Panelist: Internet has revolutionized Mormon feminism

“Tens of thousands of … women communicate on a daily basis,” she said.

The Salt Lake Tribune/March 1, 2014

By Tom Harvey

A leading Mormon voice for ordaining women into the LDS priesthood said Saturday that the Internet has revolutionized the public space for such views.

Chelsea Shields Strayer, of Ordain Women, told a symposium on women’s roles in religious traditions that the Internet has allowed a huge conversation to take place among Mormon women about issues affecting them within their faith.

Speaking on a panel of feminists from different faiths, Strayer pointed to the differences between now and the 1970s, when Sonja Johnson defied the LDS church in supporting the proposed Equal Rights Amendment.

"Sonja Johnson had 10 people writing letters and doing phone calls for the pro-ERA Mormon group," said Strayer. "Today, tens of thousands of Mormon women, anonymous or not, communicate on a daily basis."

The symposium at the Salt Lake City Main Library was titled, "We Will Sing and Not be Silent: Women, Faith Traditions and Leadership." Various University of Utah programs also were sponsors.

The one-day affair was keynoted by Rosemary Radford Ruether, of the Claremont School of Theology in California and a longtime scholar of women’s religious history.

Ruether gave a short account of women’s involvement in Christianity stretching back centuries but said their stories have long been buried from public view. She called for the mainstreaming of women’s history into areas that remain dominated by writing about upper-class white males.

"What finally has to be done is to start figuring how you write history in a way that fully integrates these contexts rather than simply talks about a white, male elite and adds a few footnotes around the edges about all the others," Ruether said.

The appearance of Victoria Rue, who was ordained as a Catholic priest in a ceremony not sanctioned by the mainstream church, was somewhat controversial within the local dioceses. Sponsors had hoped for a dialogue over issues Rue champions.

"It’s sad they feel threatened by dialogue," said one of the organizers, Christina Gringeri, a professor in the college of social work at the University of Utah.

Rue said that because of the Catholic Church policies on the role of women and on other issues, "women and men have voted with their feet" and left the fold, a phenomenon that "has had a huge effect, I think, on the Catholic Church."

Women also "have voted with their bodies," Rue said, pointing to the 85 percent of Catholic women in the United States who say they have used birth control in contravention of the church’s policies.

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