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Mother Pelican
A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability

Vol. 8, No. 6, June 2012
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
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Ecofeminism and a Christian Theology of Creation

Mary Grey
Catherine of Siena Virtual College


For a more developed version of this work, see
Sacred Longings: Ecofeminist Theology and Globalization,
Mary Grey, SCM Press, London, 2003

Part I: Ecofeminist Thought and Practice

An example: Rural Rajasthan, Northwest India

As a practical introduction, let me give an example from rural Rajasthan in northwest India which is an arid zone, semi-desert. (There are also examples from the lives of the fisherwomen in Tamil Nadu, or women eking out wretched lives in city slums - the same factors apply). [1] As all over rural India and Africa, it is women’s job to fetch water - and in a drought situation this means walking for more than 6 kms a day - there and back; collecting firewood for cooking is also her lot - and all this must be done before the children are awoken, the family fed, the animals tended, all before a full day’s work in the fields. (Always supposing that there has been sufficient water to allow a crop to grow). At the end of this, the same process begins again. It is said that women work a 16 hour day, and this can be lengthened when there is a festival, with huge amounts of baking to be made ready. Rajasthan is the second poorest state in India and its women are among the most illiterate in the world.

A recent Government of Rajasthan report stated: [2]

"The status of women in Rajasthan is an international issue. Patriarchy, discriminatory customs and values, caste-based discrimination, high illiteracy and high rates of poverty seem pervasive. (Despite all efforts towards social justice, women) continue to be perceived as burdens."

The State then proposes many policies designed to empower women. The point here is not the document, but to illustrate the complex weave between the oppression of women and degradation of the nature. As readers will know, the reasons for desertification are complex and the effects on the whole community are devastating. In Rajasthan it means the migration of any able-bodied man to the cities in search of work - swelling the city slums to overwhelming proportions. But because of the traditional responsibility of women for sustaining life - food, water, firewood, care of infants, and because of the traditional low esteem of women, (for centuries not considered as real human beings), it is clear that when nature cannot provide these conditions), the suffering of both are interlinked.

Introduction and definitions

Liberation Theology awoke very late to the urgency of ecological issues. It was Leonardo Boff’s book, Ecology and Liberation: a New Paradigm, in 1992 that awoke the sleeping consciousness of Liberation Theology that the vital dimension of the needs of organic life itself had been ignored in the struggles for social justice. [3] A powerful cry to the Churches that emanated from the Rio Summit, calling for a profound repentance and turn to the earth. [4] Incipient awareness of eco-justice and environmental sin as structural sin did begin to have an impact on Christian theology. Even after this, there is still huge chasm of ignorance as to the reality represented by the term “Ecofeminism.”Still a vital connection had not been made – and still is not in official church circles.

Ecofeminism is, as Vandana Shiva - the Indian ecologist - and Maria Mies have pointed out, a new word for an old wisdom. [5] It is a union of two concerns - ecology and justice for women.

Ecology explores the interaction and interdependence of all life forms contained in the great web of life we call creation. It uncovers what promotes healthy interaction and what disrupts it - usually in the name of human greed. It does not stop at the physical devastation but asks what cultural and religious symbols, what psychological means people have used to distance from the earth and contribute to its domination.

Feminism focuses on the full humanity of women and the structural institutions, religious and cultural systems and concepts of the human person that hinder this across the world.

Ecofeminism focuses on the lost connection between the domination of women and domination of the earth. The same patriarchal structures which have kept in place the domination of one sex by the other have also permeated thinking on the environment.

The word ecofeminism was coined in 1974 by Françoise D’Eaubonne. The link women-nature is made by ecofeminist analysis on several levels.

Ecofeminist Analysis - three levels and an example

  • Patriarchal culture has often defined women as “closer to nature”. It has been said: “Female is to male as nature is to culture.” [6] In other words, women are supposed to be closer to the body, matter, earth, sexuality and bodily processes with all the presumed weaknesses, inferiority, and proneness to sin, that follow. Male human nature is supposed to be linked more with spirit, mind, progress, the formation of culture.

  • The second level is the way this is lived out in social constructions. The division of labour between the genders have meant that women’s responsibilities have been for the basic sustenance of life - feeding, bearing, bringing to birth and caring for the young, nursing and caring for the sick -young and elderly, cleaning.. Sadly, this has often been considered a private responsibility, in the home, contrasted with male responsibility for government, the conduct of civil affairs, and the running of most of society’s institutions.

  • But of course the falsity of this split has been unveiled. It is generally accepted that there is no strong nature /culture split in fact, there never has been. Nature always comes clothed in cultural assumptions: she is either idealised, romanticised, treated as a place for the dejected human spirit to be re-vitalised- “Get out into the countryside”; “Get away from it all”; or she is Mother Bountiful, Mother Nature, endless source of nourishment; or she is mindless nature, irrational, chaotic, needing human ordering; vast tracts of wilderness, it was claimed, needed to be tamed, domesticated, (for example in the opening up of the American west); or nature was just there, her resources to be plundered and exploited for human enjoyment. And in our own culture she is nature packaged and commodified - as we are encouraged to buy aromatherapy oils of juniper, lavender etc, shampoos of anything from coconut to banana and CDs of waterfalls and rainforests. All in the interests of de-stressing human beings!

    Cultural progress has demanded a distancing from nature and the harnessing of her resources for human pleasure. Yet the link between how women/nature have been associated, suffered or idealised together, has often been missed.

    Historical roots: One of the most blatant ways in history in which this was framed was in the work of the 17th century scientist Francis Bacon. “Nature is a woman, waiting to be raped,” he wrote, in a text called The Masculine Birth of Time. [7] Hitherto, Bacon wrote, we have had a weak and feminine science: but now he called for a strong and virile science. Nature’s secrets have to be wrested from her, literally tortured out of her. (When one realises that he wrote this at the time of the great European Witch Hunt -when elderly defenceless women were being tortured on a huge scale, it takes on a chilling significance). Bacon wanted objectivity and detachment to characterise research. It is only in our own times, through the ecofeminist lens, that we begin to challenge some of the presuppositions underlying much of science.

    It is true that in the last century many unjust divisions of labour in western cultures have been challenged by socialist and liberal feminism, but in many parts of the world it is assumed that legal, economic, sexual and social domination of women is part of the status quo. It goes unchallenged that where nature suffers, women suffer.

    So, what has this to do with religion - particularly with Christianity? This is the third level of the ecofeminist analysis. Christianity’s roots are in both Hebrew and Graeco-Roman worlds. The problem has been where the God of the Bible has been defined as outside and overagainst the material world, as its creator and lord, “when fused with Greek philosophical dualism of spirit and matter, this is seen as the primary identity myth of the Western ruling-class male”. [8] The sheer weight of this western tradition of a God transcendent to the world, outside the whole dimension of bodiliness, can hardly be over-emphasised. The text that becomes used and over-used in this respect is Genesis1-2 –the creation, specifically the text “Have dominion”. Historically this is constantly called upon to justify dominance and exploitation in different contexts.

    The damaging dualism that continues to haunt is that God is spirit, Spirit is holy and seen as contrary to matter, body, sexuality. This undergirds the teaching that the true home of the Christian is beyond this physical world, with the implication that this world is ultimately expendable. Use her, use her, lose her - a new other-earthly Paradise awaits you…

    Ecofeminist Theology - Myths and new Directions

    One of the first characteristics of ecofeminist theology is that it is a fusion of the environmental movement, feminism and women’ spirituality. That the earth and all living things are sacred is an underlying principle. This has led in many - often confusing - directions, frequently causing problems for Christians who see this as directly confrontational to Christianity.

    One myth to be disentangled is called by Rosemary Ruether the ecofeminist “Fall from Paradise” story. [9] This relates that in the Golden Age of matriarchy - supposed to be the hunter-gatherer/hunter-gardener stages of early history, (before any written text), men and women lived together peacefully, in egalitarian, classless societies, in a harmonious relationship with the whole of nature. These societies were characterised by goddess worship. And it is true that in Ancient Sumer Egypt, Canaan, Babylon, Greece and Rome, goddess worship held great sway. Even in the bible we now know that the struggle to establish the worship of Jahweh continued for centuries as the people were faithful to Asherah/Astarte - along with Jahweh worship.

    This – apparently - came to an abrupt end with the invasions throughout the Indo-European societies by patriarchal, violent races, (pastoralists) from the northern steppes, in the period between the 3rd and 6th centuries BCE. These warriors are supposed to have re-structured society on the basis of militarised domination - and goddess worship came to an official end or was swept under the carpet, as sect, mystery religion, subversive movement. On the surface this appears to be true. We know that the goddess-worshipping culture of Minoan Crete was overturned, as was Mycenaean Greece by a more warrior -like culture. The Hebrew prophets struggled continuously against the nature and fertility worship of Canaan. In India, the Aryan invasion displaced the tribal people to the mountains and eventually imposed the patriarchal code of Manu - in place even today.

    The consequences of literally invoking this myth have been, to encourage women - and non-patriarchal men - to assume that the rejection of patriarchal religion and call for the return of the Goddess would bring about the restoration of the Golden Age, when women, men and nature can return to harmonious co-existence.

    The truth, as always, is far more complex - and probably less enthralling than a leap into the inviting arms of the Goddess. First, how can we prove that there was a Golden Age of the Goddess - such a supposition is a-historical. There are no written texts from this period. To presume that the goddess-statues found in caves in Anatolia, or in the caves of Lascaux, (even if these are painted by women), prove an egalitarian culture goes far beyond the evidence. In societies like Minoan Crete, worship of the snake goddess was alongside the pantheon of other male-female goddesses.

    It is true that the earliest forms of religion seem to indicate that the deity worshipped was female. But for women to presume that the answer to patriarchal religion is a return to the presumed connection with the nurturing, body-reverencing powers of the goddess, both buys into the very essentialist connection between women/body/nature which needs eradicating. It also ignores the complexity of goddess worship: for example, the Hindu goddess Kali is violent, destructive and terrifying. In fact, Christianity is the one religion where all evil, ambiguity and violence is explicitly excluded from Divine being. It is equally damaging for men to try to reclaim the so-called “feminine” side of themselves by recourse to goddess religion, (a move encouraged by certain forms of Jungianism). This both leaves masculinity untouched in its associations with spirit, power and dominance and can reinforce new forms of dominating women.

    Without denying the need for dialogue with forms of Goddess spirituality which are actually inspiring lifestyles reverencing the earth and promoting sustainability, the task is more far-reaching for Christian theology. First, the women/body/nature connection has to be re-conceptualised to include both women and men. The task of re-structuring human personhood on the basis of an integration of body/spirit/nature is as urgent as re-thinking the whole philosophy of nature on which Christianity has been based. So I move to outlining the implications for a Christian theology of creation.

    References for Part I

    1. For these examples, see Gabriele Dietrich, “The World as the Body of God,” in Ecotheology 5/6, July 1998/January 1999:25-50.
    2. Report: Government of Rajasthan, 1999.
    3. Leonardo Boff, Ecology and Liberation - a New Paradigm (Maryknoll: Orbis 1985): translated by John Cumming.
    4. Letter to the Churches, (Geneva: WCC 1992).
    5. Vandana Shiva and Maria Mies, Ecofeminism (London: Zed Books 1993).
    6. Sherry Ortner, in Rosaldo and Lamphere eds., Women, Culture and Society (Stanford : Stanford University Press 1974). This is the title of the article.
    7. Francis Bacon, The Male Birth of time: the Great Restoration of Man’s Power over the Universe, cited in Faringdon B, The Philosophy of Francis Bacon (Liverpool 1964).
    8. Rosemary Radford Ruether, “Ecofeminism: First and Third World women,” in Ecotheology 2, January 1997:72-83. Quotation, p. 74. 9. Ruether, op cit., 74-5.


    Part II: Christian Creation Theology Re-envisioned

    Christian Creation Theology

    A Christian ecofeminist theology of creation demands a radical re-thinking of all our cosmic, cultural and vital theological reference points. Focusing on the vital link between justice for poor women and the sustaining of life opens up different priorities for Christian communities of all men and women. The Brazilian Roman Catholic Sister Yvone Gebara opens her book Longing for Running Water: Ecofeminism and Liberation by asserting that she has always lived in a city, never been a farmer or gardener, yet

    "I see that ecofeminism is born of daily life,
    of day-to-day sharing among people,
    of enduring together garbage in the streets, bad smells,
    the absence of sewers and safe drinking water,
    poor nutrition and adequate health care.
    The ecofeminism I see
    is born of the lack of municipal garbage collection,
    of the multiplication of rats, cockroaches, and mosquitoes,
    and of the sores of children’s skins."
    [10]

    This may be Brazil and not Geneva, but the connection between ecofeminism and liberation/justice issues is sharp and unavoidable: and, in any case, connections are everything! As the environmentalist George Monbiot wrote: “Boil a kettle in Birmingham and the flood waters rise in Bangladesh!” [11]

    Philosophical Reference Points

    Ecofeminist philosophy involves seeing and knowing ourselves and the world differently. It involves knowing ourselves as part of the web of life, in communion with and interdependent with all living things, with a special role and responsibility towards other life-forms. Not, as Descartes wrote, as disengaged subjects, observing the world as object. The challenge is to see both men and women as bodily-enspirited organisms, interdependent with plant and animal life - yet with particular responsibilities towards sustaining its wellbeing. It means discovering the ecological self, the self that unfolds in correspondence with the quality of life and the nurture offered by environmental resources and the kind of communion with them. That entails a new reading of Biblical sources from within the context of endangered species, destruction of forests and desertification, hopefully engendering a re-conversion to the earth. It means re-thinking the torch which women have carried for centuries in sustaining and nurturing life, in terms of both men and women undertaking this responsibility. Theologically, the invitation is to nurture the radical theological attitudes of gratitude, humility and wonder at human dependency on other life forms.

    As regards the world, the challenge is to act on the awareness that all our knowing and experiencing of the world takes place within our own alienated psyches, within the realities of environmental destruction, within the economic system of global capitalism and the reduction of many people/ life forms to the status of non-persons/non-beings. Again, Biblical sources inspire us: it is no accident that the Biblical Tree of Knowledge of good and evil is also the Tree of Life. From the beginnings of life on earth poor people come to know the world amidst the multiple oppressions framing their struggle for survival. For poor Jewish farmers it was the harsh climate, the arid land, the greed of rich landowners forcing them into bonded labour - this is the economic background of the Book of Genesis. Nowadays it is more complex - nuclear power, biotechnology experiments, patenting of seeds, pollution on a gigantic scale, desertification and global warming – all these are the obstacles to poor people’s struggle for survival: in the case of India we also have to factor in caste oppression.

    Nature from this perspective can neither be the mere backcloth for human activity, nor a romantic escape from pollution, but both subject, object and fellow victim and sufferer of human mismanagement.

    Revision: Vital Theological Reference Points

    The task of ecofeminist theology is at the heart of Christian community, for Ecclesia which takes seriously the realities of dwelling in specific bioregions. [12] There are many strands and traditions to be reclaimed and re-fashioned from a justice-oriented ecofeminist perspective – though I admit this is a discipline in its infancy and lacking a fully systematic perspective: [13]

    First, an Ecofeminist Theology of Creation involves experiencing the world as sacred, as held by sacred being or God. God is not extraneous to the world, but both transcendent/immanent, as power of life, energy, love, sustaining and energising this web of life. Instead of seeing God as a Being – the challenge is to believe in God as the Mystery of relational life and being itself - imaged within the full range of life forms. God is worshipped as rock, fire, running streams, eagle and dove, as well as through personal imagery of Protector, Nurturer, Parent, Guardian, Shepherd of being, both Father and Mother.

    I suggest we develop the image of the Trinitarian God in terms of Relational Being in ecological terms, to include God’s energy sustaining the entirety of life forms. It is possible to re-image the revered Roublev icon of the Holy Trinity in these terms. The altar is square, representing the four corners of the earth; the Tree of Life has its roots in the cosmos; the cup of suffering which Jesus is invited to drink involves the suffering of the earth itself. (There are other examples also). [14] So this relational communion at the heart of the Trinity is far from being merely an intra-Divine state of bliss; it is turned to the earth, to all the complex life forms in their daily struggle for survival and flourishing. This relational Divine presence voluntarily enters our world, (as the kenosis doctrine tells us), as life-giving, healing presence, even as we fear the forces of destruction overwhelm us. This God is both near, both communion drawing us into relation with other forms of life, and yet other, inviting respect, calling us out of a mere recognition of what is like only unto ourselves.

    Furthermore, the key categories of Liberation Theology itself can be recast in specifically ecofeminist terms. Ecofeminist imagery for God, instead of being satisfied with the rather woolly language of “sacred being,” or Divine presence in nature, has to take account of the terrible destructive forces of nature, the damaged, crippled lives of poor women; with the fact that poor people do not meet nature in romanticised form – sunrise or moonlight picnics on the seashore. Scavengers in India – the Dalits or Untouchables - still forced by birth into this caste - have to carry on their heads human night soil (= excrement) which they have loaded with their bare hands. And it is mostly women who do this work. This is their “relationship with nature.” How can religious language express all this?

    Feminist Liberation Theology has been offering a powerful new naming of God as the passion for Justice, as the power that works for justice and makes it. [15] Liberation Theology expresses faith in this God who hears the cry and the anguish of the poor. But in times of ecological crisis, as Sally McFague writes in her book, The Body of God, we have to widen the categories of poverty, for nature is now the new poor. [16] The compassionate, liberating ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, must be understood as inclusive of the suffering of birds and animals, of land turned to desert and streams polluted - and focused on the anguish of poor people sustaining life in these conditions. (My recent visit to Rajasthan moved me in terms of the misery of urban animals, in particular, the daily sight of pigs, forced to eat only the refuse from the rubbish dumps). How can life be sustained in these conditions? The sheer staying power and perseverance of poor women and small farmers throughout the world are a witness to the affirmation of life that is at the heart of ecofeminism.

    Ecofeminist theology appeals to the wisdom of God- the Divine Sophia/hokmah - revealed in myriads of simple, practical ways as well as in new dimensions of transcendence. If the way we experience the world is now mainly through disease and violence, then the Body of God is indeed a suffering Divine Body. At the same time women show that, what the west calls drudgery and tries to eliminate, by an overemphasis on machines and sophisticated technology, can actually give joy and sustaining power in the maintenance of life. And the Holy Spirit leads the way. I have developed elsewhere an ecological theology of Spirit for the crisis of our times. [17] I argued that the paradox of the Spirit’s activity is that, on the one hand, she works in silence, in the waiting time, in unseen creativity and hidden depths, awakening mutuality and empathy, touching sensitivity and longing for beauty; on the other hand, in a more subversive public face, she is a disruptive Spirit, keeping chaos and spontaneous prophetic activity alive, fuelling a compassion that crosses rigid boundaries. So, a special symbol of the Spirit for our times, may not be so much the peaceful dove, but the symbol of the Spirit as “The Wild Bird who heals.” [18] She is goose, swan, even eagle or bird of prey, arising in many spiritualities today. This is the Spirit calling us to protect the wetness and wildernesses and the creatures who live there. This is the Spirit as the green face of God: the "Wild Bird who heals" emerges, calling for the end of limited theologies of stewardships of creation, to ignite full-blown biocentric theology and practice. The Wild Goose flies for the Iona Community in Scotland: for Hinduism the swan is a symbol of the Spirit.

    The Wild Bird is not then a feeble addition to the vertical Father/Son relation, but the dynamic symbolic - and passionate – and beautiful unity of all life forms. In this biophilic revelation of spirit the density of much of former theological inspiration moves forward. The prophetic spirit as green face of God speaks forth a language linking human and non-human, revealing the false logic on which this split is built. As Spirit of truth, the Wild Bird leads us into a truth that builds just practises enabling flourishing for all life-forms. Thus the power of the Spirit’s energy, is the power of being re-vitalised by being put in touch once again with the truth of sustaining forces of life.

    For that moment
    there will be nothing dove
    about the Spirit
    as she fiercely leads you
    through wholesome refusals
    and undreamt-of surrenders
    out of those
    wonderfully clear choices
    within the boundaries of which
    you will land so awkwardly;
    but you will be like her:
    exhilarated in your every part
    by such strong-winged
    full-feathered
    singe-hearted
    flight!
    [19]

    In these days of threatened wilderness, to sink into uncritical presence of the Spirit in wildness is self-indulgence. But to call for - as the ecofeminist Sharon Betcher does - a Pneumatology of Sanctuary - offers a transforming practice. She suggests that, just as the churches recovered the mediaeval practice of sanctuary to try to protect refugees escaping over the border from Mexico to the USA so we should see the Spirit as the Spirit of sanctuary, protecting and healing the wetlands, the grasslands, the deserts and all the indigenous creatures, both human and non-human. [20] In the praxis of a Pneumatology of sanctuary, she says, the Spirit takes place.

    In a similar fashion to the doctrine of God, other key reference points can be revisioned. Rosemary Ruether has suggested that Christianity’s powerful sacramental tradition and Sabbath traditions of blessing can be re-envisioned to include directly the honouring of creation as it affects the suffering and need for justice of poor people and especially poor women. Traditions with a rich liturgical theology of creation in its liturgy need to address the specifics of poor people. Creation wounded by the acts of humanity and its ruthless systems must be highlighted. The raw elements of eucharistic liturgy – bread/body and wine/blood - affect the lives of poor people directly. There are taboos surrounding the blood - flow of women, for example. (In Tamil Nadu women cannot enter the sea for fear of pollution - except, strangely, on Christmas Day). Yet, we allow these symbols to free-float, without anchoring it in the daily anguish of poor people the world over in their sustaining the very life for which Jesus lived and died.

    Thirdly, the covenant tradition is the backbone of Judaism and Christianity. This can be re-envisioned to include all living organisms, and the rhythm of life itself for which God promised to be responsible in the Covenant with Noah – as Rosemary Ruether suggested in Gaia and God. The words of Jeremiah 31, “There will be a new thing on Earth: a woman protects a man” [21] offer a genuine prophetic statement that can receive new fulfilment in the context of ecofeminism. In attending to the implications of what is happening to the earth in industry, technology, for its effects on life-sustainability, ecofeminists are being faithful to this covenant.

    Fourth, Christianity has a strong mystical tradition. Instead of seeing this as an individual’s visionary experience, (something the genuine mystical tradition has never done), ecofeminist theology recovers mystical experience as a community experience both of God’s energy – expressed by Hildegarde of Bingen as greenness /viriditas - and the darkness of God’s pain in the suffering/dying of creation. The cross of Christ is re-planted ever anew in the suffering and fragility, the vulnerability of the flawed places of existence.

    The next reference point is the ethical. But if ethics is given a real theological basis it flows form everything I have just argued. Here I want to plead for a re-thinking of liturgy as a place of ethical commitment and sacrifice as a community act of solidarity with the suffering earth/suffering people. A place where memory/ Anamnesis becomes remembering what we were once, what we have been, what we can now never be, given so much destruction. A place for the recovery of prophetic lament and grief for all that has disappeared, and the glory of God that can never be, because of what has been destroyed, what we are still destroying… A place where we commit ourselves concretely, to lifestyles geared to the flourishing and survival of threatened peoples.

    And, finally, this brings us full circle to eschatology, to a tradition that encouraged us to consider the earth as disposable. Let us recover an Ecofeminist Eschatology: rather than presuming that this world is disposable, that we merely pass through on our way to eternal bliss, let us develop an ethics of care, which extends to all forms of life and the very possibility of future life. And a care for the spaces and places where we dwell. The future depends on the mercy of God. This the special gift of Ecofeminism- the responsibility for the particularity of space - matter matters, whether it be people, trees or the stones that shape our dwelling spaces.

    Christian praxis can have no higher ideal than the ethics of the Kingdom of peace and justice. But this very ideal is placed within the rhythm of dying/rebirth. Resurrection faith first demands that our lives are surrendered to the mercy and hope of God, source of life. It may be that the very possibility of heaven depends on a Resurrection story for the earth itself. It may be that our own hope of Risen Life is held in tension with the way we have given our energies to sustaining life on earth and that we have not understood the way the earth herself is part and parcel of our own journey.

    Perhaps the Woman of Revelations 12 offers a profound symbolism and hope? It was the earth who rescued her from the jaws of the dragon, the earth who had prepared a safe space for her. It could be that the redemptive processes are far more profound than we have begun to glimpse. It may be that this woman is now returning from the desert to show a new way - New Woman, New earth, - and this is the promise of ecofeminism for Christian theology.

    Conclusion

    In conclusion I return to the image of the meeting of the waters, the confluence of many currents. Ecofeminist theology – as I have been arguing - is a discipline in its infancy. It is a creative confluence of many currents, not an ordered system of thought. This creativity is expressed through its interdisciplinarity and especially in its insistence on dialoguing with science. It is instructive to remember that the development of ecology itself owes much to Rachel Carson, not only to her work on insecticides in The Silent Spring, but to her patient attention to marine forms of life in her earlier work, The Edge of the Sea. [22] Her work brings together not only scientific knowledge buy a sense of wonder, almost contemplation, that is also the hallmark of mystical religion. This mystical wonder – also present in nature poetry – is characteristic of ecofeminist spirituality. In its openness to insights from many religious traditions - I think, for example, of Rosemary Ruether’s conversations with the Buddhist thinker, Rita Gross [23] – new possibilities for religious experiences are facilitated. In its insistence on the importance of ritual – even among those who have lost touch with official Church membership - it invites the recovery of vital yet buried creation traditions within Christianity. But the strongest current of all, that carries all others along with it, must be the eradication of the linked oppression of women and earth, and the re-telling of the Christian story to promote their mutual healing.

    References for Part II

    10. Yvone Gebara, Longing for Running Water (Minneapolis: Fortress 1999):2.
    11. George Monbiot, The Guardian, January 26th, 2000.
    12. See M.Grey, Beyond the Dark night- a Way forward for the church? (London: Cassell 1997), Chapter 3.
    13. See here Rosemary Radford Ruether, Gaia and God (San Francisco: Harper and Row 1992).
    14. Trinitarian imagery can be widened to include the ecological Trinity, as does the image from Holy Trinity Church, Long Melford, in Suffolk, England; the three rabbits represent God’s watchfulness as well as ceaseless movement.
    15. See Carter Heyward, Our Passion for Justice (New York: Pilgrim 1984).
    16. Sally McFague, The Body of God (London: SCM 1993).
    17. See M. Grey, Sacred Longings: Ecofeminist Theology and Globalisation (London: SCM 2003), Chapter 6.
    18. See Mark Wallace, Fragments of the Spirit (New York: Continuum, 1996).
    19. Bernadette McCarrick, “A Different Spirit,” the source is personal.
    20. See Sharon Betcher, “Groundswell: A Pneumatology of Sanctuary,” in Ecotheology 7, 1999: 22-39.
    21. See Gabriel Dietrich, op cit., p.45.
    22. Rachel Carson, The Edge of the Sea (Boston:Houghton Miflin Co 1955); The Silent Spring (Boston: Houghton Miflin Co 1962).
    23. Rita M. Gross and Rosemary Radford Ruether, Religious Feminism and the Future of the Planet (New York: Continuum 2001).


    Celebrated feminist Dr. Mary Grey's career includes Professorships at the Universities of Nijmegen, Southampton and the University of Wales, Lampeter. Her current position is as Research Professor at St Mary's University College, Twickenham, London. While her research has focused primarily on Feminist Liberation Theology and Spiritualities, it has also encompassed Ecofeminist theology, Ecological theology and Spirituality, Indian Liberation theology, Jewish-Christian dialogue, Systematic theology from a Feminist perspective and the relationship between Social Justice and theology.

    Her recent book, To Rwanda and Back: Liberation Spirituality and Reconciliation, was born from a recent journey to that country. The book details how Grey's experience led to a re-examination of her understanding of justice and reconciliation. It weaves into an interconnected whole ideas from many different religious and ethnic traditions - Hindu, Sufi, Islamic, Korean, Jewish, Yoruba - and many different theological traditions - liberation and feminist theology and eco-theology. Her work in Liberation Theology is underpinned by a long involvement in the desert state of Rajasthan, as co-founder of the charity, Wells for India.

    Current positions: Professor at the Catherine of Siena Virtual College; Visiting Professor at St Mary's University College, Twickenham; and Honorary Professor at the University of Winchester. Most recently she has become associated with a new Centre at St Mary's University College, InSpiRe: Centre for Initiatives in Spirituality and Reconciliation. Her latest books are The Advent of Peace: a Gospel Journey to Christmas, which illustrates this focus on reconciliation; A Cry for Dignity: Religion, Violence, and the Struggle of Dalit Women in India, Equinox, 2010; and The Resurrection of Peace: A Gospel Journey to Easter and Beyond, SPCK, forthcoming November 2012. To view her full CV, click here.


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    — Hélder Câmara (Brazil, 1909-1999)

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