Frauen Friday: Elsa Tamez

We’ve had a bit of a rocky start to our “weekly” Frauen Friday series, but I’ll get there. I’ve got the next couple of weeks planned out and I’m really looking forward to the weeks to come! I will be getting back to my language roots with next week’s featured scholar who works in Jewish Studies and has written two important books for understanding Biblical Hebrew.

If I might take a short excursion, I want to point out that though the past couple of weeks have featured scholars who have focused on feminist interpretation, the point of this series is not necessarily to focus on only feminist theologians. It just so happens that the first three women I featured were ones I’ve encountered recently while working on my own specific gender-related questions. Thus I highlighted Gaventa’s article from Galatians concerning its good news for women, though she has written on a wide variety of Pauline issues. All that to say, if you’re not particularly interested in feminist theology (though my hope is this blog might change that!) fear not, I will be casting a wider net in the future and intend to highlight scholars working in all areas of concentration.

But this Friday it’s all about Elsa: today’s featured scholar is Dr. Elsa Tamez, biblical scholar and theologian. Here’s a short bio from Wipf and Stock Publishers (it’s a little outdated, but it’s the only one I could find):

“Elsa Tamez is a Methodist and Liberation Theologian. She was born in Mexico in 1950. Prof. Tamez received her Doctor’s Degree in Theology from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. She received her Licentiate in Theology in 1979 from the Latin American Biblical Seminary, and a Licentiate in Literature and Linguistics at the National University of Costa Rica in 1986. She is a faculty member of the Latin American Biblical University in Costa Rica and a member of the team of researchers of the Ecumenical Department of Investigation (DEI) in Costa Rica. She is married with two children.

Among her most known publications in English are: The Bible of the Oppressed (1980), The Scandalous Message of James (1989), The Amnesty of Grace (1993), and When the Horizons Close: Rereading Ecclesiastes (2000). Her latest publication is Jesús and Courageous Women (2001). She has received several awards for her contribution to Contextual Biblical Hermeneutics.” (from WSP)

Tamez has written on both liberation theology and feminist theology, and she has done a number of re-readings from both the OT and NT. I first encountered her work last semester as I was working on my cruciform feminism paper for my Paul class; she contributed an article to Celebrating Romans: Template for Pauline Theology (a 2004 publication featuring articles on Romans from various interpretive approaches) on “Justification as Good News for Women: A Re-Reading of Romans 1-8.” Here she argues,

“[t]he actualization of God’s justice in a patriarchal society consists in the egalitarian proposal of justification by faith rather than by fulfilling the demands of traditional patriarchal culture.  It is a free gift, bestowed by grace, in a society which knows nothing of grace but rather uses merit alone to determine whether or not a person has value.  The logic of merit is the natural way our hierarchical, patriarchal society functions.  It is society’s way of judging, the ‘justice’ proper to it,” (181).

Tamez notes that God’s justice is not for women alone,

“[s]ince the justice of God is for all people… men also can acknowledge this justice and be guided by a logic contrary to the violence generated by patriarchal society.  Justification is a gift meant for all, not just for women.  The justice of God is a firm guarantee that the sinful logic of misogynist patriarchal structures is overthrown by divine grace,” (182).

She concludes,

“[t]he good news for justified men and women who embrace faith as new way of life, just like the faith of Jesus Christ, is a new awareness of being free women and men, and the realization that in faith it is possible to transform society where sin reigns in the structures opposed to woman.  By faith we affirm that, although we live in a world riddled with sinfulness and impregnated with sexism, this reality does not dominate those who are guided by the logic of grace…” (187)

Whether you agree or disagree with Tamez’s approach, I think her work is worth interacting with and I personally appreciate her perspective for what we have in common and how we differ. We are both women but we come from different parts of the world and have likely had very different experiences as women. I look forward to getting to know her work better as I continue studying how cruciformity and feminism might co-exist.

I would also recommend Struggles for Power in Early Christianity: A Study of the First Letter to Timothy.  I’ve only read the first chapter so far, but her section on chapter two of 1 Timothy offers an interesting perspective on the issue of the women teaching in Ephesus as a struggle between the wealthy and the powerful and draws a connection from her own life experience in Latin American culture. I plan to read the rest of the book once I can get a copy.

For further reading, see the lists below:

Books

Articles

Has World Vision Abandoned the Gospel?

World Vision recently announced its decision to begin hiring Christians who are in monogamous same-sex marriages.

Does this mean they have abandoned the Gospel?

Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, seems to think so. He says that this is another example of “parachurch evangelical ministries… running headlong… toward the very mainline liberalism to which they were founded as alternative” and that “at stake (in this decision) is the Gospel.

I’m uneasy with Moore’s moral grandstanding for three reasons:

1) The “Divorce” ProblemScreen shot 2013-09-11 at 12.17.40 PM

If evangelical Christians were really concerned with protecting a biblical definition of marriage, then we should have shut the doors on divorce a long time ago. After seeing evangelicals swallow their tongues on this issue (and continue to do so), it’s hard for many (especially us “younger” ones) to hear cries against same-sex marriage, in defense of biblical values, as genuine. Divorce is much more strongly condemned in the Scriptures than gay relationships are. It is also much more prevalent in the church. If Moore believes that marital-purity is essential to Gospel-faithfulness, does he avoid all organizations that hire divorced Christians?

2) The “Endorsement” Problem 

If we grant the traditional view that gay relationships are a sin, we are still left with the nuanced problem of the proper relationship between Christian communities and LGBT people. What part of Jesus’ ministry in the Gospels teaches us that standing up for the gospel = strict moral hiring policies? Couldn’t an argument be made that Christians should hire those in same-sex marriages for precisely that reason – so those who are holy can act as contagions around those who are not (look at Jesus’ “contagious holiness” in the Gospels). Since when does “hiring” = “endorsing a moral position” (anymore than hiring someone who is divorced = supporting divorce)? Is this too different from the accusation that Jesus’ table fellowship with sinners made him complicit in their gluttony and drunkenness?

3) The Justice Problem

What is more important: global acts of justice or making sure “the homosexuals” can’t have certain jobs? Christian unity or fights over purity? I’m saddened over what appears to be a largely negative reaction to World Vision over this issue. I can only hope the Christian care of the poor is not hindered because of an in-house fight about which sins are worth banning employment for. Surely Matthew 25:31-46 is an important text for today. In Matthew 25, faithfulness to the Gospel is not seen as commitment to specific and nuanced religious stances on sin, but in ministry to the poor, hungry, and destitute.

I sponsor multiple children through World Vision and will continue to do so. I see no reason not to accept World Vision’s claims at face value – they are punting the theological issue to the church (and you can try to pretend it’s not an issue…. but if you open up your eyes you will see that in reality it is a big issue) and opting for unity at the present time. They have not come out in support of same-sex marriage, much less given up a commitment to the Gospel.

What do you think?
Has World Vision abandoned the Gospel?

What should the proper Christian reaction be to this policy announcement?

Frauen Fridays — Mercy Amba Oduyoye

Welcome to Cataclysmic’s first Frauen Friday!  Frauen Fridays will be sure to make you smile… ba dum bump!!  (I think I need to come up with a fun graphic for Frauen Fridays, no?) Each week, I will be doing a short(er… maybe?) post on a woman from the Christian academy and/or church who works in (or has been influential to) theology, biblical studies, or biblical languages.  The goal of this series is to become more aware of the amazing women that have and continue to shape the Christian faith.

A couple of semesters ago I took a hermeneutics class and chose to write my term paper on African Womanist Hermeneutics.  I chose this topic for several reasons, the obvious one being that it was about women reading the Bible. That’s kind of a no-brainer when it comes to things I’m interested in! 🙂  I had also recently returned from a two-week teaching trip to Limuru, Kenya, and was really interested in learning more about how African women were doing theology.  Most of all, I knew I would learn something new from women that live in a different part of the world and have different experiences than I have had in my own life.  I certainly only scratched the surface of the matter, but what I read and learned has had a lasting impact on the way I approach the Bible.

As I set out to find out more about this field of study, I was quickly introduced to the work of Mercy Amba Oduyoye.

Dr. Mercy Amba Oduyoye [born in 1934] is a Ghanaian Methodist. She has formal education in pedagogy and theology. She studied theology at the University of Ghana, Legon, and at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. She has served as visiting faculty in theological institutions in other African countries, Canada, Europe and the United States of America. She served as staff to the All Africa Conference of Churches and the World Council of Churches, culminating in seven years as the WCC Deputy General Secretary. She has also been president of the World Student Christian Federation and president of the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians. It was her initiative that brought into being The Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians in 1989. She established the Institute of African Women in Religion and Culture at Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon, Ghana, where she currently serves as as director. She is well known for her publications, especially on African women’s theology.(1)

Oduyoye is one of the primary voices in African Womanist Hermeneutics and Theology and is founder of The Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians.  The group was started to encourage and promote the involvement of women in African theology and Biblical interpretation, with a focus on the issues of patriarchy, sexism, and gender, and is made up of women from various countries across the continent with groups present in more than thirteen countries.(2) For The Circle, the involvement of women in shaping theology and in shaping culture is critical.

“Since the Bible depicts other peoples’ cultures, and we know from African culture that not everything in culture is liberating, we come to the Bible with the same cautious approach we have to culture… Any interpretation of the Bible is unacceptable if it does harm to women, the vulnerable and the voiceless.

Oduyoye in Introducing African Women’s Theology (2001), p.12

African womanist hermeneutics is largely about African women finding their place in God’s story; it’s doing theology in their own words and from their own experiences.  Drawing from other hermeneutical traditions, African womanist hermeneutics is a response to external circumstances, a wrestling with the biblical texts, and an earnest attempt at walking hand-in-hand with God.

Without too much straining of the gospel, one discovers Jesus as a man who related to women as human beings, to be respected and to be trusted. He accepted their friendship and service and hospitality. He rendered them service, teaching them, healing them, waking up their dead, saving them from exploitation and victimization. He himself undertook much that was seen as women’s roles and attitudes. A compassionate and caring one who anticipated people’s needs. Jesus was a mother par excellence. Therefore, when we meet certain women as regularly among his followers from Galilee to Golgotha and the tomb, we see a real example of solidarity among caring people.

Oduyoye in “Women’s Presence in the Life and Teaching of Jesus with Particular Emphasis on His Passion,” (2008), p.83

Oduyoye captures the heart of African womanist hermeneutics as the desire for women to “want to join in the search for the truth about human life and how to live it; we [African women] want to decide for ourselves, for our day and situation, what constitutes a liberating and liberative life.”(3)

To get to know more about Oduyoye and African Womanist Hermeneutics and Theology, check out:

Hearing and Knowing: Theological Reflections on Christianity in Africa (1986)
Daughters of Anowa: African Women and Patriarchy (1995)
Introducing African Women’s Theology (2001)
Beads and Strands: Reflections of an African Woman on Christianity in Africa (2004)

Oduyoye has also written more than 80 articles so if you have access to a database be sure to check out:

“The Story of a Circle.” The Ecumenical Review, Vol. 53.1 (January 2001): 97-100.
“Women’s Presence in the Life and Teaching of Jesus with Particular Emphasis on His Passion.” The Ecumenical Review 60, no. 1-2 (2008): 82-89.

[Oduyoye discussing Princeton Theological Seminary’s digital library in 2013]

___________________________________________________________________

1. Bio is from Mercy Amba Oduyoye, “Women’s Presence in the Life and Teaching of Jesus with Particular Emphasis on His Passion,” The Ecumenical Review 60, no. 1-2 (2008): 82-89.

2. “History of the Circle,” The Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians, http://www.thecirclecawt.org/profile.html (accessed November 11, 2012).

3. Mercy Amaba Oduyoye, Beads and Strands: Reflections of an African Woman on Christianity in Africa, (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2004), 100.

QOTD: Richard Hays on Reconciling the Moral Visions of OT and NT Texts

From Richard B. Hays, Moral Vision of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics (pp.336-337):

“…the New Testament’s witness is finally normative.  If irreconcilable tensions exist between the moral vision of the New Testament and that of particular Old Testament texts, the New Testament vision trumps the Old Testament.  Just as the New Testament texts render judgments superseding the Old Testament requirements of circumcision and dietary laws, just as the New Testament’s forbidding of divorce supersedes the Old Testament’s permission of it, so also Jesus’ explicit teaching and example of nonviolence reshapes our understanding of God and of the covenant community in such a way that killing enemies is no longer a justifiable option.  The sixth antithesis of the Sermon on the Mount marks the hermeneutical watershed.  As we have noted, the Old Testament distinguishes the obligation of loving the neighbor (that is, the fellow Israelite) from the response to enemies: ‘[B]ut I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.’  Once that word has been spoken to us and perfectly embodied in the story of Jesus’ life and death, we cannot appeal back to Samuel as a counterexample to Jesus.  Everything is changed by the cross and resurrection.  We now live in a situation in which we confess that ‘in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us’ (2 Cor. 5:19).  Those who have been entrusted with such a message will read the Old Testament in such a way that its portrayals of God’s mercy and eschatological restoration of the world will take precedence over its stories of justified violence.”

A Cruciform Christian Feminist Credo

For my systematic and biblical theology class last semester, I got to write up a personal credo as well as a catechism.  The intention of both the credo and the catechism was for me to develop material from which I would be able to teach others about a particular topic in theology.  I chose to focus on questions of gender as it relates to theology (since I was working on other projects on a related topic) and came up with this credo which I have dubbed ‘A Cruciform Christian Feminist Credo’.

It’s a work in progress, and much of it needs to be refined and/or flushed out, but I think it’s a good start.  I really enjoyed this project because it forced me to begin refining my own thinking, especially when it came to the catechism and proposing specific questions and crafting specific answers.

I based the structure of my credo off of the Nicene Creed.  I sat down to write this without any sources, except for the Nicene Creed for reference, but as you can tell I’m largely influenced by the work of Michael Gorman, particularly with reference to his work on cruciformity.[1]  While this credo reflects my own personal beliefs (hence, “I believe…”), I am thankfully indebted to others who have shaped my own thinking.  In addition to my own reading of Scripture, this credo represents years of thinking influenced by a number of teachers, authors, bloggers, etc.  Additional influences (as it pertains to the topic of this credo) include Elsa Tamez, Sarah Coakley, Rachel Held Evans, Philip B. Payne, Beverly Gaventa, Carolyn Custis James, Christians for Biblical Equality, N.T. Wright, Richard Hays, my fellow Cataclysmic bloggers and friends, a number of other bloggers, and more… and of course my extremely gifted and learned HBU profs, past and present!

A CRUCIFORM CHRISTIAN FEMINIST CREDO

I believe in the triune God of Scripture, three in one and one in three.
I believe in one God, maker of all creation,
whom we call Father and who is also to us like a mother;
God is our heavenly parent.

God made humankind in his image, both male and female God made them,
to be equal bearers of God’s image and equal caretakers of God’s creation.

I believe that man and woman are equally responsible for Sin,
and both experience the corruption of the Fall.
Woman is no more prone to sin than man, nor man than woman.
The Fall resulted in broken relationships between God and humanity,
woman and man.
Patriarchy is a reflection of a fallen world and
not Godʼs original design for creation.

All of creation is in need of redemption.

I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Humankind,
who for men and women came down from heaven
to bring salvation, redemption, reconciliation, and restoration.
I believe both genders, male and female, are fully represented in the Incarnation.[2]

I believe Jesus is the revelation of God, and in him all the fullness of deity dwells.
God is like Jesus, for when we see Jesus we are seeing God.
Jesus demonstrated the character of God
in his cruciform living, cruciform loving, and cruciform dying.
God vindicated Jesus, our cruciform Lord,
by raising him from the dead–we now await the resurrection to come.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, who gives life to all
and power to those who are ʻin Christʼ

to live life ʻin Christʼ which is to live as he lived–
cruciformly, cross-shaped, self-denying, radically-loving, God-glorifying.

I believe that Godʼs new creation– inaugurated by the Son and activated by the Spirit–reestablishes the equality of all women and men.
Within this new creation, Godʼs people, the church, actively seek out justice
for the oppressed and reconciliation for all
through the proclamation of and participation in
the gospel of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

I believe that cruciformity, that is, living and dying like Christ,[3]
can and will transform this world through the power of the Holy Spirit.

1.  See also my earlier post Kenosis, Cruciformity, and Feminism.
2.  This idea comes from Thomas C. Oden’s discussion on “Was the Incarnation Sexist?” in his Systematic Theology.  See my earlier post Gender and the Incarnation.
3. Michael Gorman, Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative Spirituality of the Cross (p.48).