PAPERS Resources

AAR Annual Meeting
San Diego, CA
November 23-26, 2019

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Ecclesial Practices Unit
Theme: Ethnography, Theology, and Intersectionality
Theodore Hickman-Maynard, Boston University, Presiding
Monday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Hilton Bayfront-Sapphire 411A (Fourth Level)

Theological ethnographies of ecclesial practices are increasingly attending to dynamics of power and privilege. Theories of Intersectionality – which analyze how social identities are both situated within dynamic matrices of oppression and privilege and are constituted by ideological, economic and political systems of power – have much to offer to this conversation. This panel looks both at how intersectionality can provide an analytic frame for interpreting Christian practice and how it can help orient Christian practices towards ethical ends.
Papers explore black women’s ministry in predominantly White, Presbyterian, Southern communities; peacemaking interventions of marginalized faith communities in Colombian war-zones; and stewardship as practiced by women at the intersections of religion, race, class, and gender, as they also navigate experiences of domestic violence.
Nancy J. Ramsay, leading expert on intersectionality, Christian practice and Pastoral theology and care will respond.

Sheryl Johnson, Graduate Theological Union
“Feminist” Fundraising?: Women’s Economic Practices and Christian Stewardship

How does gender intersect with Christian stewardship ideologies and practices? Both gender-related theories and specific practices engaged in by women can provide relevant and meaningful contributions toward a more justice-based approach to Christian stewardship. This paper will focus on two examples: the “tanda” (rotating credit scheme used predominantly by women in Mexico and elsewhere) and organizations working against gender-based violence in the U.S. context. This paper will analyze and critique aspects of the stewardship ideologies and practices which are common in mainline North American congregations and offer constructive proposals drawing on these specific examples and gender-based theories more broadly. The issue of justice in relation to Christian stewardship is significant because churches may be embodying patriarchal practices that their statements say are contrary to Christian ethics. Further, many of these churches identify gender justice as central to their theology and ecclesial identity.

Perzavia Praylow, Lenoir-Rhyne University
Carrying the Load: Black Women Ruling Elders and the Enduring Mission and Sustainability of African American Presbyterian Churches in Rural South Carolina

This paper is a study of the contributions of black women ruling elders to the sustainable development of the Black Presbyterian Church in rural South Carolina. Relying upon oral history and ethnographic research methods, this research records and analyzes the mission work of Black women elders in Presbyterian churches located within the bounds of Trinity Presbytery in South Carolina. Although African American Presbyterian churches in rural South Carolina have struggled to thrive since reunion of the northern and southern Presbyterian Church in 1982, the mission work and leadership of rural Black women elders have kept African American churches in South Carolina socially relevant and responsive to the needs of local black communities. Despite the struggle of their respective churches, including declining and aging membership, limited fiscal resources and inconsistent pastoral leadership, the mission work of black women ruling elders have sustained the ministries of American Presbyterian congregations in South Carolina.

Janna Hunter-Bowman, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary
Tracing Borders of Constraint as Intersectional Analysis

Intersectional analysis enables right understanding of the conditions of duress war-affected communities suffer and confront through emancipatory praxis towards a telos of justpeace. The constructive interventions of faith communities in Colombia that are marginalized and vulnerable as well as transformative and generative are a form of liturgical-political—and ecclesial—practice that catalyzed resistance movements and grassroots processes. A careful accounting of the limiting systems that structure a given environment helps us to recognize that seemingly impenetrable and hegemonic systems of oppression are actually constructed and malleable and thus objects of transformation. Such was the discovery of the featured communities through tumultuous decades marked by peak deadly violence and an historic peace deal, that their interventions precipitated. It sparked a dangerous hope: another world is possible.

Nancy J. Ramsay, Texas Christian University
Business Meeting:
Natalie Wigg-Stevenson, Emmanuel College