By Kate Hanch
When Brian first approached me to be a regular contributor, at first I was hesitant. My specialty is not biblical studies, and my interests appeared different from regular contributors. As I scrolled through the blog, I saw the disclaimer on the right hand side of the page that encouraged readers to look at the date of the post, as the authors may have changed their mind on the subject. I felt assured of this—much of my academic and Christian journey has involved ongoing transformation. Plus, I had deleted my previous two blogs because my mind had changed.
For this first posting as a regular contributor, I thought I would outline some things that I value in theological construction. This will help you know a bit about why I ask certain questions, and where I’m coming from. In studying theology, we can have a critical distance, although I’m unsure if we can ever be fully objective. Therefore, I admit my partial perspective in outlining my approaches and questions, trusting in the community of the great cloud of witnesses and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
As a Christian I’d like to think all of life is theology, even if we don’t realize it or reflect on it. Because I believe in the Holy Spirit’s working in the whole of creation, everyday actions can become sources of theology. For example, our views on eschatology and creation impact how we view water usage or who has access to fresh food. By claiming this, I reflect Anselm’s “faith seeking understanding” as a general definition for theology. Further, I don’t limit the study and practice of theology only to academics—all Christians are students of theology. My goal in pursuing academics is to help people do thoughtful theological reflection.
I believe the task of theology is to do thoughtful theological reflection to discern the will of God and our response in the world. My advisor reminds me that will of God is that all of creation should flourish. Thoughtfulness takes time, discernment, prayer, reading, and conversation. We need thoughtfulness to discern how God is working and how we can participate. I see theology as an act of worship and an act of justice—the two aren’t necessarily separated.
I am Baptist. I was ordained in a church affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and consider it my denominational home. It is difficult to make a general statement about Baptists, because no two Baptists churches are alike. The diversity stems in part because congregations usually govern themselves. For more information about the variety of Baptist perspectives, see A Global Introduction to Baptist Churches by my M.Div. Christian History professor Robert Johnson. To claim my Baptist-ness means that I embrace the evangelical identity that accompanies it. I also establish myself as someone doing theology in concert with and in service to the church.
I am a Christian feminist. Christian feminism isn’t simply about replacing male images/pronouns/etc. with female ones, but it’s a justice commitment to seek out, emphasize, and honor God’s giftedness to all of humanity. Thus, for example, in ecclesiology, Christian feminism would not only encourage women pastors, but reexamine critically liturgy and congregational practices and perhaps offer new practices of worship that are life-giving for women. There is a multiplicity of Christian feminisms, including Catholic, womanist, Latina, and Mennonite. To see the variety of approaches of Christian feminisms, check out the anthology New Feminist Christianity: Many Voices, Many Views. By claiming to be a Christian feminist, I seek to honor and uplift women’s roles in the biblical narrative and Christian history. In addition, I hope to be aware of and uplift those whose voices are continually unheard or oppressed, believing that the Spirit speaks especially through them.
Some of my coursework includes: Global Feminist Biblical and Theological Interpretation, Christology and Trinity in the Early Church, Derrida, and Reformed Theological Readings.
I hope for my contributions to include thoughts about what I’m reading or pondering. I’m grateful to be here at Near Emmaus on the journey with you!