Women Doing Theology in the United States

These are the 10 theologians you should know

By Yenny Delgado

When you think of female theologians does a specific name or scholar come to mind? 

Over the past few decades there have been numerous intellectual and theological contributions from women in the United States from both Protestant and Catholic backgrounds. Below, I present the contribution of the 10 most influential women theologians that you should know:

  1. Emilie M Townes

Dr. Townes is a pioneer in Womanist theology. Womanist theology is a field of study in which the historical and current ideas of women of African descent in the United States highlight the critical engagement and traditions of Christian theology. She has developed a keen interest in critical thinking about women’s perspectives on topics such as health care, economic justice, and literary theory.

True to her academic work, she continues her research on women and health in the African diaspora in both Brazil and the United States.

Publications:

  • Womanist Ethics and the Cultural Production of Evil (2006).
  • Breaking the Fine Rain of Death: African American Health Care and a Womanist Ethic of Care (1998).
  • In a Blaze of Glory: Womanist Spirituality as Social Witness (1995).
  • Womanist Justice, Womanist Hope (1993).

2. Katie Cannon

Dr. Cannon was a specialist in ethics and black theology. In 1974 she became the first African American woman ordained in the United Presbyterian Church. She is credited with founding women’s theology and ethics as a field. Additionally, Dr. Cannon, founded and organized the Center for Women’s Leadership at Union Presbyterian Seminary.

Publications:

  • Womanism and the Soul of the Black Community (1998.)
  • Black womanist ethics (1988)

 3. Elizabeth Conde Frasier

Dr Conde is an ordained pastor of the American Baptist Church with more than ten years of pastoral experience and as a practical theologian.

She was founder of the Orlando E. Costas Hispanic and Latin American Ministries Program at Andover Newton School of Theology, served as full professor of religious education at Claremont School of Divinity, and as academic dean and vice president of education at Esperanza College of Eastern University. Director of AETH.

Publications:

  • Atando Cabos Latinx Contributions to Theological Education (2021)
  • A Many-Colored Kingdom: Multicultural Dynamics for Spiritual Formation (2004)

4. Diana Hayes

Dr. Hayes emeritus Professor of Systematic Theology at Georgetown University. Her areas of expertise are womanist theology, black theology, US liberation theologies, contextual theologies, religion and public life, and African American and womanist spirituality.

Dr. Hayes is the first African American woman to receive the Pontifical Doctor of Sacred Theology (STD) degree from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, and has also received three honorary doctorates.

Publications:

  • No Crystal Stair: Womanist Spirituality. (2016)
  • Forged in the Fiery Furnace: African American Spirituality. (2012)
  • Standing in the Shoes My Mother Made: A Womanist Theology. (2010)

5. Kathryn Tanner

Dr Tanner her research links the history of Christian thought with contemporary issues of theological interest using social, cultural, and feminist theory. For eight years he has been a member of the Theology Committee that advises the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church.

Publications:

  • God and Creation in Christian theology (2004)
  • The Politics of God: Christian Theologies and Social Justice. (1992)
  • Theories of Culture: A New Agenda for Theology (1997)

6. Kelly Brown

Dr. Brown is Dean of Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. In 2019, she was appointed to the Bill and Judith Moyers Professor of Theology. Kelly is considered a leader in the field of womanist theology, racial reconciliation, social justice, and sexuality and the black church.

Publications: 

  • Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and Justice of God (2015)
  • Sexuality and the Black Church: A Womanist Perspective. (1999)
  • Resurrection Hope: A Future Where Black Lives Matter.(2021)

7. Wonhee Anne Joh

Dr. Joh theologian is a professor, and lecturer whose influence on the disciplines of religion, women’s equality, and the Asian-American experience has created a great deal of positive thought and discourse.

Publications:

  • Heart of the Cross: A Postcolonial Christology.( 2006)
  • Critical Theology against US Militarism in Asia: Decolonization and Deimperialization (2016)
  • Engaging the United States as a Military Empire: Critical Studies of Christianity from Asian/Asian North American Perspectives. (2016).

8. Mary Shawn Copeland

Dr Copeland is a catholic theologian and former nun. She is Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology at Boston College and is known for her work in theological anthropology and political theology.

Copeland has held positions at Xavier University of Louisiana, Yale Divinity School, and Marquette University. She worked as an adjunct professor in the Theology Department at Boston College for several years. She was the first African American to serve as president of the Catholic Theological Society of America.

Publications:

The Subversive Power of Love: The Vision of Henriette Delille (2009)

Enfleshing Freedom:Body, Race and Being (2010)

Knowing Christ Crucified: The Witness of African American Religious Experience (2018)

9. Loida Martell-Otero

Dr Martell-Otero earned a doctorate in Theology from Fordham University and is an ordained minister for the Baptist Church. She is currently Dean of Lexington Theological Seminary, where she also serves as professor of constructive theology. Dr. Martell pioneered the study of evangelical theology in the United States. She has published articles on evangelical soteriology, Christlogy, doctrine of God, biblical hermeneutics, incarnation, eschatology, globalization, and vocation.

Publications:

Teología en Conjunto: A collaborative Hispanic Protestant Theology (1997)

Latinas evangélicas: A Theological Study from the Margins. (2013)

10. Rosemary Radford Ruether

Dr. Radford is Catholic theologian known for her important contributions to the field of feminist theology. Her field of knowledge and writing is wide, with topics ranging from feminist theology and ecofeminist theology to topics such as anti-Semitism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

She is a proponent of women’s ordination, a movement among Catholic religious people who affirm the ability of women to serve as priests, despite official sanction.

Publications:

  • The Church Against Itself. (1967)
  • Women and Redemption: A Theological History. (2012).
  • Women Healing Earth: Third World Women on Ecology, Feminism, and Religion.(1996).

As you can see, the contribution of women in the field of theology in the United States is broad, and is growing.  These theologians have developed and expanded the field of thought and reflection in constant evolution and in a continuous exploration of aspects that previously went unnoticed and that are now highlighted. Their writings respond to our current contexts where women take leading roles and without a doubt, they contribute not only to the theological field but also to society itself.

You can also read more about Women Doing Theology in Abya Yala

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Yenny Delgado– Psychologist and Theologian. Director of Publica and convener of Women Doing Theology in Abya Yala. She writes about the intersections between ancestral memory, decolonization, womanist and public faith. Currently, she is a doctoral student in Social Science of Religion at the University of Lausanne.

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Yenny Delgado

Yenny Delgado (she/her/ Ella) Psychologist and theologian. She writes about the intersections between ancestral memory, politics, and public faith. Twitter @Publicayenny