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Church in the Round: Feminist Interpretation of the Church Paperback – January 1, 1993


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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Russell, a Presbyterian clergyman and professor of theology at Yale Divinity School, uses the metaphor of three tables--the Round Table of connection, the Kitchen Table of solidarity, and the Welcome Table of partnership--to set forth her vision of a church that is not alienating to women, nonwhites, or the laity. She envisions a church in which all work for justice and freedom and in which church leaders "make all persons welcome as they gather around God's table of New Creation." She especially criticizes the way "right" administration of sacraments "has fenced the table by requiring that only those ordained and authorized in a particular pattern officiate," and she calls for a spirituality that unites all individuals. Highly recommended for all seminary libraries and for academic and public libraries as well.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Purvis' engaging and informative study of two Atlanta churches, one Episcopal and one Presbyterian, whose senior pastors are women, is not only an excellent contribution to the study of congregational life and leadership, but also a model of ethnographic writing. The author is a good storyteller who lets the stories of these communities and their leaders unfold; there is as much to be learned from the style as from the content of the book. That is not to diminish the content, though. Two congregations is a small sample, but here it is an impressively deep one. Purvis' suggestion that "the combination of conventional roles in unconventional ways" helps "regender those roles and widen the range of possible social constructs for the process of gendering itself" is offered with appropriate caution, but it is thoroughly grounded and should prove fruitful for other researchers. Don't let the title restrict the audience; this is a gem, of interest to anyone who seeks a better understanding of communities, organizational change, or leadership. Steve Schroeder
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press; 1st edition (January 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 066425070X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0664250706
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #631,029 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By BillFarley@msn.com on January 22, 1999
Format: Paperback
The Church in the Round by Letty M. Russell is an inspiring and thought provoking book. It also addresses the mundane problems that confront most parishes. It is both practical and applicable to what most local pastors must deal with and confront. However, she also has the added perspective of a female pastor serving in a male dominated institution. But, her ecclesial goals and mine (a male pastor) are the same. She desires a congregation in the round where persons are greeted and accepted with hospitality, where growth and nurture are shared, and where parishioners and clergy gather about a round table of equality, with no head nor foot. I applaud her stance for a congregational structure based on talent, abilities and shared responsibilities. Patriarchal, hierachial and pyramid organizations are counterproductive to a sense of community. This is true in both the ecclesial and secular worlds. Domination and subordination have no place anywhere, but especially in the Church. Russell even proposes the possible elimination of the ordained clergy. I do not know if I am ready to eliminate the ordained clergy, but she has certainly identified the problem. The elimination of clergy could solve the problems she states, but I think that it would create different ones. I think that it would lead to a greater privatization of faith and create parishes of like minded individuals unable to see their own prejudices. This could result in the marginalized being pushed under or completely away from the table. Someone has to have a historic and theological perspective from which to proclaim the prophetic word on behalf of the marginalized. Someone has to be an enabler of the marginalized.Read more ›
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Steven H Propp TOP 100 REVIEWER on August 22, 2012
Format: Paperback
Letty Mandeville Russell (1929-2007) was a feminist theologian who taught at Yale Divinity School, who also wrote/edited books such as Dictionary of Feminist Theologies, Human Liberation in a Feminist Perspective--A Theology, etc.

She wrote in the Preface to this 1993 book, "This book is called 'Church in the Round' because a metaphor is needed to speak about a vision of Christian community of faith and struggle that practices God's hospitality... a church struggling to become a household of freedom, a community where walls have been broken down so that God's welcome to those who hunger and thirst for justice is made clear." (Pg. 12)

She asks, "How do we develop a feminist theory about the church that makes sense of women's reality and experiences of oppression and yet continues to affirm Jesus Christ as the source of life and connection in the Christian community?" (Pg. 21) She adds, "from my point of view as a feminist theologian, (feminism) represents a search for liberation from all forms of dehumanization on the part of those who advocate full human personhood for all of every race, class, sex, sexual orientation, ability, and age. This means that men can also be feminists if they are will to advocate for women." (Pg. 22)

On a personal note, she states, "I myself am an ordained clergyperson in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)... (I) would have left ... to be ordained elsewhere if the denoomination had not begun to ordain women... just before my last year of seminary.
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12 of 81 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
Lesbianism and witchcraft are legitimate alternatives to Christianity because of the oppressive male patriarchy found in the Church? A priestess who doesn't feel she belongs to her church, but will not return her ordination because of her stance to further women's rights? This is the pablum of the 1990's, meaningless pandering in the name of charity and goodwill. This book is an excellent summation of where left wing theology has gone. The biggest disgrace is that this book is required reading in some of the nation's Seminaries.
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