On May 29, Frances Taylor Gench, scripture scholar from Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, VA, read an open letter to Catholic women religious at a prayer vigil held outside the Vatican Embassy in Washington, D.C. The letter was signed by 34 organizations representing Protestant women from New York to Austin, Texas.
Cynthia Rigby, one supporter who helped gather signatures, said it was meant not as a petition, but as a theological letter. “It was so important to us that this reflect a collective voice,” said Rigby, a theology professor at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, “because, theologically, we believe that communities of Christian believers, in this case communities of sisters in Christ, stand together.”
Dr. Gench, a noted biblical scholar, is an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Gench was on the faculty of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg from 1986 to 1999. She served as a member of the PC (USA) General Assembly’s Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Church. Recent publications include Back to the Well: Women’s Encounters with Jesus in the Gospels and Encounters with Jesus: Studies in the Gospel of John.
This letter, along with Sr. Sandra Schneiders’ excellent analysis of the Vatican’s investigation of U.S. orders of women religious, begins to form a cogent analysis of two very different definitions and exercises of power and mission.
An Open Letter to Catholic Religious Women
May 1, 2012
We write to you as sisters in faith who may not express our vocation in the same particular community of faith, but who share much in common—as believers, as advocates, and as peacemakers. We write in a spirit of solidarity and as witnesses to the authenticity of your ministries, particularly the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, in a time when the integrity of your witness has been questioned by Catholic leadership.