Graduate Theological Union

2012 Abstracts

These abstracts were printed in the program for the First Annual Women and Religion Student Conference held on March 2, 2012. Presenter names are followed by the student's degree program and area of study.

Alex McDermid, M.A. Buddhist Studies

Gender in Jodo Shinshu Temple Families

Women in Japanese Jodo Shinshu temples have been inspired by their feminist compatriots and fought to gain equal opportunity for leadership, but the institution of the temple family still operates with a traditional gendered division of labor. Using a methodology of narrative ethnography, “Gender in Jōdo Shinshū Temple Families” describes the ways some women understand their role in their temple families.  Interview data was collected in Japan. “Gender in Jodo Shinshu Temple Families” explores the gender norms that regulate family life and shows how temple wives and daughters negotiate the challenges of this system and thrive within it.


Mee-Yin Mary Yuen, Ph.D. Interdisciplinary Studies

Enhancing the Capabilities of Rural Women in China

In this paper, I will examine the situation and empowerment of rural women in China, particularity women in poverty and rural migrant workers. I will employ the notion of human dignity and human rights in Catholic social teachings and moral philosopher Martha Nussbaum’s capabilities approach to argue for the importance of protecting the dignity, integrity and well-being of each person in society, especially women and the most vulnerable; and I will examine the role of women’s collectives in enhancing the capabilities of women. Moreover, I will also demonstrate the importance of highlighting moral agency in theological and philosophical works.


Khalia Jelks, Ph.D. Liturgical Studies

His Body, Her Voice: Two Sixteenth-Century Female Reformers on the Eucharist

In reviewing the varying liturgical shifts of the sixteenth-century Protestant reformation, as it pertains to the Eucharist, one cannot help but notice that leading voices of doctrinal shifts are all male. Given the social structure of the sixteenth-century, this dominating male voice is not surprising; however, this essay is focused on learning what women in the sixteenth-century had to say about the Eucharist, the real presence of Christ, and Catholic mass during this time of major liturgical reform. In doing so, this essay focuses on two women who were fully engaged in the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation: Marie Dentière and Katharina Schütz Zell.


Diandra Chretain, M.A. Biblical Studies

Deborah's Conflicted Relationship with Patriarchy: A Feminist-Critical Analysis of Judges 4:1-16

Deborah’s unusual role in Judges 4 has been a consistent area of interests for biblical scholars and readers alike.  Deborah is acknowledged as a woman who challenges the strongholds of patriarchy through her established positions as a prophetess and judge.  In ancient Israelite society, women were under patriarchal control.  The responsibilities of women did not include prominent leadership over a military force, but Deborah surpasses these boundaries.  Even though Deborah undermines patriarchy in a political sense, her authoritative roles do not necessarily indicate that she completely surpasses all androcentric restrictions.  There are other important signifiers within the story and discourse that illustrate her relationship with patriarchal structure.  In this paper, I will argue that Judges 4 is embedded with subtle implications of patriarchy that restrain Deborah from fully surpassing these limitations.  Deborah is an intricately layered character who simultaneously transcends the boundaries of patriarchy, yet confines herself to androcentric ideals.


Ross P. Ponder, M.A. Biblical Languages and Biblical Studies

Hearing and Receiving the Word: A Consideration of Cultivation in Mark 4:1-20

The parable of the sower (Mark 4:1-20) has emerged as a riddling pericope that spurned its interpreters to produce some imaginative work. This presentation applies gender theory to the Markan account in order to situate the parable among the Greco-Roman world with a degree of theoretical sophistication. Whereas other studies tend to overlook the dynamic activity of sower, seed and soil to achieve a successful harvest, I employ active/passive models for constructing gender to examine how they interrelate. I argue that the parable of the sower expands the ways that we can think about gender in antiquity because the process for successful cultivation only becomes fruitful once sower, seed, and soil actively engage one another which for this Markan community can yield tremendous results – thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.


Beth R. Anderson, Ph.D. Christian Spirituality

Mary and Martha as Mediators in the Raising of Lazarus: A Feminist Re-reading and Re-viewing of John 11:1-45

This paper reinterprets the biblical text and artistic representations of the “Raising of Lazarus” narrative (John 11:1-45) through a feminist-critical lens in order to shed light on the Christian spirituality(ies) illuminated by the characters of Mary and Martha. Two paintings, The Resurrection of Lazarus by Juan de Flandes (1510-18) and The Raising of Lazarus by Vincent van Gogh (1890), help demonstrate the continuities and discontinuities between the representation of the two female characters in art and in the text of the gospel narrative and support a relational understanding of each character’s value in the context of biblical spirituality.


Philip Erwin, Ph.D. Biblical Studies - New Testament

Reconfiguring Gender in the Self-Baptism of Thecla

The primary objective of this essay is to interpret Thecla’s self-baptism in The Acts of Thecla as gender performance.  This interpretation develops in two stages: (1) setting Thecla’s self-baptism within a liminal phase of ritual performance per Victor Turner’s model of ritual process; (2) defining that liminal phase as a kind of discursive practice wherein Thecla attempts to render a new gender identity by reshaping the contours of her body.  To conclude, I will argue that Thecla’s ritual self-baptism produces a fragile theoretical space wherein she articulates a new religious identity by reconfiguring her public gendered self.


Beth Ritter-Conn, Ph.D. Systematic and Philosophical Theology

Reconfiguring Bodily Agency Interreligiously: A Christian Feminist Perspective

Christian feminist theology emphasizes the importance of the body for religious epistemology. It may greatly benefit from sharing resources across lines of religious difference to this end but unfortunately has not always engaged admirably in interreligious dialogue. This paper focuses on the complicated relationship between Christian feminism and Islam and argues that reconfiguring the feminist notion of agency allows for a new perspective on the embodied modes of religious thought and practice of some Muslim women, expanding possibilities within the Christian tradition for reclaiming embodiment as central to the faith and for engaging fruitfully with other religious traditions.