Thursday, July 5, 2007

Deepening Our Engagement in the World - General Assembly 2007

Service of the Living Tradition traditionally highlights ministers transitions. Here, John Weston leads the processional of ministers at the General Assembly 2007 Steven Atkinson in forefront and Margaret Beard in background are two of the Meadville Lombard Theological School ministers that received preliminary fellowship at General Assembly.

on the left (to be identified) on right is Rev. Lauren Smith
L-R Carol Smith and Adele Smith Penniman both retiring ministers were recognized for their years of ministry.

Above - L - R Michael Tino and Archene Turner also received preliminary fellowship and are graduates of Meadville Lombard Theological School.

(Left to Right:Dr. Qiyamah A. Rahman, Dr. Amina Wadud and Rev. Alma Crawford)

The soon to be Reverend Doctor Qiyamah A. Rahman at the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in Portland, Oregon June, 2007 in gorgeous green!

Minister's Days at General Assembly is held every year prior to General Assembly and is attended primarily by religious professionals such as ministers, religious educators and seminarians. This year, over 700 gathered to hear keynote speaker, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, United Church of Christ minister and to attend various workshops designed to enhance skills development and coax renewal and imaginative ministries. Besides being the leader of a successful congregation of about seven thousand, Wright is an amazing historian specializing in African American linguistics, musicology, Black liberation theology and Africanisms in American culture. Wright's constant reminder that "difference does not mean deficient" appears to stem from the failure of some individuals interested in diversity that unfortunately view the "other" as deficient. Wright shared his own journey to grow. While Wright's congregation has grown by leaps and bounds it is predominantly European American. Wright's presentation clearly reflects his intense training that comes out of the African American religious experience. One of the many profound concepts that he shared was the reminder to integrate body, mind and spirit in religion. He reminded the participants that the enlightenment period caused theologians to overly emphasize rational thought and to distrust feelings and emotions. Thus, deconstructing the rational and non-rational is an important way to reconnect to the authentic self. He also encouraged the group to "preach against the text." I understood that to mean that there are circumstances and teachings in the Bible that are inaccurate and go against healthy human development. In future posts I will be examining some of the violence directed against women in the Bible.

Deepening my engagement in the world as a Unitarian Universalist soon-to-be-minister and activist prompted my attendance at the 2007 Unitarian Universalist General Assembly this year as I prepare for my journey to Cape Town, South Africa. Several thousand Unitarian Universalists from around the world convened from around the country and world for the annual business meeting of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. Hundreds of workshops educated, entertained and informed participants.

One of my favorite workshops had a title to the effect, Islam and Gender:The Slippery Slope of Multifaith Dialogues, was designed to facilitate multi-religious understandings among Muslims and non-Muslims. An Islamic scholar,activist and friend, Dr. Amina Wadud, delivered the presentation. She provided an excellent overview on Islam and reminded the audience that Islam and Muslims are not monolithic and that we cannot make assumptions and generalize about Muslims. However, a lot of this destructive stereotyping has been prevalent since 911. Wadud reminded us that Muslims view themselves as both agents and servants of God. However, she noted that women's agency was categorically denied by patriarchy in Islam. She reminded the audience that the concept of Tawhid in Islam refers to the Oneness of God which is central to Islam. Wadud discussed the commodification of Islam and gender and the two elements that are seeking to control Muslim women and their discourses. They are neo-conservative wealthy Muslims and Islamaphobes, that is, those that hate Muslims. Wadud encouraged participation in interfaith healing efforts that are inclusive and not merely tolerant of different religious beliefs. During a question and answer session a participant inquired about her preferred translation for the Quran. Wadud favors the Muhammad Asaid translation.

For a good read on Islam and gender issues, get a copy of Wadud's latest book, Inside the Gender Jihad.

1 comment:

Robin Edgar said...

Be careful about using the word "jihad" on your blog.

A paranoid or just plain malicious U*U minister just might construe it as a "threat" and habve you arrested on trumped up criminal charges. . .