part of

(Chapter 4, section E)

For the full contents of "Authority in Feminist Biblical Interpretation" by Beryl Donnan, and other online sections see here.

esf4eFiorenza discerned early on that there would need to be a great change in ecclesial and theological institutions to allow women's experience and presence into the church.[1]  Recognising the unlikelihood of such change she expressed the need to move from a reconstructive hermeneutics of remembrance to a hermeneutics of creative actualisation which would use all forms of artistic imagination to amplify feminist remnants from the perspective of the discipleship of equals.  "Only by reclaiming our religious imagination and our sacred power of naming can women-church 'dream new dreams and see new visions'."[2]  The example she chooses to conclude But She Said
- Alice Walker's poetic reflection on the healing of the woman bent double in terms of a black woman's transformation - indicates the quest for "justice" and "hope" for the future, that characterises her vision of women-church as a "rhetorical space".

Her conception of ekklesia gynaikon is not intended to be exclusionary, but a political oppositional term to patriarchy.[3]  The term was coined "in order to assert that although silenced by the patriarchal church, women are church - ekklesia - and we always have been church."[4]  The term has been widely adopted and variously misunderstood.  Fiorenza does not intend to suggest an alternative "spiritual home" or a gendered sectarian body.  She intends ekklesia to suggest a political valence - the democratic congress of self-governing citizens,[5] a place of radical equality, "a site of feminist struggles for transforming society and institutions."  "It is at once an historical and an imagined reality, already partially realised but still to be struggled for."[6]  It derives its criteria for biblical interpretation not from various perceptions of "feminine" experience, but from the "insights derived from women's specific historical-political religious struggles against the systems of oppression."[7]

This later "rhetorical" conception of women-church with its "multiple discourses", is important not only in clarifying the concept, but in accommodating the diversity of feminist experience which was examined earlier.  But it is historical experiences past and present, specifically experiences of struggle against patriarchy, that are the focus.  Its rhetorical strategies of "liberation", "differences", "equality" and "vision" "interrogate biblical texts for religious visions that foster equality, justice and the logic of the ekklesia rather than that of patriarchal domination."[8]

[1]E. Schüssler Fiorenza, 'Feminist Theology as a Critical Theology of Liberation', in Theological Studies, Vol 36, 1975, p 620

[2]Fiorenza, Bread not Stone, p 21

[3]Fiorenza, Bread not Stone, p xiv

[4]Fiorenza, But She Said, p 127

[5]Fiorenza, But She Said, p 128

[6]Fiorenza, But She Said, p 130

[7]Fiorenza, But She Said, p 131

[8]Fiorenza, But She Said, pp 131-132