maggi dawn

Category: liturgy and worship

“There are no women on my theology bookshelf…”

Last year on Twitter, someone wrote to me “there are no women on my theology bookshelf. Who should I read?”. I followed up with a blog list, and was pleased to discover that without even looking up from my screen I could easily think of well over a hundred female theologians, ecclesiastical historians, biblical scholars, sociologists of religion, and others who figure on the theological landscape. More names appeared when I actually looked at my own bookshelf.

Replies flooded in through the comments, adding many more names of women authors – both academic and devotional, theoretical and practical, in every area of the theological landscape. Now this has become something of a go-to resource – so, incomplete though it is, here it is again, still being updated from time to time with names added from the comments section.

This list was not carefully compiled, it started simply as a ‘brain dump’ of everyone I could think of in a first shot, then with a second round of additions. Of course, since then I’ve thought of many more who were omissions to my original list, but rather than make this blog a lifelong project, I am collecting all the additions –including those suggested by you in the comments — to create a more comprehensive list for use as a bibliographical resource. More news on that soon – watch this space!


When people ask about women theologians, the subtext is often “I need to read about ‘women’s issues‘ in theology so I need a female author”. But women’s voices in theology are not necessarily writing on “women’s issues” per se, they are simply writing theology. Certainly their experience of theology will be colored by the fact they are a woman. But there is something insidious about assuming that women are there to add ‘women’s issues’ to what is otherwise neutral theology. It implies that theology written by men (mostly white men, incidentally) is neutral theology, while women add on-the-side issues that are not central. But in fact, no one gives you neutral theology. Barth gives you male, Swiss, post-war, post-liberal theology – strongly inflected by his historical setting and personal circumstances. Rahner gives you the perspective of a 20th century, German, male, celibate, catholic priest, wrestling with language after Wittgenstein. Hauwerwas gives you white, American, Protestant theology; James Cone gives you black, American, Protestant theology – it’s all theology, but every one of them writes in a way nuanced by their particular setting. There is no such thing as neutral theology. There is theology done by people who may be male, female, or non-binary; by people who may be white, black or Latinx, people in North or South America, Antarctica, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia, by people who may be disabled or not, Western or not, poor or rich. And theology by women is not done just for women, nor is it only about women; neither should it be treated as a secondary tier of theology. It’s theology for everyone, done by women.

As I set out on my PhD studies a few years ago, with my first degree behind me, I began to get calls from publishers asking me to write about women in theology, feminist theology, what is it like to be a woman and a theologian. I took these very flattering letters along to my supervisor, herself a seasoned writer and renowned theologian. “You have a choice,” she said. “You can write about women’s issues as they relate to theology, and that is a fine thing to do. Or you can just carry on doing theology in your area of interest. But you can’t do both.”
“Why not?” I asked.
I never forgot her reply: “I’ve seen so many women start out with such
promise,” she said. “Then they are asked to write about being a woman, about being a feminist, and all that stuff. They spend so much time on that, their real area of interest is swamped, and then they don’t do so well on their first call. Then guess what happens? – men, behind closed doors, say to one another – ‘told you so! women can’t cut it in theology!’ So you choose: read Coleridge, or read feminist theory; do one well, but don’t do both of them badly. Whatever area of interest you choose, you are being a feminist anyway.”

There are so many women with interesting things to say, some writing about feminism in particular, but many more simply writing about areas of theology that used to be thought of as a male preserve – or, the earlier you go, writing theology against the culture that denied them access to what was assumed to be a male preserve. This list names some of them. It is very far from a complete list, as I am jotting these down off the top of my head – but the fact that I can come up with a list of more than a hundred without even looking at my bookshelf is evidence enough that there are plenty of places to go if you realize there are “no women on your bookshelf”. My categories are not perfect – and some of these writers could appear in two or three categories, but such is the impossibility of lists. I’ve read a lot of books, but I haven’t read everything in every field so there will, of course, be many omissions – if someone’s name isn’t here it is due to my ignorance or forgetfulness, not a reflection on their work! Please do add your recommendations in the comments – Note – this is about ‘women on your bookshelf‘ – a bibliography resource rather than a hagiography of amazing women, of whom there are many, and that could be another post all of its own!

ancient voices 
Hildegaard of Bingen (12th Century, German)
Héloïse (Heloise, Héloyse, Helouisa, Eloise, among other spellings) – famed for letters between her and Peter Abelard 12th Century (see also a number of women who have written about them)
Mechthild (Mechtild/Matilda) of Magdeburg (c. 1207 – c. 1282/1294)
Clare of Assisi (13th century Italian)
Julian of Norwich (14th century English mystic) – also note the excellent Frances Beer who writes about her
Margery Kempe
Catherine of Siena (14th Century Italian)
Theresa of Avila (16th century Spanish)

19th and early 20th century 
Katharine Bushnell
Phoebe Palmer (1807 – 1874, American)
Catherine Mumford Booth (19th century English)
Jessie Penn Lewis (1861–1927, Welsh) 
Simone Weil (1909 –1943, French)  
Charlotte von Kirschbaum (1899-1975,  German)
Evelyn Underhill (1875 –194, English)

biblical studies
Margaret Barker
Jo Bailey-Wells
Lynn Cohick  (Philippians, Ephesians)
Adela Yarbro Collins
Ellen Davis
Katharine Dell
Michal Beth Dinkler
Mary Douglas
Wil Gafney
Beverly Gaventa
Deirdre Good – biblical studies
Paula Gooder
A. Katherine Grieb – Romans
Judith Gundry Paul and Perseverance: Staying in and Falling Away, 1990
Jane Heath
Morna Hooker
Denise Dombkowski Hopkins – Hebrew Bible
Catherine Kroeger – Biblical studies
Dorothy Lee (Transfiguration, 2004)
Judith Lieu
Lucy Peppiatt
Pheme Perkins
Elizabeth Schussler-Fiorenza
Carolyn J. Sharp
Francesca Stavrakopoulou
Elsa Tamaz
Phylis Trible
Gale A. Yee, Hebrew Bible

early christianity (AKA patristics)
Pamela Bright – on Tychonius, Augustine
Roberta Bondi (To Pray and to Love; To Love as God Loves, and other titles)
Virginia Burrus
Liz Clark
Kate Cooper
Nicola Denzey
Susanna Elm
Carolyn (Cally) Hammond
Meira Kensky (biblical studies/early christianity – see “Trying Man, Trying God: The Divine Courtroom in Early Jewish and Christian Literature”)
Morwenna Ludlow
Patricia Cox Miller
Elaine Pagels
Sara Parvis
Karen Torjesen
Christine Trevett — Late Antique religion (also 17th-century sectarianism)
Frances Young
Susan Wood

early christian art and culture 
Felicity Harley-McGowan
Susan Ashbrook Harvey

Julie Canlis (writes on Calvin)
Christine Helmer (16th-C religion, Reformation, Schleiermacher, Luther, philosophy of religion, constructive and systematic theology)
Charlotte Methuen
Jeannine Olson – Reformation history
Susan Schreiner (Calvin Scholar)

philosophical/systematic/dogmatic/historical theology
Marilyn McCord Adams
Lorraine Cavanagh
Sarah Coakley
M. Shawn Copland
(yours truly) Maggi Dawn
Grace Jantzen
Elizabeth Johnson
Karen Kilby
Renate Kobler
Catherine Mowry LaCugna
Sallie McFague (also in ethics)
Janice McRandal (see Christian Doctrine and the Grammar of Difference)
Sara Maitland – (my favourite: A Big-Enough God: Artful Theology, 1994)
Margaret Miles (history of theology)
Nancey Murphy
Catherine Pickstock
Amy Plantinga Pauw
Rosemary Radford Ruether
Letty Russell
Marika Rose
Tracey Rowland
Anna Rowlands – Catholic theology
Sandra M. Schneiders
Suzanne Selinger
Kate Sonderegger
Janet Soskice
Kathryn Tanner
Cathy Thomson
Heather Thomson
Susannah Ticciati (apophatic theology, Barth, Augustine)
Angela Tilby
Medi Ann Volpe
Frances Ward
Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendell
Anna Williams

theological memoir (strong in theological content but doubly interesting for their literary form)
Karen Armstrong
Nadia Bolz-Weber
Dorothy Day
Anne Lamott
Rachel Mann – Dazzling Darkness
Chine Mbubaegbu Am I Beautiful
Kathleen Norris
Katherine Jefferts Schori
Lauren Winner

theology, literature and the arts (including novels, poetry and literary critique of notable theological content)
Gillian Boughton – Literature and Christianity
Ruth Etchells (a pioneer in Literature and Theology)
Kathy Galloway (would also figure in systematics) 
Mary Karr Sinners Welcome 
Sarah Miles – Take this Bread
Flannery O’Connor
Marilynne Robinson – Gilead, Home
Dorothy L. Sayers – The Mind of the Maker, Creed and Chaos

ecclesiastical history
Caroline Walker Bynum (medieval history and theology)
Rona Johnston Gordon
Judith Herrin
Frances Knight
Judith Maltby
Jessica Martin
Jane Shaw
Miranda Threlfall-Holmes Monks and Markets: Durham Cathedral Priory 1460-1520
Hannah Thomas – early modern English Catholicism
Christine Trevett — 17th-century sectarianism (also Late Antique religion)
Megan Williams

sociology of religion/religious studies
Kristin Aune
Eileen Barker
Grace Davie
Penny Edgell
Sally Gallagher
Slavica Jakelic
Bernice Martin
Sarah Jane Page
Laurel Schneider
Sonya Sharma
Linda Woodhead

asian christianity and theology
Chloe Starr
Melba Padilla Maggay
Violeta T. Bautista
Pui-Lan Kwok – postcolonial theology

liturgy, worship, musicology
Kimberley Belcher
Teresa Berger
Marva Dawn (no relation!)
Siobhan Garrigan
Maeve Louise Heaney
Monique Ingalls
Janet Morley — All Desires Known
Gail Ramshaw
Tanya Riches
Melanie Ross The Serious Business of Worship (ed., 2010)
Nicola Slee

ethics/political theology
Susannah Cornwall (theological ethics, sexuality)
Keri Day
Kelly Brown Douglas (Sexuality and the Black Church)
Margaret Farley
Carrie Pemberton Ford
Jane Foulcher
Amy Laura Hall (also writes on Kierkegaard)
Melanie Harris
Jennifer Herdt
Ann Morisy
Rachel Muers
Esther Reed
Anna Rowlands
Emilie Townes
Deanna Thompson (Lutheran, feminist religion)
Ruth Valerio
Traci. C. West

faith and media
Heidi A. Campbell

Olive Fleming Drane
Angela Gorrell — Always On (2019)
Bex Lewis
Pam Smith (@revpamsmith)

Barbara Brown-Taylor
Kate Bruce – Igniting the Heart: Preaching and Imagination
Anna Carter Florence
Susan Durber
Fleming Rutledge
Nora Tubbs Tisdale

devotional writing and pastoral/applied/practical theology (including education, youth) (you’re right, this category needs dividing up! watch this space …)
Dorothy Bass
Christina Baxter
Charisse Barron
Zoe Bennett
Elizabeth Caldwell
Joan Chittister
Katie Cross (Practical Theology)
Becca Dean — Be, Live, Pray
Rachel Held Evans
Barbara Glasson, A spirituality of survival
Elaine Graham (Practical Theology)
Janet Henderson
Vanessa Herrick
Jane Keiller
Anne Kitch
Joyce Mercer (Practical Theology)
Bonnie Miller-McLemore
Mary Kate Morse
Mary Clark Moschella (Practical Theology)
Kathleen Norris
Evelyn L. Parker
Elaine Ramshaw, Ritual and Pastoral Care
Janet K. Ruffing
Margaret Silf
Rosie Ward, Growing Women Leaders, nurturing women’s leadership in the Church
Lucy Winkett
Margaret Whipp
Almeda M. Wright
Karen Marie Yust

feminist/liberation/womanist/queer theology
Marcella Althaus-Reid
Ann Loades (see – Feminist Theology: A Reader)
Mary Daly
Ruth M. B. Gouldbourne
Jacquelyn Grant: White women’s Christ, Black Women’s Jesus was the first? (or among the first?) womanist book, and a notable corrective to some aspects of feminist theology
Daphne Hampson
Elaine Kaye (with Janet Lees & Kirsty Thorpe – Daughters of Dissent)
Janet Lees
Serene Jones
Eboni Marshall-Turman (Toward a Womanist Ethic of Incarnation…)
Mercy Amba Oduyoye Daughters of Anowa: African Women and Patriarchy (1995)
Julie Faith Parker
Judith Plaskow
Rosemary Radford Ruether
Elizabeth Schussler-Fiorenza
Elaine Storkey (her What’s Right with Feminism is a classic intro)
Kirsty Thorpe
Linn Tonstad
Renita Weems (also in biblical studies)

40 ways: keeping a joyful, thankful, holy Lent

Lent begins on Wednesday February 10th 2016;  it lasts a bit over 6 weeks, or around 40 Days. So here are 40 ideas for keeping Lent. The Great Commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your giving it up heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbour as yourself” (with the implication that caring for God’s earth is rolled into the bargain) so I’ve thought up 40 ideas for keeping Lent that appeal to the creative and literary, to the development of community and relationships, to promote social action, and to encourage ecological responsibility, as well as individual spiritual concerns. You could:

  • choose just one of these (such as writing a thank you note) and do it every day.
  • choose one category and repeat it throughout Lent.
  • choose one from each category to do throughout Lent.
  • agree with a group of friends, or with your congregation, on one or more of these to practice together.

If you are very organised and energetic, I suppose you could even do them all. But I think it unlikely.

1. Start or join an online book club and read a Lent book with others.
2. Start or join a local book club to read a Lent book with others.
3. Watch “40” by Si Smith
4. Choose one great novel you have never read, and read it this Lent. Middlemarch, or To Kill a Mockingbird, for instance. Is there a character you closely identify with?
5. Choose a great novel you have read before, and re-read it. Take your time. What do you see this time that you didn’t see before? A character you didn’t notice, a theme you missed the first time, a theme that touches you now because 5/10/20 years on you see the world differently?
6. Choose one new musician or artist and listen to their work regularly throughout Lent. Listen to the words. Listen to the tone, the melody, the structure, the texture of the music. Why does it move you?

Social/community spirituality
7. Say sorry. Where is there a relationship that is cooled, ruptured, upset? Say sorry.
8. Write a random thank you note (or email, but handwritten is so lovely!). Who do you appreciate?
9. Make a list of your friends. One per day, send a brief email, make a phone call or post a brief note to say hello. Keep it short and do-able: the point is to keep in touch, not write a novel!
10. Keep a group journal. See here for Steve Taylor’s Advent Journal, and adapt it for Lent.
11. Invite friends for a Simple Sunday Soup lunch. The company is the point. Eat together. Simple, unfussy food; good, sustaining company.
12. Make a point of smiling and saying thank you to people – in shops, on buses, in pubs, on pavements, to delivery people, to teachers and roadsweepers and vicars, and…
13. Power down. See whether you can agree a no-phones at meals policy in your home, switch off all technology 30-60 minutes before bedtime, and make sure you have 30 minutes of uninterrupted time with the person(s) you love the most several times a week.

Spirituality and prayer
14. Don’t give up cake, or chocolate. Instead, give up inherited ideas about God that cripple your soul. See here for more.
15. Read all the way through one Gospel of your choice. About half a chapter a day, or less if you pick Mark.
16. Say a prayer of thanksgiving every day. Thank God for the things you usually take for granted: food, clothes, shelter, life itself.
17. Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down, and learn to keep still and silent for five minutes every day. (You might need to start with one minute and work your way up gradually.) Listen to the inner voice.

Social action
18. Take your unwanted clothes and goods to the Goodwill/Oxfam/charity shop.
19. Volunteer some time at a local charity.
20. Make a donation to a charity.
21. Join the dots between prayer and action: choose something to pray for *and* give time or money to.
22. Find out which of your local schools needs volunteers to hear children read.
23. Revive a medieval habit: reduce your household bills by eating more simply, and give the money saved to the poor. (Combine with no. 11 to make it a community exercise.)

Ecological/environmental – form a new habit in Lent to care for the earth.
24. Change the light bulbs in your house to eco-bulbs, and turn off lights when you leave the room. (Note: that thing about flourescent bulbs using as much energy to turn on as they do to burn for 30 minutes? It’s an urban myth. Turn them off.)
25. Turn the heating down by one or two degrees
26. Hang up your laundry instead of using the dryer.
27. Unplug your appliances when you aren’t using them. Do the earth a favour, and save around $100 US/£60 GBP a year as well, which you could give to charity or church.
28. Learn how to reduce your energy consumption. (Bonus: your bills will go down so you can give a little more away!)
29. Reduce, Re-use, Recycle i) – reduce food wastage. Shop with a list; use up leftovers, only buy and cook what you can eat and really need.
30. Reduce, Re-use, Recycle ii) – spend a couple of hours one weekend thinking about your shopping habits. How can you buy less, avoid buying what you don’t really want or need, eliminate shopping for leisure, buy vintage, buy fairtrade. Fairtrade USA  — Fairtrade UK
31. Use your bicycle, the bus, or share car journeys. Less fuel used = happier earth.
32. Find a source of locally grown food and support it, or grow something yourself.

Joy-inspiring spiritual practices.
33. Pause 4 or 5 times today to give thanks for what you usually take for granted. Food. Shelter. Life. Friends.
34. Take a leisurely walk, alone or with friends. Stop often to look for beauty.
35. De-clutter a cupboard or wardrobe. Give away what you don’t use or need.
36. Sing! Singing fills your system with oxygen and makes you feel better.
37. Look up! What do you miss on your daily journeys by looking down at your feet?
38. Clean the windows. Let the sunshine in!
39. Plant some bulbs in the garden or in a pot for the windowsill.
40.  Say thank you to others, for simple things. Tell people when you appreciate their kindness or value their friendship. Don’t wait to give a eulogy: tell them now.

For more on Lent: check out my book – Giving it Up: Daily Readings from Ash Wednesday to Easter Day

You must be born again.

I preached at St Michael St George, St Louis on Sunday. Several people have asked for the script. In fact, although I wrote a script I didn’t read it very closely, so the words below are only approximately, and not precisely what I said. All the same, for my new friends in St Louis, and anyone else who’s interested, here is the script:Starry night over the rhone, Van Gogh

‘You must be Born again!’

‘God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son…’

These two phrases from John 3 are associated more than anything with conversion, probably because they are so over-used in a particular religious culture in which preachers urge their listeners to change their lives without delay, and by an effort of will, make a decision to follow Jesus. It’s pitched as Good News. But does it feel like good news? Delivered like a demand, under pressure, it may feel more like bad news.

Read the story closely, though, and you find that these two phrases are not about an overnight conversion at all, but about a secret conversation. Read the rest of this entry »

Liturgy – it’s *not* the work of the people

There is a prevalent popular saying that liturgy is “the work of the people” – based, it is claimed, on the meaning of the original Greek word. But the current popular application of the word is often used to reinforce the idea that worship should be planned and executed by the people, according to their own taste, without any regard to liturgical tradition, doctrinal concerns, or church order.

This may sound like one of those moments when the etymology of an ancient word brings about a radical re-think of how we enact our faith.  But when it comes to this particular pop-phrase on liturgy, it’s application is not nearly radical enough, and its translation isn’t accurate enough. “Litourgeia” did certainly connect “work” and “the people”, but its meaning is lost if we use it merely to demand that the congregation gets to design their own worship.

What did litourgeia really mean? A litourgeia, in Greek usage, typically referred to a piece of work initiated by patronage for the purposes of the public good. So, for instance, if a wealthy person or group of people wanted to sponsor something for a town, they might initiate the building of a town hall – the work was initiated by some people who had the means to make it happen, and executed by others who had the skills and expertise to deliver the structure, but the result was something that existed for the benefit of all the people – and really, that meant all. It meant public – so that its benefits were available to everyone.

Anyone who knows my work knows that I am fully subscribed to including the community in the design and performance of liturgy. But that is with the caveat that such work takes place in the context of exploring the history, riches, expertise, theological wisdom and scriptural foundation of our faith. To say “liturgy is the work of the people” as an argument for doing away with tradition entirely, or for the unskilled to design worship, or more particularly to reinforce the idea that worship is something we do to satisfy our own tastes, or as a mandate to shift the balance of power inside the four walls of the Church, we have missed the point entirely. The really radical stuff begins when we understand that a liturgy – a work of worship – is supposed to be a work supported by proper expertise, and to have public benefits, not just personal satisfaction.

Back in 2011 I wrote in an article,

“… liturgy might legitimately be said to be work that is first for God, that also transforms our world and benefits people. But liturgy isn’t mine or yours. And it isn’t a mandate for “the people” to do whatever they like in church, regardless of tradition or order. In short, it’s not about me….

…the work of the people” is easily misused to imply that anyone and everyone has the right to have worship be the way they like it. And while I’m absolutely subscribed to inclusivity in worship, the second you cross that line to say “worship is about me”, worship disintegrates into an unholy mess. It’s not about me, or about you. It’s not the work of the people, it’s work in service of God that benefits the people. It’s FOR the people, but not OF them.”

I still think so.