Women

Elaina Ramsey 12-16-2014

Nuns listen during a Dec. 16 Vatican press conference of the final report. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The much anticipated final report of a Vatican-ordered investigation of U.S. nuns was released today without controversy. The report ends a process launched six years ago under Pope Benedict XVI through the leadership of Cardinal Franc Rodé, the former head of the Vatican office of religious life, who raised concerns of “secular mentality" and a "feminist spirit" among U.S. women religious communities. 

Elaina Ramsey 12-11-2014

Rolling Stone is not the only one throwing sexual abuse victims under the bus these days. An alarming report released today reveals that Bob Jones University, a historically fundamentalist Christian college, failed to support nearly 40 victims of sexual abuse over four decades.

In January 2013, Bob Jones University hired GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) to conduct an independent investigation of the college’s response to sexual abuse allegations.

The report states that BJU officials were not adequately prepared or trained to counsel victims appropriately, often treating victims as blameworthy for their abuse or sexual assault experienced during childhood or adulthood.

In a video statement recorded yesterday, BJU President Steve Pettit issued an apology to students and faculty:

On behalf of Bob Jones University, I would like to sincerely and humbly apologize to those who felt they did not receive from us genuine love, compassion, understanding, and support after suffering sexual abuse or assault. We did not live up to their expectations. We failed to uphold and honor our own core values. We are deeply saddened to hear that we added to their pain and suffering.

Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic News Service / RNS.

Pope Francis during the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic News Service / RNS.

When Pope Francis this month wanted to highlight his appointment of several women to a blue-ribbon theological commission, he called the female theologians “strawberries on the cake.”

Yikes.

Two weeks earlier, when the pontiff gave a speech to the European Parliament, he used another lady-based analogy, this time underscoring the continent’s demographic decline and cultural crisis by comparing Europe to a grandmother who is “no longer fertile and vibrant.”

Ouch.

Yes, Francis is a veritable quote machine, tossing off-the-cuff bon mots that the public finds enormously appealing in large part because they are coming from a Roman pontiff — not an office known for its improv routines.

But when he speaks about women, Francis can sound a lot like the (almost) 78-year-old Argentine churchman that he is, using analogies that sound alternately condescending and impolitic, even if well-intentioned.

Jeffrey Salkin 12-03-2014
A scene from the new Lifetime series “The Red Tent.” Photo via Joey L. / Lifetim

A scene from the new Lifetime series “The Red Tent.” Photo via Joey L. / Lifetime / RNS.

In the beginning, there was “Noah.”

Coming up, there’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” an update of Cecil B. DeMille’s classic for this generation.

And that’s not all. On Dec. 7, Lifetime’s miniseries “The Red Tent” premieres.

God is smiling on Hollywood.

The adaptation of Anita Diamant’s blockbuster novel (and perennial reading group favorite) is an expansion and interpretation of the story of Dinah from the book of Genesis.

I have not seen “The Red Tent,” though I have read Diamant’s book. But its airing could not be more timely — the same week as Jewish congregations are reading the story of Dinah from the Torah.

There is something else that makes “The Red Tent” timely — tragically timely, in fact.

Elaina Ramsey 11-20-2014

People of faith can play an important role in helping each child of God realize his/her potential. Join us in standing up for education by signing the #UpForSchool petition, an urgent appeal to get every child into school—no matter who they are or where they are born.

When we invest in schooling for all children, lives are transformed for generations to come. For example, closing the education gap for girls reduces child marriage rates, leads to more income later in life, and lowers the rate of HIV/AIDs. Access to equal education is not only essential to building stronger economies and a healthy society, but it honors the God-given dignity of children. 

My mom would agree: education is empowerment. It provides freedom and a better future—and no child in the world should be denied it.

Let us all pray that every child can go to school.

And let’s join other faith communities to make sure it happens—sign the petition now.

Elaina Ramsey participating in Sojourners' day of action to help end violence against women.

I firmly believe that people of faith can transform the world. Despite the many flaws and failures of the church and her people, Christians have a tremendous amount of power and influence to do good. This campaign is all about harnessing the leadership of churches and clergy, and encouraging people of faith to raise their voices on behalf of women and girls. Through education and empowerment, we can confront gender-based oppressions and change harmful practices, policies, and structures within the church and the broader culture. It’s a tall order, but one that demands nothing less from us if we truly believe in the sacred worth of women and girls.

Richard Dawkins addressing the World Humanist Congress on Aug. 11, 2014, in Oxford, England. Photo via Brian Pellot/RNS.

As the world’s most famous atheist, Richard Dawkins is no stranger to criticism from religious believers.

But in recent months, a few of his opinions have riled many in the atheist community as well. Remarks he made on Twitter and elsewhere on subjects ranging from sexual harassment (“stop whining”) to Down syndrome fetuses (“abort and try again”) have sparked suggestions from some fellow nonbelievers that he would serve atheism better by keeping quiet.

When asked about his controversial July tweets on pedophilia — Dawkins opined that some attacks on children are “worse” than others — the 73-year-old British evolutionary biologist and best-selling New York Times author declined to be interviewed.

But on a speaking tour through the San Francisco Bay Area in support of his new memoir, “An Appetite for Wonder,” he invited a reporter to sit down with him and explore the thinking behind his remarks.

Bottom line: He stands by everything he has said — including comments that one form of rape or pedophilia is “worse” than another, and that a drunken woman who is raped might be responsible for her fate.

Loyola Marymount University’s Sunken Garden and Sacred Heart Chapel. Photo via Mishigaki via Wikimedia Commons/RNS.

Religious groups are battling the state of California over whether employee health insurance plans require them to pay for abortions and some forms of contraception that some find immoral.

So is the state forcing churches to pay for abortions? It depends on who you ask.

The issue gained traction after Michelle Rouillard, director of the California Department of Managed Health Care, sent a letter to Anthem Blue Cross and several other insurance firms in August warning providers that state law requires insurers to not deny woman abortions. “Thus, all health plans must treat maternity services and legal abortion neutrally,” she wrote.

Rouillard wrote that state law provides an exemption for religious institutions.

“Although health plans are required to cover legal abortions, no individual health care provider, religiously sponsored health carrier, or health care facility may be required by law or contract in any circumstance to participate in the provision of or payment for a specific service if they object to doing so for reason of conscience or religion,” she wrote.

“No person may be discriminated against in employment or professional privileges because of such objection.”

However, two legal groups have filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, alleging the California rule puts faith-based organizations in a position to violate their conscience.

World Vision Vice President of U.S. Programs Romanita Hairston. Photo by Wayne McGraw, courtesy of World Vision/RNS.

At an organization where 45 percent of U.S. senior leaders are women, Romanita Hairston’s gender is mostly a nonissue as she oversees children’s welfare programs at World Vision, the giant evangelical relief agency.

But in the larger evangelical universe, high-ranking women like Hairston remain a relative rarity.

“I think it’s kind of inappropriate at this time in history to be shocked, but I think there are places where I’m one of the few women in a position of authority or shaping theological perspective,” said Hairston, a World Vision vice president who serves on boards and teaches about gender inequity at Seattle Central Community College.

Delegates of the Annual Council. Photo by Viviene Martinelli, courtesy of Adventist News Network via Flickr/RNS.

Seventh-day Adventists opted for a middle-way approach on the divisive issue of women’s ordination on Oct. 14, kicking the question to next year’s worldwide meeting without taking a firm stance either for or against women’s ordination.

Next year’s debate will come nearly 100 years after the death of Adventist matriarch Ellen White and could settle decades of disagreement over whether women should be allowed to be ordained in the 18 million-member church she co-founded.

The church’s Annual Council voted to refer the matter to the 2015 General Conference Session in San Antonio. Under the proposal, regional church bodies would be able to decide whether to ordain women pastors.

Uchtdorf referred twice to women as “daughters of heavenly parents." Photo via Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints/RNS.

Mormon feminists may have been surprised by some subtle changes in vocabulary and approach Sept. 27 at the church’s general women’s meeting.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf addressed the audience — sitting in the giant Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City or watching via satellite in chapels of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints across the globe — not just as “sisters” but also as “blessed disciples of Jesus Christ.”

In a speech about living out one’s faith joyfully, Uchtdorf, second counselor in the church’s governing First Presidency, referred twice to women as “daughters of heavenly parents,” alluding to the Mormon belief in male and female deities.

And, for the first time, the charismatic German leader described the meeting as the opening session of the church’s 184th Semiannual General Conference. Until now, General Conference has referred only to the two-day gatherings held during the first weekends of April and October, with the women’s meeting seen as a separate event.

Saturday night’s meeting also featured the first-ever prayer at a session of General Conference by a black woman, offered by South African Dorah Mkhabela, a member of the LDS Young Women’s General Board.

the Web Editors 8-26-2014
Lightspring/Shutterstock

'A New Normal: 10 Things I've Learned About Trauma' is the most popular piece by a female in 2014. Lightspring/Shutterstock

Today, August 26, is Women's Equality Day. The date was selected to commemorate the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote. In honor of such a day as this, we decided it’d be fitting to highlight the voices of women by sharing our top five posts (by number of page views) authored by women from the past year. 

  1. A New Normal: Ten Things I've Learned About Trauma, by Catherine Woodiwiss (Sojourners Associate Web Editor)

  2. Not As Helpless As We Think: 3 Ways to Stand In Solidarity With Ferguson, by Rachel Held Evans

  3. How Not to Raise a Daughter, by Sandi Villarreal (Sojourners Web Editor and Chief Digital Officer)

  4. World Vision Reverses Decision on Same-Sex Marriage, Calls It 'A Mistake,' by Sarah Pulliam Bailey

  5. How I Kissed Evangelizing Goodbye, by Cindy Brandt

And while we’ve come a long way over the past 94 years, we also recognize there is still much to be done.  So stay tuned to our Women and Girls Leading through Faith and Justice Initiative.  We hope to have some exciting updates to share soon (including a new hire — you can still apply for our Women and Girls Campaign Associate position here)!

Tom Ehrich 8-26-2014
Tarchyshnik Andrei and Colorlife/Shutterstock.com

Tarchyshnik Andrei and Colorlife/Shutterstock.com

Church leaders often worry that Sunday morning is the “most segregated day of the week.”

On Sundays, churchgoers gather inside congregations that are remarkably monochromatic. Whites with whites, blacks with blacks, Latinos with Latinos, Koreans with Koreans, and so on.

This phenomenon, however, is more than discomfort with diversity. It is also a search for safety. In the historic black church, for example, worshippers can assert the dignity and worth that a white society denies them. For three hours on Sunday, the need to avoid offending whites doesn’t govern their lives.

As we are learning in Ferguson, Mo., African-Americans feel unsafe — far more than many whites have realized. Young black men, for example, flinch whenever a police car passes — a vulnerability that money, job, and education can’t overcome.

Rebecca Kraybill 8-05-2014

Kelly and Peter Shenk Koontz near Kabul. Photo by Grace Royer.

Peter and Kelly Shenk Koontz know the difficulties and joys of peacebuilding in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Julie Polter 8-05-2014

Accidental Theologians by Elizabeth A. Dreyer / Extending the Table by Mennonite Central Committee / Overrated by Eugene Cho / Burning Down the House by Nell Bernstein

Jim Wallis 7-17-2014
r.nagy and mehmet alci/Shutterstock.com

Westminster Abbey, London, England. r.nagy and mehmet alci/Shutterstock.com

I met my wife, Joy Carroll, at Greenbelt, a summer festival of faith, arts, and justice held annually in England. It was August 1994. A few months earlier, in May, Joy was one of the first women to be ordained as a priest in the Church of England. We were both speakers on a panel one day at Greenbelt, in a tent with 5,000 young people. Afterwards, we met for coffee. Joy had been an ordained deacon in the church for six years and was a leader in the movement to recognize all the gifts women had to offer both to the church and the parishes they served. She was the youngest member of the General Synod that decided to ordain women, and she was there for the historic vote in Church House Westminster in London. That cup of coffee eventually led to our marriage in 1997.

I have a vivid memory of returning to Greenbelt as speakers in 2002 with our almost 4-year-old son Luke. It was Sunday morning, and Joy was up on the worship platform celebrating the Eucharist for 20,000 people. My little boy was sitting on my lap watching his mom lead worship up on the stage. Luke looked up at me and said, “Daddy, can men do that too?”

Sara Johnson 7-16-2014
Brandon Hook/Sojourners

The Summit participants gather for the opening session. Brandon Hook/Sojourners

Editor’s Note: We at Sojourners thought it would be nice to share first-hand reflections on our inaugural annual conference, The Summit: World Change Through Faith & Justice, from participants. Our first post comes from Sara Johnson, who hails from Ennis, Mont. and is the founder of the Million Girl Army, a brand new non-profit launching this year focused on engaging middle school girls in the U.S. on gender justice advocacy. Sara is an emerging leader who was able to attend The Summit because of a sponsorship from one of our Change Maker donors. The donor covered all of Sara’s costs, from registration to travel and had a tremendous impact on Sara’s work, as she shares below. 

Although nervous to be a founder of a non-profit that hasn’t officially launched yet attending a conference with heavy hitters in the non-profit world, within seconds of walking into the initial Summit gathering I was glad I came.

Creative Commons image by Catholic Church England

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby visits with members of his congregation. Creative Commons image by Catholic Church England

CANTERBURY, England — Women’s rights activists greeted with delight signs the Church of England is poised to relent and allow women to be consecrated as bishops.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will preside over a historic General Synod meeting at the University of York when a make-or-break vote on the subject is expected July 14.

“I think we’re there at long last,” American-born Christina Rees, one of the church’s leading women’s rights campaigners, said in an interview Thursday.

7-03-2014
Pastors, considering themselves not equipped to respond, often fail to address domestic and sexual violence appropriately, according to a June 19 IMA World Health report. Seventy-five percent of Protestant pastors underestimate the amount of violence occurring in their communities and rarely speak out about the issue, according to a LifeWay survey, but 80 percent said they would take action if they had the resources.
7-03-2014
Here is a Huffington Post story about our domestic violence research released at the Sojourners Summit. You can find the LifeWay release here or, if you are a good Charismatic, you've already read it at Charisma!

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