Monday, June 25, 2012

Sisterhood is Ecumenical Part II: An Open Letter to Dr. Margaret Farley, RSM

By Caryn D. Riswold
Regular readers of might recall last year around this time when I shared “An Open Letter to Elizabeth A. Johnson,” written primarily by ELCA Director of Justice for Women, Mary Streufert and signed by a collection of Lutheran women in theological and religious studies.  That public show of support came after a committee of American Roman Catholic bishops banned the use of her book, Quest for the Living God.
Lutheran women are organizing again, this time in support of Dr. Margaret Farley after the Vatican denounced her work on Christian sexual ethics in the book Just Love.  Another woman, writing about gender and sexuality beyond the androcentric and heteronormative mold.  Another nun, using her creativity and conscience to produce substantial, practical, and just ethical reflection.  Another occasion for progressive people of faith to stand together against attempts to silence a prophetic theological voice.
I will continue to be a part of this collective support as long as it is needed.  But I’d really not like to have to write a “part three.”
The letter and signatories after the jump.
Caryn D. Riswold, Ph.D., is associate professor of religion and chair of gender and women’s studies at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois.  She is the author of several books, including Feminism and Christianity: Questions and Answers in the Third Wave (2009), and one of twenty leaders participating in the Faith and Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C., this year.  You can follow her on Twitter @feminismxianity.

June 21, 2012 

An open letter to Dr. Margaret Farley, RSM:

In these discouraging days, we write to praise and reaffirm the theological discernment and
moral creativity of all your work; your contributions have been and continue to be warmly
valued by your Lutheran sisters in Christ and others connected to Lutheran circles of scholarship. We are shocked, grieved and profoundly perplexed by the action taken by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith denouncing your book Just Love: A Framework for Sexual Ethics. The Notification misrepresents the intent of your book, ignores the ethical conversation you are attempting to engage and suggests that the fruits of scholarship, teaching and moral deliberation should be merely a replication of ecclesiastical decree. Your capacity to honor faithfully the tradition of the church, precisely by bringing it into conversation with the concrete experience of many previously overlooked, has opened paths in both directions. The excluded have found in your loving address Christ's own invitation to enter the circle, while those on the inside have found in your thoughtful theological analysis a new appreciation for God's good and boundless diversity.

Many of us who are signing this letter have been students of yours.  You have taught us to
treasure the gospel, to ponder through critical questioning and compassion the moral
complexities of our time, to deliberate with others with humility and without coercion, and to choose our actions in devotion to God and service to neighbor.  We also remember your
generosity – your willingness to spend precious hours with us, working through perplexing
questions in Augustine or Aquinas, and in our own lives. Others of us who are signing this letter know you less closely – through your leadership in the Society of Christian Ethics, your public lectures, webcasts and publications.  We, too, are grateful for the ways you have modeled ecclesial commitment, theological rigor and have insisted that loving justice motivate our deliberations and actions.  All of us are grateful that your brilliant scholarly work has not stayed within the academy but has been lived out in many places, including the Women’s Initiative regarding HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology. 
As committed Christians and scholars, we found the book to be a major contribution to the
scholarly endeavor of examining our long and rich traditions in light of social arrangements and moral challenges unanticipated by even the most authoritative voices of those traditions.  The genre of Just Love is clearly that of scholarly discourse.  Denouncing the book for failing to conform to current official Roman Catholic teaching misrepresents its audience and purpose.  Many of us use Just Love in our teaching and draw upon it in our scholarship, counseling and conversations in personal and public contexts.  We are profoundly grateful for the framework through which you call all people to careful and close examination of the construction, connections, fidelities, responsibilities and consequences of sexual identity and sexual expression.  The deliberations and compassion that you model invite collaboration and stir hope that in our embodiedness we might be just and loving.

Prayerfully and gratefully,

Kim L Beckmann, Augustana Lutheran Church of Hyde Park
Kathleen D. Billman, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
Karen L. Bloomquist, Bellingham, WA
Diane Bowers, St. James Lutheran Church, San Leandro, CA
Jean Bozeman, Virginia Synod, ELCA
Janet Bregar, California State University, Fullerton 
Marcia J. Bunge, Valparaiso University
Joy Bussert, Yale Divinity School, Class of ‘77
Jacqueline Bussie, Concordia College
Amy Carr, Western Illinois University
Corrine Carvalho, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, St. Paul, MN
Joanne Chadwick, retired ELCA Commission for Women
Norma Cook Everist, Wartburg Theological Seminary
Katie Day, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia 
Wanda Deifelt, Luther College
Kelly Denton-Borhaug, Moravian College
Jessicah Krey Duckworth, Luther Seminary
Maria Erling, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg
Mary Gaebler, Gustavus Adolphus College 
Arnfríður Guðmundsdóttir, University of lceland
Krista E. Hughes, Hanover College
Elizabeth Huwiler, Elm Grove, WI
Brenda Llewellyn Ihssen, Pacific Lutheran University
Diane Jacobson, Luther Seminary 
Melissa James, ELCA Diaconal Minister
Kathryn Johnson, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Sherry Jordon, University of St. Thomas
Laurie Jungling, Augustana College, Sioux Falls, SD
Hilda P. Koster, Concordia College, Moorhead
Kristen E. Kvam, Saint Paul School of Theology
Carol Schersten LaHurd, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
L. DeAne Lagerquist, St. Olaf College
Lynne Lorenzen, Augsburg College
Barbara Lundblad, Union Theological Seminary 
Lois Malcom, Lutheran Seminary
Amy Marga, Luther Seminary
Susan Wilds McArver, Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary
Margaret R. McLean, Santa Clara University
Kirsten Mebust, Augsburg College
Esther Menn, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
Anna Mercedes, College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University
Gwendolyn Miller, Zion Lutheran Church of Avalon Park, Chicago, IL
Cynthia D. Moe-Lobeda, Seattle University
Joan Novak, Denison University
Ann Pederson, Augustana College
Mary Pellauer, Independent Scholar
Cheryl Pero, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
Lori Peterson, Carleton College
Melinda Quivik, Houghton, Michigan
Janet Ramsey, Luther Seminary
Robin E. Ressler, Pastor, St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, San Francisco, CA
Caryn Riswold, Illinois College 
Barbara Rossing, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago 
Terra S. Rowe, Drew University
Jone Salomonsen, University of Oslo
Gwen Sayler, Wartburg Theological Seminary 
Joy A. Schroeder, Capital University and Trinity Lutheran Seminary
Terry Snipes, Student, Columbia Theological Seminary
Mary Solberg, Gustavus Adolphus College
Elna K. Solvang, Concordia College
Lisa L. Stenmark, San Jose State University
Kirsi Stjerna, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg 
Bev Stratton, Augsburg College
Mary J. Streufert, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Karla Suomala, Luther College 
Deanna A. Thompson, Hamline University
Mary Todd, Marshall University
Marit Trelstad, Pacific Lutheran University
Teresa Swan Tuite, Oberlin College
Alicia Vargas, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary
Aana Marie Vigen, Loyola University, Chicago
Katharina Von Kellenbach, St. Mary’s College of Maryland
Audrey West, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
Courtney Wilder, Midland University
Diane Yeager, Georgetown University

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