Radical Feminist Theologians Reminisce on “Sophia God”

on July 3, 2012
What the heck is this nonsense? (Photo Credit: Parker Williamson)

Rainbow-stoled church activists woke early in Pittsburgh to attend the Presbyterian Voices for Justice breakfast during General Assembly. Voices for Justice boasts a controversy-laden history. The caucus represents a merger between two far-left lobbying groups: Voices of Sophia and the Witherspoon Society. This morning’s event focused on the legacy of the former organization.

Entitled “Re-Imaging ‘Re-Imagining’ and the Next 20 Years,” the service centered on the influence and affects of the infamous feminist theology conference that took place in 1993. The event—funded and organized by the PCUSA and the UMC Women’s Division—shocked mainline Protestant moderates and traditionalists alike. The Re-Imagining insisted on referring to God in feminine terms. Although names like “Warm Baker God” and “Loving Mother God” stood as legitimate theological parlance, these were mere one-hit-wonders when contrasted with the eminently popular “Sophia,” in which God manifests…Herself…in a feminine deity of wisdom. Thus, the PCUSA Voices of Sophia was born. Other notable accomplishments included holding a communion service with elements of milk and honey, several female clergy publicly coming out as lesbians, and a rejection of the atonement (where Dr. Dolores Williams audaciously declared, “I don’t think we need folks hanging on crosses, and blood dripping, and weird stuff”). These statements and activities quickly drew accusations of pantheism, goddess worship, and heresy from orthodox Protestants. In the years following, the re-imaginers committed themselves to such heretical causes as purging church documents and Bible translations of gendered pronouns and replacing the Trinitarian formula of “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” with “Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.” In the meeting’s aftermath, the PCUSA organizer of the conference, Mary Ann Lundy, was summarily fired from her post.

Time has not boded well for the Re-Imagining movement. Most of the 130 or so attendees were over the age of sixty; only five or six were under thirty. After More Light Presbyterians executive director Patrick Evans led them in music, the participants enacted the mystical “Sophia blessing.” The lyrics were the following: “Bless Sophia, dream the vision, share the wisdom dwelling deep within.” The unsettling, semi-occultic liturgical dance moves seemed to combine the hokey-pokey with the Macarena.

At last, Sylvia Thorson-Smith approached the lectern to offer the message. She described herself as “the centerfold for [the conservative] Presbyterian Layman,” recounting that she discovered “how devoted people are to tradition and how determined others are to innovating it.” Remembering the Re-Imagining golden age, Thorson-Smith proclaimed, “the idea of powerful women was such a turn in traditional roles.” She accused orthodox church members with seeing powerful women as “icky.” “Why would a church be so exercised over a feminist conference?” she asked. After portraying Mary Ann Lundy as a martyr, Thorson-Smith bemoaned “the pressure to keep women silent over the next four years.” According to the speaker, the theological battles resulted in “an aversion of risk-taking.” Nevertheless, the feminist theologian still hoped for a bright future: “Our herstory is our prayer.”

After referencing emergent thinker Phyllis Tickle, Thorson-Smith judged that the PCUSA was at a moment “where the church discards outmoded ideas.” “We who hold to the Re-Imagining heritage have a few ideas for the rummage sale,” she announced. The feminist speaker wistfully remembered, “At Re-Imagining, we experienced an entire space as sacred…God herself is experienced.” She also advised, “The church needs to speak truth to power,” challenging the “Pax Americana” and the “exploitation of the environment.” “We need to build coalitions with other re-imaginers in other denominations and across the world,” she concluded, “We need to reconnect ourselves to risk-taking.”

Not all was good news for the Voices of Justice. The spokeswoman mourned, “We’ve really lost ground on the language on how we address God and worship.” It seems that mainline Protestants of all stripes still refer to God in the traditional terms as outlined in Scripture. Perhaps old habits just die hard; on the other hand, perhaps some theological fads are blatantly silly.

The aging re-imaginers left with a sizable feminist benediction. It ended with the command “Go into this General Assembly with your Sophia spirit.” One enthusiastic participant exclaimed, “A-women!”

  1. Comment by barb on July 3, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    All I can say to this is UUUGGHHHH! People are being so terribly deceived in some churches today! God help them and us!!!

  2. Comment by eMatters on July 3, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    The good news is that the wolves got warm and took off the sheep’s clothing. People will have no excuses for following these false teachers. And when you do the Venn diagrams you’ll find that these frauds are pro-LGBTQ theology, pro-legalized abortion and pro-taxpayer funded abortion (because their “Jesus” thinks one of our problems is that we aren’t killing enough unwanted human beings in the womb), and so on.

    1 Corinthians 11:18-19 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.

  3. Comment by barb on July 3, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    Amen!! The radical feminist movement has greatly influenced today’s public policy which is why Obama is so pro-abotion, and pro-gay, etc. etc. May we stand firm against this radical agenda for our posterity’s sake. Our nation is sinking deeper and deeper into the liberal quicksand. God help us push back!!

  4. Comment by John Leek on July 3, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    I realize this isn’t a newspaper or something similar, but I think you cause would be better served if you abstained from juvenile comments like ‘I felt like turning to one of my fellow press reporters and asking, “What cult have we joined?”’

    It sounds like an odd event, but you can present “odd” fairly too. :/

  5. Comment by barb on July 3, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    Why tip toe around the truth? This group of radical feminists sought to eliminate all references to Father, Son and Holy Spirit which is Antichrist heresy!

  6. Comment by Bart Gingerich on July 3, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    Thanks, barb.

  7. Comment by John Leek on July 3, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    Based on the material included there was quite a lot of material for “the truth” without such captions as “what the heck is this nonsense?”

    I’d recommend considering 1 Corinthians 9. If our purpose is to feel superior then this kind of working can accomplish that, but if our purpose is to win people to a robust and biblical gospel? I would recommend another tactic.

  8. Comment by John Leek on July 3, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    That said, your intent may not be conversionist itself so I may be judging this piece on different criteria. If the desire is to cheerlead without building bridges you may be writing correctly for your purpose. (I’ll leave off any further critique.)

  9. Comment by Judy Bailey on July 9, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    Amen! That movement did more to hurt our church than I could ever have imagined. I was appalled by it in 1993 and sincerely believe it contributed to the decline of membership in the UMC…what Bible were they reading. God will always be the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in mt Bible…”HE” is the “TRINITY”.

  10. Comment by barb on July 3, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    I also recall hearing that the PCUSA attempted to revamp the hymnbooks by removing all references to He, Him, Father, etc. to make them more gender neutral. Heretics!!! God is not a SHE or an IT!!

  11. Comment by Max on May 29, 2020 at 8:19 am

    Barb: Not endorsing your thoughts on heresy or “heretics” but for those who wish to examine the thoughts and practices of PCUSA, there is this: https://www.history.pcusa.org/blog/2020/02/voice-singing-1990-presbyterian-hymnal

  12. Comment by Bart Gingerich on July 3, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    John Leek: I think your last comment gives me some space to explain myself since you have legitimate concerns. First, this is General Assembly. With such advocacy groups, a change of position isn’t really on the agenda: they’ve come to fight for their goals. Second, these are trained theologians committed to theological heterodoxy. Very few people in Voices for Justice are ready for a conversion to Christian orthodoxy. In fact, they spend their days trying to undermine it. This isn’t a group of new converts who have easily been led astray. Instead, they are teachers, pastors, and church leaders deliberately misleading others. I’ll call it out for the nonsense it is, even with satire and extra commentary, since a blog is a less formal forum. You’ll notice some of my other posts are more straight-laced.

    If anything gets a bur under my saddle, it’s blatant theological calumnies such as this. In all my few and perhaps sheltered days, I have never seen so many errors and dangerous unorthodox inconsistencies masked under the label “Christian.” Maybe I was still in a state of theological shock when I wrote my personal comments, but shouldn’t we all when faced with this? Thus, i still stand by what I put down. I would outline it in a much calmer, didactic tone if I were trying to really guide someone out of it. Right now I’m trying to call out wolves in sheeps’ clothing.

  13. Comment by Gabe on July 4, 2012 at 7:52 am

    I’m with you, Bart. This is completely shocking and disgusting. It’s basically the DaVinci Code theology/gnosticism and has no place within the realm of Christianity. If anyone wonders why the PCUSA is dying, here’s example A.

  14. Pingback by PCUSA: Conflict Really Isn’t Their Thing | Christian, Libertarian on July 3, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    […] couple of days have been really frustrating. I’m just glad I haven’t had to deal with the worst of it. Share this:MoreEmailPrint Pin ItLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  15. Comment by Gabe on July 4, 2012 at 6:56 am

    Sadly, the postmodern call to change everything in Christianity attempts to destroy the foundation of Biblical truth. I wonder if any of these people have wondered if the call to move from Orthodox Christianity to these heresy will one day lead to a rejection of this new religion in favor of something “more modern”. When one removes the foundation, it doesn’t matter what is built on top.

  16. Comment by eMatters on July 4, 2012 at 10:19 am

    We can be sure they’ll change again, but their true god is the world, i.e., Satan.

  17. Comment by Faith J. Hooper McDonnell on July 4, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    I have been trying to forget the Re-Imagining Conference for 18 years! I transcribed all the original tapes and heard every heretical word!

  18. Comment by utmosthighest on July 8, 2012 at 11:26 am

    I was stunned to read this commentary noting that a “Re-Imaging Re-Imagining and the Next 20 Years” service had been held in Pittsburgh at the Presbyterian General Assembly. In “The Review” section of my website (donnafghailson.com), I’ve posted two articles I wrote re the movement in its heyday to remind everyone why Bible-believing folk became so incensed over the project. (Donna Hailson)

  19. Pingback by One of My Darkest Experiences « Juicy Ecumenism on July 5, 2012 at 11:58 am

    […] ranging from LGBT pep rallies to dissuading evangelism to cries for “marriage equality” to denials of orthodox Trinitarianism. Now pro-choice forces do not even pretend to try to reduce the pursuit and implementation of […]

  20. Pingback by Turns out 70% of PCUSA General Assembly Commissioners Aren’t Actually Presbyterian « Juicy Ecumenism on July 10, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    […] is the fulcrum point from which spring rampant pansexuality, progressive partisan politics, and radical feminism. Dealing with those theological particulars, I imagine, would soon separate the sheep from the […]

  21. Comment by ExPCUSA on July 11, 2012 at 8:52 am

    Any denomination that can accomodate this kind of nonsense has no core beliefs. If you needed any more proof that the PCUSA is a joke after it removed the “fidelity in marriage and chastity in singleness” requirement for clergy, here it is.

  22. Pingback by Feminism, Patriarchy, and the Names of God « Juicy Ecumenism on August 15, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    […] the famed Re-Imagining Conference and its adherents who are still skulking about (as I reported here). Instead of talking about gender roles, I think we need to look at scriptural authorship, […]

  23. Pingback by Feminism, Patriarchy, and the Names of God on August 17, 2012 at 12:01 am

    […] the famed Re-Imagining Conference and its adherents who are still skulking about (as I reported here). Instead of talking about gender roles, I think we need to look at scriptural authorship, […]

The work of IRD is made possible by your generous contributions.

Receive expert analysis in your inbox.