Friday, February 25, 2011

What Difference Women's Voices Make

Jenny Warner posted recently in Patheos on "A Women's Voice" and what a difference it makes in preaching. Whenever I go to speak to Roman Catholics, this is especially true. But what kind of difference do women's voices make?

I remember the first few times I heard women preach. After three decades of listening to men, it was an overwhelming experience to hear a woman's voice and perspective in that place of authority. Something in my own experience and engagement with scripture and the life of faith felt validated and empowered and healed in those first sermons that I heard.

Women might feel that the relationship and rapport established with the congregation is as important as biblical truths proclaimed. Women often remember women left out of the biblical canon and ignored in liturgy. Women's sermons might fuse teaching, preaching, prophecy and prayer. Women might dwell on female imagery for God. They might pay attention to new inclusionary ways of reading prayerbooks, bible translations and language so that all human beings are included and represented because all human beings are made in the image and likeness of God. 

The Women's Bible Commentary is a good example of biblical interpretation by women. Sharon Ringe, one of the book's editors, has some helpful things to say here. Biblical texts don't address every concern of interest to women but there are women characters in biblical texts and also concerns of interest to women's lives. Asking about these opens up the text and makes visible things that have hitherto been invisible. "Unmasking" the dominant culture is often doen best by those who live on its margins. 

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