The issue

Environmental problems such as the greenhouse effect, ozone depletion, exhaustion of natural resources, growing landfills, and rainforest exploitation continue to "silently" destroy our earth.

As college students, we often feel removed from such "far away" issues and feel paralyzed about how we can help with such little spare time. However, it is important for us to be aware of these issues so vital to our future and to find the time to help protect, heal, and sustain our living environment. We need to find ways that each of us can help to break the cycle of destruction.

Consider the following:

-Amy Teske

How has the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) responded?

In 1990, the Committee on Social Witness Policy submitted a report entitled, "Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice" to the 202nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The report identifies the cries of creation, human and nonhuman, during this time of ecological crisis, and calls for their immediate restoration. The report also contains portions which affirm the church's ecology and justice responsibility, and makes recommendations for church life and programs, as well as to social policies, on behalf of endangered ecosystems.

The 202nd General Assembly adopted this document, along with its recommendations to individuals, organizations, governments, corporations, and leaders of communions to take prompt and swift action in the protection and preservation of the global environment and sustainable development.

For copies of the document write to the Office of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 100 Witherspoon Street, Louisville, KY 40202-1396, $2.00.

Suggestions for action

1. Vote. With current voting apathy, students could make up to 20 percent of the vote. This is a very simple way to influence this country's policies and protect your interests.

2. To save paper and therefore trees, write on both sides of the paper and save the extra paper for scratch. Perhaps a collection at the end of the term could be taken of the old class notes and papers for recycling.

3. Don't waste electricity-turn off the lights when you leave a room. Also, as much as most people hate to clean, by dusting light bulbs regularly, you can help the light bulbs to produce as much as 35 percent more light than when they are covered in dust and dirt.

4. Educate yourself by taking environmental courses or talk with professors about starting a program if there is none in place.

5. Precycle. Pay attention to how items can be recycled or reused, how much of the packaging will be thrown away, and whether the product can also be purchased in bulk; carry a mug wherever you go, perhaps a spoon also.

6. Recycle glass and aluminum containers and buy recycled products as often as possible.

7. Talk to other students and organizations and find out what is being done on your campus, how successful it is, and what more can be done. How can new policies and programs be most effective on your campus? Which issues are important to you and what can you do to help solve or understand more about the problems facing our environment?

Resources

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 401 M Street SW Washington, DC 20460

Greenpeace 1436 U St. NW Washington, DC 20009

North American Students of Cooperation (NASCO) P.O. Box 7715 Ann Arbor, MI 48107

Rainforest Action Network 300 Broadway, Suite 28 San Francisco, CA 94133

Student Conservation Association (SCA) 1800 N. Kent St., Suite 1120 Arlington, VA 22209

World Wildlife Fund 1250 24th Street NW Washington, DC 20037

The Earth Works Group. 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth. Berkeley, Calif.: Earthworks Press, 1989.

Elkington, John, Julia Hailes, and Joel Makower. The Green Consumer. New York: Penguin Books, 1990. Includes a long list of books and resources.

The Global Tomorrow Coalition. The Global Ecology Handbook: What You Can Do about the Environment Crisis. Boston: Beacon Press, 1990.

MacEachern, Diane. Save Our Planet: Seven Hundred and Fifty Everyday Ways You Can Help Clean Up the Earth. New York: Dell, 1990.

The Student Environmental Action Coalition. The Student Environmental Action Guide: 25 Simple Things We Can Do. Berkeley, Calif.: Earthworks Press, 1991.

Theological Reflections

Studies consistently show the interest of the 20 something generation in issues related to the environment, and even though we may all have some sort of environmental group that is active on our campus, how many of us have begun to explore the theological ramifications of the environmental crisis? Okay, so God created the world in seven days, as Christians we all know that story, but is that the extent of God's relationship with creation? Or is there more to it? Let's examine a little more deeply some of the theological issues related to environmental concerns.

Many feminist and eco-justice theologians do begin the discussion of the theology of creation and environmentalism with the Genesis creation story and what it teaches us about the nature of God. In the first chapter of Genesis we read about God as Creator. The heavens and the earth and all that is therein are created and blessed by God. At the end of the first chapter God creates humanity, male and female, and instructs them to care for the earth and to exercise dominion over the birds and animals. God has created a world that is beautiful and good in and of itself and instructed humanity to care for it. In this first chapter we find the original biblical mandate for our responsibility in caring for God's creation. Unfortunately we have not treated the earth and its creatures as God requested. All too often we have been guilty of exploiting the earth and its fruits and often other people in the process. The distribution of the earth's bounty has not been equally shared and we have not taken the appropriate actions needed to care for creation. Too often we have taken the easy way out and our abuse has begun to destroy the creation.

Current discussion centers on distinguishing between theologies of human "domination," anthropocentrism and relational spiritualities of creation. One thing is certain: recalling John's message that " God so loved the world" that God sent Jesus to minister among us and teach us a new way of life. We can no longer justify a solely human-centered faith and must stretch to respond to and enable God's vision for the whole of God's creation.

We also know that our God is not a God who has created and then left the world up to its own devices to survive. In the Psalms we read of God's continued grace, good will and concern for all that God has created in the words, " . . . the world and all that is in it is mine" (Ps. 50:12) and "The Lord is good to all, and [the Lord's] compassion is over all that [the Lord] has made." (Ps. 145:9) Later, in the book of Isaiah we read of God's vision of shalom for the world, ". . . the mountains and hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands" (Is. 55:12); and ". . . they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit... they shall not plant and another eat.... The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox . . . ." (Is. 65:21, 22, 25)

In the words of the Presbyterian Eco-Justice task force, "The vision of shalom is a vision of wholeness, encompassing human society and the realm of nature as one interacting, interdependent, healthy whole. It is a vision of peace and well-being that may be brought to realization only by relationships of justice and compassion." From our understanding of God's love for us and for the rest of creation and our faith that God still cares about humanity and the world we live in, we believe that it is our responsibility to help rectify the current eco-crisis in which we find our world. It is our task to help create the shalom that God wished for creation to enjoy.

If God has entrusted creation to our care and we and our ancestors have not acted responsibly, then it is up to us to work toward solutions for a better and healthier world for ourselves and for our children. This packet piece has suggested very concrete ways that you and other students can make a difference in controlling the environmental waste that is rampant in our world, but there are many other larger issues related to environmental concerns and eco-justice. Consider studying one of the following Presbyterian documents related to this topic in a group on your campus:

Keeping and Healing the Creation prepared by the Presbyterian Eco-Justice Task Force, 1989, available for $4 by calling 1-800-227-2872. DMS #033-89-101

Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice, a report of the 202nd General Assembly (1990) available for $1.50 by calling 1-800-524-2612. DMS #OGA-90-002

The issue

Until recently most of Christian tradition did not include the experience of women in expressions of faith in God or reflections and teachings about God. An awareness of this gap has led to a questioning of the whole truth of past expressions and a realization of the importance of encouraging women to reflect theologically on their experience of faith.

One of the opportunities as well as a responsibility of young Christian women is to give expression to our realities, our faith stories. It is only then that we will know ourselves and in turn participate fully in shaping the communities of faith to which we belong.

Feminist theology

In the past, theology has been a body of knowledge about God, systematized by men from the Bible and tradition out of a Europocentric culture and church. That is, they have been shaped by European models, study, and experience. Those understandings of God and God's activity have shaped the church and its life as an institution. Yet, as the church seeks fuller expression, the task of theologizing must be shared with the majority of the church's membership who are women.

Furthermore, as we bear witness to the deepest intentions of a Reformed tradition--that is, the radicalization of the personal relationship of humankind with God--we must assume that this includes women in a special way.

A feminist theology seeks to reconstruct the nuances of a tradition that has disallowed interpretation and clarification by and of women. In its mandate to the Justice for Women Committee in 1988, the General Assembly declared our calling to be an inclusive people, thereby rejecting the historic legacy of sexism within church and society. A major task, therefore, of feminist theology is to restructure the church's thought and analysis to include both women and men. This means that the experiences, thoughts, and insights about God as experienced by both sexes must be represented in our theology. Toward this end, feminist theology, by implication, seeks change and justice for the betterment of women.

Womanist theology

Having its roots in feminism, womanist theology arises from the communities of women of color, particularly African American women. Analyzing the historical realities of the tridimensional experiences of racism, sexism and classism, a womanist theology directs energy toward the broader social systems of the church and society. The foundation of womanist theology is the unraveling of layers of historical perspectives and current practices that are detrimental to masses of peoples. Redress and change are sought not only for women of color, but for their families: males, females, children.

What feminists and womanists want

Redemption and transformation toward greater justice in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and in society is the hope of feminist and womanist theologies. Priority issues for feminists include domestic violence and rape, female bonding, inclusive language, the gender of God, choice, and economic autonomy for women. Womanists struggle with issues such as physical survival and spiritual salvation for the family, the redistribution of goods and services in the society, and encountering God as family. The dominance of Europocentric, upper-class, masculine perspectives must be changed in order that all persons may find expression in our church.

The challenge of women coming together, strengthening their solidarity, reflecting an ' d writing about their identity and experience, recovering biblical history, fully participating in the life of the church (while continuing the dialogue with men) has phenomenal implications for the church.

Truths are bound to be discovered beyond those that we already know; relationships with God and one another will be transformed; a more faithful response to the One who calls us into being will be proclaimed as we wrestle with what it means to be the body of Christ.

-Nancy Thornton-McKenzie Chair,

Women's Ministry Unit

For discussion

1. What does it mean to study the Bible from a feminist/womanist perspective?

2. Think back to your experience of church school, what are the stories you remember? The messages you were given? Name some women of the Bible. What were their qualities to be imitated?

3. What is your experience of having a theological perspective that is primarily from the point of view of Caucasian men?

4. In what ways would women's voices or experiences impact our views of God? Of the community of faith? Of Jesus?

5. Name some women leaders in the Christian church in the past and in the present. What were (are) their contributions to the faith story?

6. What are the differences between feminist and womanist theologies?

7. What would be the effect on the church if more people approached Christianity from a feminist or womanist point of view?

Suggestions for action

1. Using the book, To Love Delilah, hold a series of Bible studies on women in the Bible.

2. Hold a book study on another book listed below--reflect on how feminist/ womanist theology differs from (or reinforces) the view of God that you were raised with. How about the scriptures?

3. Consider asking one of the religion professors on your campus (or your chaplain/campus minister) to have dialogue with your group on their experience of feminist/ womanist theology.

4. Using Inheriting Our Mother's Gardens as a model, plan a group reflection on how your own mothers have impacted your lives.

5. Use the accompanying Bible study with a women's group on campus.

6. Read the accompanying psalm with your women's group. You can also photocopy it and mail it to all the women on your campus and/or ask your chaplain to use it in a worship service.

Resources

Bos, Johanna. Reformed and Feminist. Louisville:

Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991.'

Cartledge-Hayes, Mary. To Love Delilah. San Diego:

Luramedia, 1991.

Robins, Wendy S., ed. Through the Eyes of a Woman.

World YWCA, 1986. Available from the Women's Ministry Unit, $8.00/

Russell, Letty. Human Liberation in a Feminist Perspective. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1974.

Russell, Letty, et. al. Inheriting Our Mother's Gardens.

Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1988.

Trible, Phyllis. God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality.

Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1978.

Weems, Renita. Just a Sister Away. San Diego:

Luramedia, 1988.

Williams, Delores S. Christianity and Crisis, "Womanist Theology: Black Women's Voices." March 2,1987.

What is feminist/ womanist theology?

It is a celebration of God's creation,

an affirmation of our identity as women.

It is the study of how God works in our

lives and an aid in responding to the many

changes in society, church and inner self.

It claims women's role through history,

it strives for equality and supportiveness,

it calls for integrity, it enables

each of us to work in partnership

and helps us to share living in agape.

The following are scriptural studies to share with your community.

A. Bible study: book of Ruth

While often viewed as a romance story, the story of Ruth and Naomi is a powerful example of female loyalty and cleverness. It is the story of two women committed to each other's well being against a backdrop of "complex social issues, gender relations and personal motivations." Their commitment reflects God's commitment to us. Both prove themselves as courageous and resourceful women.

Read the book of Ruth, preferably the New Revised Standard Version translation, noting the following questions.

I. About the story

1. Describe Ruth and Naomi.

2. What characteristics strike you most about them? How were they alike? Different?

3. What was their problem?

4. How did they solve it? How do you feel about their solution?

5. Can you compare them to someone you know?

6. What role did God play in their lives?

II. Women's Bible Commentary

Read in the Women's Bible Commentary, (Louisville, KY: Westminster /John Knox Press, 1992) the chapter by Amy-Jill Levine on "Ruth," pp. 78-84.

1. What insights do you gain into the story after reading the background information? What was the place of women in that day?

2. What is the religious context of the story?

3. What are the racial dynamics at work in the story?

4. Why do you think this book was included in the canon?

5. What insights may we gain for today?

Ill. Further biblical study

Read the chapter on Ruth, "A Human Comedy" in God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality by Phyllis Trible, pp. 166-199. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1978). What added insights do you gain from Dr. Trible's analysis of the book of Ruth? In what ways does Ruth become a different kind of model? How does analysis of the language add to your comprehension of the meaning of the book?

IV. Questions for reflection

1. How have you felt like Ruth?

2. Have you ever felt powerless?

3. Describe an oppressive situation you have experienced.

4. How could you have expressed your power?

5. Take some time to talk about the situation and its outcome.

6. Were you aware of God's presence with you? What difference might it have made?

B. Psalms

The psalms that are included in the Bible are poems, songs, and prayers drawn together from different places and times and sung or prayed by a diverse group of individuals.

"These religious lyrics are clearly confessional in character. They are expressed mostly in the first person and represent the full range of human emotions in conversation with God ... "(from "Psalms" by Kathleen A. Farmer in The Women's Bible Commentary, p. 137.)

Read the section in the same article, p. 139, "The Psalms Women Sing."

Now read a contemporary psalm written by composer Miriam Therese Winter, a member of a Roman Catholic religious order.
 
 

A psalm affirming identity

Who do people say we are?

Wife? Mother? Sister? Daughter?

Women, who do we say we are?

Partner to our Sister-God

in the first flush of creation,

sharing the splendor,

sharing the pain,

of building a new tomorrow.

Colleague of our Creator-God

in every new beginning,

firm as the everlasting hills

in the faith we are guided by.

Who do people say we are?

Wife? Mother? Sister? Daughter?

Women, who do we say we are?

Mother of mercy who lives the role

of caretaker of creation,

dressing the wounds of battered belief

on the eve of a nuclear night.

Mothers of mothers who age and die

and return to our Primeval Mother,

maternally drawn to every cry

of discomfort and human need.

Who do people say we are?

Wife? Mother? Sister? Daughter?

Women, who do we say we are?

Sister to the sensuous sea

that ebbs and flow

through the ages,

linking the life within us

to the lives that are all around.

Sister to the silent song

that sings of a new day dawning,

full up and spilling over

with its polyrhythmic praise.

Who do people say we are?

Wife? Mother? Sister? Daughter?

Women, who do we say we are?

Daughter of the Living God,

daughter of My Mother,

shaped like a sacred icon

in the image of Her embrace.

Daughter of the Daughter of God,

the Christa of the New Creation,

in Whom we rise above all attempts

to dull or destroy the dream.

Who do people say we are?

We are who we say we are!

May the blessings of God

be with all women.

Praise to You, El Shaddai.*

* Hebrew for God

WOMANWORD: A Feminist Lectionary and Psalter on

Women of the New Testament by Miriam Therese Winter.

Copyright @ 1990 by Medical Mission Sisters. Reprinted

by permission of Crossroad Publishing Company.

After reading the psalm you may meditate with the following questions

1. How does this psalm differ from psalms included in the Bible? How is it similar to those?

2. What picture of God do you find here? Compare/ contrast that with the images in biblical psalms.

3. What is the relationship to God depicted in this psalm? What were your feelings toward God?

4. How did you feel as the psalm was being read?

5. Who do you say you are?

6. What is the place society and church have separated for women?

7. What/where is it you want to be?

8. Who are you in relation to God?

Because it is helpful to name those women from whom we have learned who we are, your group might want to prepare a litany in which you will name those women who have helped you personally- your mother, your teacher, your friend. You may want to include those women that have made a difference through history, for example, Sojourner Truth, who are especially meaningful to you. Use this litany to close this study.

-Yolanda D. Santiago-Torres

The issue

T he United Nations has taken strong initiatives to improve conditions for women by creating an international legal framework to achieve de jure equality. This legal framework is the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). This Convention, also known as the Women's Convention, was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1979 and entered into force on September 3,1981. The Convention is considered an international bill of rights for women, reaffirming "faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, and in the equal rights of men and women."

The Convention specifically provides an agenda for women's legal, civil, and reproductive rights and the elimination of discrimination in fields such as business, education, politics, and health. It is the only human rights treaty to affirm women's rights as human rights and to "target culture, religion, and tradition as important forces shaping gender roles." As of April 1994, 132 countries have signed, ratified, and implemented the Convention. Although the United States took a strong, active role in the drafting of the Convention, it has yet to ratify and implement it into national policy.

In addition, the UN has established specific bodies to bring about de facto equality for women. These agencies aim at raising public awareness and maintaining a firm commitment to change long-ingrained fraditions and attitudes that prolong discrimination.

The sections of the Convention are these:

Article 1--defines discrimination against women

Article 2-outlines legal responsibility of the nation

Others call for full advancement of women, affirmative action measures, ending stereotyping of women, elimination of prostitution of women, ending political discrimination against women, calling for major international representation of women, equal immigration rights, ending discrimination against women in education and employment practices, equal access to health services and to loans, credit, etc., equality in marriage and family law, legal equality in courts, and speaks to special problems of rural women worldwide.

To receive a copy of the Women's Convention write:

Women's Ministry Program Assistant Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) UN Office 777 United Nations Plaza New York, NY 10017

How has the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) responded?

In 1987, the 199th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) adopted a resolution affirming the Women's Convention. The Churchwide Decade Committee of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), in partnership with the Ecumenical Decade: Churches in Solidarity with Women (1988-1998), is continuing its interpretation of the Women's Convention within the denomination, as well as its pressure on the Presidential Administration and U.S. Congress to immediately ratify and implement this document.

For discussion

1. In view of ratification by 132 countries, why do you think the U.S. is reluctant to sign on to the Women's Convention?

2. What are the differences which the Convention might make for American women?

3. In which of the above areas do you think women in the U.S. are most "unequal" to men?

Suggestions for action

1. Write the President of the United States (see sample below). The president needs to transmit the Convention to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee so they can hold hearings, and eventually a vote for ratification. His address: The White House, Washington, DC 20500.

Dear Mr. President:

I urge you to transmit the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (The UN Women's Convention) to the United States Senate for its advice and consent for ratification. This convention was adopted by the UN in 1979. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), of which I am a member, is one of several denominations that has taken official action in support of this Convention.

Women, men, and children in the United States and around the world will benefit from our ratification and implementation of the UN Women's Convention.

2. Write the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Convention needs a favorable majority vote by this committee to be moved to the Senate floor, where it will then need a two-thirds favorable vote of the entire U.S. Senate to be ratified. All members of the Senate may be contacted in care of Capitol Hill, Washington, DC 20510. For more information on members of this committee, contact the Presbyterian Washington Office, 110 Maryland Ave., Washington, D.C. 20002.

3. Vote. It is imperative that women make their voices heard.

4. Write an op-ed piece for your local or campus newspaper or have you or your group appear on a local radio or television station. Most local media look for stories that involve people and activities in the community.

5. Educate your campus, church group, or community about the Women's Convention.

6. Celebrate International Women's Day, March 8 with an activity to educate on or advocate for "the convention."

Resources

"Women's Rights, Human Rights," packet for study available from the Women's Ministries, 100 Witherspoon Street, Louisville, KY 40202-1396.

National Committee on UN/CEDAW 520 Camden Drive Beverly Hills, CA 90210

International Women's Rights Action Watch (IWRAW) Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs University of Minnesota 301-19th Avenue South Minneapolis, MN 55455

International Women's Tribune Center (IWTC 777 UN Plaza New York, NY 10017
 
 

Young Women Speak - Part III