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Volume 24 , Issue 1 February Pages Related Information. Close Figure Viewer. Browse All Figures Return to Figure. Previous Figure Next Figure. Email or Customer ID. Forgot password? Old Password. New Password. Password Changed Successfully Your password has been changed. Returning user. Request Username Can't sign in? Butler's work with prostitutes exposed and challenged the trenchant hypocrisies of Victorian England, a society in which a rigid morality defined by Christian values masked the widespread exploitation and abuse of the poor and a flourishing sex trade in the cities.

Evangelicalism afforded nineteenth-century Western women a public space from which to speak as missionaries, social reformers, and educators, even if their activities continued to be defined and restricted by men. The nineteenth century also saw the emergence of new women's religious communities in the Catholic Church, with the formation of religious orders committed to mission, education, and health care. Again these belonged within ecclesial and social structures governed by men, but they provided a means by which women could make a significant contribution to the public dimension of Christian life, extending their influence beyond the domestic sphere and allowing for considerable levels of social mobility and spiritual influence.

The emergence of independent African American churches in nineteenth-century America created a form of Protestant Christianity enlivened by the rhythms and gestures of African music , dance, and spirituality, which has afforded African American men and women a space in which to express their Christian faith free from the oppressive influences of racism and white domination. American feminist theologians and gender theorists in the twenty-first century work at a complex intersection of questions having to do with gender, race, and class in their explorations of the relationships among slavery, gender injustice, and Protestantism in the formation of modern American social values.

The twentieth century saw the widespread demise of the Christian faith across much of Western society, at least in its traditional and institutionalized forms, accompanied by a rapid growth in Christianity in some non-Western cultures, most notably in Africa and South Korea. The changed horizons opened by feminist and postcolonialist perspectives have brought new challenges and opportunities to Christian theology, as some of its most fundamental doctrinal and ethical claims have been called into question.

The emergence of the contemporary women's movement in Western society coincided with the Second Vatican Council — , an epoch-making event in the Catholic Church that opened the way to a much greater degree of participation by women and other previously excluded groups in theological reflection and formation. The result has been the ongoing transformation of Christian theology and practice, as theologically educated men and women address questions of doctrine, sexuality, social justice, and gender relations from an increasingly wide spectrum of cultural, economic, and intellectual localities.

By the end of the twentieth century women were being ordained as priests and ministers in numerous Christian denominations, including the Church of England , with women bishops being ordained in some parts of the worldwide Anglican communion, and the issue of women's ordination became an increasingly divisive question in the Roman Catholic Church.

According to the religioustolerance. Christian beliefs about marriage and sexuality have been challenged by the decline in marriage and rising divorce rates in Western societies. This has been accompanied by a growing desire for religious recognition and affirmation at all levels of church life by gays and lesbians in Western churches, to the consternation of many non-Western Christians who remain committed to a more conservative understanding of Christian sexual values. These challenging new movements have provoked a backlash, with the reassertion of conservative values in both the Catholic and the Protestant churches and the emergence of fundamentalist Christian movements that tend to adopt a highly literalist approach to biblical teachings on questions of sexual ethics and gender relations.

In the United States the organization Promise Keepers seeks to reestablish Christian family values by appealing to men to accept their responsibilities as husbands and fathers, with the concomitant expectation that women should perform their roles as dutiful wives and mothers. In Roman Catholicism the papacy of John Paul II has been remarkable in many ways, but it has seen the reassertion of traditional sexual values and gender stereotypes over some of the liberating tendencies of the postconciliar church.

Perhaps the most traumatic event in this context was the publication of the papal encyclical, Humanae Vitae , by Pope Paul VI in This set out a vision of marriage that was revolutionary in its affirmation of the value of married love and sexuality but that, in its reiteration of the Catholic Church's opposition to artificial birth control , provoked an ongoing crisis of authority in the Catholic Church.

The social, demographic, and intellectual developments of the twentieth century mean that Christianity is undergoing a continuing crisis in its understanding of gender and sexuality, calling into question beliefs, practices, and authority structures that have prevailed almost unchallenged since the fourth century with regard to the different roles of men and women, the significance of human sexuality, and the ways in which these have been inspired and legitimated by the Christian understanding of God.

It is impossible to predict what the church of the twenty-second century may look like or to what extent it will make sense to speak of the church at all. Some may see the future as a series of schisms, reformations, and revolutions that will lead to a global plurality of movements, sects, and cults loosely rooted in the Christian tradition, whereas others may have a more positive view of the Christian potential for unity and reconciliation after centuries of conflict and division.

But it is likely that, whatever other changes take place, the Christian understanding of what it means to be male and female created in the image of God is one of the most urgent and complex questions of this age, and the ways in which Christians respond to that question will shape the churches of the future in profound and unforeseeable ways. Allen, Prudence.

Grand Rapids , Mich. Allen provides an excellent analysis of the ways the reception and dissemination of philosophical and theological ideas have shaped the role and representation of woman in the Christian tradition. Anderson, Bonnie S. London, These two volumes offer a scholarly overview of women in European history from prehistory to the late twentieth century.

Victorian Era - an introduction

They are invaluable for situating Christianity in its wider historical contexts with regard to the roles and positions of women. Ashley, Kathleen, and Pamela Sheingorn, eds. Athens, Ga.

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A collection of essays that explores the symbolic and social significance of the medieval cult of Saint Anne. Balthasar, Hans Urs von. Translated by Graham Harrison. San Francisco , Balthasar's theology of sexual difference has had a formative influence on conservative Catholic theology since the Second Vatican Council. This is a developed account of his theory of the gendering of relationships in the Christian story.

Beattie, Tina. New Century Theology series. A theological analysis and reflection on the role and representation of women in Christianity and secular Western culture. Kampen, Netherlands, Boswell, John. Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality. Chicago, Boswell's study traces changing attitudes toward homosexuality in the Christian tradition from the early church to the Middle Ages. Brown, Peter.

One of the most influential historical studies of early Christian ideas of gender and embodiment in their social contexts. Burrus, Virginia. Stanford, Calif. Burrus uses contemporary critical theory, particularly the work of Luce Irigaray, to analyze the construction of gender in patristic theology. Bynum, Caroline Walker.


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  • New York , Bynum remains one of the most significant and influential scholars writing about medieval attitudes toward gender and the body. Coakley, Sarah. Powers and Submissions: Spirituality, Philosophy, and Gender. Oxford, In this collection of essays Coakley analyzes the ideas of philosophers, theologians, and gender theorists to explore the significance of gender in Christian thought. Daly, Mary. Boston, ; reprint, London, Although Daly's work seems somewhat dated, this book represents a dramatic shift in her thinking from Catholic feminist theology to radical post-Christian philosophy, and her work continues to have a widespread influence on feminist theory.

    Ehrman, Bart D. A comprehensive anthology of the extracanonical and Apocryphal writings of the early Christian era. Elshtain, Jean Bethke. Princeton, N. Elshtain's careful historical survey of theological, philosophical, and political attitudes to gender offers a feminist critique both of historical political values and of some feminist theories. This pioneering feminist study argues that women occupied positions of equality in ministry and leadership in the early Christian Church.

    Jantzen, Grace.

    Learning outcomes

    Power, Gender, and Christian Mysticism. Cambridge, U. A feminist critique of the gendered constructs of Christian mysticism as these relate to the lives and practices of women mystics. Jensen, Anne. God's Self-Confident Daughters. Louisville, Ky. Jensen explores the ways the status of women changed in the early church from having considerable influence to being increasingly marginalized and subordinated to men. John Paul II , Pope. Boston, Audiences presented during and , when Pope John Paul II considered the theology of male and female from the perspective of the Genesis account of Creation.

    Kelly-Gadol, Joan. Kelly-Gadol's highly influential argument, first published in , calls into question the periodization of history by arguing that the Renaissance represented a time of diminished opportunities rather than intellectual and social awakening for European women. Kienzle, Beverly, and Pamela Walker, eds. Berkeley, Calif. A collection of essays that explores the role of women in preaching and prophesy from the early church to the twentieth century. King, Ursula, ed.

    This collection offers an insight into the diverse forms and methods of feminist theology that have flourished in critical engagement with Western feminism. It includes writings by African Americans , Asians, Africans, Latin Americans, and others, giving a sense of the global dimensions and international concerns of Christian feminism. Women in Christianity.

    Religion today: Themes and issues

    A critical appraisal of women's role in the Christian tradition by one of the Catholic Church's best-known theologians. Laqueur, Thomas. Cambridge, Mass. Laqueur analyzes the historical understanding of sex to argue that modern science and medicine were largely responsible for the idea of a fundamental biological and psychological difference between the sexes based not on scientific evidence but on changing social values and relationships.

    Lees, Clare, ed. Minneapolis, A collection of scholarly but accessible essays that explores concepts of manhood in the Middle Ages and how these have affected the historical understanding of masculinity. Lerner, Gerda. Women in History. New York, , Lerner's two-volume work offers a carefully researched account of women in Western history. This is of particular value to those interested in Christianity and gender because of her attentive concern for the ways religion has influenced women's identities and roles and has been used in their struggles for self-expression and autonomy through the centuries.

    Lloyd, Genevieve. Lloyd's survey of the philosophical construction of gender in Western culture remains one of the most accessible overviews of the subject. Loades, Ann. Feminist Theology: Voices from the Past. A study of three different women Mary Wollstonecraft , Josephine Butler, and Dorothy Sayers , showing how their ideas and activities were informed by their Christian faith and relating these to contemporary ethical issues concerning women in the churches.

    Loades, Ann, ed. Feminist Theology: A Reader. This is a helpful resource for those seeking an introduction to feminist theology, although it does not cover significant developments in the field since the early s. Louth, Andrew. Louth offers a careful scholarly analysis of the understanding of sexual difference and embodiment in the Western Church.

    Malone, Mary T. Women and Christianity.

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    Dublin, Ireland, , , Malone uses broad brushstrokes to offer a readable survey of women in Christianity from the time of Christ to the beginning of the twenty-first century. Martin, Francis. Edinburgh, A critical analysis that poses a number of questions to the feminist theological enterprise while affirming some of its insights. Merchant, Carolyn. Merchant analyzes changing attitudes toward nature and the female body in the late medieval world and early modern world, arguing that the transition from a religious to a scientific worldview is associated with the emergence of a desire for dominance over the female body and nature, contributing to the witch hunts and to the exploitation of the natural environment.

    Miller, Monica Migliorino. Sexuality and Authority in the Catholic Church. Scranton, Pa. A critique of feminist theology from the perspective of a conservative Catholic understanding of sexual difference. Monter, William. First published in , this is a balanced and carefully argued evaluation of the impact of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation on women.

    Nelson, James. One of the foremost Christian thinkers writing on issues of masculinity, Nelson adopts a liberal theological approach in his analysis of sexuality and gender. Newman, Barbara. Philadelphia, Newman considers changing perceptions of womanhood in Christianity through the literature of the early and medieval church. Putney, Clifford. Putney draws on cultural studies and historical analysis to offer a gendered reading of Protestant Christianity in the United States in the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century. He argues that there was a strongly masculinist ideology in the churches that sought to counter the perceived feminization of Christianity.

    Ranft, Patricia. Women and Spiritual Equality in Christian Tradition. New York, ; reprint, Ranft challenges accounts that present Christianity as exclusively misogynist by exploring an alternative historical tradition that has emphasized the spiritual equality of women in the Christian tradition. Ruether, Rosemary Radford. Boston, ; reprint, A groundbreaking book that was one of the earliest works of feminist theology. Although Ruether's liberal approach has been challenged by some later scholars, this remains a highly influential text in the development of feminist theology. Schumacher, Michele M.

    Women in Christ: Toward a New Feminism. Grand Rapids, Mich. A collection of essays that seeks to establish the contours of a "new feminism" inspired by the teachings of Pope John Paul II. Soskice, Janet Martin, and Diana Lipton. Feminism and Theology , Oxford, A selection of textual extracts offering a survey of the work of key Christian and Jewish feminist thinkers. Swanson, R. Gender and Christian Religion. Woodbridge, U. A collection of papers read at meetings of the Ecclesiastical History Society, providing a wide-ranging scholarly analysis of Christian concepts of gender in different historical and cultural contexts.