The priest, the body, the bride and the whore



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THE PRIEST, THE BODY, THE BRIDE
AND THE WHORE:
TOWARDS A THEOLOGY OF WOMEN’S PRIESTHOOD

by

Alison M Green BEd, MA



A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of PhD

School of Arts

Roehampton University

2007




ABSTRACT


A theology of women’s priesthood can be developed through an examination of the symbol and narrative of Christian religion.

Metaphors of the body, the bride and the whore form a leitmotif through Christian scripture and tradition, and these have traditionally been interpreted from a phallocentric viewpoint. A feminist approach to scripture and tradition reveals that the woman priest causes a shift in the interpretation of these metaphors that impacts on many areas of Christian worship and life. The Eucharist, the central Anglican rite and nexus between the narrative of faith and the praxis of discipleship, is laden with symbols that, if effective, are also transformative for the worshipper. The priest, instrumental in the liturgy, has a key symbolic function in offering such potential for the Church community.

When celebrating the Eucharist, the priest who is a woman recovers ignored or undervalued meanings within the associated symbolism which give rise to new possibilities theologically, liturgically and morally for Christian teaching and discipleship. The multivalent symbolism of priesthood thus acquires a new breadth and richness that addresses our understanding of the nature of the triune God, and of ourselves as beings created in the image of God and members of the Body of Christ. The woman priest causes a ‘collision’ with the received wisdom of traditional teaching and practice, and invites consideration of the genderisation of symbol and narrative, the exclusion of women from sacred rituals and spaces, and the lack of a female religious imaginary.
A feminist reading of Paul Ricoeur, together with an engagement with Luce Irigaray and Grace Jantzen, demonstrates that philosophical and psychoanalytical inquiry offers transformative possibilities for the religious imaginary, for the recognition of sexual difference and for the possibility of woman as subject of culture. The woman priest, representative both of the divine and of humankind, has a key role in this process.


CONTENTS


THE PRIEST, THE BODY, THE BRIDE
AND THE WHORE:
TOWARDS A THEOLOGY OF WOMEN’S PRIESTHOOD

by

Alison M Green BEd, MA



A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of PhD

School of Arts

Roehampton University

2007 1


ABSTRACT 2

CONTENTS 3

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 7

INTRODUCTION 8

CHAPTER 1 19

THE EUCHARIST: SYMBOL AND NARRATIVE 19

Ricoeur’s Work On Symbol And Narrative 19

Applying Ricoeur’s Work On Symbol And Narrative To A Theology Of Women’s Priesthood 25

CHAPTER 2 34

GENDERED SUBJECTIVITY AND THE QUEST FOR A FEMALE RELIGIOUS SYMBOLIC 34

Luce Irigaray On Subjectivity And Sexual Difference 34

Genders And Genealogies 40

Becoming 43

Natality And The Transformation Of The Religious Imaginary 49


51

CHAPTER 3 52



IMAGO DEI – THE RECEIVED WISDOM OF CLASSICAL THEOLOGY 52

Acclamation Of The Creator God In The Eucharistic Prayer 52

God-talk And Human Identity 53

Relationality In Imago Dei 57

CHAPTER 4 60

IMAGO DEI – SOME FEMINIST PERSPECTIVES 60

Is There A Female Subject-position? 60

The Error Of Patriarchy 64

Tensions In The Early Church 68

Female Imagery: A Refiguration Of Phallocentric Symbol Patterns 72

Trinitarian Symbolism: Towards A Relational Spirituality 77

Perichoresis: A Pattern For Relationality 82

CHAPTER 5 86

IMAGO DEI – THE WOMAN PRIEST 86

The Woman Priest And The Story Of The Same 86

Maternity And Natality Within The Religious Imaginary 92

Maternal Divine Images 95

The Woman Priest: A New Religious Symbolic 102

CHAPTER 6 110

BROKEN BODY, BROKEN WORLD – THE RECEIVED WISDOM OF CLASSICAL THEOLOGY 110

‘Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you’ 110

The Bread We Share 110

Eucharistic Significance: Past, Future And Present 113

CHAPTER 7 117

‘Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you’ 117

Aspects Of A Feminist Eschatology 118

Humankind And The Divine: The Natal 119

One To Another: Community And Redemption 121

One To Another: Healing Human Relationships 123

One To Another: Women And Men Working Together 128

Humankind And The Created World: The Imperative For Good Stewardship 130

Humankind And The Created World: An Ecofeminist Response 139

CHAPTER 8 145

‘Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you’ 145

Humankind And The Divine: A Refigured Interpretation Of Redemption 145

Humankind And The Divine: Towards A Female Religious Imaginary And Language 147

One To Another: The Woman Priest And The Call To Flourish 150

One to Another: Male And Female Priests Working Together 154

Humankind And The Created World: The Women Priest As Symbol Of Good Stewardship 157

CHAPTER 9 160

NEW COVENANT, NEW CONFIDENCE – THE RECEIVED WISDOM OF CLASSICAL THEOLOGY 160

Covenant And Sacrifice 160

Sacrifice And The New Covenant 162

CHAPTER 10 165

NEW COVENANT, NEW CONFIDENCE – SOME FEMINIST PERSPECTIVES 165

Men, Women And Blood 165

Purity And Defilement 167

Women’s Bloodshed: The Sacred And The Taboo 170

Menstruation And Misogyny 173

Women, Self-sacrifice And Subjectivity 179

CHAPTER 11 184

NEW COVENANT, NEW CONFIDENCE – THE WOMAN PRIEST 184

Women And Sacrifice In The Anglican Tradition 184

Gender, Sacrifice And The Woman Priest 188

A Model For Our Time 193

CONCLUSION 199

BIBLIOGRAPHY 207




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