Gender and Interreligious Dialogue

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By Ursula King

Ursula King is Professor Emerita and Senior Research Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Bristol, England. She is also a Professorial Research Associate, Center for Gender and Religions Research, University of London. She studied theology at Bonn, Munich, and Tubingen in Germany; Paris; London; and Delhi, India. She has been visiting professor at the University of Oslo, Norway, and has held a Chair in Ecumenical Theology and Interreligious Dialogue at Xavier University, Cinnciati, USA. She has authored and edited many books on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, spirituality, religion, gender, and interreligious communication.

Gender issues deeply affect the way religion is studied and practised. Widely debated and often misunderstood, gender concerns have immense significance; they are at present also part of the international political, social, and academic agenda of most countries. Existing gender gaps in different societies have been globally monitored by the Gender Development Index since 1996, showing clearly how much still needs to be done before a truly equitable gender balance is reached. Critical gender perspectives have made a significant difference to most academic fields, including the study of religion. Yet many scholarly publications on religion still seem to give too little or no recognition to the profound epistemological, methodological, and substantive changes which contemporary gender studies, especially women’s scholarship and feminist theories, but also the growing field of men’s studies in religion, have brought about over the last 30 years. I do not wish to speak here about this important general theme, which finds wide coverage in the new edition of the Encyclopedia ofReligion.1 Instead, I wish to address the important theme of interreligious dialogue from the perspective of women. Much of what we understand today by "interreligious dialogue" has come about through the initiative and influence of different Christian groups. Interreligious dialogue has also historical roots in earlier colonial and missionary activities. Like all of these, it is also, at the same time, linked to strongly established patriarchal structures and androcentric modes of thought.

Without denying the economic and political motives behind the Christian missionary enterprise of the past, it is important to realize that the historical experience of worldwide missions undertaken by different Christian churches contributed to the gradual emergence of a growing global consciousness among people in the West. This also included a rising awareness of the spiritual challenge posed by different religious worldviews. In her essay "Fundamentalism and the Control of Women" Karen McCarthy Brown (in Hawley 1994:175-201) pointed to the significance of the theological task Christian missions faced: "If religion is the repository of the symbols that orient us within the world, then, as our world expands, so must our religions’ ability to comprehend that world and to place us—individuals and communities—meaningfully within it. But Western Christianity, arguably the first religion to face the challenge of developing a truly global worldview, proved unequal to the task" (ibid., 199).

The point made here is important. In today’s situation Christianity cannot meet the spiritual challenge of our time on its own. The global situation, reflected at regional and local levels, is marked by an explosive experience of religious, cultural, social, and political pluralism. This situation impacts differently on different religions. It can have deeply disruptive effects and lead to tension and strife, but it also has an enormous potential for good, for a deepening of encounter and the collaboration between people of different religious commitments.

Much has been written on the theological challenges of religious pluralism already, but it is also important to examine the theological, political, and spiritual dimensions of the mutual interrelationship between pluralism and different religions. I would like to emphasize the need to enquire religiously into the meaning of religious pluralism. It is not simply a question of recognizing and respecting diversity, but we also need to reflect on the consciously acknowledged existence of pluralism. All pluralism, but especially religious pluralism, has to be seen in a larger global context, and religious pluralism has to be understood as ultimately carrying a spiritual significance.

We have reached a new historical threshold in the history of the human species which includes the emergence of a new "critical corporate consciousness" around the globe. Indications of this threshold are found in the ideas of several 20thcentury thinkers of different religious traditions who discern certain patterns and movements towards greater unity in the religious history of humankind. Wilfred Cantwell Smith is not alone in his assessment that the current "shift from unawareness and insouciance to the new recognition of our global spiritual matters" (Smith 1981:43) sets us the challenging task of how we can meaningfully learn from each other in mutuality and trust. This certainly must include the possibility of mutual questioning and critique, but we must also be able to explore together the specific insights, moments of revelation, and spiritual treasures which different religions have accumulated and handed down from one generation to the next, and whereby, the lives of countless people in the past and present have been nourished, strengthened, and transformed.

It is undeniable that the growth of interreligious dialogue has created a new dynamic for religions and opened up new questions for theological and spiritual reflection. When immersing ourselves in the process of interreligious dialogue, we not only experience the extraordinary variety and richness of different historical and theological traditions, but we also come to recognize the deep injustices, and wounds we have inflicted on each other. This is not only true in general, but it applies to certain groups more than others, and foremost among them are women who, as half the human race, have been marginalized and oppressed in all religious traditions of historical time.

Thus, one can legitimately ask whether, in spite of all the rich flowering of interreligious dialogue in recent years, the horizon of global ecumenism is still conceived of in terms that are too narrow; one must enquire whether the full potential of a "new season of faith" can really come into its own as long as interreligious dialogue continues to include oppressive and exclusive aspects. Such narrowness is evident with regard to the marginalization, invisibility, and exclusion of women, for wherever interreligious dialogue has developed, women seem to have had little part in it, at least at the official level. Proof for this is found in every single book on interfaith dialogue, religious pluralism, the theology of religions, or the "wider ecumenism" of global interreligious encounter.

Most dialogue practitioners are unaware of the fact that interfaith dialogue still remains strongly embedded in the patriarchal structures of existing religions and includes many exclusive sexist practices and deeply androcentric, male-centered ways of thinking. Few writers on religious pluralism and interfaith dialogue refer to women at all. A rare exception is Wesley Ariarajah (1999), who in his book has singled out "women and dialogue" as one of several issues which need to be urgently addressed in contemporary interfaith relations. He mentions that Diana Eck from Harvard University commented as long ago as 1989, in a report on an interfaith meeting in Morocco, "how glaring the absence of women was in interfaith events and efforts" (Ariarajah 1999:59). Another exception is the Sri Lankan Jesuit, Aloysius Pieris’s more specific, but also more limited discussion, of "Buddhist and Christian Appropriation of Feminist Criticism" in his book Fire and Water which examines "Basic Issues in Asian Buddhism and Christianity" (Pieris 1996:1-62, foreword by Paul Knitter).

The evidence of women’s absence is further highlighted by the visual documentation of many interfaith meetings. One only has to look at the photographs of the meeting of religious leaders in Assisi, or at those of any other official gathering to be shocked into the realization that all ecumenical events, whether inter-denominational or interreligious, are dominated almost exclusively by male representatives of the human race. Can these "religious leaders" today still legitimately ‘voice’ the concerns of women and speak on their behalf, as if women could not speak for themselves?

This is constantly happening while at the same time women from different faith communities are increasingly getting in touch with each other in order to share their experiences of oppression under the patriarchal structures of their religions and develop collaborative strategies of resistance and empowerment. They are also in dialogue with each other to share their visions of liberation, trying to work out together a new praxis for personal and social transformation. It is characteristic of religious feminism that it is not only an academic method which envisages how religions are studied, but it also embraces a new social and religious vision which affects what religion is, i.e., how religions are lived and practiced.

Interreligious dialogue, as currently understood and promoted in many parts of the world, particularly among Christians, is strongly marked by the absence of women. If one examines current interreligious activities, personnel, and publications from a critical gender perspective, it is evident that in general a heavy gender imbalance pervades, apart from a few rare exceptions. This could be substantiated by reference to numerous examples, such as the official dialogue activities of the World Council of Churches, those of the Vatican, or those of new foundations such as the International Interfaith Centre in Oxford, England, or the various gatherings of the Parliament of Religions organized in different places around the world. Gender considerations are usually never an integral part of such organizations and events.

The same can be said about the numerous publications on interreligious dialogue and religious pluralism. One has to have a feminist consciousness to notice thelacunae, the relative non-participation of women in this "dialogue." No reference to women’s contributions are found in either Marcus Braybrooke (1980), nor in Francis Clark (1987), and when edited works on interreligious dialogue contain a few contributions by women, such as Celia and David Storey’s Visions of an Interfaith Future,2 they are rarely written from a consciously feminist perspective.

But instead of assembling a great deal of cumulative evidence to prove that women’s perspectives and contributions are always excluded, and that from a women’s perception much of interreligious dialogue might easily resemble what the French call un dialogue des sourds (the dialogue of the deaf), I consider it more fruitful to raise some questions of a more theoretical nature regarding the mutual challenge of gender thinking and interreligious dialogue for each other. In other words, I want to get away from the tacitly assumed inclusion of women in the general discourse of dialogue and problematize their absence. This procedure might contribute to a greater critical consciousness on this issue, and help us to enquire whether interreligious dialogue can become truly "en-gendered," and thereby develop its own, new efforts in overcoming the oppression of women, which has its deepest roots in religious symbols, structures, teachings, and institutions.

Gender Reflections on Interreligious Dialogue

There are no persons in this world who are not gendered, and one has to ask whether the experience of interreligious dialogue is different for women than it is for men, and how a dialogue experience affects women as distinct from men. There can be no doubt that at present women are not appropriately and adequately represented in interreligious dialogue as a collective endeavor—they are more noted for their absence than their presence—and yet at a personal level, and in small groups, many women of different faiths are involved in interreligious dialogue, participate in meetings, and help to shape more links between members of different religious groups.

The first challenge of feminism to interreligious dialogue is one of women’s lack of equal representation and of the specific contribution of women’s own voices. At present these remain mostly unheard and are presumed to be included under whatever men have to say about dialogue. If one studies the dynamics of dialogue, the absence of women in the sense of either their marginalization or complete invisibility is another example of the patriarchal oppression of women. As much dialogue at the official level is carried out between religious leaders—and such leaders are still by and large only male—it follows that women are excluded on the grounds of their sex. The official, visible representatives or "spokesmen" of dialogue are literally always men, and thus, men find it often difficult to listen to women in this context. I can remember an embarrassing occasion when during an interreligious dialogue conference in an Asian country, visits to different religious communities were organized, and another woman and I decided that we would like to visit a particular religious group, which was quite a traditional one. The entire local congregation had turned out in full force, but for them to receive just two women delegates and no men was rather a shock. Another example was that of two distinguished religion scholars dialoguing with each other on spirituality, where one at least was adamant in not admitting a woman, however much experienced she was in meditation and interfaith encounters, to this exclusive male dialogue.

The challenge of gender is the challenge of otherness in a different guise, and it may be the most difficult one to accept for men in positions of religious leadership. To accept the "other faith" is already recognized to be problematic, but this other faith is usually at least encountered through another man. Thus, in interreligious dialogue, woman is again doubly other: She is of another faith and a different gender, except where women of faith dialogue with each other.

Historically speaking, interreligious dialogue is a relatively recent concern, even more recent than the women’s movement itself. The latter began near the beginning of the 19th century whereas the "interfaith movement" is considered to have begun with the historic meeting of people from different religions at the Chicago World’s Parliament of Religions in 1893. Both the women’s and the interfaith movement imply important historical changes at the social, political, and economic level; both have a radical impact on the transformation of human consciousness at the individual and collective level. In my view both movements—that of the full and equal participation of women, and that of the full and equal dignity and respect accorded to all religions—can only develop in a free, open, and democratic society where traditional hierarchies and leadership based on ascription are no longer the norm. In this sense interreligious dialogue, however understood, is itself a child of modern secular and post-colonial society.

From a historical point of view it is also interesting to note that the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions was conceived within the context of the colonial setting of the "Columbian exposition" at Chicago. The considerable contribution of women to this World Fair has been researched in general terms (see Weimann 1981), but less is known about women’s contribution to the World’s Parliament of Religions. Rediscovering their voices in order to show how women participated in dialogue within a secular context right from the inception of this process, is an important task of historical recovery in the history of the interfaith movement.3 It is of special interest in this context that participants of this first Parliament greatly highlighted the contribution and presence of women, much more than was the case for example at the Centennial celebrations in 1993. One of the 19 women plenary speakers at the 1893 event—the Reverend Antoinette Brown Blackwell, the first Christian woman to be ordained in modern times, in 1853— emphasized the need for more women to be active as preachers and pastors, for in her view the work of women was "indispensable to the religious evolution of the human race" (King 1993:334). It was also indispensable to the development of women’s rights; new historical studies provide growing evidence for the close interdependence between the religious and secular emancipation of women (Zink-Sawyer 2003).

From a greater contemporary awareness of women’s contribution to the fields of religion and spirituality, and also from the more nuanced theoretical gender perspectives of today, we can see what an important point was made by Rev. Antoinette Brown-Blackwell, but also how the historiography of an event, as so often, has marginalized the presence and contribution of women. I consider it worth emphasizing that the challenge of feminism for interreligious dialogue is a spiritual one, and it may also develop into a theological challenge if women thinkers scrutinize the currently used categories in the theology of religions.

Much has been written on dialogue. The scholarly analysis and debate about the process of dialogue represents another form of dialogue at a meta-level, a reflective activity of theorizing which makes us stand back from the primary, experientially rooted activity of listening, speaking, and sharing in dialogue, from the attempt to enter into an in-depth participation of a person’s and a people’s mode of thinking, believing, praying, meditating, or worshipping. Women are less involved in dialogue at this meta-level than in practical global networking, and in many projects to promote a better life for their families and communities, or to counteract violence and promote peace. The World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women (WCCEDCSW, 1988-98) led to a great deal of global dialogue among different Christian women, although interfaith dialogue was rather marginal to this intra-Christian ecumenical venture. The same can be said about the dialogue among women members of the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians (EATWOT), although women theologians from Asia have shown greater sensitivity and interest in religious pluralism and interfaith dialogue than their sisters from other parts of the globe.

Several Christian theologians are now engaged in developing a new theology of religions and of interreligious dialogue. Their theoretical discussions make much use of the tripartite model of exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism. The meaning and appropriateness of these terms have been much debated. There is no doubt that they have stimulated considerable critical reflection and advanced some of our understanding. Although I cannot explore the full theological dimensions of this debate here, I would nonetheless like to make some critical observations.

First, there is the general question of the nature of theological discourse and its relationship to life-worlds. Many people, not only women, find theological language rather logocentric and remote, if not to say "lifeless," and rather inclined to what has been aptly described as "violence of abstraction." These three categories of exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism appear much too narrow, static, and insufficiently differentiated to capture the organic, fluid, and dynamic reality of religion at a personal and social level. Nor do they, in any way, allude to the subtleties and existential commitment of faith. But someone might object that this is not their main task which, on the contrary, consists in bearing on the analysis of the kinds of relationships that pertain between different religions. Yet for this important aim, they rather lack in subtle nuance, so necessary to capture dynamic complexity.

Furthermore, from the perspective of women, they are also thoroughly androcentric in the sense that they are presented as universally applicable and as comprehensive categories for dealing with the relationships between different religions without taking the specific conditions of people into account. This means, that the variable of gender is neither implicitly nor explicitly taken note of, so that one can justifiably raise the question whether women of faith can relate their own experience to these abstractions, or whether other, more relational categories are required to account for the activity and experience of interreligious dialogue in a more integral and comprehensive manner.

In the context of discussing the theological challenges posed by the existence of religious pluralism, and by the development of greater contact and dialogue between people of different faiths it is imperative to reckon with the global, cross-cultural dialogue occurring among women worldwide today. But this critical, feminist dialogue of women challenges or potentially even subverts interreligious dialogue as it is conducted at present.

Women are coming into their own in the field of religious pluralism by critiquing the patriarchal and sexist nature of religions whilst at the same time examining much more closely the feminine dimension of religious symbolism and the actual role of women in religion. So often women are considered as subordinate, as less than fully human, as marginal in different religious teachings, and mostly, they are not given access to positions of leadership and authority. Thus, one must ask the searching question: Is interreligious dialogue, as currently conducted, really relevant to women? How much of its language, representation, and activity is exclusive rather than truly inclusive?

When I was invited to give the Cardinal Heenan Lecture on Christian Ecumenism (King 1985:125-42) 10 years ago, I asked: "Where are the women in ecumenism? What is women’s own dialogue about? What can women’s experience of dialogue contribute to a new vision of ecumenism?" The same questions can be asked with regard to women’s potential in making a full and equal contribution to the dialogue of religions. This opens up a whole new field of enquiry and allows for the development of new horizons in the encounter of religions. But much work needs to be done before this will really happen, for at present much of interreligious dialogue is not all that relevant to women; much of it is hurtful and exclusive, and much of it takes no account at all of current developments in either women’s spirituality, or women’s critical work on religion, nor are the dialoguing men aware of the new dialogue among women today.

Contemporary feminism presents a considerable challenge for interreligious dialogue, although at present, this challenge has not yet been fully articulated. But one can also look at this unequal relation the other way round and ask: What is the challenge of the predominantly male interreligious dialogue for gender-critically aware women?

Secular feminism debates racial and cultural, but never religious pluralism. Feminist theologians, on the other hand, have been primarily concerned with a critical resifting of the Jewish and Christian religious traditions rather than with the encounter and relations between different religions. A few works, such as Maureen O’Neill’s Women Speaking, Women Listening,4 have looked at women’s involvement with interreligious dialogue, but there has been little of a feminist reception or critique of the interfaith movement and theological debate about dialogue so far.5This is also evident from the World Council of Churches 1995 publication onWomen’s Vision (Ortega 1995), which celebrates the theological work undertaken by women during the Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women (Ortega 1995:75), but the women’s debate is carried on entirely within the Christian universe of discourse, without explictly reflecting on the new theological developments linked to interreligious dialogue among Christians themselves.

The existence and lively debate of interreligious dialogue challenge some of the limitations of feminist theology itself, and invite it to widen its horizons and draw on theological and spiritual resources from different religious traditions. Amongst feminist theologians it is particularly those from the non-western world, especially from Asia, who are more open to reflect on the challenge of religious pluralism. Religious diversity is more acknowledged but not necessarily theoretically more fully reflected upon, as can be seen in the readings found in my anthology (King 1994).

Given the great wisdom traditions of Asia, and the numerically small presence of Christians on the Asian continent, it comes as no surprise that Asian religious feminists organized a women’s interfaith meeting for Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim women, as well as those from indigenous traditions in Kuala Lumpur in 1989. In their report (Abraham et al. 1989), they stressed as their objectives among others the "deepening of one’s own and other faiths, from a woman’s perspective," and "fostering mutuality, respect, solidarity, and sisterhood by overcoming divisive barriers." In each case the women examined both the liberative and oppressive aspects of their respective religions, and looked at the practical social, legal, and economic effects of the religious and socio-cultural discrimination of women. Their vision is to reclaim the positive values for women in their respective cultures and religions, but also "to conscientize women and men" about their objectives (ibid., 117 and 119).

This is one example of women themselves becoming actively engaged in interreligious dialogue, although these women did not reflect on current international discussions on dialogue among men or critique it. Yet it is especially in Asia, so much at the crossroads of the encounter of cultures and religions, that we find a particularly challenging and fertile environment for the mutual impact of feminism and interfaith encounter. In this context, it is interesting to note, that the German feminist theologian Elisabeth Gössmann, who knows Asia well through her many years of teaching in Japan, has included a whole section on feminism and interreligious dialogue in her wide-ranging article on the "Feminist Critique of Universal Claims to Truth,"6 wherein she highlights the thoroughly androcentric character of traditional Christian theology which is an all-male theology—and that applies also to the theology of religions.

Thus, the process of dialogue is still very gender specific and restricted. Whereas men’s interreligious dialogue does not dialogically appropriate the insights of women’s dialogue, women’s interreligious dialogue, where it exists, does not yet critically analyze and call into question the androcentrism and exclusiveness of male dialogue. These two different forms of dialogue mutually challenge each other.

Gender Challenges to Institutional Structures of Interreligious Dialogue

Today, women writers on religion are critiquing the patriarchal framework of all the religions of the world. They are recovering women’s own voices and contributions, their religious roles and rituals, feminine images and metaphors used for constructs of Ultimate Reality, and women’s heritage in spirituality and mysticism. The feminist critique of religion has been furthest advanced in Christianity and Judaism, but women from other religions—whether Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Sikhism, Chinese, Japanese, or African religions, or native religious traditions—are now applying gender-critical analyses to their respective faiths. Similarly, women scholars from different religious traditions around the world are producing new scholarship, as is evident from the many entries on different religious traditions found under the entry on "Gender and Religion" in the new Encyclopedia of Religion. Thus, women are working on the transformation of world religions from within their own traditions by critiquing the androcentric and patriarchal framework of their scriptural and doctrinal heritage, and by recovering muted female voices and experiences from the past.7 This is an immense task of recovery and reconstruction, but at the same time there also exists the great challenge of constructing new forms of thought and new institutional structures, which are more flexible and empowering than those of the past, and which can help to transform patriarchal religions.

If the development of interreligious dialogue is a challenge for all religions today, a challenge for education, theology, and spirituality, this dialogue itself is challenged by the crying need of global movements searching for justice, peace, ecological balance, and the liberation of all oppressed people, many of whom are women. Already more than two decades ago, Aloysius Pieris, in his "religiously motivated desire and decision to move toward the new humanity" reflected on "The Place of Non-Christian Religions and Cultures in the Evolution of Third World Theology" (Pieris 1983:113-39), where he underlined the need for a theology of religions that will expand the existing boundaries of orthodoxy by entering "into the liberative streams of other religions and cultures." One wonders how far this is really happening. Without explicitly engaging the feminist perspective, Pieris’ article contains the brief statement: Sexism points to an uncivilized area in religion. The new cosmological order that the Third World clamors for includes unhampered feminine participation in religion and revolution.8

This is a truly provocative statement. If sexism represents an as yet uncivilized area of religion, a not yet fully "hominized" development as the French thinker Pierre Teilhard de Chardin would have called it, then, we will have to work for the further full development of religion as an integral part of a fully developed humanity. Pieris’s statement also points to the profound truth that religious, social, political, and economic transformations are interlinked and cannot achieve an overall impact without the full and equal participation of women. A far more perceptive and detailed gender analysis is needed of the religious norms and practices affecting the dynamics of gender construction, the formation of differently gendered identities, so that it becomes much clearer how religions themselves have legitimized oppressive structures for women, for men, and for subject peoples. New developments are emerging as can be seen from a wide-ranging study of women’s involvement with interfaith dialogue, especially in Asia, undertaken by the Norwegian theologian Helene Egnell, who traces many recent dialogue efforts of Christian women in her book Other Voices: A Study of Christian Feminist Approaches to Religious Plurality East and West.9 Yet her overall conclusion is not all that different from mine, and she also shows that gender perspectives are absent in the dominant theologies of religion.

I have tried to argue that interreligious dialogue, religious feminism, and contemporary gender thinking could all gain from giving space and attention to the dialogue of the other. It is evident that interreligious dialogue remains part of patriarchy. To envision and develop a post-patriarchal dialogue it will be necessary to do away with all exclusionary practices and hierarchies, especially the hierarchy of gender, which is so pervasive in religions. Radical institutional and doctrinal transformations are needed to respond to the need of women for equal participation and dignity, and to condemn all prejudice and violence against women, especially those done in the name of religion. We still have a long way to go before we reach that goal.10


1. See the composite article on "Gender and Religion" covering 20 different religious traditions in Jones 2005.

2. Celia and David Storey, eds, Visions of an Interfaith Future. Proceedings Sarva-Dharma-Sammelana, Religious People Meeting Together (Bangalore, India, 19-22 August 1993; Oxford, International Interfaith Centre, 1994). It is worth noting that women’s spirituality is discussed by a Korean Won Buddhist nun in this edited volume (see pp. 124-27), but she does not reflect on the wider implications of this perspective for interfaith dialogue.

3. I have examined the contributions of women plenary speakers at the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions in King 1993:325-43.

4. O’Neill 1990; see also Eck and Jain 1986; Mollenkott 1988. For a critical discussion of the connections between justice, religious pluralism, and a feminist perspective which "must radically affirm religious pluralism," see Suchoki 1989:149-61.

5. McCarthy 1996:163-73 argues that women’s experience—rooted in a new kind of affirmation of religious difference, a life lived at the margins, and an embodied spirituality—can enrich a Christian theology of pluralism in the area of hermeneutics, provide a more fluid conception of God and a different understanding of christology. This is substantiated by drawing very selectively on the work of several women theologians (Carter Heyward of the United States, Ivone Gebara of Brazil, Mercy Oduyoye of Ghana, and Chyung Hyun Kyung of Korea). The article makes the important point that Christian feminist theology offers resources for a new approach to a Christian theology of religions, but it does not explicitly analyze the androcentric and exclusive character of this theology, nor does it engage with the work of the few other feminist writers on religious pluralism (see my note 3; 1993:334 and 1994).

6. Gössmann 1996: 312-50; see especially the section ‘Der interreligiöse Dialog und die Pluralität der weiblichen Standpunkte,’ pp. 340-47. Gössmann refers to the "ultra-academic" and much too "other-worldly" orientation of interreligious dialogue and pleads for a shift in emphasis which will bring both genders more closely together in their efforts of dialoguing (see p. 350).

7. From the many publications available, I just mention Paula M. Cooey, William R. Eakin, Jay B. McDaniel 1991. Another pioneering academic effort is represented by the innovative two volumes Encyclopedia of Women and World Religion edited by Serinity Young (New York: Macmillan, 1998), an indispensable reference work for all further research.

8. Pieris 1983:136. Since writing this chapter in 1983, Pieris has much more explicitly engaged with the feminist perspective which he considers "a permanent feature in the struggle for full humanity"; see his important article "Woman and Religion in Asia: Towards a Buddhist and Christian Appropriation of the Feminist Critique" in Dialogue, New Series XIX-XX (1992-1993), pp. 119-203, which is particularly significant for the understanding of spirituality but does not explicitly consider the issues of feminism and interreligious dialogue discussed by me here.

9. I have written a long review article of Helene Egnell’s book (Egnell 2006) inSwedish Missiological Themes, 94/2 (2006): 227-35.

10. This paper was first given in February 2004 at the Nanzan Institute of Religion and Culture in Nagoya, Japan. It is an updated, revised version of my earlier article "Feminism: the Missing Dimension in the Dialogue of Religions" in Pluralism and the Religions. The Theological and Political Dimensions,edited by John D’Arcy May (London: Cassell, 1998), pp. 40-55.


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Zink-Sawyer, Beverly

2003 From Preachers to Suffragists. Women’s Rights and Religious Conviction in the Lives of Three 19th Century American Clergywomen(Louisville and London: Westminster John Knox Press).

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