Feminist and New Testament Scholars Create Lively Discourse

The “Global Future of Feminist New Testament Studies” conference this spring brought renowned feminist and New Testament scholars to campus for three consecutive monthly sessions. The scholars, in dialogue with members of the Scripps and Claremont communities, focused on issues facing Christians and feminists in light of the global transformations in Christianity that are having a direct impact on the politics of nations, as well as in the lives of individuals and communities.

Each session had a different feel, as well as geographical emphasis—the first on Europe and the Americas, the second on Asia and Latin America, and the third on Africa and the Disapora.

“The goal that Althea Spencer-Miller [who has a part-time appointment in religious studies] and I had in designing the conference was to create a space for free and open discussion of all aspects of the topic from a number of different perspectives,” said Wicker. “In the first conference session [Europe and the Americas], the discussions were characterized by the lively debate and disagreement that often characterizes Euro-American academic discourse. The lectures and responses were often theoretical, but they were clearly informed by the particular social, political, and religious contexts of these women. The keynote speaker was Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, the Krister Stendahl Professor at Harvard University.

“The engaged rhetoric of the second session [Asia and Latin America] was of quite a different character. The two Latina women spoke from a different cultural and theological perspective and used a methodology of personal affirmation rather than argumentation. The Japanese speaker described her own social location and her biblical and activist response to it, and received a thoughtful comment from a Buddhist nun on the Pomona faculty. Their presentations evoked a strongly personal response from the audience.” At this session, Rosemary Radford Reuther ’58, a former Scripps Distinguished Alumna and now Carpenter Professor of Feminist Theology, Graduate Theological Union and the Pacific School of Religion at Berkeley, was the keynote lecturer.

(Editor’s note: the third conference on Africa and the Diaspora was held after this issue of the Bulletin went to press. The keynote speaker was Vincent Wimbush, professor of New Testament and Christian Origins, Union Theological Seminary, and professor of religion, Claremont Graduate University.)

The global conference was enhanced by a New Testament Arts exhibit at the Clark Humanities Museum through April 15, curated by Professor Bruce Coats, who organized it with Judy Harvey Sahak ’64, the Sally Preston Swan Librarian. The exhibit included a collection of religious treasures from Scripps’ and the Claremont Colleges’ galleries and libraries and works on loan, including a magnificent assemblage of 25 painted blocks, by artist Jane Wells ’93, titled Joyful Noise.