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Women and theology

Les femmes et la théologie

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Published on Thursday, June 24, 2021


Les femmes ont longtemps été écartées de la théologie dans les différentes branches du christianisme. L'objet de cette journée d'étude est de se demander comment l'interdiction traditionnelle qui leur était faite a été battue en brèche, quel type de théologie a pu être pratiqué par les femmes, à quelle théologie elles ont pu avoir accès, dans quelle mesure leur compétence théologique a été acceptée (ou non) par les hommes et par la société, et cela dans toutes les confessions chrétiennes. Les communications portant sur ces thèmes devront par conséquent s’interroger sur la chronologie de l’accès des femmes à la théologie, sur ce qu’est et a été la théologie, sur les différences entre les confessions chrétiennes, sur les effets de l'élargissement de sa pratique aux femmes.



In Christianity, the function of doctrinal teaching is traditionally reserved to men, because of saint Paul’s words : “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man” (1 Tim 2, 12), adding a more general instruction: “Women  are to be silent in the churches. They are not permitted to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says” (1 Co 14, 34).

Yet, there were immediate gaps in this prohibition. Paul himself asked old women to teach what is good and to give instruction to the young (Titus 2, 3-5) and the Acts of the Apostles refer to Priscilla and her husband Aquilas, saint Paul’s friends and collaborators, who instructed Apollos in the doctrine of salvation (Acts 34, 26). In both cases, however, it was not a public doctrinal teaching. Indeed, this was soon linked to an ecclesiastical ministry, therefore reserved to men. However, Paul made no objection to women prophesying, provided that they remained veiled (1 Co 11, 5) and the history of medieval and modern Churches shows many examples of women prophets.

Can prophecies be considered as doctrinal teaching? It may often appear to be the case, as one can see with Bridget of Sweden, who was allowed to instruct the pope through her revelations. There has also been a significant number of women delivering a mystical message from the 13th century onwards. With Beatrix of Nazareth, Mechtild of Magdeburg, Hadewijch of Antwerp, Marguerite Porette, Francesca Romana, Angela of Foligno, Agnes of Montepulciano, Mrs Acarie, Mrs Guyon, etc., mysticism appeared to be a possible path to theology. Hildegard of Bingen, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila and Thérèse of Lisieux were even proclaimed Doctors of the Church by Rome in the 20th century.

From the 19th century, especially in the radical protestant world, some women such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton or Sarah Grimké, started writing on the Bible. But this was never an academic theology, as faculties were not opened to women before the 20th century, at first in Protestantism. One can remember the case of Anna Maria van Schurman, who surreptitiously attended Voetius’ course in Utrecht in the 1630s, as well as the case of Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia, who was awarded a doctorate in philosophy by the university of Pisa in the 17th century, because she was not allowed to graduate in theology.

Hence, the opening of faculties of theology to women was a significant evolution in all the Christian Churches. It gave them access to doctrinal teaching which was still the preserve of the male clergy and provided them with new conceptual tools, which some women used to fight for equality between men and women in the Churches, leading to the emergence of “feminist theology” in the 1970s.

One can therefore wonder about the type of theology women practiced, to which theology they could have access, to what extent their theological skills were accepted or not by men and by society, in all Christian confessions. Papers should thus question the chronology of women’s access to theology, the status of theology, and the differences between Christian confessions. Did the opening of theology to a broader audience, and especially to women, have an influence on theology as a discipline? Is the access to theology opened to all women or reserved only to some categories (nuns, pastors, catechists, etc)?

The papers should answer to some of these questions. They may be in French or in English.

Submission guidelines

Proposals should be accompanied by a short CV and by 150-200 word-summary. They should be sent to Yves Krumenacker (yves.krumenacker@univ-lyon3.fr) AND Clarisse Tesson (clarisse.tesson@u-pec.fr)

before September 30, 2021.

The colloquium will take place on 25-26 august 2022.

Scientific Committee

  • Yves Krumenacker (Lyon University),
  • Clarisse Tesson (Paris-Est Creteil University),
  • Mikko Ketola (University of Helsinki),
  • Anders Jarlert (Lund University)


  • Collegium Historicum, Uniwersytetu Poznańskiego 7 61–614 Poznań
    Poznań, Poland


  • Thursday, September 30, 2021


  • femmes, théologie, savoirs, genre, christianisme


  • Yves Krumenacker
    courriel : yves [dot] krumenacker [at] univ-lyon3 [dot] fr
  • Clarisse Tesson
    courriel : clarisse [dot] tesson [at] u-pec [dot] fr

Information source

  • Yves Krumenacker
    courriel : yves [dot] krumenacker [at] univ-lyon3 [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Women and theology », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, June 24, 2021, https://calenda.org/889764

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