismal priesthood, have the authority and right to exercise liturgical and ecclesial leadership functions. The arguments against the ordination of wo/men are theologically invalid insofar as they presuppose a misconception of church as "cultically" divided into hierarchal classes. Hence, our arguments against the exclusion of wo/men from the hierarchy must not become an argument for the ordination of wo/men into present clerical structures. Cf. my 1967 paper "Should Wo/men Aim For Ordination to the Lowest Rung of the Hirarchical Ladder?" in Discipleship of Equals, 23 - 38.

12. For this development in Early Christianity see my books. Priester für Gott: Studien zum Herrschafts- und Priestermotiv in der Apokalypse. Neuetestamentliche Abhandlungen n.s. 7. Münster: Aschendorff, 1972 and, In Memory of Her. A Feminist Reconstruction of Christian Origins (New York: Crossroad, 1983) as well as the chapter "Frau und Amt: Frühchristliche Wurzeln und kirchliche Amtspolitik," in Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza , Grenzen überschreiten. Der theoretische Anspruch feministischer Theologie. Ausgewählte Aufsätze ( Münster: Lit Verlag, 2004), 152-166.

13. For the development from ekklesia = church to hierarchy = church see Ernst Ludwig Grasmück, "Vom Presbyter zum Priester: Etappen der Entwicklung des neuzeitlichen katholischen Priesterbildes," in Paul Hoffmann, ed., Priesterkirche (Düsseldorf, Patmos Verlag, 1987), 96-131.

14.Such refusal has also an advantage for wo/men since wo/men do not need to follow the injunctions and prescriptions of e.g. the catechism or Vatican statements if they do not mention us.

15. See the variegated contributions in Hans Küng and Jürgen Moltmann, eds., Fundamentalism as an Ecumenical Challenge (Concilium; London: SCM Press, 1992).

16. For an excellent critical analysis of the involvement of religion in this global struggle see especially the work of the late Penny Lernoux, Cry of the People (New York: Penguin, 1982); idem, In Banks We Trust New York: Penguin, 1986, and her last book before her untimely death People of God. The Struggle for World Catholicism (New York: Penguin, 198)9; Robert B. Reich, The Work of Nations (New York: Vintage Books, 1992); Joan Smith, "The Creation of the World We Know: The World-Economy and the re-creation of Gendered Identities," in Valentine M. Moghadam, ed., Identity Politics & Women. Cultural Reassertions and Feminisms in International Perspective (Boulder: Westview Press, 1994 27-41); see also Diana L. Eck, Encountering God. A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Banaras (Boston: Beacon Press, 1993), p.176, who writes: "A new wave of exclusivism is cresting around the world today. Expressed in social and political life, exclusivism becomes ethnic or religious chauvinism, described in South Asia as communalism.... As we have observed, identity-based politics is on the rise because it is found to be a successful way of arousing political energy."

17. For the problematic meaning of the term woman/women see Denise Riley, "Am I That Name" Feminism and the Category of Women in History Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988; Judith Butler, Gender Trouble. Feminism and the Subversion of Identity New York: Routledge, 1990. My way of writing wo/men seeks to underscore not only the ambiguous character of the term "wo/man or wo/men" but also to retain the expression "wo/men" as a political category. Since this designation is often read as referring to white women only, my unorthodox writing of the term seeks to draw to the attention of readers that those kyriarchal structures which determine wo/men's lives and status also impact that of men of subordinated race, classes, countries and religions, albeit in different ways. The expression wo/men must therefore be understood as inclusive rather than as an exclusive universalized gender term.

18. See especially the declaration of the Division for the Advancement of Women on "International Standards of Equality and Religious Freedom: Implications for the Status of Women, " in Valentine M. Moghadam, ed., Identity Politics & Women, 425-438; Rebecca E. Klatch, "Women of the New Right in the United States: Family, Feminism, and Politics" M. Moghadam, ed., Identity Politics & Women., 367 - 388; Most of the contributions in Valentine M. Moghadam, ed., Identity Politics & Women are on women and Islam in different parts of the world. However, see Sucheta Mazumdar, "Moving Away from a Secular Vision? Women, Nation, and the Cultural Construction of Hindu India," in Valentine M. Moghadam, ed., Identity Politics & Wo/men, 243-273, and Radha Kumar, "Identity Politics and the Contemporary Indian Feminist Movement," ibid., 274 - 292.

19. See Karl Rahner, "Basic Theological Interpretation of the Second Vatican Council," in Concern for the Church. Theological Investigations XX (New York: Crossroad, 1981) 77-89 and "The Abiding Significance of the Second Vatican Council," ibid., pp. 90-102.

20. Cf. Hans Küng, Die Kirche (Freiburg: Herder, 1967).

21. See my book Discipleship of Equals. A Feminist Ekklesialogy of Liberation (New York: Crossroad, 1992), p.33

22. For a record of this development see The Nonordination of Wo/men and the Politics of Power (Concilium: New York: Orbis Books, 1999) which I edited together with Herman Haering.

23. Toni Morrison, Beloved, 88.

About Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza

  Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza

Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza

Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, Krister Stendahl Professor of Divinity at Harvard School of Divinity has done pioneering work in biblical interpretation and feminist theology. Her teaching and research focus on questions of biblical and theological epistemology, hermeneutics, rhetoric, and the politics of interpretation, as well as on issues of theological education, radical equality, and democracy.

Professor Schüssler Fiorenza is a co-founder and co-editor of the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion and has been a founding co-editor of the feminist issues of Concilium. She was elected the first woman president of the Society of Biblical Literature and has served on the boards of major biblical journals and societies. In 2001, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In recognition of her work, she has received honorary doctorates from St. Joseph's College in Connecticut, Denison University in Ohio, St. Bernard's Institute, Rochester, New York, the University of Uppsala, Sweden, the University of Würzburg, the Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, Augustana Theologische Hochschule in Bayern, and, most recently, has received the Jerome Award of the Catholic Library Association.

Her published work includes In Memory of Her (translated into 13 languages);Bread Not Stone: The Challenge of Feminist Biblical InterpretationBut She Said: Feminist Practices of Biblical InterpretationDiscipleship of Equals: A Critical Feminist Ekklēsia-Logy of LiberationRevelation: Vision of a Just World;Searching the Scriptures: A Feminist Introduction and Commentary (2 vols.);The Power of Naming: A Concilium Reader in Feminist Liberation Theology;Jesus: Miriam's ChildSophia’s Prophet: Critical Issues in Feminist Christology;Sharing Her Word: Feminist Biblical Interpretation in ContextRhetoric and Ethic: The Politics of Biblical Studies; Jesus and the Politics of Interpretation;Wisdom Ways: Introducing Feminist Biblical InterpretationGrenzen überschreiten: Der theoretische Anspruch feministischer TheologieThe Power of the Word: Scripture and the Rhetoric of EmpireDemocratizing Biblical Studies Toward an Emancipatory Educational Space; and Transforming Vision: Explorations in Feminist The*logy. She recently co-edited, with Laura Nasrallah, Prejudice and Christian Beginnings: Investigating Race, Gender, and Ethnicity in Early Christian Studies and, with Kent Richards, Transforming Graduate Biblical Education: Ethos and Discipline. Her most recent book isChanging Horizons: Explorations in Feminist Interpretation.

Selected Publications

  • Changing Horizons: Explorations in Feminist Interpretation (Fortress Press, 2013) 
  • Transforming Vision: Explorations in Feminist The*logy (Fortress Press, 2011) 
  • Prejudice and Christian Beginnings: Investigating Race, Gender, and Ethnicity in Early Christian Studies (Fortress Press, 2009) 
  • Democratizing Biblical Studies Toward an Emancipatory Educational Space(Westminster John Knox Press, 2009)
  • The Power of the Word: Scripture and the Rhetoric of Empire (Fortress Press, 2007) 
  • Wisdom Ways: Introducing Feminist Biblical Interpretation (Orbis, 2001)
  • Jesus and the Politics of Interpretation (Continuum, 2000) 
  • Sharing Her Word: Feminist Biblical Interpretation in Context (Beacon Press, 1998) 
  • But She Said: Feminist Practices of Biblical Interpretation (Beacon Press, 1992) 

Workshop Choices: Ottawa 2005

Women's Ordination Worldwide (WOW)
Second International Conference
Breaking Silence, Breaking Bread: Christ Calls Women to Lead
Ottawa, Canada
July 22 - 24, 2005

Workshop Choices: Ottawa 2005

Workshops and Panels

A. Breaking Silence - Reclaiming Her-story (A.M.)

B. Breaking Bread - Models of Ministry (A.M.)

C. Christ Calls - Vocations and Empowerment (P.M.)

D. Diversity - Breaking Boundaries (P.M.)

Please choose Two (2) workshops from either A or B, and Two (2) workshops from either C or D. You will be assigned to two of these four choices

A. Breaking Silence - Reclaiming Her-story (A.M.)

  • Regina Coupar: Born Again: Re-Conceiving Women's Stories
  • Bernice Santor: Some Women Amazed Us
  • Elaine Guillemin: She Insisted It Was So: Wo/men Re-telling Biblical Stories
  • Mary-Lynne Monroe: Regenesis: Restoring Women's Place in Creation
  • Jennifer Stark: Silencing Women in Revelation: A Hermeneutical Exploration of Vision, Text and Artistic Representation
  • Kim Vidal: The Moon Under Her Feet: Women of the Apocalypse
  • John N. Collins: Inescapable Connections between New Testament Diakonia, Women and Ordination
  • Karen Fitz La Barge: Women, the Prominent Apostles! The Scriptural Evidence for Women in Leadership
  • Doreen Wyatt: Negative Images of Women in the Church and their Destructive Power
  • Martha Ann Kirk, (the music of) Covita Moroney: Voices of Ancient Women Inviting Courage and Compassion
  • Dorothy Irvin: Women Priests and Bishops in the Early Church: the Archaeological Documentation

B. Breaking Bread - Models of Ministry (A.M.)

  • Miriam K. Martin: Leading from the Ground Up: Women Religious Working and Praying toward Women's Ordination
  • Ida Raming: Ordination Contra Legem - A Way to Overcome Discrimination Against Women in the Roman Catholic Church?
  • María Alma Chaires, Victoria María de León, Teresa Andrade García, Eustorgia Estrada: Luz y Libertad: Light and Liberty in Mexico
  • Valerie Bannert, Mary Ellen Nettle, Sharon Smith: For Heaven's Sake: The Church Uniting in Ministry
  • Angelika Fromm: Women in Leadership in a Diaconate-Based Church
  • Christine Mayr-Lumetzberge, Elisabeth Grossegger: A Priest in the Family: Repercussions and Support
  • Christine Mayr-Lumetzberge, Elisabeth Grossegger: A Priest in the Family: Repercussions and Support
  • Denise Donato, Mary Ramerman: Failure is Impossible: The Story of Two Women Catholic Priests
  • Pauline Jacob: Et si Dieu appelait des femmes à la prêtrise ou au Diaconat
  • Patricia Fresen: Training for the Priesthood: Women's Way of Preparing For, Living, and Enriching Priesthood
  • Chris Maunder, Pat Brown: Responding to WOW 2001 - Preparing a Course in Women's Ministry

C. Christ Calls - Vocations and Empowerment (P.M.)

  • Anne Cross, Michael Bold: Theology of Lay Liberation
  • Susan Williamson, Alison Gelder, Ian Smith: The True Nature of Eucharist
  • Angela Bonavoglia: Join the Change Makers: How Catholic Women are Fighting to Change the Church
  • Christina Cathro: Listening for the Echo: Giving Voice to Lesbian Spirituality
  • Deborah Halter: When Silence Is Not Golden: Evangelizing Female Defenders of a Male Priesthood
  • Judith Schleitwiler Wolicki, Mary Nichols Schleitwiler: Letting Go of the Fear: The Courage to Break Silence and Break Bread
  • Katherine Adolph, Jackie Frolick: The Work of Transforming Ourselves: Beyond Religion, Belief, and Faith
  • Joanna Manning: Erotic Justice: Commitment to Personal and Global Transformation
  • Chris Schenk: Women in Church Leadership: Tools for Transformation
  • Rosana Pellizari, Rosemary Ganley: A Better Sexual Ethic: Challenging Patriarchal Mores in Priestly Formation

D. Diversity - Breaking Boundaries (P.M.)

  • Joy Barnes: Breaking Boundaries through Ministry: Diversity in the Women's Ordination Movement
  • June Boyce-Tilman: Music and Transformation: Women, Music, and Transforming Church
  • Veronica Dunne: Virtual Communities: Cyberspace Rooms of Our Own
  • Jessica Fraser: Ecofeminism and Ministry: The Sacred Earth Calling Us Home
  • Eileen Kerwin-Jones: Breaking the Sexual Slave Trade: Breaking Silence: The Global Trafficking of Women
  • Sarah Samson: Gender and Christianity: Unité de recherche et documentation «genre» en Christianisme
  • Walda Taylor-Javier: Maintaining a Political Presence: A Lobbying Presence in Rome
  • Mary Schaefer: The Modes of Christ's Active Presence in the Liturgy: A Liturgical-Theological Case for Women's Ordination to Eucharistic Leadership

Worshop Descriptions: Ottawa 2005

Women's Ordination Worldwide (WOW)
Second International Conference
Breaking Silence, Breaking Bread: Christ Calls Women to Lead
Ottawa, Canada
July 22 - 24, 2005



A1. Dina Cormick (South Africa): withdrawn

A2. Regina Coupar (Canada): BORN AGAIN: RECONCEIVING WOMEN'S STORIES: using a combination of demonstration, lecture and hands-on exercises, will expose participants to tools they can easily adopt for reconstructing stories of biblical women - in poetry, prose and visual art; will enliven and inform the imagination.

A3. Bernice Santor (Canada): SOME WOMEN AMAZED US: using 5 quilts depicting biblical women, will tell their stories from a Christian feminist perspective, followed by discussion of the methodology used, and exploration of creative imagination and its use in reclaiming biblical women and their contribution to the development of their religion.

A4. Elaine Guillemin (Canada): SHE INSISTED IT WAS SO: WO/MEN RE-TELLING BIBLICAL STORIES: creative re-telling of biblical women's stories, will explore some of the theory and practice of a hermeneutics of creative imagination, including the androcentric nature of the biblical text, elements of reader-response theory, principles of feminist biblical interpretation, and the authority of women's experience therein.

A5. Mary-Lynne Monroe (USA): REGENESIS: RESTORING WOMEN'S PLACE IN CREATION: probing the stories of creation as well as the role of Mary, often idealized as the quintessential woman, in Christian and Islamic traditions; delving into the mythic patterns which have created women's roles and exploring the possibilities available to recreate these roles in both the world in general and the church in particular.

A6. Jennifer Stark (GB): SILENCING WOMEN IN REVELATION: A HERMENEUTICAL EXPLORATION OF VISION, TEXT AND ARTISTIC REPRESENTATION: The workshop will examine and discuss the impact of the text, the thought worlds on which John drew for his writing, and the visual representation of these 'apocalyptic women' over the centuries: powerful imagery which needs to be explored, redefined and often challenged if women are to speak and lead in the Churches of the future.

A7. Kim Vidal (Canada): THE MOON UNDER HER FEET: WOMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE: Exploration of feminine imagery in the Book of Revelation and its relevance for women of today.

A8. John N. Collins (Australia): INESCAPABLE CONNECTIONS BETWEEN NEW TESTAMENT DIAKONIA, WOMEN AND ORDINATION: to clarify the nature of ministry/diakonia in Pauline mission as "ministry of the word"; to establish women's connatural role in ministry of the word; to establish the essential connection between ministry of the word and Eucharistic celebration; to elucidate the process of "ordination" as "good ordering".

A9. Karen Fitz La Barge (USA): WOMEN, THE PROMINENT APOSTLES! THE SCRIPTURAL EVIDENCE FOR WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP: will correct the false assumption that Christ called only twelve males to be apostles: will review the compelling scriptures that support women in ordained ministry.

A10. Adriana Valerio (Italy): withdrawn

A11. Doreen Wyatt, (GB): NEGATIVE IMAGES OF WOMEN IN THE CHURCH AND THEIR DESTRUCTIVE POWER: This workshop will explore the images of women which are presented by the Church, namely the two opposing models of the pure and immaculate woman, Mary the mother of Christ, and the fallen, sinful woman to be found in such as Eve and Mary the Magdalene. In its own way, each of these models is used in a destructive manner.

A12. Martha Ann Kirk (USA), (the music of Covita Moroney): VOICES OF ANCIENT WOMEN INVITING COURAGE AND COMPASSION: Story-dramas, ritual, and music celebrating texts by and about women who dared to break limits, holy women of Palestine, Sinai, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Greece from the fourth to ninth century who are guides for modern pilgrims charting new maps. Texts used for the ordination of deaconesses reveal a rich and neglected tradition.



B1. Miriam K. Martin (Canada): LEADING FROM THE GROUND UP: WOMEN RELIGIOUS WORKING AND PRAYING TOWARDS WOMEN'S ORDINATION: This paper will situate briefly the role of women religious in the ordination movement, particularly in Canada. Then it will examine how women religious' active leadership roles and their ritual lives are affecting the practice of local churches in a way which affirms a grassroots movement toward women's ordination; how women's ritualising is moving the questions of leadership and ordination in divergent directions, towards an inclusive, equal and more circular model; will expand the present understanding of women's actual leadership roles in the church and world today while challenging patriarchal and dysfunctional notions of leadership.

B2. Ida Raming (Germany): ORDINATION CONTRA LEGEM-A WAY TO OVERCOME DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN IN THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH: short overview of the history of discrimination of women in the Church; the motivation of the 7 women who decided to go ahead with an ordination contra legem. Participants are invited to discuss the pros and cons of the decision (transgression of Church Law) and to form their own opinion.

B3. Maria Alma Chaires, Victoria Maria De Leon, Teresa Andrade Garcia, Eustorgia Estrada (Mexico): LUZ Y LIBERTAD: LIGHT & LIBERTY IN MEXICO: A group of Mexican Catholic women will share their experiences and struggles of how they transformed their Comunidad de Base (Base Christian Community) into a community ministry to women.

B4. Valerie Bannert, Mary Ellen Nettle, Sharon Smith (Canada): FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE: THE CHURCH UNITING IN MINISTRY: will introduce and invite participation in the development of an alternative Ministry (Ecumenical Diaconal Ministry) in the Christian Church.

B5. Angelika Fromm (Germany): WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP IN A DEACONATE-BASED CHURCH: Short history of women's deaconate, presentation of experiences of a German three-year women deaconate formation program and ideas for renewed ministries in an up-to-date church serving the wellbeing of the people.

B6. Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger & Elisabeth Grossegger (Austria): A PRIEST IN THE FAMILY: REPERCUSSIONS AND SUPPORT: will examine models of priestly work in a renewed understanding of community, women in ecclesial structures and priestly ministry as the lever for equality.

B7. Giovanna Piazza (USA): withdrawn.

B8. Kelley A. Raab (USA): CATHOLIC WOMEN PRIESTS: WHAT DIFFERENCE ARE THEY MAKING? What difference are women priests making for the priesthood, for parishioners, for theology, and for the church? Using case studies and feminist and psychological theories, I suggest that Catholic women priests redefine the notion of priesthood, empower parishioners, bring an embodied theology of relation and presence, and clarify the mission of the church.

B9. Denise Donato & Mary Ramerman (USA): FAILURE IS IMPOSSIBLE: THE STORY OF TWO WOMEN CATHOLIC PRIESTS: Hear the story of what happened when a Roman Catholic Parish refused to remove their female pastoral assistant from being on the altar. Learn how a new Catholic community was formed and the issues it faced.

B10. Brigitte Enzer-Probst (Germany): Withdrawn

B11. Pauline Jacob (Canada): ET SI DIEU APPELAIT DES FEMMES A LA PRÊTRISE OR AU DIACONAT? Il existe déjà un discernement vocationnel valable chez les femmes qui se disent appelées a la prêtrise ou au diaconat; bien que différent des modes traditionnels de discernement vocationnel, il repose tout autant sur des fondements théologiques réels et merite d'être prise au sérieux. Ma recherche part de récits de cheminements vocationnels de 15 femmes qui se disent appelées et de 73 témoins de leurs communautés.

B12. Patricia Fresen (South Africa and Austria): TRAINING FOR THE PRIESTHOOD: WOMEN'S WAY OF PREPARING FOR, LIVING AND ENRICHING PRIESTHOOD: will discuss the programme of training for the priesthood which is being used at present by the Women's Ordination Movement; will address issues and questions arising out of the experience of those who have been through the programme or are still participating in it.

B13.Chris Maunder, Pat Brown (GB): RESPONDING TO WOW 2001-PREPARING A COURSE IN WOMEN'S MINISTRY: We will outline how our Leeds Catholic Women's Ordination Group reflected on the resolutions from WOW in Dublin 2001 and instituted a pilot course in ministry for women, which is held every two months and will last two years. It will be almost completed by the time the workshop takes place. We hope this workshop will provide an opportunity to discuss how we might all respond to the call for courses in ministry for Catholic women


C1.Anne Cross & Michael Bold (GB): THEOLOGY OF LAY LIBERATION: will enable participants to see how empowerment of all lay people is necessary for the redefinition of church and the ministers it needs; will encourage participants to recognise the importance of praying & sharing together for this empowerment and to envision how that could happen in their own context.

C2. Susan Williamson, Alison Gelder, Ian Smith (GB): THE TRUE NATURE OF EUCHARIST: will consider what is Eucharist and what is community and how these two are vitally intertwined; using the work of Paulo Freire and empowerment of the marginalised will link these to the idea of Eucharist and community.

C3.Angela Bonavoglia (USA): JOIN THE CHANGE-MAKERS - HOW CATHOLIC WOMEN ARE FIGHTING TO CHANGE THE CHURCH: will celebrate the efforts of Catholic women in all areas of Church reform, and enable workshop participants to identify specific ways that they can join in that work.

C4. Christina Cathro (Canada): LISTENING FOR THE ECHO: GIVING VOICE TO LESBIAN SPIRITUALITY: will raise consciousness of the need to include lesbian priests in the effort to ordain women worldwide; I will explore some aspects of an evolving lesbian spirituality, and examine ways that these lesbian voices are contributing to the fields of spirituality and theology.

C5. Deborah Halter (USA): WHEN SILENCE IS NOT GOLDEN: EVANGELIZING FEMALE DEFENDERS OF A MALE PRIESTHOOD: will explore ways that advocates of women's ordination can reach out to a group comprising the statistically largest single source of Roman Catholic women's ordination opponents: Roman Catholic women.

C6. Judith Schleitwiler Wolicki, Mary Nichols Schleitwiler (USA): LETTING GO OF THE FEAR: THE COURAGE TO BREAK SILENCE AND BREAK BREAD: overview of the history and function of priesthood in the world, the demonization and silencing of women's ministry; interaction and discussion on needs of communities, what kind of priests do we need in our world?

C7.Katherine Adolph & Jackie Frolick (Canada): THE WORK OF TRANSFORMING OURSELVES: BEYOND RELIGION, BELIEF AND FAITH: will clarify the meanings of faith, belief, church, religion and spirituality, thereby exposing common confusion among the terms.

C8. Joanna Manning (Canada): EROTIC JUSTICE: COMMITMENT TO PERSONAL AND GLOBAL TRANSFORMATION: will provide ways to renew, energize and deepen women's commitment to leadership. Spirituality, study, personal relationships and social action are interweaving circles of Christian life within which women are called to break silence and break bread in the contemporary world.

C9. Chris Schenk (USA): WOMEN IN CHURCH LEADERSHIP: TOOLS FOR TRANSFORMATION: will present proven methods for advancing women's roles in today's Church, as well as bringing to visibility biblical and historic Catholic women leaders of the past; will discuss basic skills for parish and diocese wide organizing, and develop strategies for advancing chosen issues

C10. Rosana Pellizari, Rosemary Ganley (Canada): A BETTER SEXUAL ETHIC: CHALLENGING PATRIARCHAL MORES IN PRIESTLY FORMATION: This workshop, offered by two member of the voluntary group "Catholics for a Free Choice-Canada", will explore these themes and those of women's moral agency, reproductive rights as human rights, the ambiguous history of the church teaching on abortion, the classic theory of primacy of conscience, misogynistic reductionism in preaching today, and global perspectives on sexual ethics, including the politics of the Holy See at the United Nations.

C11. Soline Vatinel (Ireland): - withdrawn


D1. Joy Barnes (USA): BREAKING BOUNDARIES THROUGH MINISTRY: DIVERSITY IN THE WOMEN'S ORDINATION MOVEMENT: will share the basis of the Women's Ordination Conference (WOC-US) Three Ministries and discuss the struggles and successes with addressing diversity through these ministries.

D2. June Boyce-Tilman (GB):MUSIC & TRANSFORMATION - WOMEN, MUSIC & TRANSFORMING CHURCH: willl set out a model of how music has been used to support patriarchal culture particularly in the church, will free up people's preconceptions about music, enable participants to find a voice and look at how music may be used to transform church.

D3. Veronica Dunne (Canada):VIRTUAL COMMUNITIES - CYPERSPACE ROOMS OF OUR OWN: will consider what can happen when a group that is denied actual space in the church buildings creates a virtual room - "a room of one's own - in cyberspace; will examine ways women can draw on these new cyber-resources, and how cyberspace can work as an ally in the process of destabilizing dominant patriarchal church and cultural norms, allowing new norms and practices to emerge.

D4. Jessica Fraser (Canada):ECOFEMINISM & MINISTRY - THE SACRED EARTH CALLING US HOME: will examine the gendered face of the ecological crisis as well as international ecofeminist efforts: will then move to a theological analysis of what is occurring in terms of feminist leadership on ecological issues; will discuss shifts to interpret Christianity in terms of the multi-religious world and an earth sciences perspective.

D5. Eileen Kerwin-Jones (Canada):BREAKING THE SEXUAL SLAVE TRADE - BREAKING SILENCE: THE GLOBAL TRAFFICKING OF WOMEN: will raise awareness about the global trafficking of women and call women of faith to collective action to halt this injustice.

D6. Sarah Samson:UNITÉ DE RECHERCHE ET DOCUMENTATION <<GENRE>> EN CHRISTIANISME: La recherche s'opère aujourd'hui selon un critère à la terminologie difficultueuse en français mais désormais admise dans les milieux scientifiques et politiques, le critère du genre (en anglais gender). Le concept du genre est fruit d'une longue étape: après tant d'années d'études sur les femmes ou par les femmes, on prend acte de la discrimination subie par les femmes dans un système général de domination masculine. Et, sans en avoir terminé pour autant avec les prémisses de cette démonstration, on explore désormais ce rapport socialement construit entre les sexes.

D7. Walda Taylor-Javier (USA):MAINTAINING A POLITICAL PRESENCE - A LOBBYING PRESENCE IN ROME: Will discuss the importance of keeping the women's ordination issue in the forefront by establishing a lobby group in Rome.

D8. Debra Wuliger (USA):MEDITATING ON OUR WISDOM - withdrawn.