Dr. Paula Trimble-Familetti is a passionate advocate for women's rights, inclusive language and biblical literacy. She holds a B.A. in Religion from Chapman University, an M.A. in Religion from Liberty University and a Dr. of Ministry in International Feminist Theology from San Francisco Theological Seminary. She has taught Women in Religion and Women's History classes at Chapman University.
On St. Patrick’s Day in 1953 I was born to Baptist parents in Des Moines, Iowa. I was christened a Baptist. It is fitting that I was born on a famous Saint’s Day. I have had a lifelong fascination with faith and the study of religion. When my parents moved to Indio, California we attended the Methodist Church. That didn’t last long. I was in first grade and decided I wanted to teach Sunday School. My mamma, asked the woman in charge of Sunday School, if she would let me help in the nursery. She told my mamma that she needed to get a handle on me because I was going to be a real handful. I know, the six-year-old wants to teach Sunday School and that’s a problem! Needless to say we did not become Methodists. Instead we found a church home with the Disciples of Christ and that is the community where I grew up and was baptized.
I like to think of myself as my own little ecumenical movement. Before the age of nine I was a Baptist, a Methodist and a Disciple of Christ. When I got married, I became a Roman Catholic. When people ask why a Christian Feminist would become a Roman Catholic I like to say, “For propose of conversion, theirs not mine.” I must confess that I am now a roaming Catholic. I cannot give my loyalty to a church, in fact to any institution, that does not recognize and honor the God given gifts of women. So, when I am in Big Bear I go to Spirit of Peace Lutheran Church where Dianne Finnecy is the pastor. When I am in the Coachella Valley I attend St. Clare’s Catholic Community. Joni Miller is our pastor. Rome does not officially recognize her ordination. Sometimes I go to St. John’s Lutheran Church. Jennifer Shaw is the pastor and I have friends there. On occasion I go to St. Andrew’s Presbyterian because Julie Hodges is their pastor and she is a friend of mine. My religious education has also been quite ecumenical. My B. A. is from a Disciples of Christ College, my M. A. is from a Baptist College and my Dr. of Ministry in International Feminist Theology is from a Presbyterian Seminary.
When I am asked why I wrote Prostitutes, Virgins and Mothers, one of my short answers is, “I didn’t have a choice. It was something I was called to do.” Another short answer is, “I want to bring the conclusions of feminist theory and feminist theology to the women and men in the pews.” There are many faithful Christian women and men who are exploring archeological evidence and contemporary translations of ancient languages to provide innovative interpretation of biblical text. The longer answer is, as a child in Sunday School and church, I was taught things about biblical woman that just did not make since to me. For example, I was taught that the reason the Levite’s Concubine was raped and dismembered was because she disobeyed her father and her husband. The women and girls in church that Sunday, were admonished to take a lesson from this story and obey their fathers and husbands. It was chilling! So often the stories of biblical women are interpreted and taught in a way that attempts to control or limit women’s lives and their full participation in their faith communities and secular society. Frankly, it made me mad. I felt like my faith in the love of God and Jesus had been turned into a weapon against women and I wanted to change those interpretations.
In a draft of the document Social Statement on Women and Justice, the Task Force on Women and Justice: One in Christ, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America states, “While we affirm that God’s intention is equality and fullness of life for everyone, we confess that the sins of patriarchy and sexism, like all human sin, disrupts God’s intention.”
My vision is that women and men will read the stories of biblical women and apply what we know about women and families and relationships and God’s intention for equality and fulness of life to these stories. My vision is that churches that limit the full participation of women will read with a new understanding, that all people are created in God’s image. In God’s image there is no hierarchy. My vision is that we will read the stories of biblical women, hear their voices and not be blinded by past patriarchal interpretations. My vision is that we will understand the ancient, patriarchal cultures in which these stories were written. My vision is that we will read the text to understand the context and not just accept what has been passed on to us. My vision is that we, as the body of Christ, will stop any discrimination or judgement based on gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or anything else that might be used as a wedge between us. My vision is that we will quit politicizing women’s bodies and reproductive abilities. My vision is that we will learn to practice the faith of Jesus.