2014 Christian Feminism Today Gathering

FacebookProfile“Let Justice Roll On Like a River!”
The Christian Feminism Today 2014 Gathering
June 26-29, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri

“But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”
Amos 5:24 (NIV)



Post-Conference Press Release

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Read All about the Gathering Here!

Yes, We Gathered at the River: EEWC-CFT in St. Louis
by Anne Eggebroten
A Beautiful Day
by Ashley Cason
This Is What Feminism’s All About
by Abigail Pope

Mary E. Hunt’s Plenary Presentation, “Feminist Faith-Based Social Justice”

Kendra Weddle’s Reflection on the Ain’t I a Woman blog

Rev. Deb Vaughn recaps her workshop on her blog, An Unfinished Symphony.

Share your memories by leaving a comment!

Photos on this page by Criselda Marquez, Anne Eggebroten, Marg Herder, and Abigail Pope.


If you have a blog post or photos of the gathering on the web, please let us know and we’ll link to them here.

Yes, We Gathered at the River: EEWC-CFT in St. Louis

by Anne Eggebroten

Karen Kidd, Lourene Bender, Fran Mayes, Anne Eggebroten, Reta Finger, Jeanne Hanson, Sharon Bowes, Letha Dawson ScanzoniHow do you mark the passing of 40 years?  How do you celebrate a mission that began so long ago and outlived so many predictions of its demise?

With laughter, of course.  And wonder.  And a strong sense of God’s gracious presence.

Evangelical & Ecumenical Women’s Caucus (EEWC), now more popularly known as EEWC-Christian Feminism Today, celebrated its 40th anniversary on June 26-29 at the Sheraton Westport Plaza Hotel in St. Louis.

I’ll start with wonder over the changes between then and now:

  • In 1974 that archaic phrase “God the Father” was good enough for us.  Our founding mothers, Letha Dawson Scanzoni and Nancy Hardesty, routinely referred to the Creator as “he” and “him” in All We’re Meant to Be.
  • We bravely asserted that Bible-believing Christians could also be feminists—against all the messages of church and culture.
  • Popular culture derided feminists as lesbians—and I for one tried to defend our new organization against accusations of harboring what we then called “homosexuals.”

At our gathering in 2014, language was transformed, biblical feminism was taken for granted, and support for LGBTQ folk was celebrated.

  • The Creator/Redeemer/Comforter was most often called “Christ-Sophia,” “Godde,” “Ruach,” or “She.”
  • Our speakers held degrees in international feminist theology or feminist theory—or they had written the books used by younger ones to earn their degrees.
  • Two women shared news of their legal marriage in a county courthouse a few days earlier—and we all applauded with joy.

Laughter joined wonder at every turn in St. Louis.

Letha Dawson ScanzoniIf a “Most Hilarious Speaker” prize had been awarded, Susan Campbell and Letha Dawson Scanzoni would have tied for it.  Susan regaled us with tales of her early life in small-town fundamentalism in Missouri.  To read them, see her memoir, Dating Jesus: A Story of Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl.

She also described accepting an invitation to defend her book at a conference of her childhood denomination, expecting to be dis-fellowshipped, but finding acceptance and reconciliation.

In a sober moment Susan recalled her brother’s assessment: “Fundamentalism is like a sword that broke off in us.”  After 25 years as a columnist and feature writer for the Hartford Courant.

Letha’s humor began with her reaction in 1963 to an article titled “Women’s Place in the Church” in Eternity magazine.  She decided to write a letter to the editor, but the letter became an article and then a decision to invite a complete stranger (Nancy Hardesty) to write a book with her on women’s issues in the church, home, and society.

Troubadours of Divine Bliss and Criselda MarquezThat book led to the founding of EEWC-CFT.  After a few hilarious quotes from anti-feminist books—The Total Woman, Fascinating Womanhood, and others—Letha brought down the house by holding up her 1975 centerfold in The Wittenburg Door, a Christian satire magazine.

As it turned out, Letha and Nancy’s book, All We’re Meant to Be: A Biblical Approach to Women’s Liberation, was named by Christianity Today in 2006 as one of the “top 50 books that have shaped evangelicals.”

The Troubadours of Divine Bliss added to the comic-tragic depiction of the good old gospel days with a Saturday evening performance of their folk-bluegrass-gospel songs introduced by personal histories. Aim Me and Renee grew up together in a Pentecostal church in Kentucky led by their fathers.  Now they have released six albums and sing all over North America and Europe.

“Let Justice Roll On like a River!” was the recurrent theme at this year’s gathering near the junction of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, echoing the prophet Amos: “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” 5:24 (NIV).

McKenzie Brown, Ashley Cason, Letha Dawson Scanzoni, Jennifer Newman, Jacinda ThomasThe river is indeed rolling on: a passel of young biblical feminists showed up and dazzled us with their feminist theory and passion for change.  McKenzie Brown, Ashley Cason, and Jacinda Thomas did student presentations with impressive feminist theory and historical research.

In addition, the first Nancy A. Hardesty Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Jennifer Newman, double majoring in politics and in philosophy at George Fox University with a minor in women’s studies.

Professors Kendra Weddle of Texas Wesleyan University and Melanie Springer Mock of George Fox University did the outreach that led to these young feminists connecting with EEWC-CFT.  Thank you!

Kendra and Melanie dealt shock and awe by presenting their research on oppressive teachings in fundamentalism today and the ongoing need for healing of binary oppositions based on fear.  To deconstruct these erroneous teachings on “women’s role,” they’re working on a book together.  In addition to their many publications, check out their joint blog, Ain’t I a Woman.

Another plenary speaker, Dr. Sharon Groves, works for the largest LGBT civil rights organization in the US, the Human Rights Campaign.  She shared her personal story.  Raised in a nonreligious family, she came to have a longing for God and faith; she also had a passion for justice.  Realizing that religion is behind much opposition to gay rights, she quit her tenured academic job to develop the Religion and Faith Program for the HRC.

Mary E. Hunt and Sharon GrovesShe now has conversations with Southern Baptists and others about pastoral responsibility: “What do you do if a person shows up at your church who is gender-nonconforming?” Of her work, she says, “There’s no more powerful place than right here, right now.”

Her advice?  Avoid arguments that boil down to “My Leviticus is bigger than your Leviticus.”

Her reason to keep going?  People like the youth pastor who told a gay young man, “Better if you got a gun and shot yourself than if you corrupt others.”

For the first time in our nearly parallel histories, Dr. Mary E. Hunt of Women-Church and WATER (the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual) gave a plenary speech at EEWC-CFT.  Her talk partially filled the intellectual gap left by the first-ever absence of her friend Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, another of our founding members, from an EEWC conference (for health reasons).

Mary gave us an overview of 1) the “feminist-ization” of religion, 2) backlash, and 3) next strategies.  As a Roman Catholic theologian, she is not too impressed with Pope Francis: “He hasn’t changed one thing structurally.”

She’s also not too focused on women’s ordination.  “Women are entering ministry in record numbers in mainline denominations,” she notes, “but those denominations are shrinking.”  Women have low pay and low stature; they do “mop up tasks as churches decline and decay.”

Fight “kyriarchy,” Mary urged us, by saying “we—not they” with Catholic and Protestant women, with Jewish and Muslim women, with women in cultures around the world.  “Together we’re a genius.”

The EEWC-CFT 2014 GatheringGod’s gracious gifts were evident not only in the presence of “the young ‘uns” but in the many other new-to-EEWC women.  Old timers had 25-30 new names and faces to learn; the stories and talents of these women and men gave an exciting energy to the weekend.  Thank you to Marg Herder, who made contacts at other conferences; to Letha and others, who brought friends; and to God working through search engines, which brought many to www.eewc.com.

Here’s a sampling of the newcomers:

  • Susan Cottrell, who wrote “Mom, I’m Gay”–Loving Your LGBTQ Child without Sacrificing Your Faith.  She introduced us to her healing ministry with LGBTQ kids, with their parents, and with churches—called to embrace all who are marginalized or oppressed.  Her husband Robert also joined us. Visit FreedHearts Ministries on the web.
  • Deb Vaughn, who gave a workshop on current grieving therapies. Visit her blog.
  • Peg Conway, whose workshop was on bringing theology to the experience of childbirth to empower women; see her website.
  • Paula Trimble-Familetti, who wrote Prostitutes, Virgins, and Mothers: Questioning Teachings about Biblical Women and presented a workshop giving voice to these women; read her blog.
  • Esther Emery from rural Idaho on finding our most authentic voice; she too gave a workshop and blogs at Church in the Canyon and writes for A Deeper Story.
  • Criselda Marquez, blogger and photographer. Visit her blog.

Besides an abundance of bloggers, EEWC-CFT has so many ordained women—another big change since 1974.

Rev. Leslie HarrisonFour of our women pastors brought their talents to the Sunday morning worship service: the Reverends Jan Clark (North Carolina, Baptist), Leslie Harrison (New Jersey, African Methodist Episcopal), Shawna R. B. Atteberry (Illinois, Episcopal), and Jann Aldredge-Clanton (Texas, Baptist).  There was also music performed by Vickie Bragg of Oklahoma, The Troubadours of Divine Bliss, and Marg Herder.  See Marg’s blog on the EEWC-CFT website.

God’s gracious presence shone in the hymns with inclusive-language lyrics by Aldredge-Clanton, which we sang on Sunday morning, in other plenary singing, and in her workshop.  Jan Clark led the singing with Janice Pope on the piano.  I bought the CDs and can testify that these songs sure transform Los Angeles traffic jams.  Imagine hearing “Come unto me, you weary ones, and I will give you rest…” to the tune of “There Is a Balm in Gilead.” Read more about Jann Aldredge-Clanton’s inclusive language hymns here.

Back to the laughter:  Reta Halteman Finger‘s workshop on violence against women in the Bible produced howls of laughter, as those of us in adjoining workshops can attest. It turns out that Reta had divided her group into clusters assigned to examine a list of passages with either violence or patriarchal attitudes.  When Jacinda Thomas, Margaret Arighi, and Barbara Branum tackled Sirach 25:13 through 26:18, they found descriptions of “an evil wife” and “a good wife,” culminating in what really counts: “shapely legs.”  Ah, the jewels in God’s Holy Word.  Formerly a professor at Messiah College, Reta now writes books and teaches part time at Eastern Mennonite University and Theological Seminary; her Reta’s Reflections blog of Bible studies from a Christian feminist perspective is on the EEWC-CFT website.

More wonder:  EEWC-CFT doing yoga first thing in the morning instead of more traditional devotions?  Led by Lisa DeWeese, this time was very peaceful and meditative—I tried it (my first yoga ever). Visit Lisa’s website, Mama Lisa Yoga.

Over the past 40 years, there have been many predictions that EEWC would not survive.  Usually the problem was financial, but our 1986 decision to support civil rights for gay people also caused some problems that seemed to point to collapse.

God’s grace and sustenance are the only reasons we are still carrying on and celebrating 40 years.  Once again, however, our budget is in the red.  Some of us have less income and are not as able to give as in the past.  Please help out by making an online donation or a monthly pledge.

Join our important work of educating and community building.  Stay in touch and reach others by blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, and going to the website for news and commentary. And be sure to add your comments here (scroll down), too.

Christian Feminism Today 2014 Gathering

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 A Beautiful Day

by Ashley Cason

Ashley CasonWhen I was asked to write a reflection about my experience attending the Christian Feminism Today 2014 Gathering, I was more than thrilled to do it, but I found myself asking several dozen times, “What do I want to write about?” Do I want to talk about the thrill of stepping into a room full of strangers to deliver my first conference presentation? Do I write about the overwhelming academic support I received from a group of professionals who saw me as a peer?

I decided to write about the love that was sent my direction in waves. I decided to write about rediscovering my faith in God. I decided to write about experiencing beautiful moments in which I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit, something I had not felt in years! Thinking about all of these good times is fabulous.

But as strong as the feelings of love, support, and happiness were, I still spent a good portion of my time crying from pain and sadness. Discussing topics such as homelessness, racism, economic disparity, hate crimes, oppressive social structures, and numerous other challenging topics for an entire weekend can be taxing on even the most emotionally steadfast individual, and I am not an emotionally steadfast individual. I wear my heart on my sleeve and speak sometimes before I can think better of it. But the tears I cried served to remind me why I am now a “Sister of Summer.”

My empathy for life allows me to be passionate about the work I do but also highly cynical of the world in which I live. Small town Missouri is not exactly a mecca of social activism, and my support system is small. But in EEWC-CFT I have found a whole new group of wonderful, like-minded people to work with in the quest to achieve social justice and equality.

In St. Louis, I woke every day and shared my mantra with my sisters: “Isn’t today a beautiful day?” I share that mantra daily for the benefit of myself and others for two reasons:

1)      To remember my blessings with gratitude, including: the opportunity to receive a wonderful education, my supportive family, and the privilege to begin a career doing what I love while trying to make a difference in the world.

2)      To remember how very few people share in this kind of privilege. For a lot of people in this world, their day means surviving bomb raids, finding a place to sleep, or figuring how they are going to make it until tomorrow with no groceries and very little money. It humbles me as it breaks my heart.

I owe my best efforts to my fellow human beings, and that means trying to make a difference even when it feels like a losing battle. Every day, I think about the people who have to struggle to get by and I tell myself that it can be, and is a beautiful day.

Those who work for justice know that, while having the ability to make a difference in this world is incredible, it is also heartbreaking and exhausting. It ultimately impacts every aspect of your life. Every woman and man I had the privilege of meeting at the gathering understood the internal and external strength needed to do the work that I want to do. My tears were not only understood but also whole-heartedly supported.

The memories of my first EEWC-CFT Gathering will always be filled with the joy and love that I shared with countless beautiful people. But I will also remember the tears that led me to commit to work harder than ever to make a difference in the world. Christian feminism and EEWC-CFT have helped bring about amazing changes over the past 40 years, but there still so much more that can be done!

I loved my experience attending the EEWC-CFT 2014 Gathering and I look forward to my future with the organization, but I also dream of a world where organizations like ours have become unnecessary because the unconditional love that Christ shared with humanity prevails at last.

Until the “Sisters of Summer” meet again, I’ll keep asking myself and each one of us, “Isn’t today a beautiful day?”


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This Is What Feminism’s All About

by Abigail Pope

Abigail PopeFrom the moment I arrived at the registration table for the 2014 Christian Feminism Today Gathering, I knew I was in a good place with good people. I was made to feel so welcome and important. I mean the word important in a sense that the capitalist patriarchy doesn’t teach us about. I didn’t feel like I was better than anyone, or deserved special treatment. No, what I mean is, I felt like I was treated as if just being human made me valued and respectable, and none of the specifics of my status and identity could take that away. It’s how people should be treated, and it made me breathe easy, feel relaxed and free, for one of the few times in my life.

This is what feminism is all about, and it is so important to me to have found a group of people, “the sisters of summer,” who can bring that principle into the real world.

I’m new to EEWC-CFT, and I hope I’m not too forward in saying I really do feel like the people I met during the gathering; they are part of my family now. I didn’t want the weekend to be over, but now that it’s over, I can’t wait until the next one. I’m hoping everything will work out so I can go back again!

As much as I love meeting new people, making friends, and building a new family for myself, I have to admit I can sometimes be a bit of an introvert, and along with that, a big old bookworm. I have to gush about the books available at the gathering. I wanted to buy all of them! Every single one. I tried to limit myself to four, but, of course, I cheated and bought five. Each one was worth it! I haven’t read many feminist books, so finding a whole bunch on this new (and now, favorite) subject was like finding the gold at the end of a rainbow. Can you tell I’m just feeling really gleeful about owning all these new books?

Special thanks to all the authors for creating such excellent books, especially Susan Campbell, who gave a brilliant talk on Friday night, and who signed my copy of her book Dating Jesus; and Dr. Paula Trimble-Familetti, whose book Prostitutes, Virgins, and Mothers discusses a subject that I thought a lot about during my own feminist awakening.

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Featured Presenters

Susan Campbell

Dancing In the Raindrops Without Getting Wet
It is not heartbreaking to go against the patriarchy. It is invigorating, and we are not tired.

Susan CampbellSusan Campbell is the award-winning author of Dating Jesus: A Story of Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl.  For more than 25 years, she worked as a twice-a-week columnist and feature writer for the Hartford Courant, America’s oldest continuously published newspaper. Her column about a 1998 mass shooting was part of the Courant’s coverage awarded a Pulitzer Prize that year. Susan grew up in Christian fundamentalism, which laid the groundwork for her interest in religion in all its forms.  As a dedicated feminist and progressive Christian with a  vision for social justice, she says the four most controversial topics she addressed in her newspaper columns were Jesus, homosexuality, women, and poverty—especially hunger and homelessness.   These topics continue to drive her, and she is now employed by Partnership for Strong Communities, an advocacy/policy organization that seeks to end homelessness and increase the amount of affordable housing in Connecticut. She also teaches a class in  journalism for homeless people who publish and sell their own “street newspaper.”   Susan’s latest book, a biography of Isabella Beecher Hooker, a 19th century activist for women’s suffrage, will be published in 2014.

Sharon Groves

“Dancing on the Head of a Pin: Feminism, Christianity, and LGBT Advocacy”
The possibility of dialogue in formerly closed spaces is enticing, but it also can be a hall of mirrors where some gains only reinforce other oppression.

Sharon GrovesSharon Groves directs the Religion and Faith program of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).  Based in Washington, DC, the Human Rights Campaign is the nation’s largest civil rights organization working for LGBT equal rights. Sharon gives lectures and writes articles that inform the general public on matters related to religion and LGBT concerns and questions. She also writes, edits, and oversees the creation of educational resources directly aimed toward faith communities to increase understanding of specific issues, such as gender identity, the coming out process, and the importance of religious advocacy in the struggle for LGBT equality— including marriage equality and fairness in the workplace, housing, and adoption. Sharon holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Maryland and has also studied theology and sexuality at Wesley Theological Seminary and the Chicago Theological Seminary.  Before assuming her present position with HRC, she was the managing editor of Feminist Studies, an interdisciplinary scholarly journal, and also taught courses in English literature, literature and social change, and women’s studies at the University of Maryland.

Mary E. Hunt

“Feminist Faith-based Social Justice”
How feminists of faith can collaborate to amplify our voices and deepen our collective impact.

Mary E. HuntMary E. Hunt is a feminist theologian. With her partner, Diann Neu, she co-founded and co-directs the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER).  A Roman Catholic active in the women-church movement, Mary lectures and writes on theology and ethics with particular attention to social justice concerns. She is fluent in Spanish and spent a number of years in Argentina, teaching and working on women’s issues and human rights, a work that continues through WATER’s “Women Crossing Worlds” project, an ongoing exchange with Latin American women.  A prolific writer, Mary has written articles for numerous journals; contributed chapters to many books on theology, feminism, and other social issues; and is a frequent contributor to the website, Religion Dispatches.  Among the books she has authored, edited, or co-edited are Fierce Tenderness: A Feminist Theology of Friendship;  New Feminist Christianity: Many Voices, Many Views;  A Guide for Women in Religion: Making Your Way from A to Z;  and Good Sex: Feminist Perspectives from the World’s Religions. (For additional information, see the 2013 profile of Mary E. Hunt on Jann Aldredge-Clanton’s Changing Church blog.) 

Kendra Weddle and Melanie Springer Mock

At the River, Choosing to Swim Together
Building and sustaining communities open to Christ-Sophia’s liberating movement.

Kendra Weddle IronsKendra Weddle teaches religion at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth, Texas.  As a scholar and university professor, her research interests have centered around Christianity in America, women in Christianity, and Methodism.  Her first book, Preaching on the Plains: Methodist Women Preachers in Kansas, 1969-1956 was published by University Press of America in 2007. Kendra says she has constantly sought to understand the ways her feminist convictions have contributed to her Christian faith and at the same time have challenged it.  She serves as a representative for the Southwest on the EEWC-Christian Feminism Today Executive Council.  Her articles and book reviews appear frequently on our Christian Feminism Today website; and she, along with Melanie Springer Mock and Letha Dawson Scanzoni,  also wrote the intergenerational FemFaith blog for that website.  Kendra now co-writes with Melanie Springer Mock a blog called Ain’t I a Woman, in which they point out (and deconstruct)  false images presented by conservative Christians about what a woman should be an do. The two women are also working on a book on the topic.

MelanieMelanie Springer Mock is a Professor of English at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon.  Her articles have appeared in Christian Feminism Today; Adoptive Families;  Mennonite Weekly Review;  the Chronicle of Higher Education; Literary Mama;  Brain, Child;  the Oregonian, and elsewhere.  She is the author of Writing Peace: The Unheard Voices of Great War Mennonite Objectors, published by Cascadia in 2003. And in 2011, she co-edited Just Moms: Conveying Justice in an Unjust World (Barclay Press).  A frequent contributor to Christian Feminism Today and coordinator for the ViewPoint section of the website, she also serves as Northwest representative on the EEWC-CFT Executive Council.  Melanie is the other half of the Ain’t I a Woman blog team, working with Kendra Weddle to post thought-provoking, challenging, funny, and always engaging essays on a regular basis to help deconstruct erroneous ideas about women’s nature and roles as they are presented in conservative evangelical popular culture.

Letha Dawson Scanzoni

“It Just Keeps Rollin’ Along”
Christian feminism, equality, and justice—our part in the ongoing story

Letha Dawson ScanzoniLetha Dawson Scanzoni is an independent scholar and writer, specializing in the intersection of religion and social issues. She is the author or coauthor of nine books, and since 1994 has served as editor of Christian Feminism Today  (both in its former print version and in its Web version). Her books have been published by HarperCollins, McGraw-Hill, Bantam, Abingdon, Eerdmans, Westminster John Knox, and others; and her articles have appeared in publications ranging from Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality, the Utne Reader, and SIECUS Report (published by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S), to The Other Side, Eternity, the Christian Century, Christianity Today, and Sojourners. She has also contributed chapters  to various edited volumes and is the coauthor of a college sociology textbook, Men, Women, and Change.  Letha is perhaps best known for coauthoring with Nancy Hardesty, All We’re Meant to Be: Biblical Feminism  for Today( first edition published In 1974) and coauthoring with Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? A Positive Christian Response (first edition, 1978).  Letha’s most recent book is What God Has Joined Together: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage, coauthored with psychologist David G. Myers (2005)

Student Presentations

Jacinda J. Thomas will present “Tabled Grace”

Jacinda will introduce us to several women who are incredible, and incredibly ordinary. They are writers, marathon runners, voracious readers, construction workers, Spanish speakers, daughters, cancer survivors, wives, never married, married for 35 years, tomboys, glamour girls, mothers, former military, young at heart, old souls, homosexual, and heterosexual. They are women you could conceivably pass on the street, wait behind in line for coffee, or sit across from in church. She feels honored to share their stories— stories of grace that have been relegated to the sidelines for too long. Welcome to the table.

Jacinda ThomasJacinda J. Thomas is a twentysomething woman with impressions of pine forests, hymns, and poetic words on her tongue. She makes time for dancing, shared adventures with friends and family, walks in nature, thrift shopping, journaling, Lost episodes, cooking, living bold questions, and being undignified. Jacinda is a recent Psychology and English graduate from George Fox University and is both terrified of and excited for the uncertainty that is post-grad life.


McKenzie Brown presents “Disingenuous Hermeneutic: The Relationship Between Biblical Interpretation and the Marginalization of Female Leaders”

McKenzie BrownMcKenzie Brown was born and raised in Bedford, Texas. She is currently a student at Texas Wesleyan pursuing a B.S. in Religious Studies.  She intends to continue on to graduate school to pursue a dual degree program for a Master’s of Divinity and Juris Doctorate. Her current academic focus is the relationship between feminism and Christianity.


Ashley Cason presents “Human Sexuality and Women in the Church: Past Policies and Future Prospects”

Ashley CasonAshley Cason graduated from the University of Central Missouri in 2013 where she earned her B.S. in Women’s and Gender Studies with a focus on human sexuality. The time she spent organizing events and rallies on campus to address topics of gender, class, and sexuality gave her the tenacity and tools to branch out of advocacy work and into academia. Ashley is currently earning a M.A. degree in Sociology and is using the discussions between Sociology and Feminism to develop sexuality education programs. Ashley’s passion for social justice and progress drives her dream to become a director of a non-profit organization.

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Troubadours of Divine Bliss

Troubadours of Divine Bliss

In 1995, these two women had the wild wish of being Troubadours of Divine Bliss, street performers who travel around encouraging Revolution of the Spirit & Courage of the Heart. Renée had a dream she was playing an accordion, so she got one. Aim Me learned two chords on the guitar and Bliss was born.

They quit their jobs, piled everything in a Mazda 626 and headed off to The Big Easy to free their dream. They followed their destiny to the streets of New Orleans where (wrapped in battery-operated Christmas lights) they debuted as Christmas carolers in 1995 on the corner of Royal & Toulouse. They sang their little hearts out and people said, “keep doing this,” so they did. God has rolled out the red carpet for them ever since they made the leap in to fulfilling their call.

The Troubadours have traveled all over the U.S., Canada & Europe freeing their dream and embracing life in pure delight.

Renee Ananda plays electric accordion.  Aim Me Smiley plays guitar.  They both sing.  The music is built on their vocal harmony and excellent songwriting.

The Troubadours of Divine Bliss have released six albums.  You can buy the two most recent collections on iTunes (“Sacred Letters of Surrender” from 2009, and 2012′s “Awakening to Love”). Two others (their Live album “Off the Cuff: Live at the Winchester” from 2004, and “Dying, Laughing—Firecrackers on a Funeral Pyre” from 2002)  are available on the Troubadours’ website here.  Their first two releases, “No Place Like OM” (1998) and “Dressing Room for Eternity” (2001) are available only by special order from the Troubadours (contact them through their website).

Read Marg Herder’s 2013 interview with the Troubadours on Where She Is.

Blissful Resources:

Troubadours of Divine Bliss on Facebook

Troubadours of Divine Bliss on YouTube

The Bliss Blog

Troubadours of Divine Bliss on ReverbNation

Troubadours on Twitter – @blisstweet

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We have several interesting workshops lined up for the EEWC-Christian Feminism Today 2014 Gathering.  Like usual, it’s going to be hard to choose which to attend!  Scheduled workshops include:

Bringing Justice to Birth:  A Body Theology with Peg Conway

Inclusive Music for All Ages with Jann Aldredge-Clanton

Let Justice for Biblical Women Roll Like a River! with Paula Trimble-Familetti

Let Them Hear You with Esther Emery

NALT Video Creation

Being the Love of Christ: It’s Not That Complicated with Susan Cottrell

She Grieves — Dispelling the Myths and Bringing Healing with Deb Vaughn

The Bible’s Legacy of Violence against Women with Reta Halteman Finger

Yoga and Movement with Lisa DeWeese

 She Grieves – Dispelling the Myths and Bringing Healing

presented by Rev. Deb Vaughn

Rev. Deb VaughnOur society as a whole doesn’t “do” grieving very well. We either attempt to “keep calm and carry on” or we assign an artificial timeline to the grieving process. We also make assumptions about what grieving should look like for men and women. We believe the research that tells us how to grieve. We think that there is no need to grieve for pets, for a miscarriage, for changes in life stages, for broken relationships, or for health challenges. In short, we have not allowed this common human experience to be experienced and even welcomed fully into our lives.

This workshop will combine current theories and practices for grief therapies, moving past Kubler-Ross’ “5 stages.” It will dispel myths and offer suggestions that promote personal healing. It will also include examples of music, art, photography and literature that have been helpful for others.

It will conclude with a short time of remembrance and prayer for those places where The Holy can and will bring healing.

About Rev. Deb Vaughn:

Rev. Deborah (Deb) Vaughn is a professional chaplain working in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.  She has four units of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) and additional training in ethics and palliative care chaplaincy. She earned a Masters of Divinity from the Regent University School of Divinity, with a concentration in Practical Theology and Pastoral Care. Deb also holds a Masters degree in Music Therapy from the University of Miami, and a Bachelors degree in Music Education from the Ohio State University.

Deb draws from her broad experience in health care, education and non-profit sectors. She builds on the common ground that undergirds all human interactions – acceptance, love, identity and purpose. She embraces new strategies and trends, not only in cultural considerations such as the religion and the arts, but in understanding how the postmodern world influences humanity’s response to suffering. As ordained clergy, she has served in progressive churches that focus on a contemporary expression and response to the needs of a multi-cultural, postmodern world.

Rev. Vaughn has presented at workshops, retreats and conferences, and is well-regarded  public speaker. Her research interests include understanding how spirituality and health contribute to positive outcomes in chronically ill patients.

Deb’s many interests include being an amateur photographer, blogger, musician, occasional gardener and an avid Ohio State football fan.

Deb’s blog, An Unfinished Symphony, is here.  She is a frequent contributor to Christian Feminism Today.

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Bringing Justice to Birth:  A Body Theology

presented by Peg Conway

Peg ConwayChildbirth is a momentous rite of passage in a woman’s personal journey, but birth is also a family and communal event as well as a profound metaphor in the spiritual life. Despite this sweeping impact, our culture regards birth only as a medical event that occurs in the hospital.

In the realm of religion, Christian theology has historically been silent or unhelpful when it comes to childbirth.  After all, the tradition’s most well-known statement on the matter is that birth pain is God’s punishment on women!  Yet religion has an important role to play in transforming the conversation about birth, to broaden and deepen our appreciation of it.

Using James Nelson’s concept of “body theology” as a basis, this presentation will reflect on the physical process of birth as a means of articulating its holiness.  To illustrate how to draw on the tradition to discover new symbolic meanings, it will explore in depth the question of birth pain and reframe typical understandings in a way that is empowering of women.  Further, it will suggest that developing awareness of bodily holiness regarding childbirth can refute the disregard for women’s bodies exemplified by rape culture, trafficking, and pornography. And finally, the presentation will discuss birthing as a meaningful metaphor for the work of bringing about justice in any setting.

About Peg Conway

Peg Conway is the author of Embodying the Sacred: A Spiritual Preparation for Birth and she presents retreats for pregnant women based on this book.

Peg writes a blog, Sense of the Faithful, which can be accessed by clicking here.

Recently certified as a Celebrant, she also serves on the Village Council in her community. Peg is married with three young adult children.

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Inclusive Music for All Ages

presented by Jann Aldredge-Clanton. Ph.D.

Jann Aldredge-Clanton

In this workshop participants will experience inclusive music that can be used in various settings and for all age groups. Jann Aldredge-Clanton will draw from her music collections: Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians, Inclusive Hymns for Liberation, Peace, and Justice; Sing and Dance and Play with Joy! Inclusive Songs for Young Children, and Imagine God! A Children’s Musical Exploring and Expressing Images of God.

Jann will lead participants in experiencing music intended to instill in children and adults an expansive theology of God and an ethic of equality and justice in human relationships. She will include music appropriate for interfaith and multigenerational settings.

The songs include female and male images of the divine to teach the foundational biblical truth that female and male are created equally in the divine image. The wide variety of biblical divine names and images in the songs contribute to belief in the sacredness of all people and all creation. Peace and justice flow from this belief.

Participants will experience music that can be used in worship services, retreats, Church School classes, Vacation Bible Schools, music camps, and daycare programs. The rich variety of divine names and images in this music invites the use of other creative arts in these settings.

About Jann Aldredge-Clanton, Ph.D.

Jann Aldredge-Clanton, Ph.D., ordained minister, author, teacher, and chaplain, currently serves as adjunct professor at Perkins School of Theology and Richland College, Dallas, Texas.

Her published books and music include Changing Church: Stories of Liberating Ministers; Seeking Wisdom: Inclusive Blessings and Prayers for Public Occasions; Breaking Free: The Story of a Feminist Baptist Minister; In Search of the Christ-Sophia; Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians; Inclusive Hymns for Liberation, Peace, & Justice; Imagine God! A Children’s Musical Exploring and Expressing Images of God; Sing & Dance & Play with Joy: Inclusive Songs for Children.

Her YouTube channel features her music paired with female Divine images.

Read more about Jann on her website here, and her blog, Changing Church, can be accessed here.  Jann is a frequent contributor to Christian Feminism Today.

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The Bible’s Legacy of Violence against Women

presented by Dr. Reta Halteman Finger

Reta Halteman Finger

What biblical legacy of violence against women persists in some churches and communities?

What do Christian feminists need to know about ancient cultures and methods of interpretation that can confront and oppose this legacy?

Bring a Bible!

About Dr. Reta Halteman Finger

Reta Halteman Finger holds a Ph.D. in theology and religion from Northwestern University, masters of theological studies from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary and Northern Baptist University, and a master of education from Boston University.

Reta retired in 2009 from teaching Bible (mostly New Testament) at Messiah College in Grantham, PA. She lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and since her retirement from Messiah College has been devoting her time to writing and speaking projects, as well as some part-time teaching at Eastern Mennonite Seminary.

For fifteen years, Reta edited the Christian feminist magazine, Daughters of Sarah (no longer published), and is a frequent writer and reviewer for Christian Feminism Today and Sojourners magazine. She writes the popular Reta’s Reflections Bible study blog on Christian Feminism Today.

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 Let Them Hear You

presented by Esther Emery

Esther EmeryA fully voiced community is made up of individuals who know and express their most authentic selves. But obstacles to authenticity are everywhere. From socially prescribed roles to fear of failure to a culture of busyness and product consumption, many things stand between us and our hunger for deep truth.

In this workshop, Emery weaves together insights gathered as a writer, theater director and off-grid economic rebel to inspire and encourage every person to unleash their most authentic voice. The world has never needed it more than today.

About Esther Emery 

Esther Emery is a truly unique voice in the world and the church today. Raised largely on the road by her author mother, a figure in the back-to-the-land movement of the 1970’s, Emery was born into an activist perspective. She rejected her mother’s Pentecostal faith, identifying for years as a secular feminist, only to re-convert as an adult in rural Idaho, where she now stands as a peacemaker between the conservative church and ethical progressive culture.

Emery lives an alternative lifestyle, raising her three children off the grid in a yurt in the Idaho hills. She writes a blog about radical freedom and radical faith and is a regular contributor to the online magazine A Deeper Story and Christian Feminism Today. In her first career, as a freelance theater director and playwright in SoCal, she directed plays and readings at such established cultural institutions as The Old Globe and the La Jolla Playhouse.

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 Being the Love of Christ: It’s Not That Complicated

Presented by Susan Cottrell

This workshop is FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.
Click here to open/download a printable flyer.  large file – please allow up to 30 seconds to load

Susan Cottrell

The “Gay vs. Christian Debate” is splitting our churches—
but it doesn’t need to.

The “Gay Issue” is not nearly as complicated as we have made it!

The church’s role is to be the love of Christ in the community, regardless of the issue (LGBTQ, gender roles or other hot-button topics).

Join Susan Cottrell, author of “Mom, I’m Gay” — Loving Your LGBTQ Child Without Sacrificing Your Faith, as she provides profound insight into how the church is called to respond to the LGBTQ community, and how this informs our understanding of the church’s larger role in embracing all who are marginalized, oppressed, and otherwise disenfranchised.

Our Christian faith demands we follow the way of Jesus’ heart, and move toward all-embracing love. Susan speaks boldly to groups and on her blog about the vital importance living the love Jesus modeled, not personifying the judgment of the “religious.”

About Susan Cottrell

Susan Cottrell is a mom of five children, with one in the LGBTQ community. Susan came out as an ally and quickly found the limits of the church’s acceptance. She is the founder of FreedHearts, and she champions LGBTQ individuals and their families, with her characteristic tender-heartedness and intimacy – in person and through her popular blog – always bringing the love of Christ to the LGBTQ community (…and challenging the church to do the same).

Susan has led retreats and seminars for years. She teaches from her new book, “Mom, I’m Gay” – Loving Your LGBTQ Child Without Sacrificing Your Faith. This book, with a foreward by Justin Lee, Author of Torn and the Executive Director of the Gay Christian Network, has been endorsed by PFLAG and the Human Rights Campaign.

Visit Susan Cottrell’s website, FreedHearts, here.

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Let Justice for Biblical Women Roll Like a River!

Paula Trimble-Familetti

Dr. Paula Trimble-Familetti

My Sunday School teachers used to tell my mother, “She always asks the hard questions.” My most pressing questions were, “Where are all the women and why are the ones I hear about prostitutes,virgins or mothers? Didn’t they do anything else?”

Over the years I began to realize that the stories of biblical women were conveyed to me by men or by women who were relying on the interpretations of men. I heard the story of Bathsheba. I was being taught that she was a temptress but it sounded more like rape to me. Where was the justice for Bathsheba when she was raped? Where was the justice for Bathsheba when her husband was killed? Where was the justice for Bathsheba when her baby died?

In the endorsement Reza Aslan wrote for my book Prostitutes, Virgins and Mothers: Questioning Teachings About Biblical Women he says.” The women warriors, prophets, and disciples of the Bible have ben miscast for centuries as demons, harlots, and jezebels — and intentionally so. For if the truth about who these women were and what they represented were more widely known, it would challenge most of the assumptions we have about Judaism and Christianity.”

I will give selected biblical women a voice and let them tell their stories. Women who took their lives back like Tamar and the hemorrhaging woman. Women who were disciples like Tabitha or apostles like Junia. Voices to correct the impression that they were only prostitutes, virgins or mothers.

Please bring your Bible to this workshop.

About Dr. Paula Trimble-Familetti

I am a passionate advocate for woman’s rights, inclusive language and biblical literacy.  I hold a B. A. in Religion from Chapman University, an M.A. in Religion from Liberty University and a Dr. of Ministry in International Feminist Theology from San Francisco Theological Seminary.

Read Dr. Trimble-Familetti’s blog here.

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 Yoga and Movement

Facilitated by Lisa DeWeese, RYT 200

For an hour every morning and at other times throughout the 2014 Gathering Lisa DeWeese, a registered yoga teacher, will be helping attendees to remember to move their bodies, breathe, and experience the present moment.

Lisa is skilled at adapting yoga practice to work for people with all types of bodies and all levels of physical fitness.  She believes there is beauty in every body. The morning practice will be suitable for those who are already yoga practitioners and for those who have limited mobility and/or no yoga experience.

About Lisa DeWeese

Lisa DeWeeseLisa DeWeese, RYT200, earned her teacher certification in Peace through Yoga’s teacher training program. Her primary focus is making yoga accessible for people with all different bodies and skill levels. Lisa’s warm and engaging presence makes all her students feel confident and right at home.

“Yoga has made a huge difference in my life,” says Lisa, “physically, of course, but I have been especially surprised by the impact it has on my emotional and spiritual outlook. I want other people to experience this change in their lives. So many people feel a deep sense of shame about their bodies, because they don’t look like what someone else says is beautiful. But we are all beautiful and our bodies are so remarkable. I want to help people learn to love and appreciate the beauty each of us brings to the world.”

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NALT Video Creation

Facilitated by Marg Herder and Tiana Marquez

Tiana Marquez

The Not All Like That (NALT) Christians Project is a website where, through homemade YouTube videos, LGBT-affirming Christians share their belief that there is nothing anti-biblical or sinful about being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

EEWC-Christian Feminism Today is one of the many LGBTQ affirming Christian organizations that partner with NALT to support this excellent project.

During the 2014 Gathering Marg Herder and Tiana Marquez will be working with any gathering attendees to record short 3-5 minute informal videos to upload to the NALT project website.

All you do is sit down in a chair and talk.  Tiana and Marg will handle the recording and all the technical details.  You can memorize what you want to say ahead of time, or just talk off the top of your head.

Marg Herder

You can make a video by yourself, or with a friend or partner.

Our hope is that EVERY gathering attendee will take a few minutes to make a short video speaking of your personal story, and your personal understanding of why God’s love extends to ALL people.  We’ll have the video camera set up Thursday night, and at other times by appointment.

Want more direction?  We’ve reprinted the instructions from the NALT website below:

It’s easy
If in your video all you say is, “I’m a Christian, and I do not believe that being gay is a sin,” then you will have succeeded. That clear and simple message alone could help change someone’s life. If you’d like to say more than that, then …

Tell us who you are
Tell us your Christian bonafides. What is your relationship to the faith, or to your church? Do you sing in your church’s choir, work in its nursery, attend any of its Bible study or small group meetings? Are you a pastor? A worship leader? Perhaps you’re on one or another committee at your church. Let us know what, if any, role you play in the life of your church.

Make it personal
Feel free to share a bit of your personal story. How did you come to believe what you do? Did you grow up in a church where it was taught that being gay is a sin? If so, what changed your mind about that? How did you come to evolve your theology? Did you meet someone special? Did you have a transformative experience of some sort? Perhaps you had a gay friend or family member whom you found unable to consider condemned by God. Feel free to relate not just what you believe, but why.

Use the words “Not All Like That!”
That’s our tagline, so feel free to use it toward the end of your video. Your video will show that you’re one of the millions of Christians who are Not All Like That. Reaffirming that vitally important truth at the end of your video would be great.

Visit the NALT website and take a look around.

About the facilitators:

Marg Herder is the Director of Public Information for EEWC-Christian Feminism Today and EEWC’s Website Developer.  Tiana Marquez is a freelance videographer who has been working to document the stories of many of the pioneering Christian feminists in EEWC-Christian Feminism Today.

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6:00 Gathering Time
NALT Video Recording

8:00 Opening Welcome and Singing
8:30 Plenary – Sharon Groves
10:00 Student Presentation – Ashley Cason
10:30 Break
10:45 Workshops (Deb Vaughn, Peg Conway, Paula Trimble-Familetti)
12:00 Lunch Together (provided)
1:30 Plenary – Mary E. Hunt
3:00 Student Presentation – Jacinda Thomas
3:30 Break
3:45 Workshops (Esther Emery, Jann Aldredge-Clanton)
5:00 Dinner (on your own)
7:30 Plenary – Susan Campbell
9:00 Informal Gatherings

8:00 Yoga
9:00 Gathering and Singing
9:15 Plenary – Melanie Springer Mock and Kendra Weddle
10:45 Student Presentation – McKenzie Brown
11:15 Break
11:30 Lunch (provided)
1:00 Workshops (Susan Cottrell, Reta Halteman Finger)
2:15 Break
2:30 Plenary – Letha Dawson Scanzoni
4:15 Break
4:30 The Future of EEWC – Marg Herder
5:00 Business Meeting
6:00 Dinner (on your own)
8:00 Troubadours of Divine Bliss

8:30 Yoga
10:00 Worship
12:00 Gathering Concludes

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Gathering Gear!

We’ve got all kinds of fun gear this year.  Get your T-Shirts, bags, and water bottles by visiting our CafePress store.

2014 Gathering Gear

2014 Gathering Gear


The Christian Feminism Today website addresses topics of interest to Christian feminists. It features articles, opinion pieces, reviews of books and recordings (audio and video), interviews with Christian women and men who live according to Christian feminist principles and promote gender equality, love, and social justice among all people. We welcome submissions for consideration. Writer's guidelines are here.


  1. These are terrific reports of the conference. Thanks for sharing your experiences, all: makes me want to go back to St. Louis and see everyone again. There was so much love and joy at this year’s conference, I feel like it might sustain me for a good long while. You capture that love and joy well in what you’ve written here.

  2. To read this brings back the joy of this whole/holy experience that continues to renew my faith of God’s love and universality and justice. Thank you all.

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