Spiritual Hero ~ Rev. Dr. Jacquelyn Grant (1948 – )

Jacquelyn Grant  is an African-American professor, theologian, author, and one of the founding developers of womanist theology. She is currently the Callaway Professor of Systematic Theology at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta.

Grant has written the notable White Women’s Christ and Black Women’s Jesus: Feminist Christology and Womanist Response. Through her Black Women in Ministerial Leadership Program, Grant continues to serve as director and professor mentoring numerous Black women.

Grant was born December 19, 1948 in Georgetown, South Carolina. She always had an interest in religion, attending Catholic school at a young age, and graduating from the local Howard High School in 1966. A graduate of Bennett College and Turner Theological Seminary, she became the first black woman to earn a doctoral degree in systematic theology at Union Theological Seminary.

In 1977, Grant became involved with Harvard Divinity School’s Women’s Research Program and with her involvement, it led to the creation of the Women’s Studies in Religion Program in which she remained for two years. In 1981, she founded the Center for Black Women in Church and Society at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta. She was assistant minister at Flipper Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church, and later the Victory African Methodist Episcopal Church in Atlanta. She is widowed to Reverend John Collier Jr., and now resides in Atlanta.

 

Spiritual Hero – Radclyffe Hall (1880 – 1943)

A queer Christ figure is the main character in the world’s best known lesbian novel, “The Well of Loneliness” by Radclyffe Hall. She was born on Aug. 12, 1880 in Bournemouth, England.  Her book was banned for obscenity in England in 1928, not just because it portrayed lesbian love, but also for using religious arguments to support “inverts” — a 1920’s term for LGBTQ people.

Hall, a devoutly Catholic British lesbian, was herself pictured being nailed to the cross in a satirical cartoon from the era. Hall is widely recognized as a pioneering lesbian (or perhaps transgender) author. But her Christian side is often downplayed because of the conflict between Christianity and homosexuality — what was then called “congenital sexual inversion.” Hall lived with those contradictions and tried to reconcile them in her books.

“The Well of Loneliness” ends with a desperate prayer that has been echoed by countless LGBTQ people and still rings true now. The prayer is uttered by the novel’s protagonist, Stephen Gordon. She was born on Christmas Eve and named after the first Christian martyr. As a girl she had a dream “that in some queer way she was Jesus.” Like Hall, Stephen grows up to become a masculine woman who wears men’s clothes, has romantic relationships with women, and identifies as an “invert.”

At the climax of the novel Stephen has a vision of being thronged by millions of inverts from throughout time: living, dead and unborn. They beg her to speak with God for them, and then they possess her. She speaks for queer people from the past, present and future as she gives passionate voice to their collective prayer: “God,” she gasped, “We believe; we have told You we believe…We have not denied You, then rise up and defend us. Acknowledge us, oh God, before the whole world. Give us also the right to our existence!”

 

Spiritual Hero ~ Joan Chittister (1936 – )

 Joan Chittister is an outspoken advocate of justice, peace and equality — especially for women world-wide — and has been one of America’s visionary spiritual voices for more than 30 years.  For the last 40 years she has passionately advocated on behalf of peace, human rights, women’s issues, and church renewal.

A much sought-after speaker, counselor and clear voice that bridges across all religions, she is also a best-selling author of more than 50 books, hundreds of articles, and an online column for the National Catholic Reporter.

She is a member of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, PA. She is executive director of Benetvision, a resource and research center for contemporary spirituality and the founder and animator of Monasteries of the Heart, a web-based movement sharing Benedictine spirituality with contemporary seekers.