Most feminists have turned away from the Christian churches, regarding both Catholicism and the protestant denominations as bastions of sexism and patriarchal oppression. However, Christian feminists committed to improving the position of Christian women and to the spiritual renewal of their respective churches are drawing inspiration for their struggles from the contemporary Women’s Movement. In this study Sara Maitland looks at what has been happening to Christian women in general, and Christian feminists in particular, over the last fifteen to twenty years. She sets their experiences in the framework of the history of the churches and reviews it in the light of events such as the Second Vatican Council, the ordination of Baptist and Episcopal women ministers in America and Britain, and the debate about the ordination of women in the Anglican communion. She argues that the insights gained by Christian feminists put them in a unique position to prophesy to their respective churches, leading them back to the Gospel imperatives of love, justice and freedom, and that an understanding and acceptance of this role of women is crucial to the well-being of the whole Church. As well as studying the history, theology and institutional structures of the denominational churches, the book uses a wealth of interview material from both sides of the Atlantic to describe the experiences of women from many different backgrounds, including nuns, women priests and lay workers. Sara Maitland concludes that Christianity can and must pass beyond the long centuries of oppression and division into ‘a new country’, a country in which women and men are equally ‘made in the image of God’.
First published in 1983.